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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.