Exploring the quiet revolution of mission-driven millennials

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Asheem Singh

An interview with Asheem Singh, author of The moral marketplace, originally published by Pro Bono News on 7th February 2018.

“A global generation of youthful social entrepreneurs is on the march, according to the author behind a new book exploring how social enterprise is driving mass political and social change.

Asheem Singh is an international activist, social entrepreneur, journalist and formerly the youngest ever CEO of leading UK charity leaders body Acevo.

In his new book The Moral Marketplace: How Mission-Driven Millennials and Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing Our World, he argues that the rapid global growth of social enterprise over the last decade has been a “quiet revolution” of “mission driven millennials”.

He told Pro Bono News social enterprise had come to dominate thinking when it comes to how social innovation happens.

“The Moral Marketplace is my term for a number of independent, grassroots business type organisations that have grown up over the past decade, and they have grown at pace,” Singh said.

Watch Asheem Singh answer the question ‘What is social enterprise?’ in this great video.

“They have begun to really dominate our thinking when it comes to how social innovation happens, how doing good happens … and there are all sorts of different kinds of organisations that come within the banner.

“What has been really cool to see, is so many, what I call mission driven millennials, enter the marketplace and set up their own social enterprises. You see it all over the world, you see it in Australia as well. There are so many fantastic, inspirational young people who say, ‘I don’t want to just do nine to five, I don’t want to just work hard for some faceless corporation and give back to charity, I want to make the object of my life doing good, as well as doing well’.”

In his book, Singh uses examples from around the world, giving first-hand accounts of social innovation in India, movements built to counter cultures of abuse and rape in Zimbabwe and exploring how entrepreneurs selling ethical products across Europe and America have proliferated.

He said the founders of the social enterprise movement were “very much not millennials”, but it was a model that resonated with younger generations.

“I don’t think we’ve seen yet the full potential of this incredible generation being tapped.”

“My book opens with a guy called Vinod Kapur, he is an Indian guy, I think he is past 70 now, he has been working in the villages for years, and he found that women in Indian villages were abused, they had no capital of their own, they had no way out of their own situation and that was because they couldn’t rear their own livestock, conditions were too harsh. So he spent 20 years, breeding a chicken that could survive in the most distant and most remote of Indian villages and by doing that he managed to reach out and find groups of women who could benefit from this innovation and over 10, 20 years, he managed to create the most incredible business called Keggfarms whose principle goal is not just the rearing of chickens and the production of eggs for India’s middle class, but actually to empower women. And some of the stories you see and some of things he has done are just incredible, so this guy is not a millennial,” Singh said.

“But what we find is that we’ve reached a sort of critical mass of these stories.

“In an age of social media, information technology, when the foundations for the sharing economy are being set and universities are doing more to spread information about the moral marketplace, people like me are writing books about it, a critical mass of these millennials are being turned on by these stories, they are tuning in and saying ‘you know I want this too’.

“I don’t think we’ve seen yet the full potential of this incredible generation being tapped.”

Startup Stock Photos

Singh said social enterprise was the tool many millennials were using to change the world.

“I think that what you see is in the old days, previous generations they had their thing, they had their way of doing charity, their way of doing good. I think this generation, so generation Y-ers and generation Z-ers, social entrepreneurship is their thing, that is the tool they will use to change the world. To be part of that, as a millennial myself, being part of that is really exciting,” he said.

“I think it is that idea of almost feeling powerful enough to change the world. We live in an age of hashtag activism, which is covered in the book, we live in an age where people are giving us these messages that you too can make a difference, that each of us can make a difference each and every single day, and part of me thinks that message is getting through.

Singh-MoralMarketplace-FC-web“When you hear someone like Muhammad Yunus say that the young people he meets every single day, the young generation are the most socially conscious generation, the least selfish generation we have ever encountered, it flies in the face of everything you hear about young people. We hear that they’re snowflakes, we hear that they’re self obsessed, they live in a selfie culture and the rest of it, and some of these things to an extent among certain people are true, but I think there are also real sense of wanting to do good and social entrepreneurship being a tool with which they can do that.”

He said he was sceptical about interpretations that millennials were “the have your cake and eat it generation” who wanted to feel like they can make money and do good at the same time.

“I think that is the Gen X and baby boomers’ interpretation of what has happened here,” Singh said.

