ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Scores: Part of the “Pay for Success” Plan?

A red flag for me in Gavin Newsom’s “child-friendly” proposed budget was the $45 million he allocated to screen children and adults in Medi-Cal for ACEs. I’m writing this post to express serious reservations I have about the process of developing ACE (Adverse Early Childhood Experiences) scores for people. ACEs are getting tremendous media exposure of late. While I believe this to be a crucial pubic health concern, my fear is that ACE prevention and mitigation interventions will become vehicles for “innovative” finance and will expand profiling of vulnerable populations.

I want to make it clear from the outset that I acknowledge childhood trauma does result in long-term negative health consequences for individuals. I’ve seen it in my own family. I also recognize that systems of structural racism have inflicted stress and violence on communities of color and indigenous peoples for generations, resulting in high rates of chronic illness that make them attractive targets for “social impact” schemes. People have a basic human right to treatment and care, which should not be conditioned on surveillance and having data harvested to line the pockets of social impact investors.

What concerns me about ACEs is the “scoring.”

Why should a standardized rubric developed under the auspices of one of the largest managed healthcare systems, Kaiser Permanente, label clients and structure the way a doctor, therapist, social worker, or educator can care for them? How did this tool come to have such a far reach, and whose interests will it ultimately serve?

Is a reliance on “scores” an intentionally-constructed framework that allows providers to limit their scope to “fixing” individuals and families rather than advancing a more radical approach whereby systemic causes of community trauma, trauma rooted in our country’s deep racist history, can be acknowledged, holistically assessed, and begin to be ameliorated?

And finally, will this “scoring” system be used to transform the treatment of childhood trauma into a machine for “pay for success” data speculation?

I believe it will.

A September-October, 2017 article for Academic Pediatrics, “Financing Mechanisms for Reducing Adversity and Enhancing Resilience Through Primary Prevention,” shows why ACE interventions will be an extremely attractive investment option for predatory social entrepreneurs. The authors note interventions that “prevent or mitigate the effects of ACEs can have impact across multiple sectors including: behavioral health, general health, child welfare, and “future criminal justice.” Every sector represents potential profit for investors. It appears there’s a lot of money in trauma remediation.

The paper references work done by the Washington State Institute on Public Policy (WSIPP) in which sophisticated cost/benefit models were created that estimate future cost savings across sectors so that the savings can be used to repay investors. WSIPP is one of eight data labs, operating under the purview of the NYU Gov Lab. Among the policy recommendations presented in this paper were: 1) setting “a conceptual framework to understand and account for outcomes across a broad range of public and private investment” 2) “validating metrics to estimate society costs and benefits” 3) adopting integrated budgets that combine health and social welfare finance and 4) disseminating information about innovative policies and finance mechanisms like “pay for success.”

The bottom line is that investors see children who have been harmed as potential sources of vast quantities of “impact” data, since the damage inflicted upon them extends across so many domains. The fact that the harm is so pervasive is, sickeningly, what makes so profitable. Interoperable databases are key to the program. All the data must be pooled in data lakes to claim the future cost offsets that enable the profit taking. WSIPP and its counterparts have been key collaborators in developing a national data architecture upon which impact investment markets will be built. More details in my post “Interoperable Data To Fuel Human Capital Hedge Funds.”

The ACE scoring system was developed under the auspices of one of the largest managed healthcare systems in the country, Kaiser Permanente in the mid 1990s, though the research began a decade earlier. The organization’s roots were providing managed healthcare to construction and defense workers in the 1940s and transitioned to managed care, with an emphasis on preventative care, in the post-war decades. It now has over twelve million subscribers, making it one of the largest providers in the country and very influential in public health policy.

Not only is Kaiser Permanente a healthcare provider, it is also a social impact investor. In May 2018, Kaiser Permanente announced the creation of a $200 million fund for affordable housing. They intend to generate both financial and social returns. In some ways this is consistent with their long-standing focus on preventative care and social determinants of health, but we are entering a new age where an individual’s compliance with preventative health protocols can be compelled through the imposition of wearable monitoring technologies and varied fee structures.

Kaiser 200 million

To say that healthcare delivery and insurance coverage in the United States are highly dysfunctional would be understating the calamity so many face attempting to access needed care without bankrupting their families. We cannot assume current systems will advance the good of the people over the interests of those directing $200 million investment funds. That simply isn’t logical, especially not in the Bay Area where Kaiser Permanente is based.

Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, was named one of Time Magazine’s top 100 people for 2017 in the category of Titan. He was also tagged by Modern Healthcare as number two on a list of most the influential people in the field, recognized for disruption. He serves as chair of the Bay Area Council. Its board includes 160 people, many from the tech, finance, civic, and non-profit sectors who have direct interests in social impact investing. The council is a supporter of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Center for Early Learning, which advances early childhood education and early literacy initiatives. Tyson also sits on the board of Salesforce, which has made investments in SocialSuite, a software dashboard program geared to provide metrics for government contracting and impact investors. SocialSuite partners with IXO Foundation, backer of Amply the social impact digital identity pre-k app being piloted in Cape Town, South Africa. Interactive map here.

Bernard Tyson

Kaiser’s reach is international. In a climate of growing privatization, the UK National Health Service (NHS) has been in ongoing consultation with Kaiser Permanente to learn more about their managed care model. Initial connections were made around 2003, 2004. A 2010 article from BBC News described a three-day conference that was held to examine ways to make the NHS “more productive.” One of the key elements of the Kaiser Permanente program mentioned in the piece was the use of IT and remote monitoring to actively engage patients “managing in their day-to-day health.” The article noted that NHS expected to remain “in close contact” with Kaiser Permanente “to learn from their success.” Additional information on digital nudges in healthcare here.

After passage of the UK Health and Social Care Act of 2012, which advanced a market-based approach to healthcare, outsourcing services to private sector providers began to rise. According to a report from The King’s Fund, growth areas for outsourcing included community health and mental health services, both areas targeted for social impact investing by venture capitalist Sir Ronald Cohen and his cohort of hedge funders.

I correspond with a friend on the other side of the pond, and we’ve been comparing notes on pay for success contracting. In the UK the NHS (National Health Service) has begun to adopt “outcomes based contracting” and staggered payments to facilitate the outsourcing of a variety of services including mental health treatment. More information can be found in the report, “Better Outcomes, Better Value: The Evolution of Social Impact Bonds in the UK,” by Bridges Fund Management, Sir Ronald Cohen’s impact investing firm.

Social entrepreneurs have been putting the pieces in place to harvest profit from mental anguish caused by years of austerity and economic instability among large segments of the British population (cue Brexit). ARK (Absolute Return on Kids) is one of the most influential Academy chains (like charter schools) in the UK, funded by Paul Marshall who founded the Marshall Wace hedge fund. Several years back ARK developed an alt-cert training program for social workers called Frontline along the lines of Teach for America. They have been training harried, low-wage workers who are tasked with screening children and families and pushing them into portfolios of “impact” generating interventions to fuel the impact economy.

Frontline ARK

Such interventions are featured in the “Five Year Forward View for Mental Health” plan for Newham, a borough in East London with a sizable refugee population and high levels of poverty. In 2018, an agreement was made to deliver resilience training via headstart programs and parent academies and mental health services in schools and to young people in crisis. The services are financed through a social impact bond that requires clients be monitored for two years after they receive care in order to evaluate the “success” of the program. Treatment protocols include MST (Multi-Systemic Therapy for Juveniles). MST is a client of Steven Goldenberg of Caffeinated Capital who worked closely with Sir Ronald Cohen on developing social impact bonds while he served as Managing Director and Chief Counsel of Social Finance. This approach seems very much in keeping with the networks of services developed in Harlem Children’s Zone, which I wrote about here. Interactive map here.

