Pay for Success Finance Preys Upon The Poor: Presentation at Left Forum 6/29/19

I have the exciting opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign at the Left Forum Conference coming up this weekend June 28-30 in Brooklyn, New York at Long Island University. The focus of our two-hour workshop will be building a Poor People’s Army. Here is a link with more information about our session. Would love to see you there!

Poor People's Army Left Forum

My role on the panel is to introduce pay for success finance and how it will prey upon the poor. This understanding is crucial as we develop new ways of organizing outside the non-profit industrial complex, which is largely underwritten by vulture-philanthropy. This opportunity was the perfect chance for me to attempt to distill three years of research into an eight-minute introduction. I like to work collaboratively and want to express appreciation to those who engaged with me on this topic over the past couple of weeks in social media, phone, and email. This piece is much better and tighter for all of your insight and input. So thanks Mary, Roxana, Matt, Nick, Tim, Susan, Tonya, Carolyn, Maggie, Sara, Brian, Cynthia, Charlotte, Asantewaa, Sue, Lea, Sheila, Peter, Catherine, Barbara, and Belinda. What follows is a slightly longer version than I will present at the panel, but since blogs don’t have space limitations, I wanted to share the final version in full. I plan to share the images at the end as workshop handouts.

How Pay For Success Finance Will Prey Upon The Poor

One of the biggest things we’re up against, and something few people are talking about, is social impact investing and pay for success finance. Within the hollowed out shell of the welfare state, which admittedly was always inadequate and used for purposes of racialized social control, global finance has built a new machine that will use predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and wearable and screen-based technologies to monitor the global poor and profit from their misery.

This effort is being carried out in partnership with the non-profit sector, higher education, think tanks, and global foundations. Many involved identify as liberal, even progressive. Successful resistance will require stopping Trump, the Koch brothers, and ALEC, as well as a corporate, militarized Blue Wave that has every intention of stabilizing late-stage capitalism with technocratic “evidence-based” solutions. Make no mistake; this is a fully bipartisan enterprise.

Outcomes-based contracts are this machine’s operating system. Contracts employ pay-for-performance agreements that reimburse service providers IF they produce specified success metrics. These metrics are narrowly defined and chosen for their ability to be gamed. Contrived solutions offer up fake “success” to enrich investors at the expense of vulnerable populations. Think standardized test scores as success metrics for education or fit-bit step counts for preventative health.

This machine requires a steady supply of people labeled deficient by those in power. Like batteries in the Matrix, the poor are meant to be the fuel. The machine does not care for their actual wellbeing; its sole purpose is to maximize profit. In that it is similar to the capitalist Western medical model where Big Pharma opts for chronic disease management over research leading to cures. Pay for success will not empower the poor, but instead manage them and harvest their data, indefinitely.

The infrastructure for this system was put in place in the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. After toxic mortgages imploded, financiers needed another way to keep global capital circulating. It had to be even bigger than real estate debt, since global wealth continues to become more and more concentrated. The next BIG target would be financialized public benefit systems. Through financialization, resources are siphoned from the real economy into the financial sector where demands for short-term profit lead to instability, overwhelming debt, income inequality, and wage stagnation.

To justify this shift, proponents of pay for success insist governments will never have sufficient resources to care for their people. Services MUST be outsourced. This in turn opens up vast global markets for speculative investment in human capital. The big money isn’t to be had running human services, which are admittedly hard to turn a profit on, but rather in the trade of debt associated with providing those services. Such a development isn’t surprising, given the power finance and technology interests like Alphabet and Goldman Sachs, hold over elected officials. Governments have been captured, and as hostages of transnational capital, they’re compelled to go along with this brutal scheme.

After its fin-tech makeover, the new welfare state will essentially function as a maze into which poor people are forced by social work navigators. Technologies will track, predict, and influence behavior. The digital dust the poor generate as they attempt to negotiate punitive bureaucracies will flow to social sector dashboards, informing hedge fund bets in real time. With their varied portfolios of trauma, vulnerable populations will replace real estate in the lead up to the next Big Short.

Investors don’t put money in markets they expect to dry up. Thus logic dictates turning poverty into a global investment market will only increase poverty. Social impact markets require an ever-expanding supply of people deemed cheaply fixable according to the terms investors set. The fixes offered aren’t meant to materially improve lives long term. That would require redistribution of resources, something unthinkable for the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. While poverty may be reduced somewhat, it is an essential feature of the design. For pay for success to thrive, homelessness, addiction, mental illness, hunger, violence, unemployment, broken families, and uncertainty must remain the norm. Hedge funds hate stability, and they’re the ones driving social impact investing. If everyone had enough to live a stable life, the gambling would have to come to an end.

Vulture philanthropies seeded this market. After many grant cycles the non-profit sector has been conditioned to impose toxic solutions without question, collecting the data needed to justify venture capital’s profit taking. Having been integrated into the machine, these partners in crime are tasked with managing populations that black box algorithms have identified as “at risk.” These artificial labels will, of course, be disproportionately applied to Black and Brown communities. The system demands broken people. Broken people are the raw material. As a result, the system is incentivized to manufacture data and create as many broken people as hedge funds require to keep global capital in optimal circulation.

Social sector workers are also part of the human capital pipeline, caught in this web along with the poor. The system intends to extract as much data and impose as much surveillance as it possibly can, which is why those administering harmful solutions must get creative in identifying others with whom they can organize. This shift will be catastrophic for educators, healthcare providers, therapists, and social workers across the globe. Effective resistance will need to unite people across diverse workplaces.

The United Way is a partner in these efforts as is Strive Together out of Ohio. They’ve identified a permanent underclass for “collective impact” processing called ALICE: Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are the households of the working poor: children with unstable housing, indebted college graduates, workers living paycheck to paycheck, patients with chronic illness, disabled veterans, the elderly. Pay for success “solutions” will process them as commodities via ed-tech, tele-health, tele-therapy, and “smart” housing.

