Wednesday 28 February 2018

A new charity?

When I started this blog last August, one of the options that I'd laid out for "becoming directly and personally involved with people who are struggling for their rights" was to establish a charitable organisation. Several factors now seem to prod me in this direction - a somewhat idiosyncratic profile, a need to maintain the status quo, and some very specific ideas about how best to help and work with people.

So what follows is a draft of what I believe the guiding principles of this charitable organisation, which I propose to call the Conversare Foundation, should be. The idea being that we - by which I mean us in the West - work with marginalised people from emerging world countries and support them in realizing their own goals. By acting as advisers, friends and partners, what we can do is facilitate the interaction with Western institutions - work that may range from engaging on their behalf within the organisations with which we are familiar and so act as advocates, to, say, supporting their applications for funding (which is often way beyond the technical or linguistic capacity of any small emerging country organisation). My experience suggests that this type work can be achieved inexpensively, but can greatly facilitate the ability of people to exercise agency. Furthermore - and perhaps most significantly -  the key to this venture is the idea that we learn by doing, and we learn by conversing with one another. This means that the additional aim of the Conversare Foundation is to stimulate the process of information sharing as to how the institutional mechanisms that keep people poor and vulnerable can be overcome.

Thoughts and feedback would be greatly welcomed - as would be volunteers who might like to be either Trustees of the new charity, or activists who might like to participate in our work.

Guiding Principles of the Conversare Foundation

Using the social capital with which it has been endowed, the Conversare Foundation hopes to build authentic and dynamic conversation with disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable people in the hope of 'turning together', from the Latin com versare, meaning to turn together[1]

For the purpose of this Constitution of the Conversare Foundation, the term ‘capital’ refers to an attribute of individuals and organisations. Capital, in any of its interdependent economic, political or social forms, drives positive feedback loops, changes social relations, and accumulates power for the individual or the organisation. This, and the ability to exchange capital for other forms of capital in proportion to an individual’s or an organisation’s collective endowments, makes capital both desirable and fungible[2].  

An attribute of inadequate capital is marginalisation, resulting in people becoming disadvantaged or vulnerable. Inadequate capital is not merely the lack of financial resources, it is also the inability to exchange individual or collective endowments on favourable terms, so feedback loops remain negative, social relations remain unchanged, and power is not accumulated. Poverty cannot be overcome by merely addressing the symptoms of disadvantage or vulnerability – the deeper systematic problem of marginalisation must also be resolved.

At the Conversare Foundation, we aim to build the capital of disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable people by investing in relationships that bridge diametric disparities through friendship and respect; whereby growing awareness and mutual trust then builds the foundation for further development. We believe that disadvantaged, marginalised, and vulnerable people can realise the outcomes they envision for themselves by organising, through engagement with the establishment, and by participating as equals in decision-making processes.

On this basis, the Conversare Foundation has the specific goal of facilitating access to the tools of meaningful engagement with the full range of institutions of the development establishment, be they government, non-government, or international, public, private or other forms of collective organisation, so that the appeals of the disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable cannot simply be excluded or ignored through lack of technical capacity or knowledge.

A further aim of the Conversare Foundation is the establishment of a Community of Practice to help shift attitudes as to how the systemic problems of disadvantage, marginalisation and vulnerability are collectively understood and can be strategically overcome.

In order to achieve these goals, the specific objects of the Conversare Foundation are:

  1. To encourage, facilitate and support the growth and development of diverse forms of civil society organisations (“CSO”) that are organised and run by disadvantaged, marginalised, or vulnerable people of the emerging world whose principal object is the alleviation of the economic, political, and social poverty affecting them; 
  2. To endow those CSOs with the technical expertise, support and training they may need in order to engage effectively with the government, non-government, or international, public, private or other forms of collective institutions of the development establishment; 
  3. Where relevant to the achievement of mutual aims, to partner with individual CSOs in order to provide them with the administrative or professional capacity necessary for the effective and responsible management of funding awards or grants until such time as the CSO can effectively manage awards or grants independently of external support;

For the avoidance of doubt:

  • All expertise, partnership arrangements, or services provided by the Conversare Foundation to participating CSOs shall be done at no cost to the latter;
  • With the exception of staff time and communication expenses, any costs borne by participating CSOs associated with their interaction with the Conversare Foundation shall be reimbursed by the latter upon presentation of suitable receipts.


  1. To support collective learning about the systemic problems of disadvantage, marginalisation and vulnerability and how these may be strategically overcome through the establishment of a Community of Practice that documents and disseminates mutual learning as this is generated;
  2. To seek funding in support of realising the aims of the Conversare Foundation.

[1] We acknowledge our debt to Ison, R. (2010) ‘Systems Practice: How to Act in a Climate-Change World’ [Ed], Springer, London, The Open University, Milton Keynes
[2] We acknowledge Freinacht, H. (2017) ‘How to Outcompete Capitalism?’ Metamoderna Blogpost [online], available at: for key elements of this definition.

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