Friday, 22 March 2013

A more philanthropic society?

Did a new lecture this week looking at the development of Civil Society and how Philanthropy might help along the path to a more Civil Society. I was immediately reminded of The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. If you haven't read it do look at the TED talk with Wilkinson summarising the whole thing in a quarter of an hour and it might just change the way you look at the world!

In a nutshell, using widely available health,GDP,and other indices of well-being they have shown incontravitably that our life expectency and well being is governed not by our absolute wealth but by the degree of inequality between the richest and the poorest in any particular society. I find it terrifying that inequality in the UK is increasing fairly dramatically after nearly half a century of the gap getting wider.I am outraged that in 2013 in the 7th largest economy in the world the Trussell Trust is needed to set up food banks because poverty has increases to the point that large numbers of people really do not have enough to eat. And yet our government continues to cut benefits.

How can we possibly hope to address these issues? The UK GDP is £1400bn. Government spends £800bn. Civil Society in the UK raises and spends perhaps £50bn. Francis Beckett (What have the Baby Boomers done for us) asks where are the UK philanthropists to match Buffett and Gates? He has a point. A number of wealthy people are giving £millions to good causes but as yet I can't see many of the Billionaires joining the club.

However perhaps the time has finally come for "Social Investment". We know micro finance works in developing countries so why not here? Instead of and interest rates of 4000% we could have syndicated social enterprises lending money at sensible rates and getting not only a social return on investment but a modest financial return for their philanthropic backers who would appreciate the multiplier effect. The Banksters aren't going to do it. The Bank of Dave is doing his bit but we need some serious similar investment all over the country. What about it?