Fast Social: News for the week beginning 22nd July


On hearing the news, Alain De Botton probably sank back in his chair and strummed his fingers. ‘The Church of England plans to take on the might of payday lender Wonga, by providing access to its assets and expertise to help boost Credit Unions’. ‘Excellent!’ is probably what he might have said, as this possibly proves his point that religion has a lot of good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. But there’s a long way to go, as credit unions currently have less than 1 million members between them, whilst payday lenders made 8.2 million loans in the last year alone.

Speaking of blind faith and banking, the Coop Bank recently launched a Social Enterprise DirectPlus account, prompting the Guardian to list what other banks do for social enterprise. More than you probably think!

Speaking of cooperatives and money, the European Parliament has got round to recognising the contribution of cooperatives. Yes, it is 2013! In not-so-exciting but pertinent news, a motion has been adopted by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee for inclusion in the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan. Like Alain, you may be asking ‘what does it all mean?’ Well, this means that  all measures proposed to promote entrepreneurship at national and European level will now apply to co-operatives too. So that’s clear then! This article also reveals that there is a dedicated unit within the DG Enterprise and Industry (whatever that is), who have calculated cooperatives contribution to EU recovery –  more than 160,000 co-operatives owned by 123 million people provide 5.4 million jobs. Pretty impressive stuff!

There were also some interesting articles this week regarding transparency in charities. Firstly, this article argues that it’s right that charities shouldn’t be on the proposed register of lobbyists  (seemingly ignoring this ‘research‘ which suggests there are plenty of charities which hide behind the status for lobbying purposes). The Telegraph also chipped in on a related issue – how much do the big charities spend on their charitable aims? This suggests that two – Age UK and the British Heart Foundation, spend less than half of their income on their charitable aims.

Lastly, the ever prolific David Floyd dissected the figures reported two weeks ago in the latest State of Social Enterprise report, suggesting that the fact there are more start-ups in the social enterprise sector may not be a good thing. It’s enough to shake your faith!


2 thoughts on “Fast Social: News for the week beginning 22nd July

  1. The stuff on how much charities spend on their charitable aims is interesting. I’ve always thought that when the public demand charities spend the minimum possible on staffing & admin they’re making a category error.

    Surely you give your cash to a charity because you think that the people running it have the combination of expertise and social commitment that will enable them to spend that money usefully? (Or you don’t, in which case no one’s making you give them your money.)

    If you really want to give your money to some less well off people, unencumbered by staff costs and bureaucracy, it’s not difficult to just find some less well off people and give them some money. And they’ll probably be quite pleased.

    The question around trading gives the problem a different twist – with the potential that many charities will end up being shot by both sides. As social enterprise types demand they give up donations and become ‘real businesses’ and donors complain that they’re paying staff to run trading businesses.

    Ideally, there’s at least a couple out there who are actually interested in what charities make happen as opposed to percentage figures for where the money’s come from.

    1. Thanks David, interesting points. It is true that many charities seemed damned if they and damned if they don’t. I thought Gina Miller’s comments earlier this year were interesting in relation to this, and while there was a lot to disagree with, there was also plenty of food for thought.

      I’d also add one more thing to your point about people’s concern about where their money goes. I think historically a large proportion (if not the majority) of charitable donors are themselves from lower income backgrounds. So every £ spent probably has a greater relative value to them, and I suppose that’s why they’re keen to know the social value it’s
      creating. And I suppose they are less likely to be satisfied with hearing that its gone into a pot to provide remuneration packages to attract the best talent, even know I agree with you that this is important.

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