Layard UK Wellness

The fiscal reasoning for the “pay for success” mental health outsourcing rests on research done by Sir Richard Layard, Director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. Similar to James Heckman at the University of Chicago, Layard created an economic cost/benefit analysis that allowed the government to scale a vast expansion of mental health services through the NHS starting in 2006. By estimating the number of lost workdays associated with depression, anxiety, and addiction, the government was able to use the value of that labor as a cost off set to pay the impact investors.

As early as 2001, Layard developed the Wellbeing Programme at the Centre for Economic Performance where he sought to “establish happiness as a desirable and measurable goal of public policy in the UK and worldwide.” Early efforts included importing the Child Resilience Program that had been developed by Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Of course Seligman and his collaborator Angela “grit” Duckworth were the ones who developed the “character framework” used by the emotionally brutal KIPP “no excuses” charter franchise.

The Wellbeing Programme’s most significant contribution was launching Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT). Under this program drop-in “Happiness Centres” were placed in low-income neighborhoods where Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was offered, according to one Guardian article, as an “Ikea of the mind” where “the feel good factor was flat-packed for you to take home.” As cloud based computing began to take over the health-care industry, the pressure to digitize therapy grew more intense. In recent years the NHS’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been investigating “evidence-based” digital therapies, delivered online or by app for depression and anxiety. The claim is that these platforms make therapy more accessible, but they also generate vast amounts of data as all the online interactions are captured in digital transcripts. As with “personalized” online learning, this transformation aligns closely with the needs of the “what-works” “data-driven” service delivery model.

Wellbeing Center

Another element that feeds into the social impact scheme is the growing practice of “social prescribing,” in which health professionals recommend patients pursue non-clinical services in community-based settings. The city of London is a big booster of the concept, aiming for every resident to have a social prescription by 2028. Such “prescriptions” are coordinated by community navigators. A recent example is a 1.7 million pound social impact bond to be implemented in Devon where a social prescribing service will be brought to scale to reduce dependency on health care. The SIB is one of 22 announced in 2018, financed through the “Life Chances Fund,” which is managed by The Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the UK Department of Digital, Media, Culture, and Sport. While the thought of coordinated services is appealing, its underlying financial structure means it can never truly serve the best interests of the clients. The goal is to track people in such a way that they will be denied future services. That is the model for impact investing-that public expenditures be redirected away from the public good.

In a 2013 discussion paper titled, “Mental Health: The New Frontier for Labor Economics,” Layard discusses the role mental health interventions play in national economic productivity. Layard chaired the World Economic Forum’s Council on Health and Wellbeing from 2010-2011, and during that time he, at the request of then Prime Minister David Cameron, developed a series of metrics of “national well-being and progress.” It is the framework Layard developed that will be used to scale financialized approaches to mental health treatment globally. To bring these programs to scale, services like tele-therapy and text therapy will be prioritized, because they deliver the data. Not coincidentally they also generate vast quantities of information about the mental health of populations that could be fed into machine learning systems to inform the decision making of governments, financiers, and multi-national corporations.

In the remainder of this post I will address digital “brain-training” mental health treatments that are being devised to sell app-ified “solutions” that supposedly develop “resiliency” and “executive function” in children identified as “slow,” “troubled,” or “delinquent.” Sounds a lot like what we see coming out of KIPP, doesn’t it? Of particular interest to the impact investors are children with high ACEs scores. When implemented with “fidelity,” the pitchmen for these software systems say their “evidence-based” interventions reduce addiction, unemployment, crime, and mental illness thereby relieving pressure on already burdened public services. I have a strong feeling Betsy DeVos’s financial interest in the discredited Neurocore, ADHD treatment protocol, had everything to do with planned growth in the digital “pay for success” brain-training market.

My UK colleague shared an experience attending a professional development program where supposedly “progressive” educators touted programs designed to “train” the brains and “enhance” the executive function of children with high ACEs scores. Remember the joint effort announced by the Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to create an R&D program to improve executive function in children facing “adverse life situations?” If you don’t, it was all about “innovation” that could be scaled cheaply with demonstrated impact; see image below. Yes, this is about moving the data around on the dashboard for benefit of the hedge fund speculators.

Chan Zuckerberg Gates Executive Function

If this sounding like a set up for a tech-driven social impact bonds, you’d be right! The school in question was Seven Sisters Primary School located in Tottenham, which according to a New York Times feature is one of London’s most diverse and deprived communities with a sizable immigrant population. The school has a “pastoral team” of ten staff members in addition to a handful of “Children’s Wellbeing Practitioners.” The online bio for the school’s health mentor notes that Seven Sisters is implementing two software behavior programs: My Cognition and Stronger Brains. See the screen shot below from the Stronger Brains website.

Stronger Brains-2

The company’s director, Wendy Haigh, trained at Harvard and Stanford and previously worked at the Benevolent Society where she advanced one of Australia’s first two social benefit bonds. She is deputy chair of the Capital Working Group of Impact Investing Australia.

Wendy Haigh Stronger Brains

Michael Merenzich is the research half of the pair. An emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of San Francisco (UCSF), Merenzich started the company Scientific Learning whose flagship product is Fast ForWord, language and reading skills software used in schools across United States, Canada, and Australia. A 2011 meta-analyses of research on the program published in the Journal of Child Psychology, Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, indicated NO evidence that the program was “effective as a treatment.” He then went on to establish Posit Science that sells a cognitive training program called BrainHQ, which is being pushed via the 2019 Medicare Advantage Plan in twenty-four states. I imagine that’s a lucrative contract.

Merenzich maintains ties with UCSF, where there is considerable brain training neuroscience research underway. UCSF is home to Adam Gazzaley’s Neuroscape program, whose spin-off, Boston-based Akili, is in the process of developing a range of prescription video game therapies to treat ADHD, depression, and anxiety. The company slogan is “It’s time to play your medicine.” Seriously. Akili is backed by a dozen international companies, evenly split between pharmaceutical and tech-start up venture capital firms. For the past three years Gazzaley has been piloting executive function training games with Melina Uncapher in San Jose Schools. I’ve written about that project here and here.

Akili Time To Play

MyCognition is another program being foisted on the young students of Seven Sisters Primary. The company’s website states the platform provides assessment, “tailored insights” and “coaching.” But the coaching program is actually a video game called Aquasnap that can be used either at home or to cognitively train entire schools on laptops or tablets. They claim that embedded in the video game are “training tasks” “calibrated” to each student based on a preliminary assessment. Completing the tasks supposedly improves attention, working memory, episodic memory, executive function and processing speed.

Aquasnap school

The website includes an extensive overview of data being collected via the platform and how it is shared, but I wonder for a school that serves a largely poor, immigrant community how many parents are informed of their rights regarding this data before their children are signed up for the program? I wonder if they have a right to refuse this gamified cognitive “training?” Right on the homepage it states that the app supports the following sectors: medical, military, education, sport, corporate, and consumer. Tell me why primary school children should have their personal data fed into ANY of these systems? The only reason is to fill data lakes whose contents can be used to fabricate profits for impact investors and profile children to groom them to submit to corporatized government and consumer culture.

My Cognition

Now, back to our side of the pond. The state of Tennessee recently launched a massive “Building Strong Brains” campaign to raise awareness around ACEs and child mental health. It built off a summit hosted in 2018 by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Note the language featured in the screenshot below. It was taken from a video documenting a display board from the conference: “What about it works?” “Evidence-based Practice,” and “Can you measure impact?” The commission hired Frameworks, the same organization that developed the Digital Media and Learning program for the MacArthur Foundation, to create a tool kit for this campaign. Included were trigger videos, reframing cards, talking points, and FAQs to help lobbyists “stay on message in the face of tough questions.”