“The young people who are getting into the space that I have seen are not in this for themselves, they are in this to make a difference because that is what they care about.

“This idea of enlightened self interest, it is a very kind of 1950s value and I just think we’ve moved on, I think people genuinely feel in an age of disconnection, of alienation, of loneliness, of urban alienation, I think they feel that they want to reach out to community and build their own community and try and help people.

“A lot of the social enterprises that I see are about getting elderly lonely people and bringing them into the community. There is a great one called GoodGym here in London there is a running group, where the route for the runners goes along houses of elderly people who are lonely and don’t have any family. So the runners, stop in, drop off a paper and then carry on. They get fit, they do some good, this is not about enlightened self interest, this is about building community and I think millennial realise, what we lost through the selfish years, the ‘Ateful Eighties’ as we call them… was that sense of connection, connectivity, community, and I think social entrepreneurship is to them a way of rekindling that flame.”

In the book Singh distinguishes between two kinds of social entrepreneurs.

“I talk about what I call incubated social entrepreneurs, which is the kind of the classic Harvard grad who has had a very privileged life, who then goes to Kenya and says ‘I want to help these Kenyan farmers because I am great’. And sometime they do great stuff and sometimes they really help, there are some great examples of those kinds of social enterprises in the book, I think that is fantastic. I am all for that. I am so glad they are doing that and not ruining the world by joining some investment bank or making arms to sell to a war zone,” Singh said.

“But what I would say are the more radical and more exciting social enterprises for me are those ones that are fed-up by what I call the people living at the bottom of the pyramid, so they are bottom pyramid social enterprises.

“They are the ones where you have got someone living in a disadvantaged situation, a difficult circumstance, they have suffered and they say ‘I am never going to let that happen to anyone ever again, I am damn well going to set up something which changes the situation’. It might be something completely stupid like a waste management system because someone they know died of cholera, but that is an act of social entrepreneurship and is every bit as valuable as the mega chicken that Vinod Kapur produced, or the really cool tech for good apps that all these Harvard grads are producing.”

But Singh said the full potential of social enterprise was not being realised.

In particular he argued that previous and current governments have not done enough to unleash the potential of Britain’s social enterprise community.

He said there was a big debate currently taking place in the UK regarding public service contracting, that was being fueled by the collapse of Carillon.

“Government outsourcing megaliths like Carillon, who rinse the public for profit, are the antithesis of the moral marketplace of social enterprises,” Singh said.

“Our public services are a ticking time bomb as a result of contracts made with companies like Carillion. The government’s regrettable indifference to the real potential of social enterprise to reform public services and place social value at their heart – if it continues – will only result in waste and misery. I trust that Carillion’s collapse will be the stimulus for radical change.”

Among 30 policy ideas included in The Moral Marketplace Singh has suggested a “community first” test for public service contracting, which urged government to privilege purpose-driven, socially-minded organisations over private sector businesses when tendering for public services.

“It is about putting organisations with social purpose, social value at their heart, and saying we’re going to give you a chance to get this contract first before we turn to anyone else. Just something simple like that can really empower, from the government perspective, these organisations. From our perspective, we the people, we need to be encouraging them to do that,” Singh said.

He said the public should continue to support social enterprises through learning more and buying from organisations in the moral marketplace.

“There is so much we can do as an activated, motivated public. More than ever people are wearing their causes as badges and saying this is what I stand for and I just think we need to get that momentum behind, these amazing people, these mission driven millenials who are saying you know what, I want to change the world.”

He said he hoped his book helped people learn more about social entrepreneurship and offered lessons to people looking to enter the space as well as for officialdom on how to create a consensus that works better for social enterprise.

“If you are someone who cares about doing good and you want to know what good looks like in our time, maybe you have heard about this thing social enterprise but you’re not sure what it looks like, hopefully my book will be able to help you elevate your knowledge and also feel good about what’s happening out there. If I can help more people get more active and more involved then I think the book will have done its job.”

The moral marketplace by Asheem Singh is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £10.39.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

8 Women Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing The World

To coincide with the hundredth anniversary of some women first gaining the right to vote – and the recent release of the eagerly-awaited The Moral Marketplace: How Mission-Driven Millennials and Social Entrepreneurs are changing Our World – author and social entrepreneur Asheem Singh highlights eight women from across the globe, some well known, some flying below the radar, many of whom feature in his book, who are changing the world through fierce leadership and social entrepreneurship.

