"At first glance, it might seem redundant to emphasize people as the central focus of economics. After all, isn't the purpose of economics, as well as business, people? Aren't people automatically the central focus of business and economic activities? Yes and no.
People certainly gain and benefit, but the rub is: which people? More than a billion children, women, and men on this planet suffer from hunger. It is a travesty that this is the case, a blight upon us all as a global social group. Perhaps an even greater travesty is that it does not have to be this way; the problems of human suffering on such a massive scale are not unsolvable. If a few businesses were conducted only slightly differently, much of the misery and suffering as we now know it could be eliminated. This is where the concept of a "people-centered" economics system comes in."
(from People-Centered Economic Development 1996)
I didn't expect to be reading about social enterprise in the Morning Star, but there it was with Dr Fenella Porter asking 'Can business really benefit the people?'
I've written recently about the neoliberal agenda of social entrepreneurship and biilionaire sponsorship of SaId Business School. For us social enterprise is business entirely independent of foundation funding, operating for the benefit of people.
It began 20 years ago, with From there we took it to Eastern Europe establising in the UK in 2004, when our late founder was interviewed about his work. He said it plainly:
"The P-CED model is not a charity sort of operation. It is business. What we choose to do with profits is entirely up to us, and we choose before anything else happens to set most of our profits aside to assist poor people. In fact, our corporate charter requires us by law - UK law, where rule of law is very well established - to use our profits only for social benefit. We cannot do anything else with it."
He made the point a lot more forcefully in 2006/7 when arguing the case for a 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine
'This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. '
The New Bottom Line, is people as I pointed out to McKinsey readers.
In 2009, the Vatican came on board when Caritas in Veritate made the same argument for using profit to benefit society
In 2013, Cooperatives Europe and Fair Trade UK embraced people-centred business. Business "putting people's needs first".
Surprisingly the greatest resistance to this work came from within the social enterprise community. Your work is outside our focus said our national support organisation. We can't work with UK organisations, said B Labs. Sooner or later, they'd be singing from our hymn sheet, nevertheless.
After more than a decade of engaginig with the social enterprise community it's hard to believe that no-one at Ruskin College knows about the practitioners. Could it hve something to do with Lord Mandelson and his oligarch chums?
This kind of exclusion was what we experienced after introducing our work to USAID and The British Council. It would leave us hanging out to dry and our founder's death fighting a cause which nobody wanted to join:
"The author of breakthru report “Death camps for children” Terry Hallman suddenly died of grave disease on Aug 18 2011. On his death bed he was speaking only of his mission – rescuing of these unlucky kids. His dream was to get them new homes filled with care and love. His quest would be continued as he wished.
Only after his death he allowed to publish his communication with Ukrainian and US authorities about the issue."
20 years ago, he shared his people-centred business model online free-to-use. Is he and the cause he died for to be airbrushed out of history?