TN Strong Brains

Al Race from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child presented, as did Donald Schwarz of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, a member of Living Cities. Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child launched in 2006. The initiative manages a “Frontiers of Innovation” research and development platform to improve “life outcomes” for children facing adversity. The focus is on science-based interventions addressing such topics as: toxic stress, brain architecture, resilience, and executive function. The center’s top tier of “investors” at $1 million + features a who’s who of tech and social impact investors: Bezos Family Foundation, Buffet Early Childhood Fund, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (via their Silicon Valley Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund), Pritzker Children’s Initiative, Omidyar Network and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Interactive map here.

Harvard Center on Developing Child Investors

Results for America, one of the major groups that lobbied for the adoption of Pay for Success enabling legislation, last summer identified Tennessee along with Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington as states that were “leading the way with their data-driven and evidence-based examples. Former Governor Bill Haslam is featured as one of their “All Stars” along with Gina Raimondo, Jay Inslee, and John Hickenlooper. Tennessee has been on the leading edge of the so-called “community school” roll out. According to the Tennessee Communities in Schools website, their branch of the national network, came to the state during the 2012-13 school year and services 10,000+ students in Nashville and Memphis. The privatized wrap around services offered through the community school model will be used to fill the data lakes for the impact investors.

Moneyball for Government Governors

ACE scores are key part of Pay for Success infrastructure. Rather than getting the humane care they deserve, people who have experienced trauma will become targets for predatory mental health and brain-training interventions. The “treatments” offered will largely be digital, using online games and wearable technologies, that generate data to prove the programs “work.” Coordinated efforts are underway in the US, the UK, and Australia.

With the passage of Foundations for Evidence Based Policy Making Act some states are forging ahead with “What Works” “Moneyball for Government” initiatives to advance this investment program. We are seeing new legislation and budget appropriations for home visits and ACE screenings. I know of this happening in California, Tennessee, and Washington State. To create this market, the government needs baseline data, and they also have to set up data agreements and unique identifiers to track the children through the system. What can we do to ensure those who have experienced childhood trauma get the care they deserve and are not sucked into this awful machine of digital brain engineering? We absolutely must push back on the scoring system now, before the pay for success agreements are embedded into everything. I welcome your thoughts.

As an addendum I want to add a few items that have come to my attention via Twitter from folks in the UK who are reading this post. Thanks!

Research into use of machine learning in child social care by the What Works Centre. Source

What Works Child Social Care Machine Learning

Dartington Social Research Unit, Louise Morpeth’s 2016 presentation on working on Big Lottery funded social programs in Scotland. References involvement of Annie E. Casey foundation. Source




Good Guy in Davos? Not So Fast

Videos of the historian calling out the billionaires in Davos have been circulating online a lot over the past few days.

Kind of makes you wonder how he got in the room in the first place, doesn’t it?

Well, my colleague from Save Maine Schools pointed out today that Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists, is a Universal Basic Income pitchman. Rather, he’s promoting a variation on UBI call the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). Bregman wrote a piece for the World Economic Forum last spring in which he proposed financing BIG via a negative income tax structure. For those who don’t know, Milton Friedman, University of Chicago Economist and father of neoliberalism, came up with that idea in the 1960s. See William F. Buckley’s interview with him below. If you need a refresher on Friedman and neoliberalism, this is a great overview by Tim Scott, “From the Neoliberal Revolution to the Supremacy of Financialized Austerity: A Brief History.”

From Bregman’s WEF piece:

“Instead of a universal basic income, we could have a basic income guarantee. Or, as economists prefer to call it, a negative income tax.”

“This is an idea that could rally voters across the board, with something to please both the left and the right:

For the left, a world without poverty.

For the right, no more nanny state.

For the left, livelihood security for all.

For the right, an economy that always rewards hard graft.”

This, of course, aligns well with recent bi-partisan support for privatizing the commons, as long as outsourced public services demonstrate “evidence” of “efficacy.”

Bregman is from the Netherlands where they’re piloting blockchain identity systems. My instincts say he was tapped to play the “good cop” in this performance. When the fin-tech oligarchs get around to pitching UBI or BIG in a year or two, folks will be conditioned to think “Hey, isn’t that the guy I saw on social media blasting the billionaires at Davos? Surely this must be a great thing; where do I sign up?”

It should also be noted that Time Magazine’s logo was prominently displayed behind the panelists, which caused me to wonder who owns the publication? As it turns out Marc Benioff of Salesforce bought Time last fall. His company maintains lucrative contracts with US Customs and Border Patrol and invested last year in SocialSuite, a platform designed to measure impact in social services. Salesforce is working with the IXO Foundation on social impact investment digital identity systems. IXO Foundation partnered with Innovative Edge to prototype Amply, a digital identity pre-k, impact-tracking app that is being deployed in Cape Town, South Africa. Benioff also happens to be close friends with the new Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. Newsom is recommending sizable investments in pre-k as part of his state budget.

This panel and the viral video clips flying around the internet are a brand-building exercise for Bergman’s neoliberal snake oil. If UBI is implemented in the current climate of austerity, economic precarity, and social entrepreneurship, you can be sure payments will be linked to digital identity to track “impact.” That $1,000 a month distribution will be just enough to scrape by. But hey, you’ll be able to sell personal data if you want more than gruel for dinner. Check out the Netherlands’ foray into personal data curation via the here. It’s being run in partnership with NESTA, the global impact innovation unit out of the UK.

If it seems too good to be true…

If they are telling you exactly what you want to hear…

Stop for a minute and think about why that is.

There’s a reason.

And if you still don’t quite get why UBI could be a problem, below are excerpts from my seven-part story Building Sanctuary. Citi Badges and Global Coin are the stand ins for digital identity and UBI.

You can read the whole thing here.

“Those in the know who shifted their investments made a handsome profit, but many more who did not change course lost it all. As poverty decimated the middle class, authorities rolled out a basic income program in digital currency called Global Coin. Everyone’s Global Coin account was linked to a unique digital identity through a system known as Citi Badge. The Citi Badge system relies on biometric information to confirm validity of payments and other transactions associated with a particular citizen.” Part One

“A few times a week students unplugged and participated in a community-based learning program related to their career pathway, but RFID chips associated with their Citi Badges ensured they remained visible to the system. Any organization accepting even a micropayment from Global Coin vouchers like maker spaces, art studios, community theater, and apprenticeship programs had to comply with set standards and participate in evidence-based, outcomes-driven programs that fed children’s data back into government systems. Student data was used to assess a program’s “success” and determine payments to the service provider and those who had invested in it.

When the Solutionists rolled out learning ecosystems, they also made skill dashboards public. Skills dashboards are dynamic visualizations of each person’s academic, behavioral, and job training data. The dashboards, tied to Citi Badges, foster a culture of fierce competition among citizens since choice opportunities are limited, of course, to top performers. As long as most people remain strivers and focus on competing against one another to get to the top, organized resistance remains unlikely.”  Part Two

“In the post-labor era, people have become more valuable for the data they produce than for their capacity to do physical work. Thus all but the off-liners have been integrated into the global corporate value chain as commodities. With biometrically-enabled Citi Badges, Cam and Li are not unlike tagged calves or farmed salmon, managed and processed without agency or recourse; lives controlled for the profit of others. The bio capitalist economic model values them only to the extent that they contribute their digital labor to the Solutionists’ data-driven system of outcomes-based results.

Algorithms hold tremendous power over Cam and Li. Using data generated through the Internet of Things, Oracle can make predictions about the type of adults the children are likely to become. What their cost to society will be. What they might contribute as human capital. Should their family should fall into poverty, Oracle can evaluate how much profit there could be made providing services to “impact” their situation through Pay for Success contracts. Would the predicted rate of return on their lives justify expending the Global Coin required? The Solutionists say, “Just run the data; the data will tell us.”

