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How I wish Senscot would come out of the closet

I've read Laurence Demarco's bulletin for some years and have often found myself in agreement with what he writes.  Today above all, with this observation about the British Council:

The British Council’s Jan 2014 Report: ‘What will Social Enterprise look like in Europe by 2020’ was referenced at a recent European conference in Zagreb.   You may remember this report’s conclusion – that attempts to distinguish asset locked social enterprise from the private sector “will certainly have ceased by 2020”.  Well not in Scotland it won’t.  When we get it wrong most folk tend to go quiet - but the British Council continues to peddle its message around the world - how for-profit will eclipse the third sector.

Regrettably Senscot is something of a broadcast only voice in social enterprise. This was very much how I found the Social Enterprise Coalition when I joined 10 years ago.

Following up my application. I wrote describing our work in Ukraine including a proposal for social enterprise development and how we'd begun as a business for social benefit.

As you may read, this was beyond their focus, at least at the time.    

By August 2007, the world knew about it when it was published in a prominent web magazine. Part 2 described the social enterprise development centre and how business could apply profit to resolve a wide range of social problems. Calling for US support, it was delivered first to Ukraine's government.  

In February 2008 a direct call was made on USAID, the Council on Foreign Relations and others.  It concluded

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?

Just 5 years later the Brave New World brings out all the puffery the community can muster

"Social first, money second" doesn't translate into support however.

In 2010, Martin Murphy alerted me to the news that the British Council were teaming up with Erste Bank and USAID for a  social enterprise development initiative in Ukraine,  Whereas we had aligned ourselves with grassroots civic and human rights activists. This project partnered with local oligarchs.

Erste Bank had been instroduced to our proposal in the 2008  Social Business Ideas competition.  As had the EU with the 2008 Citizens Consultation

In 2012, MEP Sir Graham Watson agreed with my claim that the EU Social Business Consultation plagiarised our work in 3 main areas. He forwarded my complaint to commissioner Michele Barnier.

I was struck by two names on the British Council report, Jonathan Bland and Nick Temple.

When Jonathan Bland set up his Social Business International group, I soon discovered he had no intention of engaging with those already doing international social enterprise.    

When I raised a point about our work in Ukraine on a public discussion it was Nick Temple who sniped "There's a lot of criticism online about your work in Ukraine"

Representing an organisation for whom our work was outside their focus, this was rich. Especially given he now opines on international social enterprise. like the remark of a spiteful child in the playground, it aimed to question our integrity without confronting the issue at hand. Doing this to promote one's own brand, is simply beyond the pale but not unknown in the dog eats dog world of social enterprise.       

The issue at hand had been the widespread abuse and neglect of children in care, and our founder's efforts had been praised by local activists, who found his body. 

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.

To defend our social mission yet again, we'd appiied to be partners to the British Council and were ignored.  Following this up through my MP, Martn Davidson of the British Council informed us that partners were expected to make a financial contribution.     

Today however,, they offer grants for those who follow in our footsteps

An Ukrainian oligarch now backs a new 'Marshall Plan' proposal which bas brought on board Lord Mandelson and other peers with a view to spend 300 billion dollars of public money. 

The same Lord Mandelson who at a social enterprise summit claimed that his department were helping firms that help society.

Sergiy Leshchenko, MP and anti corruption activist explains what's going on.. 

"In an attempt not to be branded as a money launderer and to save himself from being transported to America in handcuffs, Firtash has launched a multifaceted campaign to clean up his image, recruiting dozens of politicians, intellectuals, lobbyists and cultural figures in Europe and the US. "

If Senscot are really committed to oppose for-profit business eclipsing the third sector, it's about time they spoke up as we have about the culture within social enterprise.

We're not defending the third sector and public spending, we advocate what we argued for 20 years ago and have operated since 2004 in the UK. Business which distributes no dividend and uses its profit to create social benefit. As I understand it, the Scottish Social Enterprise Code advocates this too.

That doesn't mean we oppose business which makes and distributes profit in the normal way. As we argued in Ukraine, forward thinking business and individuals may contribute to a national fund with civic oversight.  

Senscot have spoken out to some extent in criticising the allocation of National Lottery funds to profit-with-purpose business    They may not be aware that the wife of an Ukrainian olgarch, an oligarch who donates to Tony Blair's Faith Foundation has benefited from Big Lottery funding.   She is better known as the purchaser of the 'world's most expensive home' in 2008.  

One voice, albiet a very influential voice, argued the case for profit-for-purpose to the extent of describing a people centred economy.  The source will surprise you.

"Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred."

"This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. "

"The strengthening of different types of businesses, especially those capable of viewing profit as a means for achieving the goal of a more humane market and society, must also be pursued in those countries that are excluded or marginalized from the influential circles of the global economy. In these countries it is very important to move ahead with projects based on subsidiarity, suitably planned and managed, aimed at affirming rights yet also providing for the assumption of corresponding responsibilities. In development programmes, the principle of the centrality of the human person, as the subject primarily responsible for development, must be preserved. The principal concern must be to improve the actual living conditions of the people in a given region, thus enabling them to carry out those duties which their poverty does not presently allow them to fulfil. "

As we had put it two years earlier:

'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. '

Profit-for-Purpose - benefiting those in greatest need along the way or by the way, if at all,  did not exist at this time.

Even what I wrote for McKinsey about 'The New Bottom LIne' is being reframed today as Profit-with-Purpose.

The self serving behaviour of this social enterprise elite goes way beyond blowing out the candles of another, to make theirs shine brighter. It blocks others from dialogue and undermines their missions.  Whatever the British Council did for social enterprise in Ukraine will be stained with the failure to tackle a social crisis that turned into violent conflict. This can be expected for any 'top down' implementation which does not and will not engage with those in the trenches.  

Their own children and their children's children will learn of how they behaved when called on foir support.  If I could drag them to Donetsk, I'd show them the consequences of their deeds.