Soon large segments of the population will find their life choices subject to digital engineering, forced onto prescriptive pathways, jumping through hoops into which structural racism has been embedded in computer code. Smart phones will play a major role as benefits are moved to online platforms and linked to digital identity. It is the phones with their biometric capacity that facilitate transfers of value and data and enable tracking and analysis of impact. Phones will be the minders of the poor. Those with phones can have no expectation of privacy.

Such systems are being piloted on unhoused people in Austin now with backing from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a major impact investor. The state of Illinois also has a working group setting up Blockchain birth certificates and is looking to digitize SNAP benefits so coded nudges can be used to push “good” food choices. As the poor have their welfare inputs evaluated against their economic and behavioral outputs, the rich will sit on the sidelines placing bets. Either way the rich win, because there’s always someone willing to take the short position.

Beyond financialization of human life, these data-driven systems also legitimize increased surveillance of large segments of the population, especially Black and Brown communities already subject to militarized policing. Resisters will be viewed as insurgents and subject to violent counter insurgent interventions as we saw in Ferguson and at Standing Rock. Wearable and screen based technologies and interoperable data systems, like Project Unicorn headquartered a few blocks from here, will feed a vast network of signals intelligence to monitor the behavior of the poor, predicting the likelihood of push back. The Minerva Research Initiative was set up by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for exactly this purpose. It’s not hard to imagine the impact such intelligence will have on resistance movements.

So, what does social impact digital surveillance look like?

It looks like behavior tracking apps for low-income mothers.

It looks like play tables that video record toddlers and score their social behaviors.

It looks like online preschool.

It looks like brain wave monitoring headbands and executive function enhancing video games for students.

It looks like wearable tech that tracks vital signs for substance users.

It looks like online cognitive behavioral therapy for prisoners.

It looks like fit bits and Internet of Things pill caps for Medicaid patients.

It looks like “smart” supportive housing with integrated IoT monitoring.

It looks like tablet-based overseas monitoring of seniors.

It looks like virtual reality death simulation training for hospice workers.

Once you peek under the hood, you realize what a grotesque business social impact investing actually is. These tools are built on 400 years of racial capitalism. It is the Doctrine of Discovery with Blockchain replacing double-entry bookkeeping and smart phones and digital identity systems replacing shackles. It is a system that arose in tandem with cloud-based computing, broadband, 5G and the Internet of Things. These advancements are inextricably inked to the interests of the US military and intelligence community, which is why we must recognize that as much as we have come to rely on our devices, true liberation will never come through digital channels. It can’t; our opponents run the cloud.

We’re living through a period of orchestrated mass confusion and distraction. Some are sitting like frogs in simmering pots, distracted on their phones as the steam billows around them. Others are forced to play real-life games of Frogger, heads down, crossing dangerous highways, dodging crises right and left with little opportunity to see, let along plan for, what is coming.

South Africa and Australia have piloted public benefits on Blockchain linked to digital identity. The state of Illinois is looking into it as well. We need to stop them politically and we must develop alternative networks of support outside existing government and non-profit structures. We need to get out of our simmering pots and look up to the horizon. We need to do it soon.

Human Value Chain Infographic

Human Capital Infographic

Biocapitalism Infographic

 

Doctrine of Discovery Redux: The Vatican’s Plans For Impact Investing

I watched the video of Helen Alford’s talk months ago, and I still can’t get it out of my head. A Dominican nun trained in “human-centered technology” who holds a PhD in engineering management from Cambridge regaling a room full of aspiring impact investors on how the Catholic church plans to be the conscience of big business in the coming decades. Even though she notes there are many peace and justice folks who believe wading into human capital impact investing is akin to taking up with the devil, well…circumstances require it, so better just get with the program.

Alford goes on to say how excited she is that the Church will be at the center of social innovation over the next twenty years; it’ll be just like fifteenth century Florence. She describes bishops using innovative approaches to reduce big manuals of moral economic decision-making, which to me smacks frighteningly of religious Blockchain smart contracts. This moment of existential crisis brought on by climate catastrophe and economic uncertainty appears to be the perfect window of opportunity for the Catholic church to usher in a new age of evangelism. Their leaders intend to tap lay people worldwide to spread the church’s teachings through politics, economics and technology.

This truly feels like the logical extension of the Doctrine of Discovery, white western Christianity calling dibs on a dawning age of cloud-based extractivism. Once again the rich and powerful draw up plans to prey on Black and Brown communities, taking resources that are not theirs, extinguishing lives, and erasing cultures. Just as adoption of double-entry bookkeeping in 1494 coincided with expansion of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, so now does the roll out of self-sovereign identity and Blockchain public benefit systems coincide with new forms of digital bondage that have been devised by financiers intent trading in life outcomes of the poor. This time instead of of shackles and whips, those in power plan to exert their domination using Big Data, machine learning, “smart” environments, predictive analytics, algorithms and behavioral economic nudges. Such is the brutal business of human capital finance.

The conference at which Alford presented was held at the Vatican on June 16-18, 2014. I touched upon Sir Ronald Cohen’s participation here. It was the first of three biennial social impact conferences co-hosted by Catholic Relief Services, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has the largest endowment of any Catholic institution of higher education in the United States and is in the top tier of schools nationwide (source). Scott Malpass, appointed an advisor to the Vatican Bank in 2017, knows $8.7 billion is a lot of capital to keep in motion. Supposed “anti-poverty” initiatives that enable the church to advance its missionary purpose while controlling potentially volatile populations probably look like a pretty attractive “social impact” investment option. It’s not surprising the business school would be interested in growing this sector.

Notre Dame also hosts several programs advancing wireless technology, smart sensors, and social network signals intelligence project underwritten by defense and scientific interests. Of course such systems represent critical infrastructure needed to generate and manage real time data flows for speculative human capital investment. South Bend, the home of Notre Dame, is also home to Pete Buttigieg, a darling of the neoliberal think tank crowd. Buttigieg saw the creation of a “City of Lifelong Learning” pilot program in South Bend, a cradle to gray workforce development effort led by the Drucker (Peter) Institute, with distinct social impact investing overtones.

vatican Impact Conference 2014

Interactive map of above here.

