By Callum McSorley
The INSP conference hosted its first ever public event on Thursday evening at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow [sponsored by Kibble], with an impassioned call to use social business to end poverty.
“For the last 37 years all we’ve done is manage poverty, we haven’t actually dented it,” said Steven Persson, CEO of The Big Issue Australia.
Speaking to a room full of street paper staff, charity leaders and social entrepreneurs, Persson called upon them to step up and tackle worldwide poverty.
“It’s time for us, as organisations, to stop looking for leadership and actually come up with the solutions ourselves. For too long we’ve turned to governments.
“Homeless and marginalised people have been way too patient for change and I think we’ve got to use every vehicle for change,” he said.
Head of Oxfam Scotland, Jamie Livingstone warned that poverty levels in this country are following a worrying trend.
“In Scotland we’re seeing poverty levels increase. We had 70,000 people in Scotland use food banks last year,” he said.
UK Big Issue founder John Bird was quick to disagreed that things are getting worse and looked back to his own experiences of being homeless during childhood as an example.
“When I was a boy there was nobody there to protect us other than the Catholic Church, there were no charities and no shelters,” he argued. “Don’t try and kid yourself that it’s as bad as it was, we have moved on and we need to build on that.”
The panel also featured leading social innovators Lauren Currie, co-founder and director of Snook and Susan Aktemel, founder and director of Homes for Good, a social letting agent for people on low incomes. Both testified to the positive results of social innovation.
“I know I could go out and make far more money in the private sector but I’m choosing not to, and there are more and more of us in the country who are choosing not to,” said Aktemel.
The reward for this way of doing business is not just money, she argued. “There are two pay packets, you get the financial one and you get the social one. Today I had two pieces of mail in the mailbox, one was an invoice from a surveyor for a property and the other one was a thank you card from a tenant that made us all cry when we read it.”
Currie, whose agency Snook uses design methods to solve social problems, agreed, “Creative people in Scotland are told they need to go to London. We wanted to stay in Scotland and use design to do good.”