Author: orwellcontent

Social Stock Exchange profile: Emergex

Social Stock Exchange profile: Emergex Orwell partner Gary Mead takes a look at Emergex – a company hoping to improve the lives of people across the world with its disease-busting vaccines How badly does the developing world need cheap, effective, easily-available vaccines against deadly viruses? As rhetorical questions go, that one’s a whopper. In March 2014 an outbreak of the Ebola virus spread across much of West Africa, with a fatality rate of around 50%. By 2015 it was headline news. As with many other disasters, the established media caravan has now moved on and the Ebola panic is over – until the next time. Ebola, Zika – the story trajectory is similar. We panic and wring our hands at the horrific deaths of thousands; the world seems to mobilise, spending millions on tackling the problem; then media fatigue sets in; the problems remain, barely noticed outside specialist agencies. While anything that promises a treatment for malaria grabs headlines, Chikungunya – a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes intense joint pain and is incurable though not usually …

Consumption of illegal drugs is a menace

Consumption of illegal drugs is a menace Gary Mead, Orwell Partner, argues that muddled thinking has left everyone confused, and hysterical language doesn’t help either A remarkable event went almost unnoticed over the Easter weekend – Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, introduced a Bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. Only one other country – tiny Uruguay in South America – has completely legalised cannabis as a consumer product, although eight US states have done so to various extents. Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001. There, drug use among the 15-24 year-old population has declined steeply, as have drug-related deaths. Trudeau’s Bill is expected to pass the Canadian parliament and by mid-2018 the country is expected to have legal sales of the drug. Growing, importing, exporting or selling cannabis outside licensed channels will remain serious crimes in Canada – but in this country there is finally recognition that prohibition has failed, and that state control is the only solution to dealing with cannabis, as with tobacco and alcohol. I’ve grown to adulthood living under …

Profile: London Rebuilding Society

Profile: London Rebuilding Society By Gary Mead – SSX Editor and Partner with Orwell One of the unexpected pleasures of writing these Profiles of Social Stock Exchange member companies is the continual discovery of courage in the face of adversity; the discovery of people, and companies, trying and succeeding at ethically creditable enterprise where it’s most needed, where it’s most overlooked. A fine case in point is the London Rebuilding Society (LRS) – which is in the process of rebuilding itself and, in so doing, is tackling a largely forgotten social issue. The LRS was established in 2000. Naomi Kingsley, the CEO, tells me that she “originally set it up as a social finance institution. It’s always been about access to finance, which it still is.” Its home improvement scheme for older people is perhaps what it is best known for, and it’s this part of the business that underpins its main ambition today. Private sector homeowners occupying decaying houses, yet who have no means of accessing finance to render their homes of a decent quality, …

Design matters

Design matters Orwell partner Nick Paul played a part in the recent redesign of The Sunday Times newspaper. Here he tells us how good editorial design really can make a difference Design is important. It makes things look good and it makes them easy to use. For instance, a well designed car is a pleasure to drive, helps keep the occupants safe and is attractive to look at. Similarly, a well designed map, such as the London Underground diagram, should be easy to follow and navigate from. Often good design goes unnoticed, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but we soon become aware of bad design when we struggle to open a sachet of milk or cannot find what we need from a website… Good editorial design should help make the written word easy to digest, and the best editorial designers should have a real understanding and feel for storytelling in the same way that the best journalists do. By using effective design, clear typography and good picture selection, the editorial designer can help communicate the message. We call this visual …

The missing link

The missing link It’s heartening to see my old employer, the Financial Times, give such a ringing endorsement today of Orwell’s core principle – that clarity in language is synonymous with clarity of meaning. Not that Michael Skapinker’s FT piece was intended as such. Just that his clearly expressed view on the vital necessity for considered use of language exactly mirrors our own thoughts here at Orwell. He takes a case now going on in the US where a missing comma has given rise to a legal dispute, with potentially serious financial consequences. But he identifies a problem much broader than the specific. He writes: “Some of you will already be pointing at the problem: children are not taught punctuation any more. They leave out apostrophes, commas and capital letters on WhatsApp, Twitter and other social media.” While Skapinker takes an understandably relaxed view of this development – “people are fast learners…You learn a lot about writing from being misunderstood” – we think it would be better if they weren’t misunderstood in the first place. …

