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.


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).


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.

The Opioid Crisis In CT: How Family Data Collection Grows Pay for Success Profit

The next logical step in the evolution of pay for success finance is broadening the scope of interventions from individuals to families. Rather than focusing on a child that needs educational support, an incarcerated person planning for re-entry, a veteran’s PTSD, or a substance user’s recovery, investors are developing new models that expand targeted populations and capture “impact” data across MULTIPLE lives. In this way investors will leverage targeted (limited cost) investments in privatized public services to capture more metrics of “success” and thereby increase profit-taking.

An example of this is the Connecticut Family Stability project. This pay for success effort was launched in 2016 and targeted households where a parent was identified as having a substance use problem, and the child had involvement with the state’s Department of Children and Families. The Family-Based Recovery program was used, an in-home treatment developed in 2006 by the Yale Child Study Center in partnership with Johns Hopkins University for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

Connecticut Family Stability SIB

Interactive map of the Connecticut Family Stability Pay for Success Project here.

The deal, lauded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, attracted investment not only domestically (the Non-Profit Finance Fund, Arnold Ventures, and the Reinvestment Fund), but also from overseas, namely, France (BNP Paribas) and Australia (QBE Insurance). As far as I am aware, it is the first US venture taking advantage of the tragic opioid crisis to create a global impact investment vehicle using pay for success finance. The deal was particularly attractive for investors, because impacts were captured on BOTH the recovery of the parent AND improved outcomes for the child.

BNP Paribas Connecticut Family Stability

The above op-ed was written in the spring of 2018 by Tina Rosenberg, co-founder of Solutions Journalism Network (read more on impact media here). It speaks glowingly of the project and the $11.2 million investment BNP Paribas made in it. It’s a puff piece promoting innovative finance, that provides background on social impact bond mastermind Sir Ronald Cohen, and pitches the wonders of his “what works” approach and data-driven outcomes.

Rosenberg describes teams of social workers deployed to hundreds of people’s homes. Parents were required to urinate in a cup three times a week. The counseling provided to these families, most of whom earn less than $10,000 per year, could last “up to an hour.” The piece attempts to make it sound comforting and convenient, but having an official of the state in your home every other day for six months monitoring your parenting and deciding whether or not you can keep your family together must have been a harrowing experience.

The “success” metrics for the program were 1) clean screens 2) fewer reports of mistreatment and 3) reduced foster care placements.  It’s easy to see how those metrics could be gamed, and in the end, even if the parents were able to stay clean for the specified period of time, they were still left attempting to care for their children on an impossible income. Of course that essential fact is not addressed by the “family STABILITY project;” as if one could achieve STABILITY without a living wage and ongoing family support. But the government and the investors are the ones that get to set the terms of “success,” and in the business of speculative human capital finance, metrics are not established to serve the interests of “at risk” populations.

A 2016 Obama White House report describing “opportunities” for leveraging Pay for Success to address the opioid crisis is shown below the map. Page twenty-one outlines “next steps.” The depravity of the “pay for success” approach can be seen in the language used. The authors recommend identifying “which AGENCIES would benefit from a reduction of opioid misuse” and “potential sources of ECONOMIC BENEFIT.” There is nothing about the people being harmed. There is no moral argument made about providing treatment merely because everyone deserves to be treated humanely. No, the primary thing that matters is identifying a cost-offset that can be easily tracked and will generate a solid rate of return for investors. They don’t care if people are truly cured as long as the numbers on the dashboards allow them to claim “success” and take their profit.

Pay for Success Opioid White House

Read the full report here.

These folks never let a humanitarian crisis go to waste. Predators made fortunes improperly prescribing pills. More money was made on recovery programs, but even that wasn’t enough. To that they added “creative financing solutions” that permit MORE profit to be extracted based program outcomes. And thus the tentacles of pay for success continue to extend their reach, grasping at the misery of the masses and using their pain to further concentrate wealth and power in the greedy hands of an elite transnational class.

All the profit accrued from the supposed “success” of “evidence-based” interventions ultimately gets redirected to those at the top. Everyone at the bottom is compelled to attempt to survive on fewer and fewer resources. The Connecticut families struggling with addiction on less than $10,000 this year are likely to be in the same boat next year, but with a few thousand fewer dollars in their pocket. That money, of course, will be sitting as an outcomes-based “success” payment in the coffers of BNP Paribas or QBE Insurance or some other financier, ready for the next go around.

Pay for success does not advance redistribution of resources. It does not ensure people have access to what they need to survive. It is not designed to ameliorate the harm wrought by manufactured poverty. It is a false promise, that concept of “success,” if “succeeding” means the rich always get richer and the poor always get poorer.

Connecticut Family Stability Project Social Finace Tweet

Source of tweet here.