The idea for the first Vatican impact investing conference, “Investing for the Poor: How Impact Investing Can Serve The Common Good In Light Of Evangelii Gaudium,” was originally pitched by Dr. Carolyn Woo, a professor of global business currently working at Purdue. Woo served as the dean of the Notre Dame business school from 1997 to 2011, then led Catholic Relief Services from 2012 to 2016 (she served on the CRS board from 2004-2010). Purdue was the first university to pilot income sharing agreements (Back a Boiler), has launched a global online degree program, and is a partner in Skillful Indiana. Social impact investments in ed-tech and digital skills training certainly sync with her university’s goals. Another Notre-Dame affiliate who participated in the conference was Roger Huang, a professor of global finance and long-time board member of a Baltimore-area Catholic health system.

There were many attendees, and I won’t list them all, but I do want to point out two additional individuals of interest. The first is Tom Steyer of Farallon Capital Management, a protégé of Robert Rubin a Goldman Sachs guy who served as Treasury Secretary under Clinton. Steyer founded Beneficial Bank with his wife Kathryn Taylor and is a mover and shaker in Democratic circles. He’s also a major force in the “Wrong Kind of Green” environmental movement. Tom’s brother Jim Steyer founded Common Sense Media, a non-profit that vets online content for children and is funded by many ed-tech philanthropies including Omidyar Network. Margie Sullivan worked with Steyer at Farallon for over a decade having built a career in federal contracting working for HUD, Department of the Defense, and the Office of the US Trade Representative. After leaving Farallon, Sullivan landed at USAID. She now manages her own consulting firm.

Steyer Vatican

Interactive map above here.

As you can see from the agenda, the goal was to get everyone on the same page about what social impact investing is and line up next steps to develop that market. One of the outcomes of the gathering was the creation of an Advisory Committee on Impact Investing for Catholic Relief Services with four working groups: Education, Communications, Impact Investments, and Relationship to a Potential Private Equity Fund. Goals included identifying areas for potential investment, developing a framework to evaluate options, and recommending a number of pilot projects. Carolyn Woo served as co-chair along with Patricia Dinneen, social justice chair of the of the Boston Archdiocese pastoral council who not coincidentally is also the impact investing chair for the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association. Including the subcommittees there are over 36 members, which you can explore here. Below is a screenshot of a selection of them.

Advisory Committee Impact investing Vatican

I do believe the plan is to codify in computer code Old Testament dictates that some will attempt to pass off as spirituality. Their manuals to make “moral” economic decisions will be algorithms. They will sort the “worthy” from the “unworthy” and cast out or smite those unlucky enough to fall into the latter category. They want us to believe that technology is the answer. The Pope has been meeting with folks from Microsoft about using AI to “help” the poor. Catholic University is taking that idea and running with it, pushing a “Catholic Blockchain.” Rick Santorum is developing a Catholic-friendly crypto-currency Cathio. We know technology isn’t the answer. It will simply reinforce the dominant power structures that have been in place for the past four hundred years. Rules will be encoded to maintain existing social order and preference racist ideals and hierarchy and paternalism.

Pope Microsoft

Catholic Blockchain

Cathio Crypto Bitcoin.jpg

What follows are clips from Alford’s talk with transcripts of the sections that informed my introductory remarks. 

Investing for the Poor: How Impact Investing Can Serve The Common Good in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium

June 16-17, 2014: Catholic Relief Services, Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, and University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business

Video 9: Impact Investing in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium: Sister Helen J. Alford

Regarding the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization

Timestamp 16:30 minutes to 19:20

Now just to give you quick background on why this arises, the New Evangelization, why is this? Well as far as I know it started, the first time it was used was in a meeting between Pope John Paul the Second, our canonized Pope John Paul the Second, and the Latin American Bishops in a meeting. And he started in his talk, he talked about this idea for the need of a new evangelization. And then it got picked up much later and finally we have this synod on this topic.

What does it mean “new,” because it seems odd in a way. Isn’t it the sort of core business of the church talking about the gospel and spread the gospel? So what does it mean? Well, I think out of the synod documents if you look at them, three main things come out. Just so you have an idea again, I’ll try to be very quick on why this, what the background to this document.

First of all the New Evangelization renewed commitment, renewed preaching of the gospel in parts of the world that have been evangelized for centuries. Okay? “New” can mean all kinds of things. It can mean new ways of doing it. It could mean entering into new sectors, which is the second. Places where the church perhaps hasn’t really entered as fully as it could have. The gospel hasn’t really entered as fully as it could. Perhaps in economics. Perhaps in politics. Um, perhaps in influencing the way that technological development takes place. These kinds of things saw a pushing out into areas; it’s not that there was never any interest, but perhaps not enough. You know it needs to be deeper, stronger, more pressed the gospel in those things.

And then as was already mentioned widening of the actors that are involved, especially as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. Reformed churches are different in this regard, better in this regard. Lay people, all the baptized being involved in evangelization. Each Christian is a bearer of Christ and is in that sense part of the mission of the church. So also connects with the bringing of the church into economics, into politics. All these baptized Christians in these sectors bringing with them the gospel message.

Perhaps we could say just as the last thing, some people would see the new evangelization as a kind of response to an existential crisis in many levels that we experience in the world today. We have climate crisis. We also have demographic crisis. Aging in many countries and problems of dealing with population changes, that kind of thing. Crisis of morality, how do we handle moral questions? In a pluralistic world, how do hand morals off from parents to children? Transmission? So, lots and lots of aspects of this crisis. The new evangelization is a sort of a response.

Breaking Down the Silos

Timestamp 20:00

We have to recognize the crucial role of business and hence in investment in confronting problems of poverty and other social problems. Yesterday, Sir Ronald Cohen was talking about bits of a quick history of how we’ve dealt with social problems. First of all the industrial revolution, and it was largely philanthropy. Then gradually developed the idea that governments should be doing things. Now we’re going through another transformation. It’s just another transformation. The church’s social teachings have dealt with these transformations before and it will deal with this transformation, too.

It’s a new phase in which we’re seeing a break down of these strict divisions between government, business, and civil society. It’s in Caritas Veritate, so we have absolute, you know uh, the seal of approval from the church. If you read Caritas Veritate number 36 around the area around paragraph 40, it’s all about how we need to break down these barriers between these sectors. And we need, for instance, as he calls it a logic of gift coming into business, but we also need business models coming into civil society. We need to learn from each other. Okay? This is a new phase that we’re going into, and the church, we need to take this on board.

