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Karen's thoughts on the Social Economy

The Journey from Scarcity to Abundance

Thursday, 6th February 2014

Having been involved with the Philanthropy community from numerous perspectives over decades – both as a giver and a receiver – it has always fascinated me the completely subjective notion of scarcity and abundance – how some people with not very much money feel that they have enough  – and how some people with enormous amounts feel that they don’t.

Of course this translates into how much they give – or not.

In my mind it's all about the person: how they grew up and how that defines their relationship with money. In my family of birth the mantra has always been “maintain the capital and spend the interest”. And I know this has had huge implications for my behaviour – behaviour which I have examined over the years through an internal conversation that started when I started to become involved in “giving back”.

Entering into the action of Giving for the first time starts a journey into a realm divorced from our regular, money conscious daily lives and delivers entirely surprising, generally delightful, informative, thought provoking and perception-altering results.

But beyond the personal, our notions around scarcity and abundance are also about Society and how it sees money.

On a recent trip away I read Lynne Twist's book, The Soul of Money, a fabulous book written some years ago now. It’s an excellent read from one of the founders of The Hunger Project. She says generally our society lives with three assumptions around money:

  1. More is better.
  2. There isn’t enough.
  3. Things will never change.

The book goes on to dispute each of them in terms I largely agree with. She talks a lot about people’s personal journeys towards generosity, about her wonderful experiences as a fundraiser for The Hunger Project and how she approaches donors. It’s an optimistic and enlivening read.

And very relevant in light of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent Davos address stating the centrality of the role of business in our society.

In that vein, also worth a read is The Conversation’s recent article by Veronica Sheen, Research Associate, Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University, titled Why Abbott can’t delete 'society' from his economic growth script. She tackles Abbott’s view of the world and brings in numbers of major international reports linking prosperity to social equity.

Until next time…

Karen Mahlab AM is the Founder and CEO of Pro Bono Australia. In 2015 she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to the Not for Profit sector and philanthropic initiatives.
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