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Does charity begin at home?

I attended a fascinating debate last night, hosted by Quartet, our fellow Community Foundation in Bristol, which cleverly unpicked both the meaning of home and the idea that learning to be generous has to begin somewhere. For many, this 'in the home'.

Other thoughts that struck a chord:

Philanthropy and charity remain different, but whilst they might initially start with a generous heart for those we love, they cannot and do not stop there. Obviously the secretary-turned-philanthropist in the NYT article below realised this more than anyone.

Charity needs to start where there is greatest need - but how do you define need? Often it is the very many things we simply take for granted.

Sustainable Development Goals go a long way to articulate where to start in terms of our basic level of need e.g. no hunger, clean water.

Whilst not as many as the 93 million living in slums in India, there are still plenty of children in Oxfordshire going without proper meals throughout the school holidays or arriving at school not having had breakfast. The Revd in Banbury can tell you all about that.

It is most important we don't make a mistake and do nothing, because we can make a difference even by helping just one person.

Anita Roddick was quoted as saying if you are worried about how small an impact you might have, just try going to bed with a mosquito!

So let's all go out into the world today and do something wonderful and explore what makes us all insanely human: that philanthropic exultation to give back.  The need has never been greater, and we all share a responsibility to accept that in so many cases it is our own exploitation of 'the system' that causes so many of the problems we see around us, whether at home or abroad.

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Even by the dizzying standards of New York City philanthropy, a recent $6.24 million donation to the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side was a whopper — the largest single gift from an individual to the social service group in its 125-year history.

It was not donated by some billionaire benefactor, but by a frugal legal secretary from Brooklyn who toiled for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died not long afterward in 2016.

Her name was Sylvia Bloom and even her closest friends and relatives had no idea she had amassed a fortune over the decades. She did this by shrewdly observing the investments made by the lawyers she served.
Is there a connection between loneliness and food?

Comfort eating when bored or stressed is often linked to the increasing incidence of obesity, but what about another extreme altogether where loneliness itself can lead to malnutrition? 

This article makes me really think we need to be doing more to encourage community eating... and if we can make it healthy then we really would be winning.

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Despite a continued reduction in absolute
poverty amongst pensioners, over a million older people are likely to be
malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

The main causes of this malnutrition are
loneliness and isolation, often brought about by a string of setbacks such as
bereavement, illness, shop closures and a loss of community transport or Meals
on Wheels.

Targeted investment in services which protect
older people from malnutrition would deliver significant annual savings to the
NHS, not least by reducing the number of hospital admissions and limiting the
number of days older people spend in hospital.

A basic opportunity fund to address in work poverty

It's good to see the RSA continuing to share possible solutions to the idea of reaching a Universal Basic Income for everyone.

As AI and further automation are likely to increase their impact on low paid jobs I've no doubt that we really do have to prioritise what we are going to do to find good and purposeful alternatives to work.  

At a meeting earlier this week I was heartened to learn Landsec are already proactively considering the lack of work security as a significant contributor to mental health and well-being of those employed within their supply chain.

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Despite record employment levels, in-work poverty now affects more people than out-of-work poverty. Average household debt is expected to reach an unprecedented £19,000 by the end of this parliament. For the 41 per cent of us with savings of less than £1,000, “just about managing” is one piece of bad luck away from “not managing”.

Amidst this economic insecurity, we need to rethink how people can be supported to enjoy secure and purposeful lives. A report released by the RSA today might offer part of the answer: a “UK Basic Opportunity Fund”.
Embracing GDPR and seeking continuous improvement

Some great tips here, all especially relevant given the focus on data that preparations for GDPR are quite rightly highlighting.


However, as an organisation that has always been keen to embrace the potential of digital and its ability to enhance our record keeping and data management more widely, it is great to read that we are not alone in our flag waving for a 'less is more' approach.


In particular, constant attention to provide:


1. consistency in what is considered the absolute minimum - making certain fields mandatory

2. adequate understanding and training to ensure standardisation in the how and why data is input


We often have an amnesty in the office that enables each of us to self identify any poor user practice of our own together with an 'in joke' that comes with the threat of the naughty step for anyone whose data input fails on either or both of the above two points.


We'd be interested to hear of other best practise in this area as we are well aware this is an area where there will always be an opportunity for continuous improvement.

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Private jets... whatever next?!

I wonder if anyone else reading this article was struck by a thought has the world gone mad.  How much longer can we as humans go along with this sort of commercial creativity?

Whilst at first it might appear to be a very practical approach being adopted by the law firm, I fear it smacks of employees being treated like cattle.   

Where is our quality of life heading if in cities all around the world workers - and well paid legal eagles at that - can simply no longer afford to live close to their office?

No wonder we are all becoming more lonely and seeing increased incidence of poor mental health when what we have to contribute can be traded in this way.

Do tell me I am not alone in having these thoughts... This is probably why I am not working for that law firm either!

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Patterson and Sheridan, an intellectual-property law firm headquartered in Houston, bought a nine-seat plane to shuttle its patent lawyers to clients.

Though the jet cost $3 million, it's cheaper than hiring local lawyers, and even less expensive than relocating the Texas lawyers with business in Silicon Valley to the area.
Each flight costs about $1,900 a passenger - but since the lawyers
are working in-flight, the three-to-four-hour ride is billable. Plus, private flights protect any confidential work and
save the firm's lawyers about 36 collective hours they would
spend arriving early, waiting in security, and checking bags on a
commercial flight.

The firm says it's "still able to offer
lower costs because most of the patent work is done in Houston,
where commercial real estate is 43% cheaper, salaries 52% lower,
and competition for technical talent far less fierce" .

Prevention has to be the Big Picture

Delighted to read Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue has commented on this week's budget.   I remember meeting him in Bristol a few years ago at a training school for circus artists that was housed in a converted church!  

Obviously one of those encounters you never forget. Yet what it really showed me at the time was that great things can and do happen when we find ways to work together to solve problems.   

So I couldn't agree more with his suggestion that we must prioritise prevention for more entrenched causes of poverty like mental health problems rather than wanting simply to relieve the growing homelessness situation.   

How many organisations, I wonder though, will really be willing to look beyond themselves and become change makers in this way?  

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Lord John Bird welcomed parts of this year’s Budget, but also warned the government against “missing the bigger picture” of poverty prevention.

The Big Issue’s founder urged the government to “weave prevention into the work of every policy and every department.”

Bird welcomed the extra support for vulnerable renters at risk of homelessness and the Housing First pilot schemes to provide rough sleepers with accommodation, but urged communities secretary Sajid Javid to now “go further.”

“Housing First can’t be the flagship policy if it’s not combined with an all-out effort to treat people’s inner demons; to cure their mental issues for good,” he said.

“Otherwise we’re just treading water – and in the long-term, all we’re doing is moving people from hostel, to A&E, to prison, to the streets.”

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