You know, Father Seamus, was talking yesterday about how a lot of his justice and peace people would be, you know they’d have their hands up like this at a meeting like this. They never, it’ll be like talking to the devil you know coming in and talking to people who are involved in investment. You know, that kind of thing. You know, I mean, ok. This, we already mentioned, Carolyn mentioned this morning there’s big problems in business. Of course there are big problems, that’s probably why you all are here. So, sort of deal with some of those problems, but this idea that we’ve demonized, that we won’t have anything to do with it, and we should just keep pushing on getting governments to, it’s just, it’s not being realistic about our situation.

Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

Timestamp 35:30

This was looking at things like impact investing in the light of Evangelii Gaudium. Let’s just look at strengths and opportunities, okay? Uses the primary mechanisms we know for poverty elimination-entrepreneurship and markets. Focuses on that, attracts many different investors and entrepreneurs to solving social problems. So we’re really drawing all kinds of resources into dealing with the major problems that from the point of view of the church, from the point of view of society as a whole, we recognize we have to face.

We have opportunities, because there are so many problems to deal with, and through partnership with local government and NGOs we can create integrated solutions. Those are somewhat responding to a weaknesses and threats from the other side. Then also from Catholic social thought what are the learnings that we can get from impact investing? Well we have a very strong focus on dignity of the human person, which can sometimes be lacking in the business sphere.

And precisely because we have an institution called the church, we have a little bit of distance from business, which we can avoid this problem of capture just being absorbed into, we can have a critical distance as a church institution-a good partner, but also providing as well. That’s what good partners do for each other.

We, we as a church I think, several people have said this, we’re going to move even in the next twenty years from a rather defensive position with regard to the modern world to being in the main stream, to being one of the institutions which are going to carry forward social innovation.

It will be more like fifteenth century Florence in the future with the Catholic Church right in the middle of all kinds of innovations. The bishops are reducing big manuals on how to deal with moral problems in economics, you know. I mean this is going to start happening more in the future, just because of the situation that we’re in. And business increasingly recognizes its need for partnership.

Ok last thing, last page. We need to create a more solid dialogue. You can see here, many of you will say that’s a bit naïve some of the little things you said. It’s just the beginning of the time. We need a more solid dialogue between the church and faith communities and impact investing. We need to ask what to the various members in the church need to do to promote a business culture that puts the poor at the center. That puts inclusion right at the center. Okay? How could the business system be converted to serving the poor?

Big Brother, Blockchain Babies, Coded Religion, and “Good” Behavior

I wrapped up my previous post about the Alice.si blockchain social impact platform noting that digital identity is THE KEY element required to make speculative markets in human capital data function. The game of gambling on life outcomes requires:

1) unique personal identifiers

2) predictive analytics protocols to set the odds

3) constant monitoring of those receiving services, including inputs and outputs

4) fluid cross-border payment systems tied to real-time data flows, and

5) data aggregation and deal fulfillment platforms.

If you don’t have the first item, the unique identifier, the game cannot even start. That is why developing scalable digital identity systems is crucial. Ironically, much of the discussion we are having now around data privacy, including GDPR, is being used to advance the case for digital identity. Once adopted it will be a sea change. At that point each person will be transformed into a digitally-branded commodity available for speculative trade (based on social/reputation scoring) in the global marketplace. That is the reality of what is being built right before our eyes, and yet so few people see it for what it is.

Below are some of the sixty members of the Decentralized Identity Foundation. Most of these companies have emerged just in the past three years. Evernym, listed at the bottom of this screenshot, has partnered with the state of Illinois on a Blockchain birth certificate registry program. See the full list here.

Decentralized Identity Foundation List

The infrastructure needed to run human capital futures markets has been developed via “humanitarian” aid to countries that have long suffered under colonial rule. The first “Blockchain baby” was born in Tanzania in 2018. Mother and child were each assigned a digital identity, and the health care provided during that pregnancy was tracked on Blockchain. An article from Pymts.com last June, Aid:Tech and PharmAccess Deliver World’s First Blockchain Baby, describes how the Blockchain platform could be set up to incentivize desired pregnancy behaviors. The article goes on to say a similar “loyalty” program was set up by Mastercard to encourage medical compliance in Hepatitis C patients.

Tanzania Blockchain Baby

Tanzania Blockchain Baby Map

Interactive Map: Tanzania Blockchain Baby / Digital Global Aid HERE

Mastercard has gained prominence within the global aid community for its digital payment systems. It also holds biometric security and Blockchain identity patents. The company is a member of the Better than Cash Alliance, a program housed within the United Nations that advocates development of digital payment systems for the global poor; Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, a think tank working to scale global poverty “solutions;” the Decentralized Identity Foundation, a membership organization that promotes technology based identity; and the Domestic Security Alliance Council, a public-private intelligence gathering partnership.

Mastercard Global Aid

Interactive version of the map above here.

The company is well positioned to benefit from a shift to Blockchain aid distribution just in time for mass global unrest stemming from climate catastrophe, economic instability, and militarization. A key feature of Blockchain technology is the ability to deploy smart contracts, the same types of contracts used in the Alice.si platform.

Using Blockchain identity and smart contracts, an organization could gamify compliance fairly easily. As individuals demonstrate required behaviors via digital networks, they “unlock” value, benefits, or privileges. While the idea of gamification is novel, we must recognize that those in positions of power will be the ones coding the game. These are people whose goal is to obtain wealth and power at the expense of the subjects compelled to play their “game.” Their intent is certainly NOT to redistribute the assets they’ve already accumulated.

Another key area of concern is the fact that VALUE SYSTEMS have begun to be written into smart contract code. Last year former Augur CEO Matt Liston devised a Blockchain RELIGION, which he dubbed 0xΩ. His technology allows believers to vote on sacred texts, select leaders, fund missionary work, and commission works of art. In a Forbes article Liston said “The idea is that you can take an existing religion, and you could place the scripture in the Blockchain.” People can then vote by proxy, changing the nature of the enterprise as the group evolves. Other Ethereum enterprises with a religious bent include Jesus Coin, Lotos, and BitcCoen.