Betty Makoni was a child rape victim in Zimbabwe whose assault was hushed up. She grew up to become a teacher, advocate and researcher and set up the Girl Child Network, which lets girls share their experiences in classroom settings. GCN has spread across Africa and there is even a chapter in Basildon, Essex. Supermodel Adwoa Aboah recently set up a sassy, online, generation-Z variation on the network called Gurlstalk last year.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, born 1980, is an Ethiopian social businesswoman and inspirational speaker and the founder of SoleRebels, Africa’s fastest growing footwear company that now supplies 30 countries worldwide, and that is ecologically sustainable and ethical in all its production ‘to boot.’

Lily Cole is already well known as more than a supermodel. With a double first in history of art from Cambridge University, she has also set up the social enterprise platform Impossible. This year, she will help lead the celebrations to mark the bicentenary of Emily Bronte’s birth.

Laura Bates is the British grad who founded the everyday sexism website. A simple blog has become a global brand, the hashtag itself is an icon of our times and a testament to the accessibility and potential of social entrepreneurship in our time.

Talia Frenkel. A former photojournalist, she now makes condoms that women in developing countries are not afraid to carry around. One pack purchased here, sees one given free to a vulnerable person in an AIDs danger zone.

Eden Full. A young woman and an engineering and innovation genius. When she was 19 years old, Full dropped out of Princeton University to turn her high school science fair project, the SunSaluter, into a global juggernaut. It provides both clean water and electricity for poor communities being as it is a solar panel that tracks the movement of the sun across the sky, making it significantly more energy efficient than sedentary flat panels. It can now be found in 15 countries around the world and Full has no plans of stopping there.

Wendy Royskopp. A Princeton grad who realised that quality of teaching was essential to life chances. The social movement she founded, Teach for America, its British counterpart, Teach First and other chapters are revolutionising education.

Malala Yousufzai. She was oppressed, denied an education. She was butchered, she got up, she spoke out, she won the Nobel prize for peace. She now studies law at Oxford. And still she has so much to give. An enduring inspiration.

 

The moral marketplace by Asheem Singh is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £10.39.

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Understanding the myths that new students hold about sexual violence and domestic abuse is key for prevention

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallWe have made Rachel Fenton and Cassandra Jones’ article – An exploratory study on the beliefs about gender-based violence held by incoming undergraduates in England –  from the Journal of Gender-Based Violence free for an extra month, until the end of February.

In the light of #metoo and similar campaigns, myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse must be explored. The following article, based on the above paper and published in The Conversation in December, begins to unravel these myths, why they are held and how they shape our perceptions of sexual violence.

“Sexual violence and domestic abuse are public health problems in society – and they are issues that also affect universities. One 2011 study reported that during their time at university, 25% of women students in the UK had experienced sexual assault, 7% were subject to a serious sexual assault and 68% were subject to physical or verbal sexual harassment on campus.

A new study that I’ve just published found that some students – both male and female – hold myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse when they arrive at university.

These include rape myths such as believing that the victim brought it on herself by her behaviour or her consumption of alcohol, that rape is about sexual desire that men cannot control, and that women lie about being raped when they regret sex or are caught cheating. For domestic abuse, myths include not believing that violence happens in young people’s relationships, and that controlling behaviour is just an expression of “love”.

Myths shape societal perceptions of sexual violence, and can lead to many victims blaming themselves for their own victimisation. They can prevent victims from disclosing their abuse for fear of not being believed or being blamed – leaving the perpetrators free to carry on abusing. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, women may also believe in rape myths because to do so protects them from the potential of being victimised themselves: if they can think that the victim brought it on herself then they can feel safe that it will not happen to them. Previous studies have shown that rape myths are quite widely believed across society.

While there is little evidence about domestic abuse in universities, research shows partner violence is a significant concern in teenage relationships. Young women of university age are also at high risk of becoming victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Such sexual violence can lead to unfulfilled academic potential and interruption of studies as well as mental health problems.

By understanding whether new students endorse sexual violence and domestic abuse myths – and which myths – it should be possible to tailor prevention efforts more precisely. This way universities can work with students more effectively in tackling sexual violence and domestic abuse and survivors can be supported to access the help they need.