Anti-Abortion Legislation and the Perverse Logic of Human Capital Impact Investing

If an increasingly automated Fourth Industrial Revolution economic system demands an abundance of poverty data to keep global capital markets moving, it makes sense that those in power might seek to increase births resulting from unwanted pregnancies. I do not believe it is coincidental that provisions for home-visits, widespread ACEs screenings, and early childhood investments are hitting state legislatures at the same time as bills that restrict access to abortion. In a world where abortion is restricted, more pregnancies = more health outcomes data to track. More “at-risk” babies = more children to be channeled through “evidence-based” early childhood interventions.

The impact economy thrives on trauma (see this post on ACEs). The more trauma, the more opportunities to demonstrate “impact,” gamble on life outcomes, and generate profit from privatized social services. According to the twisted logic of late-stage capitalism, there is a real financial incentive to increase traumatic pregnancies. That trauma can be physical, emotional, economic or some combination. Legislation that denies a person bodily autonomy and limits their ability to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term will create tremendous stress, and thus many humans (adults and children) who will likely be identified as needing some type of “evidence-based” intervention.

In the cold, calculating world of social impact investing, the poor, even those still in the womb, exist on a continuum of potential criminality and need. Their perceived value to the system lies less and less in their productive labor, but instead in their willingness to be pre-emptively “fixed” by bureaucratic systems that do not see their innate humanity, just data, data on a dashboard.

Providing unconditional support to those in need is seen less and less as an acceptable option. Instead, society is adopting a mindset where the worthy poor will be separated from the unworthy; where ubiquitous surveillance and Internet of Things tracking will monitor compliance, algorithmically assess a person’s risk profile, and award assistance, or not. In this future, social supports will be ephemeral and conditional. Rights, privileges, and value will exist as data, tied to a digital identity, on a phone (or eventually embedded in a chip), ready to be erased on command.

Data-mining is the next frontier of predatory resource extraction. Just as experts began to postulate capitalism cannot expand further, it jumps the shark into the digital realm, seeding itself in virtual worlds, claiming private property on Blockchain, colonizing the cloud. As rivers were for the fur trade and railroads were for lumber and minerals, so too will broadband, 5G, smart phones, wearables, and data dashboards be for the human capital / Internet of Things impact economy.

Maternal, fetal, and child wellbeing have become the focus of intense electronic data collection over the past decade. Mobile health or mHealth is a practice increasingly imposed on Black and Brown communities to monitor behaviors and deliver digital nudges via SMS text messages. Such interventions are grounded in behavioral economics and are intended to manage vulnerable populations. While they may ameliorate some degree of harm, the neoliberal policies enacted place the burden to change on those with the fewest resources to do so, and simultaneously maintain systems of resource inequality and oppression that must remain in place to keep the game going.

Pregnancy Advice SMS

Such protocols have been developed as a disruptive force by US business interests and delivered, often through global aid programs, to cement austerity in healthcare, pressure patients to conform to prescriptive regimes of self-care under challenging circumstances, and generate data profiles that can be then used to justify successful “results” payments.

It is telling that the rise of mHealth, starting around 2009, corresponds to the rise of global impact investing. The timing also aligns with adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That legislation pushed adoption of e-health records, systems that are now paving the way for a shift to value-based payments from fee for service. It is these digital platforms, once they can be made interoperable with data across other social sectors, that will channel massive private investment into public health outcomes; that and IoT preventative health monitoring. Once that happens, people will become the batteries-just like the Matrix.

The plan of the one percent is to maximize human capital profit extraction capturing data starting in utero and using it to predict risk and track the relative worth of a given life within globalized financial marketplaces. You get a sense of what they have in mind reviewing screen shots taken from the Global Education Futures’ 2015-2035 foresight map.

Prenatal University

School In Womb

Genetic Passport

Human Futures

In the end, digital life is about lean production and data harvest in service of financiers desperately trying to find ways to make money off poor people, even as the poor have less and less money to spend. Unwanted pregnancies are a mechanism of social and economic control.

It is important to understand that the legislative changes limiting access to safe, legal abortion will undergird this perverse system of social impact capitalism, an enterprise predicated on perpetual poverty of the masses. As we move towards a world dominated by surveillance, digitized public services, and predictive profiling, we must recognize that powerful global interests are attempting to turn our lives into a petty game, a game for their entertainment, for their profit.

Kevin Werbach, a Wharton professor and expert in gamification and Blockchain, closed a 2012 talk on Lifelong learning with the following assessment.

In any game:

1) rules matter

2) rules can be surprising

3) players must respond to the rules the game designer has set up in advance

4) be the one who makes the rules.

We must wake up and realize we’re in their game. We’ll never win if we play by the rules. Time to flip the table.

Kevin Werbach The Rules Matter 1

Kevin Werback Rules 2

Kevin Werbach Rules 3

Kevin Werbach Rules 4.jpg



Quilting Resistance: Fabric, Humanity, Serendipity & Cybernetics

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog. I continue to research, to map, to watch talks and prop myself up reading books about resistance. A friend told me I needed to take a break and get some perspective-to MAKE something.

