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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.