Just when I thought it was a summertime blight of information, two delightfully crunchy stories today. News on a SIB programme to help renovate properties in Richmond Virginia is working as it ought while Jake Hayman shares many of my own fears about the way the charity sector’s ‘blobbist’ tendency has taken it away from its core function of doing good. His idea of a moratorium on new charitable ventures sounds idealistic but I do tend to agree, the charitable sector needs more focus and fewer entities in many cases. Albeit, while I remain somewhat cynical about the virtue signalling of social entrepreneurship, I don’t believe SIBs are a sign of the problem but rather a solution to make opaque charitable bodies (whether imperial or not) more directly accountable and efficient.
An innovative new program in Richmond that is rehabilitating vacant, blighted homes and reselling them at affordable prices is “working as it was designed,” according to the latest newsletter published by the nonprofit Richmond Community Foundation (RCF).
The program, which began rehabbing its first blighted property earlier this year, was launched as a way to deal with the many long-vacant, unattractive properties in Richmond that have been attracting squatters, fires and criminal activity.
As part of the strategy, which was pitched in 2014 by prominent attorney and Richmond resident John Knox, the city is issuing “social impact bonds” to attract investors who want their investment to have a positive social impact, even if it means the returns are not as large. Their investment is used by the nonprofit RCF to buy vacant homes from lenders such as banks for the purpose of rehabilitation.
The renovated homes are then sold at affordable prices to lower-income residents, with top priority given to those who graduate from SparkPoint’s First Time Homebuyer Program. SparkPoint is a nonprofit financial education center in Richmond that guides clients toward financial stability.
Jake Hayman – Forbes
Imagine if we could leave behind the Hollywood concept of inspirational social entrepreneurs delivering the poor and needy from hardship through their sustainable business-like charities. If we could move away from social enterprises that take their branded interventions to every last town and village, and instead think about a knowledge economy where concepts and ideas are shared and disseminated – rather than protected and “scaled.”
Those seeking to “professionalize” the charity sector have succeeded in creating a world where organizations that exist to serve public benefit, have instead got lost in their own proprietary ego. The idea of success has become based on how big you can grow your company (charity!) when it should be how far you can spread your ideas.
Social investment, impact bonds, the cult of the social entrepreneur, “business approaches” and the commodification of human life have got us here, but maybe there’s a way out.