Talia tries to shelter the family from the data stream as much as possible, but that is has proven difficult. Accessing any public services demands data. Walking outside means you are under surveillance. Even at home devices keep tabs. Data has also become a currency people use to supplement their insufficient Global Coin stipends. The pretense that a person “owns” their own data and can monetize it is supposed to make them feel better about their situation. It doesn’t. Each data transaction puts another piece of one’s soul on the auction block, scrutinized by a predatory system that thrives on want and suffering. And it’s always a buyer’s market. No person in need is going to get ahead selling bits of data. These transactions are just stopgaps until the next Citi Badge stipend hits, a release valve that has thus far kept rebellion at bay.

At first the sensors seemed innocuous, uploading information about when a trashcan was full or telling people where parking spots were available. There were sensors that monitored air quality and ones that made sure streetlights were efficiently managed. People were enthusiastic. But then came the noise sniffers, and the motion sensors, and the drones. Parks and recreation officials were brought on board and encouraged to incorporate cyborg roses into public landscape projects. When first introduced, people were astonished at Eleni Stavrinidou’s work transforming plants into transistors, and now there were rumors of computational forests being grown in remote outposts. Once plants had sensors, people started to get really worried.

Teachers never imagined how sensors would alter classrooms and eventually eliminate them altogether. Adoption of 1:1 devices eroded teacher autonomy until students were spending most of their day with volunteer aides, eyes glued to screens. The teachers that remained were left evaluating student data. In classes where teachers were still allowed to lecture, movement, vibrations and sounds were monitored through sensors embedded in seats. The aim? Supposedly to provide continual feedback regarding student engagement and quality of instruction, but everyone knew it was really to keep track of the content delivered and how students responded. It was chilling.” Part Three

“In addition to facilitating and recording transactions, the ledger also calculates citizen scores, something no one with a Citi Badge can escape. These scores rise and fall based the data each person generates within the Solutionists’ “smart systems.” People are constantly evaluated against the norms set by the authorities. If your behavior, or that of your family or even friends or acquaintances, deviates from these standards, your score drops.

People who question the system have low scores. People with extensive social networks have low scores. People who travel widely have low scores. People who access “the wrong” online materials have low scores. People who are financially unstable have low scores. Your score can be lowered for being too educated or not educated enough. People who use public services have low scores. If you have a low score, you become a target of social impact interventions, programs underwritten by private investors designed to bring your score up and reorient you to the values Solutionist society demands.

Citizen scores determine access to jobs, housing, leisure opportunities, and social relationships. They affect the prices people pay for goods and services and even the type of education and medical treatment they get. At birth Cam and Li, like everyone born outside a sanctuary zone, were assigned unique identity numbers linked to retinal scans and were each issued a Citi Badge. Their Citi Badges are connected to the ledger and hold funds from their Global Coin government stipend, student vouchers, and data currency transactions.

Both badges are tied to Talia’s, so the family’s citizen scores rise and fall together. When Talia or the girls make purchases in the real world or in a virtual world the cost is directly debited from their Global Coin balance after biometric authentication. This can be accomplished via facial recognition, retinal scan, thumbprint or heartbeat/ECG signature. Prices and fees paid are dynamic and influenced by their scores. Low score? You can expect to pay more for food, rent, and medical care. High score? You get across the board discounts and special perks like invitations to official receptions and preferential treatment when filing government paperwork….

In short order, bio-capitalist data-mining operations became nearly as profitable for investors as the extractive industries they had replaced. The automation of huge swaths of labor markets initially posed a serious problem for global capitalists. With a majority of people now jobless, what good were they to the economic system? Sure, they could still consume some products since Citi Badge provided a basic income, but how else could value be extracted? Consumption on a basic income would have to go down.

Alphadata, the world’s most powerful cloud-based computing company, had anticipated the answer. The company deftly maneuvered to a spot at the top of the extraction pyramid by providing “free” online services: communications, software, and data storage. Data would be the new oil, and the convenience the company prudently offered the world built a level of corporate wealth in data that was unsurpassed.

The complete privatization of public sector services combined with outcomes-based government contracting created a windfall for the data-mining industry. To expand these programs, success would have to conform to specific metrics that could only be cheaply aggregated via digital platforms. As global poverty rose, prospects for the data-mining sector seemed rosy indeed. Looking back, people realized how false the narrative of “free” services had been. They had given away their most valuable assets, their identity, without blinking an eye. Their online lives, their digital shadows, were now contained within the Alphadata cloud. It was a parallel universe of millions of digital lives pooled to fuel machine learning. It was these storehouses of data that powered the company’s research in artificial intelligence and led to innovations that put so many out of work.

People had been handing off their data to more companies than Alphadata, of course. All the social media platforms and e-commerce sites mined data, too. More and more people clamored for data control and ownership, which was eventually granted through digital sovereign identities stored in the ledger. Essentially, Citi Badges now serve this function. The datasets they hold are private, but people have the option of making them available for a price.

Progressive interests pitched digital identities as a way for people to monetize their data, perhaps enhance their meager Global Coin stipends. In the Global North, digital sovereign identity was ushered in through adoption of municipal identification programs associated with Smart City improvements, the precursor to Citi Badge. The technology had been beta-tested on the Global South and refugee populations years prior. Perpetual war and displacement created an ideal laboratory in which to refine these new technologies.” Part Four

Internet of Things technology, combined with Citi Badges, allows the ledger to control Cam and Li’s access to online education resources. Besides the ability to edit or veto the content of the online modules, education administrators have the ability to adjust algorithms to steer students towards certain pathways, into VR warehouses, or in extreme cases offline entirely….

If an investor’s online systems can attain “evidence-based” status, it is given a preferred ranking in the Citi Badge platform, which means significant profits. It’s every programmer’s dream to create the next Skyward Skills, the global ed-tech giant that has dominated the market since it had been introduced into regular schools twenty years ago as a blended learning program….

For years activists had petitioned the government to implement weighted student funding: this meant allocating more money to students living in poverty as well as to students whose first language was not English and students with special needs. No one realized then that education funds would wind up in Citi Badges rather than school budgets; that weighted funding would make vulnerable children targets of predatory education schemes; and that in short order school buildings would disappear entirely. No one expected Artificial Intelligence philanthropy would replace public funding for education, either.

As austerity ate away at funding for education, foundations, benefit corporations, and impact investors used outcomes-based smart contracts to direct private dollars into communities using the ledger. Dwindling public funds opened the doors to this private investment, but a condition of that investment was that it had to yield measurable results. Education administrators in the various sectors now redistribute private education investments into students’ digital wallets according to weighted formulas.

At first the program was well received. Once Pay for Success rate cards were approved by municipal procurement, and learning management systems were selected, the process of securing online learning services became fully automated. Now it is the ultimate free market with deliverables in student data driving access to and pricing of various platforms. Payments are contingent on student performance. If an educational app is not meeting required growth targets among users it can be put on probationary status and may ultimately become ineligible for Citi Badge compensation. The most popular apps tend to be the least expensive, but for strivers who have money to supplement their account, specialized instruction is available at higher price points.

The structure of the payment system means most instruction now takes place online, though with Tin Can API, even non-digital activities can be captured and uploaded for evaluation. Every time Cam or Li finishes an e-book, watches a video, or participates in an activity, documentation of the standards that have been met is uploaded via Citi Badge to their e-portfolio. That way Oracle can keep track of what everyone knows and what information they are accessing at all times.

