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Thursday 15 March 2012

The Dissophrenics

I attended a ‘Funding the Future’ conference this week at Westminster Hall.  It’s not often I get the chance to sit in one place for a whole day and listen to over 10 speakers talking about funding in the current climate.  As the day progressed, it started to dawn on me just how deep disadvantaged thinking goes.   Speaker after speaker offered optimistic, positive, strengths-based, innovative ‘we must do things different’ visions of the world, whilst often completely undermining those aspirations by starting from an entirely deficit-based stereotype of the issues. 

It reminds me of the wonderful line from Consolidated’s excellent ‘Business of Punishment’ album– ‘They must remain sick, so we can continue to treat them.’ 
Britain must be broken, the disadvantaged must be in vulnerable, criminal and at risk stereotypes, money must be impossible to find, so we can continue to avoid doing those things differently that we really need to – such as reforming the prison system, changing the contracting environment, replacing the support models that don’t work, reforming Job Centre Minus, overturning the waste in lives now that will turn into the toxic debts of tomorrow, etc etc.

With one or two notable exceptions, what was being witnessed on stage was the birth of the ‘diss-ophrenics’ – a schizophrenia in Government, in organisations and individuals, by which we talk about making a difference and investing in solutions, at the same time as keeping the status quo of disadvantaged thinking and problems in place.  It’s a bit like the new liberal man of the 90’s – laughing at the same sexist jokes, but under the veneer of  a so-called sophisticated postmodern irony.

‘Let’s do things differently, but let’s not think differently about what we want to do things differently about and for.’

‘Let’s face up to the fact that our economy is in deficit, by focusing on the deficit approaches that our economy can increasingly ill afford.’

‘Let’s create more sophisticated outcomes metrics and investment systems to evidence our own delusions and limitations that suggest any of this really works.’

Come the election, we'll be told that choco ration is going up. 

The point is this: unless we stop beginning every thought with ‘deficit, problem and disadvantage’, then every solution we come up with in response is inevitably constrained by our field of perspective on and within the problem and the disadvantage.  We need to stand outside of our own minds, see the world around us through fresh eyes, with humanity, opportunity, and care, and ask: what future do we want to fund?

You’ll be happy to know that there is a cure for diss-ophrenia.  Treatment is on offer for officials, fundraisers, funders, and others, who need urgent help to advantage their thinking.  Call the Foyer Federation now - ask to invest in the future.

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