What myths prevail

In our new research paper, my colleague Cassandra Jones and I looked at the extent to which 381 new undergraduates at one university endorsed different myths about rape. We also looked at how these beliefs were related to domestic abuse myths, and to the students’ readiness to help in tackling the issue. Roughly a third of the students we surveyed were men and two thirds were women.

Participants in our study were asked to mark how much they believe in certain rape myths on a scale of one to five, where one was “strongly disagree” and five “strongly agree”. We found that for some of the questions, a substantial minority of the students supported myths about rape. Overall, men endorsed these myths more than women did.

Around 27% of the students we surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with statements that equated rape with men’s “uncontrollable” desire for sex. Around 20% agreed or strongly agreed with statements that suggested women claim they’ve been raped if they regret sex or desire revenge. The pattern we found is the same as a large study of over 2,300 undergraduates in the US and a general population study of over 3,000 participants.

However, we also found that some myths, which are collectively characterised as “it wasn’t really rape”, were supported by very few people. For example, only 3% supported the statement that “if a girl doesn’t physically resist sex – even if protesting verbally – it really can’t be considered rape” and only 1% believed rape required a weapon.

Consistent with other research, we also found that men endorsed myths about domestic abuse more than women did. We also found the more the students in the study believed in rape myths, the more likely they were to believe in domestic abuse myths.

Prioritising prevention

Work I’ve been doing with my colleague Helen Mott aims to empower bystanders to intervene to prevent sexual violence and domestic abuse, and to create cultural change. One key component of such prevention programmes is tackling and reducing myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse.

We wanted to know whether myths had any bearing on the extent to which the undergraduates would be ready to help with work to prevent sexual violence and domestic abuse. Overall, we found an overwhelming majority of the students felt a responsibility to help. Women felt more responsibility to help than men and a slightly higher proportion of men than women felt sexual violence and domestic abuse was not a problem or not their concern. We also found that the more students held myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse, the more likely they were to think violence is not a problem and not their concern.

There are educational, health and legal reasons why universities should help address these issues. But doing research and prevention work around sexual violence means acknowledging the problem. Some universities fear they will be being singled out as having a problem with sexual violence, and that it might deter prospective students and parents and cause reputational damage. Yet the opposite is true. The more a university engages with tackling sexual violence, the more reason students have to trust that their university is genuinely concerned with their safety and support. I have been fortunate to work with universities and students who understand this.

The ConversationIt is not surprising that some new students will come into university holding preconceptions about some of the causes and responsibility for sexual violence and domestic abuse – students are products of society where such myths are endorsed and are not to be blamed for holding them. Our research shows which myths we must tackle in prevention programmes, and that universities must engage both women and men students in a positive way in their prevention efforts.

Rachel Fenton, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Exeter

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallAn exploratory study on the beliefs about gender-based violence held by incoming undergraduates in England’ from the Journal of Gender-Based Violence is free until the end of February.

It is part of a ‘Bystander research’ section of the issue that also includes ‘A campus LGBTQ community’s sexual violence and stalking experiences: the contribution of pro-abuse peer support‘ by Amanda Hall-Sanchez et al and ‘Bystander intervention from the victims’ perspective: experiences, impacts and justice needs of street harassment victims‘ by Bianca Fileborn.

 

 

Repealing the 8th: how new legislation on abortion should be designed

Fiona de Londras

Fiona de Londras

Mairead Enright

Mairead Enright

Fiona de Londras and Mairead Enright – authors of ‘Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish abortion law‘ – respond to the announcement of the Irish Cabinet of its intention to hold a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 in May 2018. The book, now publishing on Thursday this week, looks beyond the referendum to what might come next, presenting detailed proposals for new legislation.

Chapter 4 from the book – Accessing abortion care: principles for legislative design – is now available to download free on our website. 

In 1983 the Irish Constitution was amended by the insertion of Article 40.3.3, now known as ‘the 8th Amendment’. This provides that “the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

At first glance, the 8th Amendment may seem innocuous or merely aspirational. However, over time, this provision has led to a near-absolute prohibition on abortion in Irish law and serious infringement of pregnant people’s rights. Under the current law, abortion is only lawfully available in Ireland when a woman will almost certainly die without it, and even then multiple doctors usually have to agree that this is the case.

“More than three decades of activism have come together in a large, vocal, visible and highly effective campaign for political and legal reform.”