No one particularly likes relying on private investors to fund public education, but the Solutionists claim it is efficient, transparent, and keeps everyone accountable. The ledger, remember, is all about trust. People’s feelings changed dramatically, however, after DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) took over. DAOs run smart contracts automatically, without any human control. Once put into place and activated, they draw on vast pools of capital from a growing network of benefit corporations and can run indefinitely. The system, designed to generate “impacts” upon which venture capital profits are built, completely disregards human life. When problems arise, as they inevitably do because glitches and hacks are intrinsic to the system, no humans are there to address it.” Part Five

“Even though Mak owns the building, the community directs how it is used and gives the space its vitality. Most people come from the cemetery encampments at Maple Hill and Cypress Grove, settlements created shortly after the work camps closed. Targeted by the authorities, people of color, immigrants, the homeless, and veterans comprised the first wave of forced labor. Disenfranchised, lacking papers, or with mental health diagnosis, they found it impossible to acquire Citi Badges.

They were the original off-liners, people who never had to unplug, because they’d been written out of Solutionist society from the outset. They gathered together among the gravestones under the shelter of venerable trees to build their own community. With no stake in the old system, the cemetery contingent became the core of resistance in the borough.” Part Six

Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

Stanley Druckenmiller, also a hedge fund manager, recruited Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs for the board of the Harlem Children’s Zone. As board chair, Druckenmiller shaped the leadership of the organization, which came from the highest echelons of New York’s finance sector. Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada had gone to school together at Bowdoin in Maine. Druckenmiller serves on the endowment management team there. This may shed light on Maine becoming a early testing ground for Ed Reform 2.0. Perhaps the HCZ’s financiers viewed the state as a useful rural counterpart to the experimentation being carried out in Harlem?

Druckenmiller is a commodities trader of considerable renown. He ran George Soros’s hedge fund between 1988 and 2000, and they collaborated on a scheme to short the British pound in 1992. That day, known as Black Wednesday, brought down the Bank of England, and netted the men a profit of a billion dollars. Druckenmiller managed his own fund, Duquesne Capital, which was heavily invested in the petroleum industry until 2009 when he closed up shop and created an “anti-poverty” foundation with over $700 million in assets. That was the year before the very first social impact bond ever was launched in the UK. After closing out Duquesne, Druckenmiller took up the position of board chair at Blue Meridian Partners, a capital aggregation fund comprised of ten donors who aim to invest $1 billion into “high impact” youth-serving non-profits using HCZ as a model.

harlem children zone druckenmiller 3

Harlem Children’s Zone: Druckenmiller interactive version of map here.

Another major funder of HCZ and Blue Meridian is the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF). Its assets come from Avon. EMCF was the force behind the creation of an experimental Growth Capital Aggregation Fund that tested idea of making big philanthropic bets. Their pilot began in 2007 with large sums directed to Youth Villages, Citizen Schools, and the Nurse Family partnership, which has become the model for “pay for success” home visit programs.

In 2003, the Rockefeller Foundation and Goldman Sachs brought representatives from fifty venture philanthropies to New York to discuss the importance of establishing common metrics for social impact investing, see this report. That was a crucial step in establishing the parameters for a futures market in human capital data. Four case studies were presented during that gathering, one of which was EMCF. Key features of the EMCF case study were an emphasis on systemic collection of outcomes data and insistence on demonstrated effectiveness. The philanthropy had dropped the number of grants is provided from 188 in 1992 to just 53 in 2002. Everyone who accepts EMCF grants must get on board with the data collection program.

Nancy Roob, Harvard MPA, was EMCF’s contact with HCZ and became president of the foundation in 2005. She serves concurrently as CEO of Blue Meridian Partners with Druckenmiller as board chair, a position she took in 2015. EMCF was a funder of the Arnold Foundation-backed Coalition for Evidence Based Policy that spent fourteen years laying groundwork for the passage of Foundations for Evidence-based Policy Making Act HR4174.

It’s worth mentioning that Druckenmiller’s wife, Fiona, serves on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation, one of the Bloomberg Philanthropies known for advancing public-private partnership, “what works,” “data-driven” government. During his administration Bloomberg held a competition to build a new applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Cornell-Tech (Tech being Technion, the MIT of Israel) won that competition and now runs substantial research projects in data science around education and healthcare. Tata Consulting, a giant in tech in India contributed $50 million towards an innovation center that opened on the campus December 2017. The center was built to advance research in human computer interaction and “Business 4.0” development. It also supports initiatives promoting AI and cyber security education in New York City schools. Most of those funding the campus operate at the intersection of social impact investing and tech. Interactive version of map below here.

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Cornell Tech / Small Data Lab Funders interactive version of map here.

Cornell Tech.jpg

During the years of HCZ’s rise, Bloomberg worked very closely with the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), known as the “Nudge Unit,” which got its start in the UK and later became embedded in Harvard and New York. BIT has advised on 25 different behavioral science projects across the country as part of Bloomberg’s “What Works Cities.” Philadelphia has, in fact, spun off its own dedicated nudge unit, the first municipal level program in the country. Why nudge? Well, it manufactures acceptance that the quality of public services should be quantified as data on dashboards, and it normalizes the use of apps, which subtly influence human behavior and monitor public-government interactions.

philadelphia nudge unit 2

Philadelphia Nudge Unit interactive version of map here.

New York is a city that trades securities, and Chicago is a city that trades commodities. Consequently, the development of human capital futures trading is centered on the latter. I’ve written previously about economist James Heckman’s work out of the University of Chicago, and JB Pritzker’s financial support for his development of a “toolkit” that would somehow guarantee a 7-13% rate of return on early childhood education and health interventions. So, on the east coast we have a set of 168 poverty-intervention calculations (Robin Hood Foundation / Harlem Children’s Zone) and in the Midwest we have an early childhood education toolkit (Heckman). How do they connect?

Heckman Equation.jpg


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As the map below shows, there are actually two points of contact. The first comes via Stanley Druckenmiller’s association with George Soros. Soros’s, Open Society, and William Janeway, of Warburg Pincus, are the primary backers of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). INET funds Heckman’s Human Capital and Economic Opportunities Working Group and also has a presence at Oxford University’s Martin School, which may be a conduit for exchange of intelligence regarding development of “innovative” government contracting mechanisms from one side of the Atlantic to the other. The second comes through Paul Tudor Jones, yet another hedge fund trader and founder of the Robin Hood Foundation. Interactive version of map here.

harlem children zone chicago

Every year Paul Tudor Jones and the Robin Hood Foundation hold a benefit to fund anti-poverty programs, much of proceeds going to the Harlem Children Zone. All who attended last May’s event received a goody bag with a copy of Ken Langone’s book “I Love Capitalism!” It was a souvenir perfectly suited to the gala, which many consider the premiere event of the New York finance sector’s fundraising season. In one night, Paul Tudor Jones secured $50 million from predatory philanthropists pledging tithes in support of the hedge-fund mogul’s poverty-mining programs.

Legendary among the hedge fund crowd, Jones chaired the New York Cotton Exchange in the mid 1990s and helped develop FINEX, the financial instruments and currency products division of the New York Board of Trade in 1985. He anticipated “Black Monday” in 1987 and holding onto short positions made $100 million that year. He maintains memberships in the New York Board of Trade, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Commodity Exchange, Inc., and CME Group, which is part of the Illinois Blockchain development program.

He grew up in Tennessee, home state of Lamar Alexander (ESSA), Chris Whittle (Edison Schools) and William Sanders (creator of VAM, Value Added Model equation that supposedly measures growth in education data, but was really about setting up impact investment metrics). After graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics, Jones started a career in finance learning the cotton futures trade. Remember, we never escape history. He later worked at Commodities Corp, and set up his own firm, Tudor Investment Corporation based in Greenwich, CT.

harlem children's zone paul tudor jones

Harlem Children Zone: Paul Tudor Jones interactive map here.

