Watch the video of Beth Barnes’s talk at TEDxExeter 2015.
Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.
Videos about Philanthropy
Live blogs about Philanthropy
Now we hear from Beth, who is a student at Exeter College. We wanted to hear what young people have to say and what they want, and Beth won a competition to speak today.
Beth is telling us about a system that allows us to direct our resources to what we think will do the most good: charitable giving. Increased transparency of governance mean it is possible to find charities who are doing great work, such as the Schistosomiasis (spelling?!) Society.
We are used to a world in which the most resources are invested in things that are not important. What if we directed our huge resources to solving global poverty? 10% given by 10% would generate $4 trillion. It would only take 5% of that to solve poverty, so Beth has given us a shopping list for the remaining 95%, with some left over to fund a mission to Mars!
Effective Altruism encourages and helps people to give well – via e.g. GiveWell, Giving What We Can websites. The latter asks people to give away 10% of their lifetime earnings. Wouldn’t it be good if everyone did this?!
Our first session is about international themes, and our first speaker is Vinay Nair from Acumen.
Five years ago, he found himself in remote NW Mozambique, sitting down and buzzing about budgeting and planning for a social enterprise selling jam, run by women who were HIV positive. They were managing to generate an income, and become active agents in their own futures. One was asked by the Red Cross to set up similar enterprises across the country.
Vinay had a sense that the work was about dignity not dependence, choice not charity. But he’s not a good Samaritan, he’s a former investment banker – his joke! And yet, that experience helped him in the position he is now in, and he wants to explore those interconnections and interdependencies.
A few years ago, he visited Robben Island in South Africa, where he tried to get inside the head of Nelson Mandela. On the way home, he bumped into Gordon Brown at the airport, thanked him for his work on debt relief, and was then surprised when they had a conversation about economics and finance as vehicles for reducing poverty and improving social justice.
Before the financial crisis, Vinay took a sabbatical and spent some time in India. He met Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer in microfinance. He thought initially that microfinance was a silver bullet, but realised that often the goals of social justice had got lost in the push for a financial return.
So he left the world of microfinance and ended up in Mozambique and then the Clinton Foundation, before studying for a masters at LSE. He got involved in Acumen, and began to work with its founder Jacqueline Novogratz.
Acumen’s model is to take donations, bypass governments and conventional finance, and invest ‘patient capital’ in social enterprises. The returns can then be recycled again and again. It also has a strong focus on ‘how’ it makes decisions, in a difficult and messy area of work. Listening and humility are core, but there is also a need for leadership, audaciousness and accountability.
Vinay found himself back in India, in the rice belt, working with a renewable energy company which was burning rice husks to generate electricity for sale at £1 per month. Because it wasn’t free, people demanded customer service etc – dignity not dependence. There were also improved health outcomes, through not inhaling kerosene fumes, and improved education, through better lighting – not just the financial bottom line.
He’s now leaving Acumen to set up a new initiative in the UK, to tackle poverty and inequality here. There is a need to understand what and how investment can support innovative social enterprise and charities. There’s a lot that can be learnt from Acumen and other organisations, because of the interconnections. As they say in Bantu South Africa: Ubuntu, I am because you are.
Martha (another dragon tamer?!) is giving us the etymology of “community philanthropy”:
Community – from munos “a gift” and cum “with, among one another”
Philanthropy – “the love of humanity” in Greek
She has a slide of Brueghel’s painting of “The Fall of Icarus”. It’s not about Icarus, but about apathy. While Icarus drowns in the sea, the farmer continues to plough, the shepherd dreams, the ship sails on by. What seems to be an image of idyllic existence is actually a picture of passing suffering by.
Suffering is difficult to see; we have to choose to look for it. But everywhere there are community philanthropists, also known as volunteers, who are acting, and building compassionate communities.
Martha’s questions for us to ponder: “What suffering are you walking past? And what are the gifts you would like to give?”
A gem of a short talk. Coffee time!
Martha is also on Twitter
Now we are going to find out how to live a more generous life and become like Superman… but I might have given that away yesterday.
Each year, Charles Handy, the management guru, and his wife work out what they need for the coming year, and add 20% as he is pessimistic. He then divides the year into three: one-third spent on management consultancy, one-third on writing, and one-third on working for nothing and connecting with people. He wanted to maximise his life, not his income.
What is enough? How many presents do we receive that we don’t really want? And by implication, how many presents we have given haven’t been wanted? A colossal waste, driven by thoughtlessness. And take food. We throw away one-third of all the food we buy. One billion gorge ourselves and pay for gyms and diets, while another billion starve.
Everyone in this theatre could be Superman to the other billion: provide a microloan, sponsor a child’s education, get together at lunchtime to raise money for a well in Kenya.
Mike thinks he has discovered the purpose of life – what the riches we are receiving at TEDx today! – which is to help other people, people we know and people we have never met before and perhaps will never meet.
Our homework is to work out what enough is for us, to stop buying stuff we don’t need, to get a grip, and to turn ourselves into Superman or Superwoman.