Strings-free cash for the poor?

A charity handing out money to the poor, no strings attached? The idea sounds ridiculous. But that is exactly what ‘Give Directly’ is doing in Africa with some surprising results: ‘The 25-year-old carpenter knew nothing of this until he came home one day to find that strangers had given his wife a mobile phone linked to a bank account. Next came a $1,000 windfall, which they were free to spend on whatever they liked. The idea sounds as extraordinary as throwing money out of helicopters. But this programme, and others like it, are part of a shift in thinking about how best to use aid to help the poorest. For decades, it was thought that the poor needed almost everything done for them and that experts knew best what this was.’ But then, from around 2000, a different idea started to emerge and take shape as governments started handing out small stipends to families to spend in whichever way they chose… This article titled, Pennies from Heaven, found in the Economist, details the rest of this journey as well as looking at some of the differences in result between money given with strings attached and that without. What do you think? Is it possible that in our desire to help the poor we have decided that we need to...

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a new [Russell] Brand of government?

I have never been a huge fan of comedian and actor Russell Brand and i’m not actually sure why that is, but this video clip from last night on BBC’s Newsnight show upped his rating [if only because of the plethora of long words he throws out as if he understands them all] And this is a bit of a different post from normal as it doesn’t relate directly to the FAITH meets FINANCES conversation, although i definitely think the questions it poses that are related to FINANCES [in the form of political systems and agendas] are worth considering and approaching from our FAITH perspective. But all in all it is a really interesting interview [although it feels a lot like an attack a lot of the time, but I thought Russell handled it well] so I would highly recommend you giving it a listen: [youtube=]   You can read the associated article here. I think the main point Russell is challenging is the acceptance of government as we know it simply because we’ve always known it to be that way. And while he doesn’t seem to be able to articulate exactly what that new system looks like it is one that: [A] looks after the planet and [B] addresses the disparity between rich and poor.  Which brings us to...

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The Growing Wealth Gap

If you’ve been following my recent posts here on Two Cents, you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a lot of reading on income inequality. I was introduced to a whole new wrinkle in the problem this week when reading a Sojourners’ article by Otis Moss III. In it, and in this accompanying infographic, Moss explores the growing wealth gap in America through the lens of race, quantifying exactly how much harder hit black and hispanic communities were by the recent economic recession. Moss’s article helps to illustrate the ways in which different forms of inequality can come forth from and feed into other forms, and to show the way in which our communal economic life affects so many other aspects of our society. At the end of the article, Moss calls for local congregations to build a movement that will champion restorative justice and challenge “this cruel thief of dreams known as poverty.” How can we do so? How are your local congregations already working to take up this...

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Back on their Feet

‘We can change the direction of peoples’ lives by changing the way they see themselves.’ So says Anne Mahlum, an ordinary person who came up with an extraordinary yet so-simple idea as evidenced in this short video clip. She started the organisation ‘Back on my Feet’ which helps homeless people, through running and then later job and study opportunity creation, to literally and then figuratively get back on their feet. In the much longer, but completely worthwhile TED talk video at the bottom she tells the story of how “I realised i could help them in the way that running has helped me.” One of the first men who joined the club was a guy called Kenny Herder: ‘I walked in that shelter so depressed. I was just sad. I was down and out, I was drinking heavy at the time, and what that does to you is it fuels it. When ‘Back on my Feet’ came to the shelter that was the day my life changed. As I ran, my mind became healthier, my body became healthier. As these things become healthier. your decision-making becomes healthier…’ Anne goes on to add that Bak on my Feet’ is not about handouts, it’s about hard work.  ‘The sole measure of success is how many people have we helped get employed and housed....

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Investing well

What if we pushed pause for a second and reframed some of our questions. Instead of asking “How much do I need?”, let’s ask, “How much do I have?” Instead of wondering if investing falls in the “storing up of treasures” category, let’s consider the impact we could have with our dollars if we aligned our investments with our deeper values, our hope for creation and our participation in the restorative activity of God in our world. Let’s shift perspective on the power our resources have to effect change. Socially Responsible Investing is by no means a new concept (this video tells us what it’s all about in plain English), and has been explored and practiced by many faith-based individuals and companies. At its core, SRI focuses on sustainable, socially conscious, environmentally aware, and ethical investing. As Tom Krattenmaker puts it, “Instead of obsessing over how little we possess and how much more we need, faith- and spirit-based investment advisers urge investors to be grateful for how much they have and imagine the good they could accomplish if they invested it generously.” What becomes possible if you considered reorienting your investment strategy, perhaps even risking a reduced financial return, in “exchange for a better social...

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