Jones and his wife, who is involved with yoga and meditative practice, are major donors to the University of Virginia. They funded the construction of an interdisciplinary Contemplative Sciences Center. During the 2012 attempted ouster of UVA president Teresa Sullivan by board chair Helen Dragas, several media outlets speculated that Jones had played a role. At the time the school had come under fire for not being “innovative” enough around adoption of MOOCs, especially given austerity budgeting. Sullivan was reinstated (she left in 2017), and in the years following the Curry School of Education launched the Jefferson Accelerator to promote research into ed-tech “efficacy,” exactly the infrastructure needed to advance ed-tech impact investing contracts. Following an invitation-only academic symposium sponsored by all the main Ed Reform 2.0 funders in May 2017, the initiative morphed into the Jefferson Education Exchange, a program that funds teachers to use ed-tech and document how they implement it. Ed Tech Efficacy 2.jpg

ed tech efficacy 1


Katrina Stevens, former senior advisor on ed-tech to the US Department of Education and now head of Learning Sciences for Chan Zuckerberg, consulted on both projects.

Jones connects New York to Chicago via Robert Dugger who ran Tudor Investment Corporation between 1992 and 2009. During that period, Dugger co-founded the “Invest in Kids” working group with Jim Heckman in Chicago and Art Rolnick out of Minneapolis. Jones contributed a million dollars towards the effort. Rolnick, a senior economist with the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, facilitated the development of outcomes-based government contracts in partnership with Steve Rothschild at Twin Cities Rise. All three men have connections to INET.

Michael Weinstein was a Senior Vice President at the Robin Hood Foundation. According to a 2010 Harvard Business School case study, Weinstein’s focus was developing a Cost-Benefit Analysis approach to the foundation’s grant awards. He wrote a book with Ralph Bradburd, a Williams College economics professor, which provides a blue print for replicating their approach. Columbia University Press published “The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving” in 2013. The overview for the book notes the authors’ focus on “relentless monetization.” Surely given IoT, financialization of life, and securitized debt, the authors must have intended a double meaning in the use of “smart” in the title.

rules for smart giving

In 2017, Weinstein left Robin Hood Foundation to head a new consultancy to match “smart givers” with “high impact” non-profits. The organization, ImpactMatters, has a small board with an interesting range of experience. Paul Brest is one of these board members. A long-time professor of law at Stanford, Brest took on the role of Co-Director of Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, an incubator for impact investing and digital innovation, late in his career. He currently teaches courses in the business school on strategic philanthropy and impact investing. There are also connections between Brest and the pay for success initiatives in Santa Clara County. Brest co-taught a law school practicum on structuring social impact deals with Keith Humphreys that focused the Partners in Wellness SIB model.

harlem children's zone robin hood

I don’t have much information on Kevin Starr who manages a child-poverty NGO that is all about impact and start-up social entrepreneurialism. Dean Karlan is an economics professor at Northwestern who works in the area of global “fin-clusion.” His focus on behavioral economics led him to develop stick, a goal-setting app that leverages the power of the “commitment contract” and is being used on corporate “wellness” platforms. He founded “Innovations on Poverty Action” and is on the board of MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab, too. His specialty is “impact audits” that assess whether an organization has produced “appropriate evidence of impact.”

ImpactMatters’s final board member is Tamara Fox. Educated in genetics and healthcare finance, she worked for the World Bank, Urban Institute, the Leona Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Elma Foundation; the last being of particular interest. While at Elma, a philanthropy that focuses on children’s issues in Africa, Fox was Senior Director of Research. Elma is a funder of Innovation Edge, who partnered with TrustLab and the IXO Foundation to create Amply, an app linking pre-k digital identity to government reimbursement and social impact finance on Blockchain. Amply was piloted through the Earlybird childcare chain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Amply: Blockchain and Early Childhood Development (ECD) in South Africa from ixo foundation on Vimeo.

See how this works? We never escape the history. The financialization of the lives of Black and Brown people extends back to the Doctrine of Discovery and continues to be woven into new systems of economic oppression. They use the most vulnerable communities, Cape Town, Harlem, Jackson, or rural South Carolina, as laboratories for refining their weapons and means of social control, but no one is immune. Philadelphians have been briefed on Amply. I’m sure people in the inner circles are being on-boarded now. Digital identity tracking “social impact” will be a key piece of early childhood education and healthcare moving forward, across the United States. See the shipping container below. Look at it. That is Innovative Edge’s pre-k plan. When they speak of pre-k investments, realize that the goal is minimal investment and warehoused bodies, trained up to deliver data to run the machine.

pre-k cargo container

According to their website, overseers of the Harlem Children’s Zone use real time data and feedback loops to refine “best practices” that will “shift the culture of the community.” But community in question is here Harlem, already a center of creative genius and intellectual engagement, a locus of Black Power. Harlem, which during the period of HCZ’s rise, became gentrified to the point that the community’s rich history began to be erased, and the people who were supposed to be the ones being served started to be forced out. It seems hardly an accident that the likes of Goldman Sachs would target Harlem for its laboratory of social engineering. The hedge funds analysts know the long-range economic forecasts. Given expected market volatility that will come as this new industrial revolution plays out, it seems logical capitalist interests will seek to neutralize strong Black communities who would be to draw on a strong history of artful and committed resistance.

Bay Area tech oligarchs and New York hedge fund billionaires are not here to “solve” poverty. They are here to manage it to their advantage. The future we need is one that will be envisioned by those who have lived through generations of oppression. It won’t come from a grant. It won’t come from “innovative” financing. No Amazon robot is going to deliver it. No, we must build it together, and the last must be put first.

I hope these posts have given you a sense of the scope of the crisis we face but have not paralyzed you entirely, because the time to act is now. My next project is to show how the New York hedge funders and the Chicago human capital economists connect with the pay for success projects cropping up in the Silicon Valley.

What could go wrong??? A lot.

gavin newsom

This is the sixth in a series:

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown To Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Will We See A Pre-K TARP? (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Over twenty plus years, Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) grew from a one-block pilot offering integrated social service delivery to a vast enterprise overseeing 20,000 children and adults within a ninety-seven block area. Under the leadership of Geoffrey Canada, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed from finance interests into HCZ’s programs, including Promise Academy Charter Schools, which were prominently featured in the social impact documentary “Waiting for Superman.” Extended day charters, full day pre-k, parent academies, and health initiatives are all key to the effort and collect LOTS of data.

Canada had no problem funding these services with the support of deep-pocketed donors and a political climate created by Michael Bloomberg and Superintendent Joel Klein in which a privatized, business-like approach to education and social service delivery was more than welcome. Over the years, critics voiced skepticism that such an approach could ever scale, since private investors cover a majority of HCZs operational costs.

Perhaps not workable in the present climate, but very possible in a near future, “what works” world where the real money is to be made on hedged-investments in human capital data. It is no coincidence that the hedge fund managers are the ones so eager to help refine these data driven interventions that will eventually have debt-instruments attached. Predictive analytics is their wheelhouse.

With requirements for “evidence based” programs now on the books, ubiquitous computing coming online, and “innovative” financial pilots like the NPX impact security underway, the pieces are clicking into place. This week, the World Economic forum announced a three-year plan to “launch a platform for social sector transformation” in response to “new technological challenges.” Surely outcomes-based government and development aid contracts must be part of this plan.

npx impact security

civil society wef

View report here.

Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs who briefly served as Trump’s economic advisor, has long been a member of the HCZ board. During that time, Goldman Sachs led the build out of the US social impact bond market in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Cohn became President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of the firm in 2006. A decade later, the company was eventually fined $5 billion by the US Department of Justice for “serious misconduct” surrounding the sale of mortgage-backed securities between 2005 and 2007. Just the sort of folks you’d want handling pre-k, education and social service debt instruments, right?

At a 2014 gathering hosted by ReadyNation on early childhood impact investing, Ian Galloway of the San Francisco Federal Reserve noted that not only had Goldman Sachs been a leader in the space, they’d practically created the marketplace “out of thin air.” Listen to the clip. The map below shows the firm’s holdings in pre-k SIBs in Salt Lake City and Chicago as well as the ROCA SIB in Massachusetts.