Eventually, I did. I spent a few weeks making a quilt for a colleague who is expecting her first child. I viewed it as a meditation on hope for young people coming up, those who might work together to build a future that acknowledges past harms, rectifies injustice, and creates space to be otherwise.


As I stood over the cutting mat,

sat at the kitchen table with my foot on the sewing machine pedal,

crouched on the quilt inserting basting pins, and

hand-stitched the binding,

I fought a growing sense of alarm that keeps rising in my chest.

So many stories coming through my social media feed attest to the fact that Big Data, Big Brother, and global finance are on the move.

  • Pearson joining with Tom Vander Ark’s Learn Capital on a $50 million venture fund advancing innovative education enterprises prioritizing augmented reality. Here
  • DataKind and Commit!, Strive’s partner in Dallas, making plans to run the data of the school district’s 500,000 children through machine learning to see what patterns they can discern. Here
  • A story about income sharing agreements funding tuition for higher education. Here
  • Former McKinsey Mayor Pete’s South Bend, Indiana being set up as a pilot cradle to grey “City of Lifelong Learning” via the Drucker Institute-yeah, Peter Drucker the father of management science and mentor to Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren and Bob Buford (deceased), the Institute’s Board Chair Emeritus, Texas television tycoon, and mega-church consultant. Here

We are striding towards a cybernetic reckoning, one that aims to meld people with machines in service of viciously lean efficiencies that profit the global elite. Power players in finance, tech, faith communities, and the government want nothing more than to engineer a future for the masses that allows them to maintain control and preempt insurgency. To them the poor are numbers, 1s and 0s set up to be harvested and poured into algorithms for “impact” data visualization.

Early in my research I stumbled across the work of twin brothers Douglas and David F. “Wrench in the Gears” Noble. Doug’s book “The Classroom Arsenal” gave me a solid grounding in the militarized history of computing and the ways digital systems have been used to structure human behavior. David’s books helped me understand technology and capitalism. Their life choices embody the uncompromising resistance we so desperately need, and I am grateful for their activism and their writings. Lately, I’ve also been mulling over Yasha Levine’s book Surveillance Valley.

Norbert Weiner is featured in Levine’s book and has been on my mind a lot. Weiner was a child prodigy who essentially worked as a human computer, calculating trajectories for anti-aircraft guns during World War II. He spent his career at MIT where he helped develop the fields of cybernetics, cognitive science, and robotics. In addition to being trained in mathematics, Weiner had been a student of philosophy, and as he grew older he came to recognize the dangers of his research, especially its military applications. You sense this in the transcription at the end of this piece. I hope you will read it. In his later years he advocated for organized labor and peace, was labeled a Communist and followed closely by the FBI. Levine’s book states:

“He (Weiner) increasingly hinted at his insider knowledge that a “colossal state machine” was being constructed by government agencies ‘for the purposes of combat and domination,’ a computerized information system that was ‘sufficiently extensive to include all civilian activities during war, before war, and possibly even between wars,’ as he described it in The Human Use of Human Beings.” Surveillance Valley, page 46

Well, here we are-not in a totally new place, but a point further down the continuum of digital surveillance and behavioral conditioning. A year ago I visited the MIT Media Lab, an experience that prompted me to write “Our Future As Social Machines.” I’m not sure how to extricate myself from this mess, but neither am I willing to quietly submit. So, I keep talking and thinking out loud with all who tolerate my musings and are willing to sit with me as I process new information and attempt to place it within the emerging schema I have devised to grapple with the particular brand of evil that is social impact / high-tech human capital financialization.

I talk about this stuff at work. So much so that when the quilt was presented, another colleague shouted from the back of the room that I must have sewn some data-protection armor into it. Sadly, there is no information deflector inside. But I harbor the idea that creating handmade things is a form of resistance, of showing that what society normalizes today doesn’t have to be what is normal tomorrow. I want to believe that future generations can hold onto things that while they may verge on obsolescence, hold space to bring the useful parts of the past into the future. That the things we create and put ourselves into have a meaning that carries forward. Maybe in future years this quilt will be a force field for this baby, a haven, a place to snuggle with a good book. Maybe the patterns of this quilt will spark imaginative daydreams.

I can hope.

My quilts are serendipitous. I lay scraps of fabric out over the kitchen floor to get just the right composition of colors and patterns. I try and choose prints that convey a particular sentiment-that fit the intended recipient. I use little bits of fabric, so a quarter yard can last a long time. I have my favorites. They are like old friends. I have a sense of what I want my quilt to look like when I start, but it evolves. There is no set pattern, no rules other than the size of the blocks-in this case 8 inches across.


At first I thought this one would be pin wheels, but it didn’t want to be a pinwheel quilt. Instead, the blocks of color fitted themselves into diagonal rows that speak to the furrows of land on the farm where this friend works. The quilt knew what it wanted to be, it just needed time to coalesce.

