Blog by Jonathan Straight
15 July 2019
Last week I was fortunate to be invited to Parliament in order to attend to launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Philanthropy and Social Investment.
You would be right in wondering why the launch took place so recently, given our long history of philanthropy in the UK. There are something like seven hundred All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), it seems quite unbelievable that a group around philanthropy had not previously been conceived. After all, the UK is the fourth biggest giver on the planet as a proportion of GDP. Then, consider that there is an APPG on Cats, on Cider and on Continence Care (and that is just some of the “C”s), surely such a group should have been established a long time ago.
The truth is that such an organisation did not previously exist but now, fortunately it does. APPGs are informal cross-party groups run by and for Members of the Commons and the Lords. Whilst they have no official status within Parliament, they do serve as an effective way of bringing individuals and groups with specific areas of interest together with the workings of Parliament.
The new APPG on Philanthropy and Social Investment serves to join up networks and institutions from civil society, charitable foundations and the public, private and third sectors. It will encourage and share research into philanthropy for the greater good of our Country.
The group is chaired by Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. Rushanara is becoming something of a poster girl for philanthropy. She spoke passionately about the great work philanthropists do in the UK as well as identifying the massive potential for greater giving and the positive impact this would achieve. Rushanara is ideally placed to advocate for philanthropy as she worked in the sector for The Young Foundation prior to being elected to Parliament in 2010.
Another powerful speaker and great supporter of philanthropic activity was Jesse Norman MP, recently appointed as Paymaster General and Financial Secretary to the Treasury. An old Etonian with a City background, he too has worked in the charitable sector, running an educational programme in Eastern Europe.
The launch event in the Attlee Suite at Portcullis House, was attended by an eclectic mix of philanthropists, people running charities and their advisors as well as many Members of Parliament and the odd Minister too. The networking was of a high quality and I met some great contacts whom I hope to keep in touch with. I also bumped into fellow Leodensian, Alex Sobel MP who used to visit my offices when I had a recycling bin business in central Leeds and long before he reached the dizzy heights of the Palace of Westminster.
All told, a great evening. But there is one thing I took from this event that will stay with me. The two politicians who spoke are from very different backgrounds: one born in Bangladesh; the other, the grandson of a Baronet. One attended a comprehensive school in the East End of London; the other went to Eton College. They are on different sides of the political divide.
Yet, these two who could not be more different from each other, not only praised each other in gushing terms, but are united in their passion for philanthropy and their desire to see more people giving more money to more good causes. In the times we live in with so much that is broken, it was a joy to see that here was something that could work to bring us together and to heal the divisions in our society. Philanthropy is truly a powerful thing and a force for good. Personally, I am looking forward to being involved with this group and helping to spread this message of light and positivity as far as I can.
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