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Harlem Children’s Zone: Goldman Sachs interactive map here.

Goldman Sachs has also been a pioneer in the development of automated trading. So who is examining the potentially devastating consequences of AI-dictated trades of securitized public debt originating from pay for success contracts? Anyone? Anyone? As “smart city” interests seek to link 5g / Internet of Things (IoT) to public service deployment and digital surveillance and predictive policing of Black and Brown communities is on the rise, “Minority Report” is beginning to seem like a very real possibility.

The Structured Industry Finance Group and the Digital Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study from Deloitte entitled “Applying Blockchain in Securitization: Opportunities for Reinvention.” Page 18 of the report states in part: “In the specific case of securitized assets, and especially those ABS (asset backed security) asset classes where markets have suboptimal levels of liquidity and transparency (read debt tied to the outsourcing of public services via out-comes based government contracts), a Blockchain could fundamentally improve pricing efficiency and deepen the market.” Followed by: “Direct data feeds (read IoT, wearables, screen-based interactions tied to digital identity) from the Blockchain could also make it easier to automate analytics and develop more sophisticated investment strategies and risk-management techniques.”

deloitte blockchain securitization

deloitte blockchain smart contract


I draw your attention to the language: “risk management techniques.”

We cannot escape history. The legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is very much with us. The management of “risk” associated with public service debt securitization, cannot be de-linked from “management” and control of the poor. The data of Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples will be stolen from them, taken forcibly in service of global financial interests. The abhorrent methods of constraint deployed by brutish masters over the centuries are being updated right now in cubicles by coders. The plan is for bondage to be put on Blockchain in time for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The system is not yet operational. There is still time to disrupt and change course.

This is the fifth in a series:

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown To Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Global finance has not underwritten “cradle to career” interventions to empower the poor or eliminate the source of their suffering. No, the intent of the 168 pages of calculations paid for by Paul Tudor Jones and the Robin Hood Foundation is to harness the human capital of oppressed communities so it can be scrutinized for “impact,” thus creating a poverty-mining pipeline to enrich themselves and further consolidate their power over the people.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is the living laboratory in which the Robin Hood Foundation and other financier-backed “charities” incubated next-gen racial capitalism. Their “pipelines” are not intended to deliver the poor to seats at esteemed tables. The children that Strive Together’s minions will be putting on pathways have been assigned far less “lofty” trajectories. Strive has sown seeds across the nation, waiting for laws, technology, capital, and political will to coalesce. Anyone paying attention can see the machine is now in motion. Soon, these powerful white men will reap a harvest from seeds that have been lying dormant for a very long time.

paul tudor jones and bill gates galaStrive Together.jpg

The HCZ model for community-based wrap around services will be implemented through Promise Neighborhoods, an initiative launched by the Obama administration in 2010; HUD’s Choice Neighborhood program, a public-private partnership model for “distressed communities;” districts of innovation, and community schools.

This may account for the extreme police response to a small protest at the ribbon-cutting for a Big Picture Learning School in Sharswood in North Philadelphia a few years back. Sharswood was designated a HUD “Choice Neighborhood,” and as a result huge numbers of people were removed from their homes by imminent domain. Very little housing has been restored, and a large glass housing authority office building, which is much more suited to an office park, was constructed in the middle of the row house neighborhood. The school district also shuttered the local elementary school for two years only to later hand it over to a management company that is now issuing the first education social impact bond in the United Kingdom, Big Picture at Doncaster. The powers invested in this “wrap around services, or else” model must have been quite distressed by community members rallying on behalf of self-determination and local control.

I have wondered about the rationale behind the imperative for the managed “community school” model in cities like Philadelphia, where social supports are abundant and accessible. Why not simply hire additional certified school staff that can assist families if they want help navigating the system?

As I have done this research, and knowing how Obama gutted FERPA, it seems obvious that the services must be brought INTO the school AND outsourced via public-private partnerships. This allows the data to be more readily harvested and processed. In the “old way,” data would likely be siloed among various providers. The third party service provider arrangement thus becomes a key part of the impact-processing scheme. Their services can be made contingent on parents signing away their FERPA rights, thus the data they bring in is accessible and query-able, which makes it easier to locate and quantify cost-offsets (and take profit) cheaply and efficiently. To an impact investor’s way of thinking, it simply doesn’t make financial sense, for example, to invest in their albeit bastardized versions of “literacy” instruction unless there is some way to prove it kept children out of jail or marginally employed. See this helpful post from the blog Saving Maine Schools: “United Way to Parents: Give Us Your Gold.”

Why is the US prison industrial complex so enormous? Why are addiction, gun violence, and chronic illness rampant? Certainly it is about controlling communities of color and profiting from their confinement and debilitation, but moving forward we must recognize how e-carceration and pre-carceration will be added to the mix. Those at the top of the economic pyramid have built up the prison industry, and abetted living conditions leading to widespread asthma, lead poisoning, diabetes, and addiction. Now we are at a tipping point, where it is fiscally prudent for those structures to begin to be slowly whittled down, so as to provide the “impact” cost-offsets speculators like Jones and Druckenmiller require. Community schools are a perfect vehicle to offer “impact-delivering” services in an integrated manner (read cheaper).

I spent time this week listening to a presentation, “Commodity Chains and Chained Commodities,” by Calvin Schermerhorn that outlines aspects of financial speculation that arose from trafficking enslaved people domestically after international trade of Africans was halted. You can watch it here, and I highly recommend it as it provides valuable context for our present situation. Schermerhorn describes the shipment of enslaved people, including a man by the name of Sam Watts, from the Chesapeake to the sugar cane fields of Louisiana.

Edmond Forstall; who later established the Union Bank of Louisiana, which underpinned the widespread sale of bonds in northern states backed by the collateral of enslaved people, mortgaged Watts and others to purchase cutting edge technologies. This technology allowed him to refine sugar on his plantation, putting him financially ahead of landowners that only sold raw cane syrup. Forstall did that through hypothecation, a financial arrangement that allowed property owners to mortgage the lives of the people they held while they remained laboring, enslaved on said property. According to a 1942 article on the Louisiana Banking Act of 1842, the 1830s and 1840s was a period of “revolutionary change and experimentation in banking” throughout the country. It feels like we are treading much the same ground as people try to imagine a future at the intersection of digital payments, social impact investing, and financialized life.

I would like to draw a connection between these public-private corporatized “community schools” and the sugar plantations. I believe interoperable data warehouses are today’s equivalent of Forestall’s sugar refinery, and “pay for success” is today’s hypothecation. If we adopt a model of free-for-all data mining starting in pre-k, that data will be the equivalent of the cane syrup; saleable, but minimally profitable. Siloed, that data has limited value. Sure, it can be used to advance the sale of hardware, software, and broadband access. That enriches the segments of the market looking to commodify public education through tech and 1:1 devices. It also benefits their venture capitalist backers.

That model doesn’t, however, enrich hedge fund managers. People like Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones need dynamic data; data as commodity, and that is EXACTLY what systems like Datazone and the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust provide. They will be the sugar refineries for the data. The algorithms driving data visualization and predictive analytics will shape the product (liquefied debt instruments tied to social service delivery) in the same way that evaporating vats did the cane syrup.

sugar cane

Pay for Success is today’s hypothecation, a new form of innovative finance that will allow predators to draw capital out of the bodies (spirits? souls?) of bonded people. It is a way to mortgage future public assets and siphon them into private hands. Meanwhile, those who are bonded remain trapped in a system of surveillance that is intentionally designed so their chances of escape are very, very low. Mass escape would mean the profit-center would actually shrink, and investors want “growth” according to the agreed upon metrics, not the elimination of poverty. We must see this cruel system for what it is, NOT what’s being sold to us-progressive, fiscally prudent policy.