The back? Well, I ran short on the fabric that I ordered. I ended up piecing together leftover blocks with other bits I had on hand and they looked like farm field, which was just exactly right. And when I handed it to my friend the other farmer said-these blocks are just like our three fields. I didn’t even know that was the lay out of the farm, but something guided that placement. It wasn’t planned in advance. It happened as it was meant to.


That serendipity, that human error, miscalculation and redemption is what I want to hold fast to. If we had put this quilt on a “pathway” according to a some “Swiss” model, as some are trying to do with middle school children, it would not have the life and vitality it has. Sure, it might be functional, but it wouldn’t be fully developed.

Perhaps it is a stretch to compare the creation of a quilt with the evolution of a life. But I think there is merit in contesting pre-set patterns and plans, especially when such plans are imposed by powerful forces to serve their own ends. For the time we have left and for this coming generation. I want to stave off the cybernetic battalions Dr. Weiner came to fear. I want to deploy force fields of quilts imbued with solidarity and create sheltered spaces where predictive equations and human systems engineering may not enter.

What follows is a transcript I made of a portion of a talk Norbert Weiner gave in 1950 to the New York Academy of Medicine. I don’t know if the genie is out of the bottle yet. Let us try to keep the machine in the bottle as long as we can. Resist and regroup as needed, preferably under a quilt with a good book.



Linsley R. Williams Memorial Lecture

“Men, Machines, and the World About”

WYNC, New York Academy of Medicine, Dr. Norbert Weiner, Timestamp 42:36

The Galbraiths had the idea that man was not working anywhere like full efficiency in its ordinary operations. They thought that families of a dozen were had by people (referencing the movie Cheaper By the Dozen), simply because of the stupidity of people in running their daily tasks, which could be avoided by a better order of their tasks. That was the motive behind the large family. That was the motive behind the systematic bringing up of all those children. Now, however, when you have simplified a task by reducing it to a routine of consecutive processes, you have done the same sort of thing that you need to do to put the task on a machine, and run that process completely on an automatic machine.

The problem of industrial management and order, which was handled by Taylor by the Galbraiths and so on, is almost the same problem as that of the taping of a control machine. So that instead of actually improving the conditions of the worker, it has telescoped the worker out of the picture.

That is a very important thing, because it is taking place now (1950).

I want to say that we are facing a new industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution represented the replacement of the energy of man and of animals, and the power, with the energy and power of the machine. The steam engine was it-simple. Well that has gone so far that there’s nothing that a man with a pick and shovel can do but glean after a bulldozer. There is no rate at which pure pick and shovel work can be paid in this country, which will guarantee the man doing it a living. It is simply economically impossible to compete with a bulldozer for bulldozer work.

The NEW industrial revolution, which is taking place now, consists primarily in replacing human judgment and discrimination at low levels by the discrimination of the machine. The machine appears now, not as a source of power, but as a source of control and a source of communication. We communicate with the machine, and the machine communicates with us. Machines communicate with one another.

Energy and power are not the proper terms to measure. Well, if we in a small way make human tasks easier by replacing them with a machine execution of the task and in a large way eliminate the human element in these human tasks, we may find that we have essentially burnt incense before the machine god.

There’s a very real danger in this country in bowing down before the brazen calf. The idol is a gadget. I know very great engineers who never think further than the construction of the gadget and never think of the question of the integration between the gadget and human beings in society.

If we allow things a reasonably slow development, then the introduction of the gadget as it comes in may hurt us enough to provoke a salutary response. So that we realize that we cannot worship the gadget and sacrifice the human being to it. But a situation is easily possible in which we may have a disastrous result.

Let us suppose we go to war tomorrow with Russia. Now I think that Korea, if they have shown us anything, they have shown us that modern war means nothing (undecipherable). The problem with occupying Korea is serious enough. The problem of occupying China and Russia staggers imagination. But we shall have to prepare to do that if we do go to war. At the same time we have to keep up an industrial production to feed the army. I mean feed it with munitions as well as ordinary food and ordinary equipment, second to none in history.

Second, we shall have to do a maximum production job with a labor market simply scraped to the bottom, and that means with the automatic machine. A world of that sort will mean the machines will be putting a large part of our best engineering ability in developing the machines within the next two months, probably.

Now, it happens that the people to do this sort of a job are there. They’re the people who have been trained in electronic work. In the last war they worked with radar. We’re further on with the automatic machine than we were with radar at the beginning, at Pearl Harbor. Therefore, the situation is that probably in two or three years we’ll see the automatic factory well understood and beginning to be in self-introduction, and in five years or so would see it-something of which we possess the complete know how and of which we possess a vast backlog of parts.

Also, in war, social reforms do not get made. At the end of such a war we’ll find ourselves with a tremendous backlog of parts and know how, which is extremely tempting to anybody who wants to make a quickie fortune and get out from under and leave the rest of the community to pick up the pieces. That may very well happen. If that DOES happen, heaven help us, because we’ll have an unemployment compared with which the Great Depression was a nice little joke.

