This is a follow up to my previous post about a donation Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter and co-founder of Square, made to pay for the construction of recreation centers in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. If you haven’t seen that one yet, I suggest you read it here before diving into the details. There was so much material I will be sharing my findings in a series of articles to be posted in the coming weeks.
The project in Jacarezinho was initiated by David and Glenn after a traumatic mass killing of residents by police in May 2021. The idea was to use private investments to provide low-income families opportunities to participate in sports, education and English language learning. As the controversy surrounding Dorsey’s donation played out, significant effort was made to keep the focus of the conversation tight, on the relative merits of the financing of this one single project. I aimed to push all involved to take the opportunity to examine and critically interrogate the morality of social impact investing in Brazil. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Greenwald never responded to me on Twitter, and neither he nor Andray Domise mentioned it in the podcast where they discussed the donation.
As a parent of a former Philadelphia public school student, who has now graduated, I spent five years following money and policy changes that led to the privatization of our city’s education system. The scope of my research gradually expanded, and I began investigating systems of predatory poverty management the tentacles of which extend nationally, even globally, through esteemed academic institutions, deep-pocketed foundations, and well-connected NGOs.
While the mainstream media keeps regular folks at one another’s throats through the strategic use of spectacle and partisan rhetoric, the truth is the installation of the digital panopticon is happening with full bipartisan support. The leaders are the Third Way politicians and neoliberal policy wonks like David Osborne. When Osborne came to speak at a school year kick-off event at Philadelphia’s Union League, I “welcomed” by him chalking pointed messages on the sidewalk around the esteemed institution and then ended up staging an impromptu sit-in in the lobby as meeting attendees had to step over me before heading upstairs to plot out the datafication of Philadelphia’s school children. I’ve touched on this in previous blog posts here, here, and here. I’ve seen these predators firsthand. As they’ve come for Philadelphia’s children, they will be coming for Brazil’s too, the poorest ones first, those in the favelas.
Comcast has its headquarters in our city. We are home to the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton Business School, where many of the social impact policy measures have been devised. There’s the Philadelphia Branch of the Federal Reserve, whose former head Patrick Harker was a Wharton professor who served on the board of Catholic Relief Services and had a hand in many social impact finance efforts. Our two-term mayor, Michael Nutter, left to become Michael Bloomberg’s pitch man for “what works,” “data-driven” open government bringing us digital nudges and behavioral economics designed to enact ubiquitous surveillance of Black and Brown communities under the guise of providing “help.”
This is nothing new, of course, and I recommend folks check out Elizabeth Hinton’s From The War On Poverty To The War On Crime for further insights into the ways in which the social safety net of Johnson’s Great Society was used to extend police presence in communities of color through public housing and afterschool programs. In this ten-minute clip, Jason Bosch of Argusfest and I discuss the topic on the grounds of the UT Austin campus on a shady hill overlooking the LBJ presidential library and graduate school of public affairs.
There are many parallels to what is being set up for the children in Rio and what has happened to the children of Philadelphia over the past decade. Despite the geographic distance, the playbook and many of the organizations are the same. What Silicon Valley needs next is digital ID, programmable money, and real-time geo-fencing to begin to enforce their planned cybernetic remaking of society. This will be systems engineering at scale from individual neurons tweaked with targeted dopamine hits and nanotechnology to entire populations groomed through ubiquitous computing embedded in smart-city mixed reality to offer up their data, interoperable on blockchain, to the hivemind. There will be gaming, lots of gaming, paid in digital scrip and aligned with performative identity scripted by the Global North in a misguided attempt to erase indigeneity and optimize soul harvest. It’s all framed in terms of saving the planet and solving poverty, of course. They’ve set up the framework so that any attempt to resist appears unseemly, selfish, and even racist.
It is vital that more people start to understand how social entrepreneurs and impact investors intend to corral today’s youth into mixed reality; take away their economic independence; condition them to a surveillance panopticon; farm them for compliance data; and package their futures as commodities to be traded as asset backed securities rated based on how they utilize privatized welfare or blockchain Universal Basic Income.
Education is United Nations Sustainable Goal 4. Gender Equity is Goal 5 (girls and women). Decent Work / Economic Growth is Goal 8. Reduced Inequalities is Goal 10. Public-Private Partnerships is Goal 17. The goal is to engineer “solutions” that are layered across several goals. In that way, impact data can be leveraged to maximize profit and betting opportunities. To see how this works here’s a post I wrote about impact investing metrics and child hunger, Goal 2.
If they can package it right, tell a compelling story, all this horror will fit nicely into BlackRock’s ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) portfolios. It must. That’s the whole point; to keep capital circulating through creative new forms of militarized debt finance. Brazil is well on its way as I will demonstrate in the posts that follow. The country, with guidance from Ronald Cohen’s GSG (Global Steering Group, formerly the G7 Impact Investment Task Force) adopted a national strategy for impact investing, ENIMPACTO, in 2018. Recommendations included the following:
Use public banks and development agencies to seed impact markets.
Cultivate public-private investment deals with hybrid finance products.
Use public resources to incubate impact business with private partners, especially women led.
Support the creation of impact businesses by NGOs.
Outsource government services to private partners, especially those serving low-income people.
Encourage pension funds to shift into ESG investments.
Preference impact businesses in government procurement
Support development and adoption of social impact bonds.
Create networks of impact focused angel investors.
Support education around impact policy and impact entrepreneurship in higher education.
Develop supportive regulatory environment for impact businesses, social impact bonds, and management of endowments.
Foster impact assessment culture (data surveillance).
Promote impact investing through advertising campaigns and institutional forums.
Because of what I’ve seen firsthand, living not far from Wharton Business School, I feel compelled to share the information and insights that follow. The City of Brotherly Love, while exalted as a cradle of democracy, is home to institutions with imperial intent. These campaigns are being insidiously deployed through the export of economic policies that have set the stage for the pay-for-success takeover of public welfare systems around the world.