This is important, because in the “pay for success” world we now inhabit, public services are being outsourced to non-profits and NGOs, many of which are FAITH-BASED. What will it mean if “success metrics” linked to “evidence-based” programs demand a person’s behavior comply to a specific value system? Will those needing assistance have their activities circumscribed by Blockchain-code? Will AI screen individuals for compatibility? As these contractual systems become automated via DAOs and DAFs, they are becoming further and further out of reach. It will be increasingly difficult to refute the terms of coded computer smart contracts. Where exactly does one protest this new world of cloud-based domination?

Value Based Healthcare Smart Money

This is highly relevant to sexual and reproductive healthcare access. Our nation’s health systems are moving away from fee-for-service to a values-based payment structure-pay for success. Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including electronic health records, laid the groundwork for this transition. As hospitals are closed and consolidated, communities many only have access to religious-affiliated (often Catholic) health systems that may limit what treatments are available.

Ascension Catholic Healthcare

One might argue that improved reproductive health outcomes justify the Blockchain solution imposed on these mothers in Tanzania. But once again, we need to consider if the “solutions” offered materially improve the conditions of impoverished families or if they instead impose expectations of “proper” pregnancy behaviors on expectant parents without providing additional support.

Africa has become a lab for mobile health or mHealth interventions, many of which are directed at maternal health outcomes. Programs like MomConnect send SMS messages with branded content from Bay-area based BabyCenter, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Many of these digital interventions have been developed for the sole purpose of disruption and advancing behavioral economic approaches to intractable social problems.

The “impact” economy envisioned by the Davos crowd anticipates a small percentage of the world’s population will have access stable, fulfilling, living-wage work in the coming decades. Most families will be dependent on some form of assistance to survive: food, shelter, education, and health and mental health treatment. Those benefits will most likely be issued electronically and linked to digital identity systems. The system will demand to be able to compare resources expended against a person’s economic output. Software to query on encrypted data has already been developed by MIT. It’s called Engima.

Enigma.jpg

This dystopian vision is a future where “labor” for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, disproportionately Black and Brown folks, will consist of navigating increasingly intrusive “evidence-based” training, social service, and health care “solutions.” These systems will codify behavior in ways that advantage those in power. All of this hinges on digital identity, tech-based surveillance, and outcomes-based contracting. If we want to avoid this future, we must educate one another about the infrastructure that is being put into place and attempt to block its imposition.

Alice & Automated Poverty Management

At the end of my previous post I introduced Alice.si, an Ethereum Blockchain software platform investors developed to automate payments to “charitable” projects that prove “measurable impact.”

Alice.si homepage

The platform employs a “pay for results” structure, an approach adopted by numerous governments including ones in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. After years of data-driven austerity, it is becoming more and more acceptable for public services to be outsourced to non-profit and faith-based partners. Reimbursement for services can then be tied to outcomes-based government contracts, an arrangement that has garnered support from both progressive and conservative quarters.

To get the data required to run their human capital, life-outcomes gambling enterprise, financiers intend to digitally engineer the lives of the poor and compel vulnerable communities to conform to racialized systems of domination that extract profit from misery and dispossession. Black and Brown communities will bear the brunt of ever-more technologized systems of bondage imposed by hedge fund traders. Though rising income inequality and expanded militarized policing ensure a majority of the population will eventually come under scrutiny. Below is a screenshot of an impact dashboard similar to Alice.si. SocialSuite is backed by Salesforce and operates in Australia in partnership with IXO Foundation.

SocialSuite How It Works

Source here.

Impact investors claim charitable donations are dwindling because the wealthy don’t trust service providers; they are not transparent enough with their data. Alice.si, apparently, solves this problem for them. It collects lots of data and makes it readily available for impact analysis. But really, the rich don’t actually want to GIVE away assets, preferring to leverage them to accrue even MORE wealth. That is how the machine of capitalism works. Every “social impact” effort, however progressive it may appear, is ultimately about redirecting resources away from the multitudes at the bottom to a few powerful interests at the top.

Service delivery must, by design, get leaner and leaner as the poor are squeezed for more and more data, their lives increasingly circumscribed by imposed interventions. As each round of of supposed “success” concludes, profit is taken, thus guaranteeing the next investment round has even fewer material resources to offer the poor. Those at the top do not intend to redistribute their holdings, only increase them. To do otherwise would fly in the face of the “investment” premise. To do so would, in fact, be “charity,” and the age of unconditional charity has evidently come to a close as has the age of living-wage, dignified work.

For these reasons Alice.si’s functionality will very likely extend into the “what works” public sector. One of the first proofs of concept for Alice.si involved services for fifteen “rough sleepers” or unhoused folks in London. If you want to take a deep dive into the broken-on-purpose nature of pay for success finance, I encourage you to read social justice accountant Cameron Graham’s seven-part series. It lays bare the sinister mechanics of the St. Mungo’s social impact bond featured in the image below. It can be read on his blog, Fearful Asymmetry, here. This SIB was advanced by Sir Ronald Cohen and Social Finance in 2015.

While housing is an area of keen interest to social impact investors (supportive housing providing a useful node through which data-extracting services can be deployed), success metrics are also readily applied to chronic illness, addiction/mental health, youth services/foster care, end of life care and education/training. Much of the technological infrastructure needed for automated “pay for results” is being refined through “humanitarian” global aid channels, also featured in the screenshot below.

Alice.si projects

Funding for Alice.si’s development came from Social Tech Trust, originally the corporate foundation for Nominet and later spun off as its own venture. Nominet manages the Internet domain registry for the UK. The company is also deeply involved with emerging technologies that can manage, track, and predict people’s behaviors in ubiquitous computing environments: Internet of Things sensors, Smart City initiatives, autonomous vehicles and drones. Alice.si has the support of the UK government’s innovation program, firms involved in venture capital, as well as digital payment systems. For a time it maintained a US presence in Philadelphia.

Alice.si

Interactive version of the above map here.