Now, though, there are signs of change. More than three decades of activism have come together in a large, vocal, visible and highly effective campaign for political and legal reform; for the removal of the 8th Amendment and introduction of a law that will enable women to exercise agency in pregnancy and ensure that, for those who want to avail of it, abortion care is available at home in Ireland.

On Monday, the Irish Cabinet announced its intention to hold a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 in May 2018. The People will be asked to delete this Article and to insert a provision that expressly says that provision may be made by law for the termination of pregnancy. The Taoiseach said that the referendum will present the People with a choice to enable the Irish parliament to legislate for abortion care at home, or to continue to export abortion to other jurisdictions and to put the lives of women in Ireland at risk.

The Cabinet will publish indicative legislation for a GP-led abortion service ‘on request’ up to 12 weeks, and more limited access to abortion in later pregnancy.

Hamill Aoife - 205kTravelled - Signs - London Irish Arc 2

After the referendum

In the book we look beyond the referendum, to what might come next once the 8th Amendment no longer absolves the Oireachtas of the responsibility to make law to provide for the needs of women in Ireland. We include detailed proposals for how new legislation on abortion might be designed, including draft legislation that gives effect to the proposals that appear to have received Cabinet support this week in a way that respects the rights of pregnant people in Ireland.

“…the rights of pregnant people can be developed in ways that truly respect and protect bodily integrity, privacy, and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.”

In doing this, we argue that repeal of the 8th Amendment would create opportunities for the progressive interpretation of the Constitution, so that the rights of pregnant people—for so long narrowed down to a bare right to life said to be equal in stature to that of an unborn foetus—can be developed in ways that truly respect and protect bodily integrity, privacy, and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. This, we argue, would compel the Irish state to provide for lawful abortion, but would allow it to pursue the socially valuable objective of preserving foetal life provided in doing so it respects the constitutional rights of pregnant people.

This can be done by introducing law that makes abortion available without restriction as to reason up to at least the twelfth week. After that such a law might make lawful abortion available on broadly drawn health grounds so that pregnant people can truly determine the course of their own reproductive lives, and so that victims of sexual violence or those who have received unexpected foetal diagnoses will be able to be supported through a decision to an end a pregnancy, rather than forced through a punitive ‘qualification’ processes. This is what we are calling for now that the Referendum has been announced.

Like the Citizens’ Assembly and Joint Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment, we draw distinctions between the availability of abortion after 12 weeks and after 24 weeks, with later abortion (after 12 weeks) being truly exceptional in law, just as it is in life. Illustrating the feasibility of such an approach, we include in the book draft legislation that gives effect to this approach. This makes our book essential reading for anyone involved in the campaign.

Our objective in writing this book was threefold. First, we wanted to make the constitutional arguments about the 8th Amendment clear and accessible and, in so doing, to show that from a legal perspective there is nothing unusually difficult about legislating for abortion and no reason why, uniquely among medical procedures, it should be regulated within the text of the Constitution. Second, we wanted to show how the Constitution itself could develop after repeal to reinvigorate the personal rights of pregnant people and to strike a balance between protecting these legal rights and pursuing the social objective of preserving foetal life through voluntary, consensual, and well-supported pregnancy. Finally, we wanted to show that, by drawing on experience in other countries and on international human rights law, and by committing to ensuring that pregnant people have sufficient certainty and support to make decisions about their own reproductive lives, a workable, reasonable, and rights-based law on access to abortion can be imagined and designed for Ireland.

Now, with the announcement of the Referendum on the 36th Amendment to the Constitution, we are a step closer to achieving some of these goals, but there is still much work to do. Given this week’s developments, Policy Press has brought forward the publication of the book to 1 February: please circulate information about it to anyone who is involved in the debates around the referendum.

 

Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish abortion law‘ by Fiona de Londras and Mairead Enright  is publishing on 1 February 2018 and is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Pre-order here for just £10.39.

It will be available Open Access under CC-BY licence.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Why does public sexual harassment matter?

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Fiona Vera-Gray

The announcement today that MPs are launching an inquiry into the public sexual harassment of women and girls is a welcome recognition that finally these experiences matter. Fiona Vera-Gray, author of The Right Amount of Panic, looks at how safety and freedom work together in women’s lives.