Dr. Justin Leroy’s talk on recidivism social impact bonds given in conjunction with an exhibit at the Whitney on debt is an important follow up. More about this research here.

Race, Finance, And The Afterlife Of Slavery from Whitney Museum of American Art on Vimeo.

This is a the fourth in a series.

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Interoperable Data To Fuel Human Capital Hedge Funds

An influential network of economists and billionaire-backed foundations have laid out this nefarious plan for a futures market in human capital data with the help of complicit academics and think tanks (here, here, here, here, and here). They did it piece by piece, so gradually that few realize the dangers that loom on the horizon. Sitting in oak-paneled rooms and minimalist C-Suites, these change agents bask in entitlement, gloating over the fact that people today needing services (including education) must submit to invasive tracking.

math to marksmanship

Their profit will be derived from speculation on the debt associated with “processing” children through “evidence-based” interventions, not unlike value chains associated with car parts, soybeans, and smartphones. Children will be triaged and risk-scored through an ever more tightly woven network of digital monitoring. That data will shape markets in human commodities, just as the insurance sector emerged to sustain deadly middle passage maritime trade. In the coming world of ubiquitous technological surveillance, spiritual death may be just as likely as physical death. I doubt they’ll be issuing insurance policies on that, but you never know.

Monopoly capital justifies its profit taking in “human capital performance bonds” using fabricated future cost-offsets, like the carbon credit trading infrastructure devised by social entrepreneur Bill Drayton, now at Ashoka. In this commodification scheme, future life outcomes are the mechanism of trade. People attempting to navigate life in a society where the dignity of living wage work and participatory parity have been denied, are thus compelled to generate data as they make their way through bureaucratic, automated social service and education systems.

human capital peformance bonds

Interoperable data warehouses are needed for hedge fund managers to run their commodities futures game. That, in fact, is where the real money is to be made. See the images below featuring Santa Clara County California’s Data Zone and Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust, a prototype investors want to implement nationwide via the National Interoperability Collaborative. It was initially funded through the National Science Foundation, but the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative dropped a sizable grant to expand it throughout the county in 2016. View the Datazone “Impact” slideshare here.

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sccoe datazone impact

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sccoe whole child

datazone 2018

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silicon valley regional data trust upenn

Datazone now holds data from 44 school districts serving 300,000 children. You see how education, social service, health, behavioral health, foster care, and judicial involvement are co-mingled. While the claim is that the data permits service providers to more effectively (cheaply) help children and families, in reality the inoperability allows them to enact the cost-off set calculations, the ones embedded in the 168 pages paid for by Jones aka “Robin Hood.”

paul tudor jones

If you hear about social service, education, health, and juvenile prison and probation data being pulled together in one place, that should be a red flag. I fear the day universal digital identity systems fully interface with Blockchain smart contracts and privatized public services. When the next-gen slave ship draws up on the beach, you can be sure the investors disembarking will extend greetings and gifts of public programs that are “open,” “transparent,” and exhibit great “efficacy.” And all that flowery language will be thrown out to provide cover for the chains of digital identity, the rails upon which the entire vicious system will run.

That’s what the Gates is working on with his “Level One Project” and the “Better Than Cash Alliance.” The goal is to control the poor using mobile money platforms that are fully integrated with government and aid providers. At that point all economic activities can be factored into ongoing risk assessment and behavioral management.

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better than cash digital payments

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mobile money gates

In a “pay for success” world, the burden is continually placed on the individual to make the “good choice.” As if you can somehow solve poverty with an app delivering “just-in-time” nudges. No structural analysis is ever applied, for good reason. To do so would force financial predators to look in the mirror and see themselves for who they really are.

This new bondage trafficks in digital profiles, reducing the essence of a person to a metric: pre-k now or jail later, English proficiency now or high school drop out later, behavioral interventions now or addiction later, healthy habits now or diabetes later, fiscal prudence now or homelessness later. It is the measurement that matters, the counting, and the data, not the person’s humanity.

The value of the poor is in their data, and they will live or die by their digital dust.

This the third in a series:

Introduction: Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Accounting Ledgers Connect The Dots: From Jamestown To Harlem And Beyond

168 pages

168 pages of calculations

168 pages assessing people as commodities

168 pages estimating economic returns on “investment” in the poor

168 pages of financial depravity, inequality, callousness

168 pages of too few with too much and too many with too little

160 pages built on the trans-Atlantic slave trade

400 years from Jamestown’s ledger books

400 miles between Jamestown and the Harlem Children’s Zone

Robin Hood Foundation bought the calculations.

All 168 pages

We will be hearing a lot in the coming year about universal pre-k and community schools, wrap around services, and the cradle to career pipeline. What is coming has been at least two decades in the making. At its core, it is about a commodities market in human capital, one derived from our brutal national legacy of racial capitalism. I predict the coming sales pitch will evoke a tone of reconciliation and remorse, acknowledgement of harm done with generous “solutions” proffered as remedies to trauma meted out over generations on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

I urge caution when dealing with foundations and their venture capitalist donors, especially those who got their start trading cotton futures like hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. The United States has not reckoned with its past. There has been no soul-searching. Much of New York’s wealth came from shipping the commodities grown and harvested by enslaved Africans. Merchants sent luxury goods south, while the city’s financiers backed bills of exchange, allowing slave holders to mortgage human lives and expand agricultural empires built on bloody violence.

gates jones impact

The money being funneled into the Harlem Children’s Zone has its origins in that history. The legacy of chattel slavery has indelibly shaped our social relations, as again and again repressive systems of control are remade in new variations, no less devastating. Those at the pinnacle of power, and the executive and middle-manager accomplices who carry out their wishes, continue to devise ever more sophisticated mechanisms of control (mass incarceration) and tracking (digital identity / apps / electronic monitoring / drones) through which to extract profit through continued oppression. Programs endorsed by the financiers may at first glace appear benevolent, but foundation grants for “good work” will demand repayment in data. That’s what FEPA and SIPPRA put in place. Don’t kid yourself; the elite intend to use that “evidence-based” data to maintain their hegemony.

We would do well to remember that demands for “efficacy” could readily be twisted to bitter ends. Consider the parallels between growing interest in digital identity systems and Hollerith punch cards, the system used to track, deport, and murder targeted populations during the Holocaust. In the wrong hands, data tied to a workforce pipeline could easily become a pipeline to mass incarceration, peonage, or even extermination. You don’t have to try to hard imagine such a future given that Palantir and Amazon Web Services, both of whom draw considerable income from the surveillance state, are servicing “pay for success” projects in California already.

digital id omidyar wef

Will you allow human care to be reduced to data for viewing on a dashboard? When your funders impose a data collection regime, which they will, what do you do? We are what we have always been, a nation built on stolen bodies and stolen land. We have not yet moved beyond that disdain for human life, that toxic whiteness. Once we know better, perhaps some will choose to do better. I hope this post will open a door. In this perilous moment we must be willing to risk for one another; to own and address this past history. We must recognize how much is at stake.

What lies ahead is racial capitalism’s new operating system, one that embraces digital surveillance and predictive profiling just in time for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s jobless future. Cue Omidyar Network’s digital identity for all with MIT’s Davos pitch for Blockchain+AI+Human=Magic (tracking “systemic risks” in real time). Understand our future is a continuum of our past, one where oppressed communities occupy landscapes, real and virtual, defined by their carceral potentiality. For this human capital market to operate, speculators must frame Black, Brown, Indigenous, and the poor as inherently “broken,” always a burden on the public coffers, the exact cost of that burden something to be monitored, assessed and calculated in real time, another justification for community surveillance.

This is a the second in a series.

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.