Well, you see the picture drawing together. Now I suppose one of the things that you people would like will be consolation.

Gentleman, there is no Santa Claus.

If we want to live with the machine, we must understand the machine. We must not worship the machine. We must make a great many changes in the way we live with other people. We must revalue leisure. We must turn the great administers of business, of industry of politics into a state of mind where they will consider that the leisure of people is their business and is not none of their business. We shall have to do this unhampered by slogans, which fit a previous state of society and don’t fit the present.

We shall have to do this unhampered for the creeping paralysis of secrecy, which is engulfing our government, because secrecy simply means we are unable to face situations as they are. The people who have to control situations are in no position to handle them. We shall have to realize that while we may make the machines our gods and sacrifice men to machines, we do not have to do so. And if we do so, we deserve the punishment of idolaters.

It’s going to be a difficult time. If we can live through it and keep our head, and if we do not get annihilated by war itself and our other problems, there is a great chance of turning the machine to human advantage. But the machine itself has not particular favor for humanity.

It is possible to make two kinds of machines. I will not go into detail. The machines whose taping is determined once and for all and the machines whose taping is continually being modified by their experience. The second sort of machines can in some sense “learn.”

Now gentleman, the moral problem of the machine differs in no way from the old moral problem of magic. The fact that the machines follow laws of nature, and magic was supposed to be outside of nature is not even an interesting (undecipherable). Sorcery was condemned in the middle ages. A certain type of modern gadgeteer would have been burned as a sorcerer under the ethics of the middle ages. And the interesting thing is that the middle ages, to a certain extent and I don’t mean in the favor for the flame, but it was disfavor for the gadgeteer, as a point of being right. Namely, sorcery was not supernatural. It was the use of human power for other purposes than the greater glory of god.

Now, I am not a theist when I say the greater glory of god. I mean it for some end to which we give a justified moral value. I say that the medieval attitude is the attitude of the fairy tale and many things. But the attitude of the fairy tale is very wise in many things that are relevant to modern life.

If you have the machine, which grants you your wish, then you must pay attention to the old fairy tale of the three wishes, which tells you that if you do make a wish that is likely to be granted you’d better be VERY sure that it is what you want and not what you think you want.

If you know the story of the monkey’s paw, Jacob’s story, the talisman grants the couple three wishes. The first is for 200 pounds. Immediately a man appears from the factory saying their boy has been crushed in the machinery, and although the factory recognizes no responsibility, they will give a solace of 200 pounds. Then the next wish is they wish the boy back again, and his ghost appears, and they wish the ghost away. That finishes that story. That is common in folklore and it is quite significant in regard to the machine as it is with regards to any other magic.

The other thing is that the machine that can “learn” is essentially a genie, and you all know the story of the fisherman and the bottle. He opened the bottle, and the djinn appears, the genie appears, and tells him that. It tells him it has decided to kill the man that opened the bottle. The fisherman talks the genie back into the bottle.

Gentleman, when we get into trouble with the machine, we cannot talk the machine back into the bottle. (applause)


Philadelphia’s 5th District City Council Race: A Call For A Town Hall on Social Impact Investing

The image above was taken at a fall 2017 protest at the ribbon cutting for the Vaux Big Picture School in the Sharswood neighborhood of North Philadelphia, a HUD “Choice Neighborhood.” The middle school was closed for several years and reopened under the management of a private operator (though titularly still a “public” school). Big Picture is an international franchise and partner in the first education social impact bond in the UK. Additional information on the Doncaster / Big Picture SIB available at the Innovation Unit, UK website here. What is taking place in the 5th City Council District of Philadelphia is part of a much larger move towards the global financialization of public services, including education. It is imperative that we talk about this.

The 5th Council District of Philadelphia embodies economic inequality. Extending from North Philadelphia, a bastion of Black culture battling an onslaught of post-redlining gentrification, to Rittenhouse Square, a district of penthouse views and high-end retail; it contains neighborhoods where parents can raise $100,000 to pay for extras that have been cut from school budgets AND Black and Brown communities where most of the neighborhood schools have been closed or taken over by charters.

It runs east from the Rocky statue, through Spring Garden, Yorktown, and Northern Liberties, ending in the hipster enclave of Fishtown. “Investing in Opportunity Zone” census tracts spread across Brewerytown, along East Fairmount Park, and up North Broad Street (interactive map here, zoom in). Real estate development and new businesses launched within these zones and held for ten years pay NO capital gains tax upon sale. Temple University exerts a powerful influence over the northern part of the district, its overreach resisted for decades by vigilant community activists, the most recent wave led by Stadium Stompers and the No Stadium, No Deal Coalition.

It is a district of gourmet food halls and food deserts; unsheltered people dying in underground corridors of transit stations a stone’s throw from high-end coffee kiosks; row homes left to disintegrate by absentee landlords and vacant luxury lofts purchased by overseas investors. The district is a study in contrasts: the Comcast world headquarters/the John Coltrane House, City Hall/Church of the Advocate. It contains seats of power and sites of resistance.

