Last night I went to a talk given by John Bird, of The Big Issue fame, at One Alfred Place. I say talk, in many places it was more like a shout – John got very passionate and excited at times. But it was very good and very inspiring.
Officially the talk was about – Will the Recession hamper new Social Enterprise? (I’ve paraphrased), but it was much more about John’s desire to work to ‘dismantle’ poverty and not just to make the poor more comfortable.
In answer to the question posed by the topic, John believes the answer is no. Mainly because he believes that now is a time that we are questioning in much more detail what we are getting for our money and that includes money from the public purse. And despite the current economic climate there are still large pots of money to be tapped into for the right Social Enterprise, but perhaps more importantly, there’s a lot of money to be made by engaging with the poor and allowing them to work and control their own destiny in a greater way (as The Big Issue has).
One of the points that John kept coming back to was the fact that many of the poor are actually disenfranchised too and it is this inability to take an active part in democracy (in the wider sense, including working and contributing to society as well as just voting) that defines the poor and keeps them in their situation.
Very, very interesting.