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Compassion: The UK international social investment strategy

Announcing a cross-department initiative for social investment civil society minister Rob Wilson says   

"Through social investment we are revolutionising the way that public services are delivered, aligning the interests of local authorities, social investors and charities while at the same time helping the most disadvantaged in society. Let’s continue to drive the sector forwards and build a stronger, more compassionate society.”

Building a stronger more compassionate society isn't something one immediately associates with the current government, but the rhetoric was an interesting echo of a call on US governent some years ago, with a proposal for social investment. it said this in response to USAID' Henrietta Fore's remarks in February 2008..

"What Ms. Fore is describing has been central to P-CED’s main message, advocacy and activity for a decade. That, and helping establish an alternative form of capitalism, where profits and/or aid money are put to use in investment vehicles with the singular purpose of helping the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people."

This aptly named Genesis letter concluded

"I and others shall continue to think positive and look for aid budgets and funding spigots to be opened much more for people and NGOs in silos, foxholes and trenches, insisting on better than ordnance, and who understand things and how to fix them. We can do that. We can even do it cost-effectively and with far better efficiency than the ordnance route. Welcome to our brave new world. Except it’s not so new: learn to love and respect each other first, especially the weakest, most defenseless, most voiceless among us, then figure out the rest. There aren’t other more important things to do first. This message has been around for at least two thousand years. How difficult is it for us to understand?"

Some years later the Brave New World becomes a marketing tagline for social investment:

from on .

You'll hear a lot about bravery, typically from those who aren't in foxholes, silos and trenches.

The primary focus of this ''Marshall Plan' proposal was a strategy to invest in the transition of children from institutions, streets and sewers to loving family homes - foster care and family type homes. A strategy which would reduce state expenditure and end the corruption which was endemic in 'Death Camps for Children'

As the letter reveals, our advocacy has persuaded Ukraine's government to announce plans for 400+ rehab centers and doubling adoption allowances.  

Part 2 of this proposal described a social enterprise development centre at Kharkiv National University.

So what dis USAID do?  Two years later, they brought in the British Council as partners and began to engage with some of the most predatory oligarchs in the world, those large responsible for creating the social and economic crisis which eventually led to violent conflict. 

They included  oligarchs like Viktor Pinchuk and Rinat Akmetov who had cultivated relationships with Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson

USAID donors and partners

One thing became very clear, there would be nothing to help these children, as my late colleague observed:

"Opening up the reality of that situation resulted in threats against me and anyone else interfering with that system.  I came under direct assault by tax police, government’s primary enforcement arm if anyone steps out of line.  This is not a research activity where many, if any, other people dared to participate.  UNICEF was willfully blind to the matter because it was just too dangerous to bother to intercede  Powerful interests remained entrenched with enforcers to make it dangerous.  Jurists were correct, in my view.  It was more a mafia operation than anything else, aimed at misappropriation and laundering of large money.  That was perfectly congruent with how Ukraine operated before the revolution.  USAID wanted nothing to do with it, nor would they fund any organizations or activists who might try.  Some things could be done and some things could not be done.  Helping these children was something that could not be done.  So, I exposed it and made it the central focus and metric of Ukraine’s microeconomic development blueprint.  In that context, it was far more difficult to ignore, dismiss, or argue about.  For about six months, I really did not expect to survive.  Nevertheless, Ukraine’s government finally conceded the point and announced the opening of more than four hundred new treatment centers for children who were theretofore invisible under tight and deadly enforcement.”

All we'd asked for iwas a £25k grant from USAiD to set up the first rehab centre for disabled children, after community led enterprises were invited to apply for funding.

Clearly they didn't want us on board. Neither did the British Council who'd solicited application for social enterprise partners. We introduced our development proposal to protect our IP. We learned later from Martin Davidson that partners had been expected to make a financial contribution, so they didn't respond.

You soon learn that you have to deal with some shifty people on our own side. Lord Mandelson for example, with an olgarch in custody facing corruption charges last year. With not a word of this 'Marshall Plan' written, the cost has been projected at 300 billion Euros, around 400 times what's required for Ukraine's abandoned children.        

That's why you need a "social investment strategy" it makes it sound more legitimate, especially when the word compassion is used,  "Collaboration and Compassion" says Dr Mairi Mackay of The British Council 

from on .

Call me old fashioned but dismissing children and leaving them to die while keeping the people who do the work out, isn't my interpretation of collaboration and compassion.

What you will also hear above however, is about business which moves from a profit driven model toward social benefit.  The 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine spelt it out:

'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. '

Resistance from the social enterprise community drove me to Mixmarket where The New Bottom Line has been well received. How come it's not so in the world of social enterprise?  

I was privileged to have met and tried to hel the man who shared his work in the public domain 20 years ago, when he asked  

As a foreigner in Ukraine he had the same rights and responsibilities as natural citizens. That included the responsibility to prevent harm to vulnerable children and the right that his intellectual property not be used without his permission. The use of self-aggrandising rhetoric does not trump the fact that no permission was given to use his proposal for social enterprise development or any likeness to it.   

Unlike The British Council and their rhetoric, he put compassion into action. These children and their fate was his last thoughts.

"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.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."

At the same time he  wrote to USAID in 2008, he wrote this about social enterprise.

"The term “social enterprise” in the various but similar forms in which it is being used today — 2008 — refers to enterprises created specifically to help those people that traditional capitalism and for profit enterprise don’t address for the simple reason that poor or insufficiently affluent people haven’t enough money to be of concern or interest. Put another way, social enterprise aims specifically to help and assist people who fall through the cracks. Allowing that some people do not matter, as things are turning out, allows that other people do not matter and those cracks are widening to swallow up more and more people. Social enterprise is the first concerted effort in the Information Age to at least attempt to rectify that problem, if only because letting it get worse and worse threatens more and more of us. Growing numbers of people are coming to understand that “them” might equal “me.” Call it compassion, or call it enlightened and increasingly impassioned self-interest. Either way, we are all in this together, and we will each have to decide for ourselves what it means to ignore someone to death, or not."

Are we all in this together? Experience teaches that we are not.