Profile: Thrive Renewables

Profile: Thrive Renewables No-one likes paying over the odds for power prices. The UK needs to balance the interest of consumers – who want low-cost electricity and gas – with the drive to cut carbon emissions, which has tended to drive prices up. The policy uncertainties are getting in the way of power producers being able to plan for future growth, says Gary Mead Last year the UK generated more electricity from wind than coal for the first time, on an annual basis – 11.5% compared to 9.2%. Today, the UK is the world’s sixth biggest wind-power producer. This relative decline of coal-power, versus the onward march of wind-power, speaks about more than simply environmental issues; it is another way of understanding how the underlying nature of British society is changing; how one whole industry, coal, on which our Industrial Revolution was built, is transitioning to another, that of renewable energy. In the late 18th century, no-one could imagine the economic development, and vast social changes, that were about to be unleashed thanks to coal. …

All citizens shall be equal

All citizens shall be equal There’s been a lot of talk about social care budgets being squeezed and it’s usually the elderly who get the headlines. But those citizens with learning disabilities are facing just as much uncertainty. Gary Mead talked to a company whose mission is to provide accommodation for this group in our society. Golden Lane Housing (GLH) is one of those quiet, unsung entities that, if it didn’t exist, the lives of many individuals would be incomparably worse. Since 1998, this independent charity, a subsidiary of Mencap, the learning disability charity, has been providing housing for people with learning disabilities. It says its mission is to help “people with a learning disability to find the right home, with the right support to enable them to live independently.” There are many ways in which one can judge how successful a society is. One of them is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, such as people with a learning disability. On that score, we live in what can only be termed a rudimentary …

Fair Banking: a bit of an oxymoron

Fair Banking: a bit of an oxymoron Figuring out how our banking system became so perverted is probably fruitless. Banking is essentially simple – but bankers have done everything they can to make it complicated. In the process of making themselves stacks they’ve forgotten their original purpose: to help businesses grow. Gary Mead looks at one effort to bring fairness back to banking. You never know who you might bump into at the annual Social Stock Exchange investor conference. Maybe I’m a very ignorant person, but until I was introduced to Heather Buchanan last week I’d never heard of the “All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking”. Not the snappiest of titles; let’s abbreviate it for our purposes to APPG/FBB. What it disguises beneath the title, however, is a promised revolution. If it happens, we’ll all be better off – not by having more money in our pockets, but by being more confident that what money we do have will be better protected when it comes to doing business with banks. You might say …

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There’s no Beveridge 2.0

There’s no Beveridge 2.0 Nigel Wilson, CEO of Legal & General, the UK’s biggest insurer, spoke to the Social Stock Exchange last week. Gary Mead reports on a devastating speech about the state of the country today. At last week’s annual investor conference of the Social Stock Exchange I heard one of the most powerful speeches I can remember for many years. It wasn’t a flamboyant tirade; no fireworks. Its power lay in the forthright honesty of the message. Nigel Wilson, group CEO of the insurer Legal & General, had some good news and some bad. On the one hand we’re not a poor nation. On the other hand we’re pretty useless at mobilising private capital and supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the true growth engines of the future and, indeed, at any time. One of his slides was this: For those who don’t remember the original Beveridge Report, it was – remarkably – published in 1942, when the UK faced rather more serious enemies than those picked out by William Beveridge, the Liberal …

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Social Stock Exchange Profile: Symbiotics

Social Stock Exchange Profile: Symbiotics Orwell partner Gary Mead on Symbiotics, the Geneva-based investment firm issuing bonds to finance the developing world’s small and medium sized enterprises. Symbiotics, the Geneva-based investment firm dedicated to sustainable finance in emerging markets, with its own impact bond programme, has recently joined the Social Stock Exchange. Domiciled in Luxembourg and subject to the local regulator, this Bond programme is, according to Symbiotics, “designed for fixed income managers seeking direct exposure to impact finance in emerging and frontier countries”. Symbiotics has a relatively long history of involvement in the impact investing world. Established in 2004, it prides itself on being a gateway to sustainable investing in emerging markets. As of now it has originated more than $3.3 billion impact investments in more than 71 countries. It clearly sets out its investing principles on its website: “Each investment made by Symbiotics needs to comply with the following criteria: target domestic markets in emerging and frontier economies; invest in the real economy, promoting the social function of finance; pass a social responsibility …