Below is a 17-minute presentation on Alice.si made in 2017 at DevCon3.

With Alice.si, organizations set up to process the poor via “evidence-based” “solutions” agree to share impact metrics and progress towards goals by uploading regular reports to a Blockchain platform with a public-facing dashboard.  With the Alice.si platform, investors may opt to provide seed funding up front with remaining payments held in escrow until “success” is proven digitally. Only after conditions of blockchain “smart contracts” are met, will subsequent payments be released.

Alice.si validation

Source page 33.

Instead of relying on a third-party organization to evaluate the “success” of a project, Alice.si is meant to automate the evaluation part of the “pay for success” process. This will supposedly reduce costs and speed up the process. Impact investors are always seeking “solutions” that can be inexpensively brought to scale. Blockchain becomes the “trusted third party;” instead of an entity like Palantir reviewing the data, it is done automatically. Of course, that means that “success” must be defined as a number on a dashboard, and personal data on individuals accessing charitable services must be harvested and uploaded to “prove” that success.

That data-mining might happen when an individual’s caseworker enters information into a social welfare system, but increasingly compliance-monitoring will be managed through Internet of Things sensors and xAPI / apps. Indeed, wearable tech is becoming normalized to the point that in 2018, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, a pioneer in impact investing policy, hosted a webinar to discuss the ethical and security implications of linking innovative tech to global human capital investment programs. You can watch it here.

This “transparent” data will drive a free market approach to global impact investments. You may recall from my post on the possibility of a Pre-K TARP (Toxic Asset Relief Program), that NPX has devised an impact security structure where social service entities may issue debt for their operations in the form of bonds.

Investors purchase the bonds, and when “success” metrics are attained, donors repay the investment plus interest. Such bonds can be traded on secondary markets. A similar approach has been built into Alice.si. Debt is tokenized on blockchain and can be bought and sold with payment flows changing in real time.

The screenshot below was taken from the NPX website.

NPX Impact Security

This screenshot is taken from the Alice.si white paper.

Alice.si secondary markets

In this new world of human capital speculation, social welfare services will be underwritten by far-flung amalgamations of pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, venture capital funds, and insurers. Such was the case I wrote about in Connecticut where a French bank and an Australian insurance company put up money to fund “family stability” interventions for Connecticut families where a parent was experiencing addiction and had involvement with Child Protective Services.

It is possible that in the not too distant future “philanthropic” entities could be set up as DAOs, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations or DAFs, Decentralized Autonomous Funds. These are legally incorporated entities written in computer code that once activated proceed according to their set purpose, distributing funds with no human input whatsoever. Let me repeat-once a DAO is set loose, there is no human involvement. None.

The concept for automated charity was put forth in a 2015 white paper prepared by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), an Alice.si partner based in the UK, called “Giving Unchained: Philanthropy and the Blockchain.” CAF heralds this advance, positing a future in which “internet of things, underpinned by blockchain technology, lead to a world in which smart machines emerge as a new hyper-rational donor class.”

If the actions of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, and Pierre Omidyar concern you now, imagine a future where they set up DAOs or DAFs to carry out their social impact agendas. Few people realize this is even a possibility. It is terrifying. I’m really not sure why progressive and Left movements are so in the dark about all of this. We need to be discussing in very serious terms how to stop it.

Charity Aid Foundation Giving Unchained Blockchain Text

According to their white paper: “Alice uses the blockchain to record almost every parameter of projects run on the network, tokenizing impact data into “impact facts” that live on into perpetuity thanks to the blockchain’s intrinsic qualities of data-immutability and tamper-resistance.” Imagine how many “impact facts” might be collected on a low-income family trying to survive multi-generational trauma in a city of deep poverty. For impact investors, broken people and broken families are valuable commodities. Valuable that is, IF predictive analytics indicate they can be “fixed” inexpensively. Poor people whose metrics indicate a good “growth” profile will be sought out and cultivated, while the non-compliant poor will be pushed into carceral systems or abandoned and and left to their own devices.

This processing of lives through privatized, prescriptive, “evidence-based” interventions is central to the continued expansion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s “knowledge economy,” one defined by concentrated capital, financialization, rising levels of poverty, and surplus labor. I fear if we do not strongly contest the current framing of the social impact investing as a public “good,” the future of “work” for many will be navigating predatory social service systems, subject to predictive profiling and intrusive surveillance.

Alice.si transforms the world into a treacherous of augmented-reality game, a maze the poor and those servicing them must navigate. Players must not only attempt to live in the game, but hit agreed-upon targets, unlock rewards, and level up. In order for these systems to function, organizations must be able to keep track of people. In this game of impoverished “Life,” each person is their own token, avatar, piece in play. Those in power expect to be able monitor the resources being invested into them and quantify the “success” metrics that person produces. Self sovereign digital identity is another piece of the puzzle. I’ll discuss this concept further in my next post on the world’s first “Blockchain baby” born in Tanzania last year.

 

What About Alice? The United Way, Collective Impact & Libertarian “Charity”

It seems the United Way is planning for a future inhabited by a mass underclass of precarious labor. In fact, this “future” may already be here, it’s just not evenly distributed as the quote attributed to William Gibson suggests. For the past few years United Way chapters nationwide have been mobilizing awareness campaigns around ALICE. The acronym stands for Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE does not signify just female and female-identifying adults, but instead the masses of the working poor and their families. ALICE is the raw material that will be fed into the United Way’s “collective impact” machine. ALICEs may be pregnant teens, foster youth, single parents, indebted students, veterans, the disabled, the chronically ill, the elderly, the addicted, or families holding down multiple jobs who still cannot make ends meet.

ALICE Group Photo

United Way Impact Investment Products 1

Stephanie Hoopes, who earned a PhD in government and international relations from the London School of Economics, developed the ALICE campaign, which is housed within the United Way, and has served as its director since 2015. She taught in the UK early in her career, then became the treasurer of the New Jersey public television network. She also taught at Columbia and Rutgers where she served as director for the Rutgers-Newark New Jersey Databank. Social impact investing runs on data, especially interoperable data.

