Family is good. Yes, we can all agree on that- but is it good to operate with a spirit of family in business? My views on why the Kids Company – a sizeable youth charity in the UK – fell apart.
Having watched the BBC documentary ‘Camila’s Kids Company- The Inside Story’ the answer is clear in my mind. The spirit of family is good – especially as a long-time youth sector supporter and social entrepreneur, I admire the ethos Camila Batmanghelidjh had, which was to see others as her own. However, in practice, the spirit of ‘family’ needs to be differentiated from the running of a business.
But what do you do when you’re so deep in the sentiment and feeling of giving and too emotionally involved? Well, this is where the big flaw was. The demise of the Kids Company underlined the importance of co-leadership (in whatever role and however structured) of someone who is emotionally tied to the mission and drives it with passion, and someone whose role it is to oversee the running of the business, the figures and finances and importantly accountable governance.
Watching the documentary, Camila reminded me of a bitter ex-wife. The ex-wife who doesn’t feel the new wife as fit enough to run her home and look after her kids. She was simply too emotionally involved to run the business side of things the way it needed to. In a way, I truly admire her strength and drive. She really was a woman on a mission- she had skills and assets which the charity almost couldn’t do without, but she was perhaps in the wrong role, and had she allowed someone in to run the business and instead focused on liaising with the community and ensuring that delivery on the ground was sufficient – the charity would have probably survived.
The thing which made me very uncomfortable was how dependent the service users were. There’s no doubt that Kids Company made a substantial difference to people’s lives. That was clear. However, I don’t think it a mark of success that people cry out your name in need- because that means you haven’t empowered them or helped them develop their skills to survive- you’ve simply empowered yourself to help- a help, they’ll always depend on. A help which without they’d drown. That’s dangerous. At InspirEngage International, we always instil a sense of social and personal responsibility in the individuals we train and work with. Otherwise, we’d be doing a disservice to them.
As a former Chair of The Board of Trustees at UK Youth Parliament, I was always conscious of the legal and financial responsibility I held. Something must also be said for their role in this.
When all is said & done- the demand & need in community is what should be highlighted. There’s work to be done.
Tweet me your thoughts @Melody_Hossaini.