Fifth District

I’m a registered voter in the 5th District and have been for 21 years. Almost that entire time my city council representative has been Darrell Clarke. A long time aide to former Mayor John Street, Clarke took over his mentor’s seat in 1999 and has served as President of Philadelphia City Council since 2012. The 5th District seat has been contested on occasion, but it takes considerable resourcefulness and/or resources to go up against Clarke.

Two challengers, thus far, have filed paperwork indicating their intent to secure spots on May’s primary ballot. In the resourcefulness corner is Sheila Armstrong, a community activist for the underserved and former legislative aide who now lives in PHA housing and intends to run a campaign lifting up concerns of low-income people in the district. In the resources corner is Omar Woodard, executive director of the venture capital-backed GreenLight Fund and former policy advisor on Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams’ mayoral run. Williams, of course, is a well-known advocate of education privatization.

Omar Woodard

Woodard, a graduate of Girard College, attended George Washington University where he completed a BA in International Affairs and MPA in Non-Profit Management, building strong ties to the university’s trustees as head of the student association and later as an administrative fellow. His background as a lobbyist, healthcare consultant, venture capital analyst, and political operative combined with the GreenLight Fund’s deep-pocketed national network, means his campaign is positioned to tap into a network of influential contacts.

GreenLight was created by Boston venture capitalist and former medical entrepreneur John Simon in 2004 in partnership with Margaret Hall. Simon previously started a college prep program called the Steppingstone Foundation modeled after New York City’s Prep for Prep initiative. He and friend Michael Danziger spun out several satellites, including the Steppingstone Scholars program in Philadelphia before hitting a wall. Simon decided rather than building programs from the ground up, it would be more cost-effective to establish social investment incubators to bring “evidence-based” interventions to scale. It was a decade before the original Boston office launched its first outposts in Philadelphia and the Bay Area. Additional offices have since opened in Detroit, Kansas City, Cincinnati (Strive/Knowledgeworks), Charlotte, and Atlanta. GreenLight’s national portfolio, seen here, features organizations offering health system text messaging, home visits, mentorship, college advising, and school and professional development “turnaround” services.

John Simon

Partners in Simon’s original Boston office are featured in the map below. I hope to write this up in greater detail, but for the purposes of this post I want to point out the involvement of the Tudor Foundation and James Pallotta, who worked for hedge fund trader Paul Tudor Jones for many years. Tudor Jones, founder of the Robin Hood Foundation, collaborated with fellow hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller for two decades refining impact metrics for “poverty solutions” within the boundaries of the Harlem Children’s zone. They then dispersed the program nationally through Geoffrey Canada’s consulting arrangements with hundreds of Promise Zones. For more information on how outcomes-based finance is linked to privatized social services see this series of posts.

Paul Tudor Jones and Bill Gates Gala

Tudor Jones was one of the initial backers of Robert Dugger, James Heckman, and Arthur Rolnick’s “Investing in Kids” Working Group, putting a million dollars into their pre-k investment plan way back in 2005. Those efforts eventually led to the ReadyNation Global Business Summit in New York last November where, after ringing the NASDAQ bell, the venture capital crowd proclaimed the early-childhood education and workforce training impact sectors open for business (more here). Bottom line: there is a lot of money and program infrastructure behind the GreenLight Fund.

GreenLight Boston

Interactive map of GreenLight Boston here.

RN Global Nasdaq

It will be interesting to see how the three candidates navigate this landscape of haves and have-nots in the coming months: the incumbent, the spokesperson for the poor, and the social entrepreneur executive. The wealth gap in the 5th District has increased significantly over the twenty years of Clarke’s tenure. As enhancements to affluent and gentrifying sections have been made, often with assistance from public-private partnerships, neighborhoods like Strawberry Mansion continue to suffer. Some have been subjected to catastrophic urban renewal tactics, such as Sharswood/Blumberg, a HUD “Choice Neighborhood” where over a thousand properties were seized through eminent domain.

A pressing question when strategies to “ameliorate” poverty are proposed is whose voices take precedence? Who holds the power? Who calls the shots? Whose lives hang in the balance? Are the interests of a mostly white elite class being advanced as the rights of under-served Black and Brown people are undermined? When deals are done, are they arranged behind closed doors? Is the public brought in at the last minute for a perfunctory consultation, just to maintain appearances? Candidates for this council seat need to realize residents of the 5th District are paying attention and, as shown by the No Stadium, No Deal Coalition’s considerable success, are prepared to mobilize and fight for solutions that put community needs first.

Girard Protest

No more closed-door meetings. The image above is from a January 2018 protest staged outside Girard College as Chamber of Commerce members gathered at a closed-door reception to discuss the role of Philadelphia’s business community in schools. Details in this post, “Last Night We Lay Down In The Street.”

