- Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, shares his thoughts on Bezos’ latest charity announcement.
- In light of the recent tech backlash, he said, Bezos has an opportunity to become the first “woke” billionaire philanthropist.
- To establish a new paradigm of corporate giving, the CEO must be willing to acknowledge his shortcomings.
In June 2017, Jeff Bezos issued a vague solicitation to his followers on Twitter: “I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long term,” he wrote. “If you have ideas, just reply to this tweet.”
More than a year went by before Bezos finally revealed his plan for a $2 billion charity fund led by him and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos. Once he did, the Bezos Day One Fund was hounded by critics as a strategic move to distract from a recent string of bad press.
Shortly before the announcement, Business Insider published an article exposing the poor working conditions of the company’s delivery drivers, who recounted a number of alleged abuses, from missing wages and lack of overtime pay to urinating in bottles in order to keep to their delivery schedules.
“Jeff Bezos can tout himself as a great philanthropist, yet it will not absolve him of responsibility if Amazon workers continue to be afraid to take toilet breaks and days off sick because they fear disciplinary action at work,” writer James Bloodworth told the BBC.
This distraction method is part of what Anand Giridharadas, a former consultant turned author, calls the “moral glow” of tech companies. In his recent book, Winners Take All, Giridharadas argues that many wealthy tech firms use philanthropy as a sheen to cover the depth of their influence — or the extent of their abuses.
With his new fund, Bezos has a chance to avoid this trap.
In the wake of the CEO’s announcement, Giridharadas took to Twitter to share his thoughts about the billionaire’s philanthropic endeavor. “Givers often ask what they can do,” Giridharadas said. “But imagine if Jeff Bezos set an example of asking what is rarely asked: What am I already doing? How am I involved in the problems? What could I do to solve them for all?”
It’s a question worth considering as billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and David Rubenstein garner criticism for setting near-impossible goals for their philanthropies, or hindering government from solving public issues.
For now, Bezos’ two main goals seem innocent of both offenses: He plans to develop a support network for homeless families and establish free preschools in low-income communities.
According to Giridharadas, this gives him a chance to pioneer a new model of philanthropy — one that helps solve the problems he’s been instrumental in creating. That starts not with scaling education programs or homeless initiatives, but with addressing the root of these issues, such as zoning, taxation, or unfair pay practices.
Giridharadas cites the Supreme Court case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriquez, which allowed Texas schools to be partially funded by property taxes, creating disparities in the quality of public education. By challenging these policies, he said, Bezos could have a meaningful impact on local communities.
That’s a tall order, given the CEO’s history of hoarding his personal fortune. But in an age of increasing skepticism of powerful institutions, Bezos must contend with a new adversary: a growing sense of public scrutiny.
According to Giridharadas, Bezos is the first mega-giver to enter the arena of big philanthropy in the wake of a national backlash against tech companies — one that likely contributed to the rise of populist figures like Donald Trump. As such, Bezos is probably aware of the fact that the eyes of the world are upon him, and citizens are eager to hold him accountable.
“I just hope he would bring to his giving the same daring and irreverence and weirdness that he brought to building Amazon,” said Giridharadas. “What would be disappointing is if his giving was one of conventions and clichés, while his money-making was done with such imagination.”
If Bezos breaks from the standard of corporate philanthropy, he could ignite a paradigm shift in the industry. Giridharadas refers to this new type of billionaire as the “woke giver,” or someone who recognizes their complicity in the world’s problems and makes an effort to right these wrongs, even if it comes at his or her expense.
One prime example is Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, whom Giridharadas interviewed for Winners Take All. As a black, gay man born into poverty, Walker remains keenly aware of the issues he’s attempting to solve, as well as the the ability of large corporations to exacerbate inequality.
“I think Darren is able to have that double consciousness of being in that [board] room and thinking, ‘This room really could make a difference, and this is the kind of room that throughout history has used the idea of making a difference to screw people,'” Giridharadas said.
While he isn’t certain that Bezos can strike the same balance, Giridharadas is cautiously optimistic. It will boil down to whether Bezos recognizes that there’s more to charity than self-image and improving the bottom line. And it will mean looking inward before looking outward.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.