“Picture this: You’re on a bus and this guy in front of you turns around and starts talking. You think, it can’t be at me, so keep reading, and then he says, “Are you ok? I’m talking to you.” You’re polite, a little unsure, so respond, “Oh sorry I don’t know you.” And then it starts. He says, “I thought we could get to know each other. What’s your name? Have you got a boyfriend? Where have you been? What are you reading? Why are you being so rude? You think you’re better than me? Stuck up bitch.” He follows you when you get off at your stop. You make sure you stay on a main road. You lose him at a busy intersection when you cross the road just before a bus passes, leaving him stuck on the other side.

“Women and girls are routinely having to evaluate what the right amount of panic is, to direct their movements and actions in public space.”

This is just one example of what women have told me about their experiences of public sexual harassment. Parts of this will be familiar to many women in the UK and beyond, the intrusive questioning and interruption, the quick turn to insults and aggression. Women and girls are routinely having to evaluate what the right amount of panic is, to direct their movements and actions in public space. And though usually such encounters, and the work women do to manage them, are commonly dismissed as “all part of growing up”, it looks like the impact they have is about to be taken seriously.

The announcement today by the Women and Equalities Committee that they are launching an inquiry into the public sexual harassment of women and girls is a welcome recognition that finally these experiences matter.

Activists and organisations have been working for many years to try to raise awareness of the routine intrusions women and girls experience from men in public spaces. In the UK, the filmmaker Aleah Scott’s short film LDN GIRLS profiled the work of activist Kafayat Okanlawon, and groups such as Purple Drum, the young women’s project at Imkaan committed to archiving and amplifying the voices of black and minoritised ethnic women, have highlighted the importance of looking at racialised public sexual harassment, and the experiences of queer black and minoritised ethnic women.

I have been researching this since 2012, publishing the first full length study in the UK in 2016. I’ve also been working with young people on the issues, developing a set of Lesson Plans with Rape Crisis South London and Purple Drum that helps young people think through the differences between banter, harassment, and a compliment. What I have found is that far from the ways public sexual harassment is trivialised, it plays a significant role in limiting women’s freedom.

Women are habitually performing safety work, often without thinking. Habits such as restricting where they go, what they wear, choosing particular seats on public transport or certain routes home. The vast majority of this work is pre-emptive, a highly crafted way of evaluating what the right amount of panic is in any given situation.

“… crucial information can be missed when we ask broad questions about crime and safety.”

However, this ability to create a feeling of safety through changing their behaviour creates a problem: it means that crucial information can be missed when we ask broad questions about crime and safety. Questions such as “how safe do you feel?” or “how often have you experienced sexual harassment in public?” are unable to capture the work that women may be doing to feel safe, or the many times where this work has been successful and they have expertly avoided sexual harassment. We become unable to see the full impact of the sexual harassment of women in public because we’ve separated out safety from freedom and are only measuring the former. But in women’s lives, the two work together. The Women and Equalities Inquiry may finally give a space for this connection to be uncovered.

Over the past months, we have seen the ways that the #metoo movement has mobilised women across different sectors. It is not that women are finally speaking about their experiences of harassment – indeed many of the accounts include how disclosures were previously made to people with the power to make changes – it is that women are finally being heard. This movement has shown what happens when we take workplace sexual harassment seriously. The Inquiry over the next few months may at last do the same for our experiences in public.

9781447342298The Right Amount of Panic by Fiona Vera-Gray is publishing in July 2018 and is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Pre-order here for just £11.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The centrality of poverty

By Glen Bramley, co-editor of Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK Vol. 2

Originally published by Poverty and Social Exclusion on December 8th 2017. 

Poverty as measured by material deprivation through lack of economic resources remains absolutely central to understanding the causation and patterning of most aspects of social exclusion and a wide range of social outcomes. This is the strongest message emerging from Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK: Volume 2 – The Dimensions of Disadvantage, the second of the two-volume study based on the PSE-UK 2012 surveys. Attempts to wash ‘poverty’ out of the policy agenda and government target-setting are quite wrong and unsustainable.

This volume, which I edited with Nick Bailey, sets out to explore the different ‘domains’ of social exclusion and the ways that these relate to each other and to the core issue of material poverty. Having examined a wide range of disadvantages, the overall conclusion is that reducing poverty is probably the most effective way to promote key societal outcome targets. This is notably the case for health, as shown in the chapter by Prior and Manley, and wellbeing/happiness, as discussed by Tomlinson and Wilson.