I draw your attention to a map I created of advisors to the Philadelphia’s GreenLight Fund. This is not all of them (for a complete list follow this link), but it shows how the various interest groups interlock to drive the impact agenda forward. Ultimately, the system is meant move venture capital (left side), betting on the lives of poor people who are compelled to perform and deliver data for the deals. There are ancillary industries that will benefit financially: tech and telecommunications companies that provide infrastructure; law firms drawing up “pay for success” contracts; and consultants evaluating the deals. It is a system that requires cooperation from elected officials, foundations, non-profits, pseudo-governmental bodies, media cheerleaders, and higher education. All of these interests intersect at GreenLight. All are part of Woodard’s network.

GreenLight Philadelphia

Interactive map of GreenLight Philadelphia here.

Poverty is a critical issue in Philadelphia and the 5th District. Venture capitalists, many of whom live outside the city, see deep poverty as a prime business opportunity. Our city is poised to become an experimental laboratory for “innovative” financial schemes promoted through Wharton’s alumni network. In the near future, proposals will be floated for outcomes-based, pay-for-success government contracts tied to “measurable social benefits.” The Reinvestment Fund, represented by Andy Rachlin on the GreenLight Fund’s advisory council, has a whole webpage outlining how these deals are structured. Mind you, the Reinvestment Fund funded the “Welcome Home” SIB in Santa Clara County, the one with Palantir doing the data evaluation! And now Project Home is taking part in a pilot PFS program for supportive housing with help from the Social Innovation Fund. Hmmm…. Opportunity Zones are a major area of interest as seen on the preliminary agenda for the second annual Total Impact conference planned for May 1-2, 2019.

Total impact agenda 2019

Total Impact May 1 2019

Yes, communities need resources, but at what cost? We need public funds supporting the public good, not private “investments” that perpetuate continued outsourcing and narrowed service delivery. Impact “solutions” pose very grave dangers to those most in need of help. This economic model is designed to run on Big Data and predictive profiling. The lives of poor people, our fellow citizens, are being conscripted to fuel it. Offers of “help” will come with “digital strings,” attached; download an app, fill in this online form, allow your data to be harvested without recourse, accept behavioral regulation. Remember, it’s all being factored into your “hustle-score.” This is no joke.

The screenshots below are from the website of the Family Independence Initiative. The organization has ties to New Profit and is part of the GreenLight Fund’s national portfolio, though it is not in Philadelphia yet. It seems like something straight out Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You.” Such hubris, compelling families to upload personal details of their “income, savings, health, education, housing, leadership, and connections” to the “UpTogether” software platform, so they can “take control of their own success” through the wonders of data analytics and profiling. It is Orwellian; it is horrific.

Hustle Score

UpTogether Data

What does Omar Woodard’s arrival on the political scene portend? Is this a sign the region’s social impact investors are ready to take their game to the next level now that the Foundations in Evidence-Based Policymaking legislation and Investing in Opportunity Zones are in place? It is important to assess Woodard’s bid within the context of the region’s broader social impact landscape, one that stretches from the Rockefeller-funded B Lab in Berwyn, where the impact metrics that underlie this new market were created; to Penn’s campus in West Philadelphia where research into finance, behavioral economics, social science and impact investing are being carried out; and down to the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia where Ben Franklin Technology Partners is providing capital and support to industries designing the tech that will capture and visualize the data to run these new financial markets.

Woodard has led the Philadelphia satellite of the GreenLight Fund since 2016, the year ImpactPHL went public with its plans to create a “safe point of entry” for venture capital and local foundations to acclimate themselves to social impact investing. Tony Abraham’s article in Generosity, “How the heavy hitters behind the newly formed ImpactPHL want to revolutionize capitalism,” states key players spent two years “behind closed doors” getting ready. Of the eight founding members, six were white men. Those most often targeted for social impact interventions? Yes, people of color. That power dynamic must not be overlooked.

ImpactPhl Behind Closed Doors


The map below shows the people, organizations, and companies aiming to make Philadelphia a “pioneer in impact investing.” Two of the individuals, Richard Binswanger of Clearview Group, and Maari Porter of the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia, served on the advisory board of Philadelphia’s GreenLight Fund.

ImpactPHL Advisors Partners

Interactive version here.

According to the Economy League of Philadelphia’s 2016 whitepaper, our region is a prime candidate to become the next “Silicon Valley” of the impact economy because: 1) our history of public-private partnerships dates back to Ben Franklin; 2) we enjoy a great location between New York’s money and Washington’s politics; 3) our wealth managers are really interested in innovative finance (Wharton); 4) professors here are eager to carry out supporting research and evaluations; 5) there’s a large pool of potential customers (read desperate governments starved of public funds) seeking “new solutions;” and 6) receptive government officials have already authorized pay for success and benefit corporation legislation.

