SilenceBreakers director, Jane Watkinson, has already discussed the importance of a “triple bottom line” (3BL) approach to accounting, and how that adheres to alternative methods of measuring progress – social and environmental achievements, not just profits posted even after “disaster capitalism.” She also quotes Noam Chomsky, as I will here.
But let’s for a moment focus on the traditional – albeit flawed – approach to accounting and bottom line scrutiny.
Instead of social or environmental advances as part of the measurement of progress, governments prefer to talk about what services enjoy financial returns. With that in mind, many public services are cut, because what those offer to society are not valued in this outdated indicator method, even though, as Chomsky states in the film The Corporation:
“Public institutions have many side benefits. For one thing they may purposely run at a loss. They’re not out for profit. They may purposely run at a loss because of the side benefits. So, for example if a public steel industry runs at a loss it’s providing cheap steel to other industries, maybe that’s a good thing. Public institutions can have a counter cyclic property. So that means that they can maintain employment in periods of recession, which increases demand, which helps you get out of a recession. A private company can’t do that in a recession – you throw the workforce out, because that’s the way you make money.”
The way they make money is, naturally, all that matters for most private companies, in opposition to this approach from the public sector (social enterprises are an alternative to these). What matters, more often than not, is just how great the gap between expenditure and income is. Okay. Let’s examine that.
Interestingly, even by this rationale, the creative industries are an incredible boon. I’ve spoken before on behalf of SilenceBreakers about my attendance at the Creative Clusters event a few years ago where Robert Marijnissen of Amsterdam’s city cultural strategy in the Netherlands suggested that if you have a strong creative culture in communities, the financial rewards naturally follow. At the same event, Edna dos Santos-Duisenberg from UNCTAD declared that the “creative industries are a dynamic new sector in trade…creative economy is conducive to social inclusion, job creation, human development, and ends marginalization (in addition to) reconciling economic objectives with social objectives.” Again, even if the social benefits are not a priority, their advance surely can be considered a bonus – because, as Robert Marijnissen said, “you get all that other stuff for free.”
Specifically, here in SilenceBreakers’ home country of the UK, the arts cost around £3m yet employ almost two million people and bring in £16.6bn through exports – between 1997 and 2006, the arts grew more than any other sector. They also have a massive influence on the tourism trade.
The creative industries budgets, however, are being cut. Arts are being cut. This, though, is in direct opposition to the principle of massive financial returns through minimal investment – as we spend around a massive £400m on the arms industries that employ just 90,000 people. It doesn’t make sense. Sir Christopher Frayling described the last several years as a “golden age” for the arts; now, it seems we are being taken back to the 1980s, where Margaret Thatcher’s government also cut arts funds. It is, potentially, a missed opportunity.
The added bonus – social enrichment and empowerment – of investment in creative industries should only add to the value of what is essentially a ready-made stimulus package. While £400m is spent on arms with insignificant returns and often-deleterious social effects, the £3m that the creative industries cost us bring massive rewards. The social returns are added value; they stimulate thought, discussion and debate.
Why, then, are these things being treated like a threat when they should be valued? You may want to be creative in your own conclusions.
3BL 4 Life,
Jay Baker, Founder
Happy May Day!
It is my pleasure to today “break the silence” and announce the launch of SilenceBreaker Media, Ltd – the social enterprise striving for three strands of sustainability, re-utilising materials to engage communities in media projects for empowerment and consultation.
What does all that mean? Well, we plan to procure a whole range of used computers, recycle/refurbish them, and deliver workshops in disadvantaged communities to get the people online – blogging, vlogging, podcasting, making videos, and more! SilenceBreaker Media will give a voice to the voiceless, so that disadvantaged people can actually vocalise the issues important to them using exciting media – media which can be compiled and provided in consultation to local councils.
Speaking of councils, it’s an election year. I write this on the eve of one of the most intriguing and important general elections in British history. Britain is in a recession, and no matter which of the major parties take power, each will be adamant that government spending be cut. Now, we will take computers from the private sector, deliver our activities in the third sector, and offer the consultation to the public sector, all at highly affordable rates.
While public funds and services are in limited supply, we can help – by providing the consultation through our activities. While corporate culture also needs changing, we can help – by assisting them in meeting their social responsibility targets. While communities suffer the worst of all in the recession, we can help – by giving them a voice, and providing them with low-cost media materials to have those voices heard.
The challenge ahead lies in how we measure recovery from a recession. It’s not just about whether stocks and share prices have increased, because that’s useless if unemployment is still high. Currently in Britain, almost a million young people are unemployed. Their voices must be heard, and their needs must be met. By becoming community SilenceBreakers through our activities, they can gain access to training, education and even employment.
SilenceBreaker Media is committed to a healthy “triple bottom line” – proceeds, people, planet; what I like to call the “3BL.” This means that in all we do, we will strive to ensure that the money we make is put back into our activities, that we measure our social achievements, and that we do it with a green media approach, determined to make media with no impact, in accordance with the Green Code Project I became aware of while attending Hot Docs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, three years ago.
So, SilenceBreaker Media is finally incorporated as a social enterprise. It’s been a long road. It began as test projects here in Britain when I was just a young person myself trying to create community cinema projects through my own unincorporated association, and a couple of years ago when myself and Dr Herbert Pimlott announced the idea for SilenceBreaker Media at the world premiere of my feature-length film Escape from Doncatraz over in Canada. Now, today, it is a reality. I have the best board of directors I could ask for, and an innovative, sustainable vision to empower many, many more SilenceBreakers all across the country.
3BL 4 Life,
Jay Baker, Founder