Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sick Bredrin

36 hours in the capital now back in Suffolk and its five to midnight.

Wed AM: Met with my Polish mentee Karolina, a young social entrepreneur with incredible talent who will, I am sure, run the world (or at least Poland) one day with enormous energy and skill. She is a fast learner, not scared to take risks and learns from her mistakes. Just needs the breaks. She'll be fine.

Wed PM: Futurebuilders Investment Committee. Talented committee, always a good use of time. Lots to decide. Always colourful, never dull.

Wed Evening. Meet Malcolm, my college friend now teaching in a West London Comp. Thirty odd nations in his school. Find out that "Sick" means "good" in street-speak. The school's ageing liberal head ("go play Connect 4 in the mentor hut") has been replaced by a bully ("you lot have been patronizing these kids for 30 years") who is chasing results and after Malcolm's ass because he is now the (reluctant) NUT rep.

I ask about Malolm's week. Heavy.

1. Two sets of Catholic Polish parents being told (via a translator) that Magda and Iva, their 14 year old daughters have been impersonating each others' mothers in calls to the school to the last month to say they are ill when they have really been round at 21 year old Omar's house, shagging him.

2. A Kuwaiti goatherd (age 11) refuses to sit at a desk because he doesn't know what one is and prefers the floor. The kid, like all kids, is learning English really quick is now describing his leather jacket as "gangsta" rather than "cool" or "fashionable".

3. Black History Week has been "taken over", to the chagrin of most parents, by a militant Livingstone-era "head of cultural cohesion" who was rapping in assembly that the BLACK man Obama has now taken over the WHITE House (his emphasis). Much to the chagrin of theSouth Asian families who don't see themselves as "black". Needless to say, Remembrance Day wasn't marked by the school, again to the bemusement of the White British, Polish and West Indian parents.

4. The final nail in Malcolm's week has been finding out that his favourite colleague has been probably shagging a former pupil (with whom he now lives) since she was 11. The cops are involved and he's having to weigh how to play it with his erstwhile colleague.

Listening to Malcolm you see how much Britain has changed since we were kids (I am nearly 40). He cannot be alone with a kid. The school has thirty odd language spoken and kids are scanned at the gates with metal detectors.

The staff group churns every five years. At six years in, Malcolm is a grizzled veteran on the team. Yet he insists it isn't a depressing place and that things have been getting better. His account grips me, perplexes me but also lifts me too, all at once. When I talk to Malcolm I realise how far I am from any kind of front line. He deserves at least an MBE.

Today, do a workshop at a middling conference at Westminster then off to Coutts to a reception for social enterprise. Coutts have invited wealthy clients to hear from top notch social entrepreneurs.

I don't speak but hear excellent presentations from Rod Schwartz of Catalyst Investments, Kevin Brennan the surprisingly good new Third Sector Minister, Penny Newman of Cafe Direct now Fifteen and the guy who set up Whatif?, the innovation firm.

I muse on social business. Most of the Coutts clients present don't mix business witb doing-good. They do both but keep it strictly separate. Blending them is a new message. The speakers do this well but I can see just how novel this idea is to many of those watching.

In the toilets I speak to one of the SE Ambassadors who is v cynical about the event, telling me that quite a few people had left saying it was essentially a charity-bash for rich people. Tough but perhaps a little true as well.

Get home at midnight having missed the kids like crazy for 24 hours. I long to go and hug them bu I can't without waking them up. So I blog instead. Goodnight.

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