But really, Philadelphia is poor. Many are barely surviving deep poverty. By asserting a “doing well by doing good” refrain, the haves intend to turn this grim reality to their advantage, branding poverty-mining the have-nots as a charitable act. So by way of disrupting this framing I hope you will consider the following questions:

How many residents know about “Growing the Impact Economy in Greater Philadelphia?”

And are we on board with this? Because it seems there should be discussion beyond ImpactPHL, the B Lab, and Chamber of Commerce before proceeding, right?

What would it mean for Philadelphia to become a leader in a predatory investment sector that rewards venture capitalists for imposing data-driven solutions on poor communities? That’s not something to be proud of.

In this city of “brotherly love,” does anyone believe it’s ethical for the rich to view the poor as human capital investments?

Why are the human beings who will be caught in the crosshairs of this new system of innovative finance not being consulted? How comfortable are they turning over the data of their lives to third party evaluators so the wealthy can pile up more money?

Do we expect targets of “impact” interventions, real people with real problems, to welcome social entrepreneurs with open arms?

Do we want to build a tech sector around monitoring and predictively profiling marginalized populations through “smart” infrastructure?

Don’t the scalable solutions proffered by venture philanthropy generally sidestep thorny issues of structural racism embedded in Philadelphia’s past, favoring individual fixes over systemic restructuring?

When did investors ever create a market designed to self-extinguish? Never.

Social impact investing will only reinforce austerity budgeting, privatization, predictive profiling, surveillance, and more poverty.

We must talk about this Philadelphia. We need to drag all of this out into the open and have a very frank conversation about what it really means for Philadelphia to be the “Silicon Valley” of impact investing. Poor people HAVE to be active participants in this conversation. They have the right to know about the data profiling tied to impact investing and “smart city” infrastructure being rolled out in Silicon Valley and what it could mean for their futures.

I am calling on Darrell Clarke, Sheila Armstrong, and Omar Woodard to convene a town hall this spring to begin to unpack the intersecting issues of social impact finance, outcomes-based contracting, Big Data government, and “smart” city (surveillance) infrastructure. Enough with the closed door meetings.

If you need help getting it set up email me.


3rd Grade Reading Guarantees: Impact Investors Build System To Terrorize Eight Year Olds

I know a number of activists out there are working to raise awareness around the brutality of third grade reading guarantees. These laws demand students achieve a specific score on standardized reading test. If they do not, they can’t advance to the next grade. I wrote this short introduction with the idea that it could be shared with people  who are not yet aware of the speculative financial underpinnings linked to these laws.

“Pay for success” was embedded into federal education law with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Public-private partnerships, in coordination with investors, are embracing this form of “innovative finance,” catalyzing new markets in human capital. Digital platforms, including ed-tech and online behavioral services, are designed to generate data for the evaluation of outcomes-based contracts. That is what is behind the push for expanded screen-time and benchmark testing in schools.

It’s known as “collective impact,” and the Strive Network based in Cincinnati is working with United Way chapters across the country to advance data-driven education and social services to meet the demands of this burgeoning investment market. Children are being turned into data so the debt associated with funds allocated to provide education and social services to them can be traded on global markets (like bundled mortgages prior to the 2008 crash).

A “cradle to career roadmap” with set achievement metrics has been created with benchmarks where impact evaluation will be imposed as a requirement of outcomes-based contracts. These include: kindergarten readiness, fourth and eighth grade reading scores, and graduation rates. While the early phase of this investment market focused on social impact bonds (SIBs), other, more flexible, contracting arrangements are being piloted now. Billionaire, now Illinois governor, JB Pritzker backed the Chicago pre-k SIB. It was among the first to include a pay out based on third grade literacy scores. Source

Chicago pre-k sib 2

National campaigns to “Read by Fourth” are cultivating this impact investment market. It’s not about helping children read. It’s not about reducing class size, or hiring certified reading teachers, or restoring school libraries, or providing students access to abundant books of their choice. No, it is about plugging students into digital interventions that will profile them and harvest academic and behavioral data to feed investment markets. Hedge funds intend to literally gamble on children’s futures (life outcomes data), and they have no reticence about plugging students into devices to accomplish this goal. Third grade reading guarantee legislation is an integral part of the plan.

We must recognize that those in charge understand it’s developmentally inappropriate and harmful to children, teachers, and the learning process. They simply don’t care. They’ve been charged with building a machine to keep global capital moving. They are following orders. To stop this will require a broad campaign of non-cooperation at all levels: parents, students, and educators. That is where your power is. Spending time to educate those imposing this system of human capital speculation, thinking that somehow they don’t already know the truth, is not a good investment of resources. Talk to one another. Tell them about the “collective impact” human capital machine. Get your wrenches and be prepared to take direct action. Do it now. Time is of the essence.

For more information:

Gambling On Our Futures-Social Impact Bonds: Here

Strive and Human Capital Supply Chains: Here

Interoperable Databases and Commodities Trading: Here

Read By Fourth Campaign: Here