This January, Hoopes participated as a panelist in a “Prosperity Symposium” in Philadelphia, hosted by the Federal Reserve. Michael Nutter, Bloomberg’s “what works” government sidekick, was co-host. Not surprisingly there was much discussion of the need for additional research, but little mention of redistribution of resources to those in need. Federal Reserve branches across the nation are in the process of launching “economic mobility” initiatives, swift on the heels on the passage of the Foundations for Evidence Based Policy Making Act, the Social Impact Partnerships Pay for Results Act, and their companion program promoting Investing in Opportunity Zones.

While they may dangle “prosperity” in front of the ALICEs, the social impact investment scheme relies on folks never attaining stability, let alone “prosperity.” The ALICEs are going to be compelled to jump through hoop after hoop, digitally monitored of course: workforce training for non-existent jobs; addiction treatment that never offers a permanent cure; preventative health regimens that fail to take into account the toxic environments in which the poor are forced to live.

That is how the game of human capital speculation goes. The ALICEs may be allowed to improve their lot in some small, but “measurable” ways. Growth metrics after all ARE needed to fuel impact markets. We also know few ALICEs will ever be allowed to grasp the brass ring. Widespread prosperity would mean conditions suitable for impact investing would cease, and they will not allow that to happen. Those in power demand this macabre game continue. Why? Human capital investments are one of the few remaining places that can absorb concentrated flows of wealth that must continue to be circulated. ALICE management is a crucial element of this next phase of biocapitalism.

Prosperity Symposium 2019

Interactive map of the Prosperity Symposium held in Philadelphia here.

A prominent supporter of the ALICE concept is Senator Cory Booker, also from northern New Jersey and a major player in education privatization. He has an interest in social impact investing, having served on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation and co-sponsored the Social Impact Partnership Pay For Results Act, which I wrote about here.

As mayor of Newark, Booker worked closely with Mark Zuckerberg on “innovative” approaches to transforming the city’s public schools, which caused grave harm to the children of that city. While many labelled the effort a failed investment, if Zuckerberg’s end game was actually to test interventions and further destabilize the system as a way of laying the groundwork for a broader program of impact investing, he might actually consider it a “success.” Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have put considerable dollars into scaling the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust in San Jose (more here). Such an interoperable data system is exactly the type of infrastructure needed to track and evaluate the “pay for success” deals that will be imposed on those fitting the ALICE profile.

ALICE Northern NJ.jpg

Interactive version of ALICE / Northern NJ here.

The ALICE initiative is backed by a variety of corporate and philanthropic interests working in the areas of fin-clusion (predatory lending), healthcare, insurance, energy, technology, and education. Several are members of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and have ties to social impact finance, including Deloitte, which published a whitepaper on the importance of impact investing for hedge funds, and UPS, the corporate arm of the Annie E. Casey Foundation I mentioned in my prior post. For impact investment predators, ALICEs are a vast pool of untapped potential. If only they could be properly profiled, packaged, and processed through “pay for success” “collective impact”systems,  their dire situations would be somewhat ameliorated, netting a solid profit for those with the resources to underwrite “evidence-based” “solutions” to “fix” them.

ALICE Sponsors

Interactive map of ALICE Advisory Council members here.

ALICE National Advisory Council members include:

Aetna: insurer, healthcare innovation, digital identity systems

AT&T: ALEC member, ed-tech, “smart-city” 5g, Educare Pre-K

Atlantic Health System

Deloitte: Consulting firm advancing edge computing, social impact investing, collaborating on futures initiative with Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund and Singularity University

Entergy: ALEC member, energy company

Johnson & Johnson: ALEC member, digital health, global aid, maternal mobile health innovations, corporate arm of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Key Bank: Regional Ohio Bank

OneMain Financial Holdings: Sub-prime lender

RJW Barnabas Health: New Jersey-based healthcare system

UPS: Corporate arm of Annie E. Casey Foundation, globalized supply chain tracking, labor automation, US Impact Investing Alliance

US Venture: energy company

In my next post I will discuss another Alice, Alice.si.

Alice.si is a blockchain platform designed to support peer-to-peer “social impact” charity. It was bankrolled by the Social Tech Seed Fund , the charitable arm of Nominet Trust, which is the entity that manages internet domain registries in the UK. The Ethereum platform partnered with the UK government’s innovation hub and has a satellite office in the United States. In 2017, their US base was in Philadelphia as noted in this petition to the FCC, but their website seems to indicate it has since relocated to Burlingame, CA.

Alice.si

Interactive map of Alice.si here.

The services Alice.si proposes are eerily similar to those floated in a 2018 Libertarian white paper crafted by the Idaho Freedom Foundation: “Blockchain & Government: Using An Emerging Technology To Reduce Government’s Interference In Your Life.” In it automated systems track the supposed impact of private donations to charitable programs or individuals in need of assistance. The infographics below give you a sense of how they envision it operating. Imagine such a system overlaid with specific sets of values written into computer code and automated. That technology exists in a basic form. Fortunately, it is just not yet scaleable or socially acceptable.

Libertarian blockchain welfare 1

Libertarian welfare blockchain 2

When We’re The Packages: UPS, Annie E. Casey Foundation & Impact Investing

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the United Way, and the Aspen Institute are in the process of rolling out a “two-generation,” coordinated program of data exploitation designed to enmesh poor families in ongoing systems of digital monitoring. In order to secure their most basic needs for survival, families in need will be expected to demonstrate compliance with boot-strap, neoliberal interventions grounded in behavioral economics.

Not only will intrusive personal information be fed into cloud-based dashboard systems by social service providers (educators, healthcare providers, therapists, social workers), increasingly wearable technology and Internet of Things enabled devices will be deployed to extract data in real time. Such “solutions” place the burden on individuals to “fix” themselves within systems that have, in fact, been designed to oppress them. As the poor attempt to navigate rigged, “pay for success” social “welfare” interventions, their digital exhaust will be harnessed and used to fuel hedge fund speculation. Predatory investors are now aggregating portfolios of “evidence-based” “solutions” through vehicles like the Green Light Fund (more here).

