The Friends Provident Foundation was established with an endowment of £20 million in July 2004 as part of the demutualization of Friends’ Provident Life Office and the flotation of Friends Provident plc. At its launch, Chairman John Whitney said: ‘We see the Foundation as a pioneer, encouraging new ways of thinking about how money is used to solve a wide range of problems. We particularly want to encourage thinking that deals with the cause of the problem.’
To mark the setting up of the new foundation, the trustees invited a number of people to contribute to a book called The Right Use of Money. In the foreword, they explain that they commissioned the book ‘to help inform us about some of the issues we should consider in our management of the endowment and to stimulate creative thought on the part of those applying for funds’. In his introductory chapter, the book’s editor, David Darton (formerly Communications/Strategy Director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation), describes the collection of essays as ‘a book about money. Not about how to make money, but how to use it and use it well.’ He acknowledges the eclectic nature of the essays but suggests that there are ‘some common threads that weave together many of the pieces’. These he summarizes as philanthropy, empowerment, stewardship and transparency. ‘We need a more philanthropic approach,’ he asserts, ‘but one that is enabling and born of a recognition of our interdependence with each other and with the environment and one that illuminates the effects of our own action. Such an approach must be grounded in greater transparency to increase our understanding of the seemingly mysterious global monetary system that ties us inextricably together.’
Among the questions posed in the essays are:
§ Does the way we use money betray the next generation?
§ Is dishonesty within our financial systems making it too difficult for consumers to make informed decisions?
§ Are we wasting money on good intentions that do not match real need?
§ How can individuals, foundations and others with social concerns ensure that all their assets are used effectively?
The authors include Jed Emerson, writing about blended value and the need for a ‘Full Investment Approach’; Charles Handy, with a contribution entitled ‘Money: What is it for?’; Matthew Pike of the Scarman Trust setting out a strategy for ‘conquering helplessness’; and journalist Polly Toynbee arguing that ‘any debate about the right use of money must include some coherent pattern out of a pay structure now grown grossly dysfunctional to create a social structure of opportunity and just reward for work’.
David Darton closes the book with a chapter on ‘Promising Approaches and Mechanisms’, which lists a range of suggested actions for government, business, financial institutions, voluntary organizations and individuals.
Inevitably, given the very open brief to which the writers were invited to respond (‘how we might increase the chances of money being used in positive ways’), the quality and impact of the collection is variable. Most of the 15 essays, however, are stimulating and relevant well beyond the UK context in which almost all are set.
The Right Use of Money
David Darton (ed) Policy Press £9.95/US$16.95 (paperback)
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David Carrington is an independent consultant. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org