The social harm caused by poverty is examined theoretically as well as through drawing on the PSE’s qualitative evidence in the contribution by Pemberton, Pantazis and Hillyard, who argue that several concepts currently in vogue within social policy discourse – such as resilience and risk – are inadequate in addressing this challenge. Increased risks of severe poverty and destitution, not unconnected to welfare reforms and cuts, are evidenced in the contribution by Bramley, Fitzpatrick and Sosenko, drawing on a combination of PSE and new special survey evidence.

Concern about poverty and exclusion cannot be separated from concerns about inequality, with particular current concern about the contrasting trends and policies affecting the poorest and the most affluent in the UK, as is illustrated by the examination of wider measures of living standards presented by Patsios, Pomati and Hillyard. The striking trend towards more of poverty overall being among working households, as well as the extent of forms of ‘exclusionary employment’, is the main theme of Bailey’s contribution. This is not the only example of greater ‘precarity’ across wider sections of the community, as there is also a marked shift in this direction in housing as more households live in insecure private renting paying higher rents with little security, while financial stress affects approaching half of the population (Bramley and Besemer).

Wilson, Bailey and Fahmy found that access to resources and support from social networks is less closely related to poverty and clearly for some households support from family, in particular, is often a key factor in coping with poverty – but in poorer communities family and neighbours may themselves be hard-pressed. Fahmy also shows that poverty does also limit the extent of civic and political participation, alongside factors like education and class.

The domain on which exclusion appears least related to material poverty is in fact access to local public and private services. Bramley and Besemer argue that this is ‘good news’, implying that through national and local policies, public spending and regulation, the natural tendency of market systems to reinforce inequality has been neutralised. Other good news stories include the above-mentioned examples of domains of exclusion which are not dominantly driven by poverty, improvements in some aspects of living standards and declines in some forms of exclusion (e.g. financial services), and gradual increases in reported happiness. There has also been a dramatic fall in the incidence of poverty among the retirement age population over the last two decades.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence to support concerns about trends towards more marketisation and financialisation of aspects of life, lessening social cohesion and engagement, and promoting disillusion with the system. This is probably not unconnected with the unprecedented falls in living standards experienced by wide sections of the population in the later 2000s and early 2010s, in part due to cost of living factors like higher fuel costs (causing a marked rise in fuel poverty) as well as the increasing precarity of some people’s working lives and housing situations. On a majority of domains of social exclusion, the surveys showed that scores had worsened between 1999 and 2012, while people’s judgements about what things were necessities became more restrictive, reversing a long-term trend towards a more generous set of expectations.

The authors also note a growing ‘behavioural agenda’ around poverty, but are highly critical about some misuses of this perspective in relation to public understanding, policy agendas and targets. For example, family breakdown, educational failure and serious personal debt may in some cases cause or confound poverty, but very often they are also clearly consequences of poverty. Addictions can be a compounding factor in the poverty and exclusion of some adults, but these only account for a tiny proportion of the total number of adults in poverty.

Britain has moved forward and then backwards in terms of the adoption of national targets for the tackling of poverty, particularly child poverty, with poverty ‘airbrushed’ out of the national strategy for social mobility. Yet in this respect the devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland, have chosen to follow a different path, reinstating child and other poverty targets in legislation and developing an action programme to achieve these. Recent research-based initiatives by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation under the banner Solve UK Poverty have set out an ambitious and diverse policy agenda which it is argued would significantly reduce poverty in the medium to longer term. Yet in the shorter term the immediate prospect in forecasts by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies are for a substantial rise in poverty, due in substantial measure to the further imposition of welfare reforms, cuts and the freezing of many benefits.

Overall, we believe the multi-dimensional perspective of ‘poverty and social exclusion’ has been shown to be justified and successfully implemented through the PSE Survey. In this volume we offer a new picture of the main distinct dimensions of poverty and exclusion, while arguing that it is important to pay attention to these distinct aspects to get a full picture of disadvantage in contemporary UK. For taking this research forward into the future we anticipate building on the kind of survey exemplified by PSE by seeing more use made of longitudinal/panel surveys and of linkage between surveys and administrative data to give stronger insights and evidence on causal processes and trajectories of poverty.

Poverty and social exclusion in the UK Vol. 2 edited by Glen Bramley and Nick Bailey is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £23.99.

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