Hustle Score

It is a brutal enterprise suited to our current moment, one in which the purchasing power of the masses is no longer sufficient to maintain global capital flows and innovative systems of finance linked to digital technologies  are on the rise. The “two-generation” strategy being advanced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in coordination with the United Way and the Aspen Institute will vastly increase the amount of data collected, imposing family-level surveillance via “soft” (social welfare agencies) and “hard” (law enforcement) systems of policing. As befitting our nation’s legacy of genocide and enslavement, Black and Brown communities are on the front lines of this newest manifestation of racial capitalism.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, whose board is dominated by UPS executives, is the philanthropy that jump-started the field of social impact investing (aka poverty-mining). Jim Casey and his siblings created the foundation in 1948. Casey grew a Seattle-based courier business into United Parcel Service, a company that has come to dominate global supply chain management. The Casey family has been involved in myriad private welfare programs over the decades, targeting foster care, “opportunity youth,” and low-income families.

Annie E Casey Foundation Map LittleSis

Annie E. Casey Foundation board members interactive map here.

The foundation conceptualized the Mission Investors Exchange in 2003 and refined it in partnership with other global philanthropies including the Ford Foundation. The organization was incubated within Philanthropy Northwest, its fiscal sponsor, from 2008 to 2015 when it became an independent entity. Mission Investors Exchange now boasts over 200 members, including twenty-six of the nation’s largest philanthropies, plus asset managers, private wealth funds, community development funds, consultants, and legal counsel. There are many wealthy, powerful interests who anticipate making a lot of money off technocratic poverty management.

Social impact investing runs on data, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation has a lot of it. The foundation funded the creation of a data center to track the well-being of children starting in 1990. Each subsequent year they have published updated “Kids Count” datasets, which I anticipate will be leveraged in the development of baselines to advance pre-k “pay for success” investment schemes.

Kids Count Data Center Annie E. Casey

The foundation moved from Seattle to Greenwich, CT in the 1970s and has been headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland since 1994. The location is notable. Baltimore is also home to Catholic Relief Services, Johns Hopkins School Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Yet Analytics. All have extensive ties to human capital investment, data analytics, and performance metrics through global aid channels and domestic social service delivery. The US surveillance community also maintains a large footprint in the corridor between Washington, DC and Baltimore.

In 2012, the year the first social impact bond was executed in the US, Johns Hopkins University hosted the annual conference of Stewards of Change. Stewards of Change is the main promoter of the interoperable data systems that will undergird the burgeoning human capital investment sector. Their 2012 conference had a systems engineering focus and featured talks from experts affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, a human-computer research hub that maintains contracts with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Among these is the “Ground Truth” project that uses simulations and social media analyses to make predictions about future social movement activity. Pictured below from the conference trailer video is Charles Pickar, former defense contractor and principal staff of the Applied Physics Lab.

Stewards of Change at Johns Hopkins

The Annie E. Casey Foundation maintains close ties with Knowledgeworks, promoter of learning ecosystems, and Strive Together, its “collective impact” human capital management spin-off (more here). Lisa Hamilton, CEO of the foundation, sits on the board of Strive. Hamilton led the foundation’s Kids Count program for many years and prior to that managed public relations for UPS. Jeff Edmonson, former manager of Strive who now works for Ballmer Group (Steve Ballmer/Microsoft), was trained by the foundation in data-driven results for children and families. The Casey foundation made significant financial contributions to both Strive and Knowledgeworks over the years. The foundation was also an investor in True North, one of the first capital aggregation funds launched in 2012 with support from the federally-backed Social Innovation Fund.

Strive Annie E Casey

Interactive map here.

Those setting up social impact markets have a morally bankrupt understanding of the poor. Somehow the systems engineers carrying out the bidding of global finance disconnect from their humanity and are able to reduce the poor to data commodities. The poor are thus consigned to attempt to live lives engineered for “measurable” “success,” at least according to the terms of the outcomes-based contracts through which they are processed.

SIPPRA PFS ConnecticutSource here.

The “impact” exerted on their lives is not intended to materially benefit them, but rather serves to further concentrate global capital into the hands of the elite. The poor will be digitally monitored and predictively profiled so that any symptoms of unrest can be neutralized pre-emptively. The poor must exist for the the social impact game to function, but minimal investment will be made in them-only the barest essentials required to keep the enterprise running smoothly. In Baltimore we see how “philanthropic,” higher education, and state interests have converged to carry out the bidding of transnational capital in a dawning era of mass labor automation.

UPS itself is an innovator in labor automation and sensor-based tracking. According to a May 2018 article “UPS Makes Brown The Color of the Internet of Things,” the company intends incorporate “smart” IoT sensors and data analytics to “optimize” every aspect of its  business operations for “smart” city redesign. As with Amazon warehouse workers, employees of UPS are increasingly subject to digital surveillance and monitoring on the job. The Teamsters ratified a new contract with UPS in the fall of 2018, even though a majority of the union’s members voted against it.

Workers have a growing sense of unease about lean production, precarious labor, and ubiquitous digital surveillance. Their worries are well founded as evidenced by a recent contract IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) signed with Lockheed Martin, Notre Dame University and the University of Southern California to develop persistent, passive monitoring systems that can be used to an predict worker performance. The project is called MOSAIC (Multimodel Objective Sensing to Assess Individuals with Context).

IARPA MOSAIC

For now, enough of the US population is able to purchase items online and have them delivered, often by UPS. The system continues to limp along. Eventually that will change. There won’t be enough people with credit to buy enough things to keep the machine of global capital running. Once that happens, the sophisticated supply chain tracking systems developed by UPS will no longer be used on Amazon packages. At that point, the masses become “packages” tracked for “impact” whether they wish it or not.

The global elite are investing in technological systems and legislative measures they hope will allow them to maintain control during times of economic and civil unrest. They are watching the Yellow Vests. That’s what MOSAIC is about. That’s what “Ground Truth” is about. That is why we’re seeing increased digital surveillance and militarized policing in our communities-“smart” cities. It will be a challenge to maintain control of the masses once they realize they’re the raw material for social impact investing processing. The elite are getting ready. Meanwhile, the masses remain oblivious. They are managing day-to-day crises with little comprehension of what is on the way.