openDemocracy post

29 January 2005

Its almost reached a point where having a session on partnerships is like having a session on ‘development’…I fondly remember Wolfgang Sach’s (the other one) Development Dictionary that unpacked the language of development…I suspect it is time to update it…I attended one large workshop on partnerships, mainly to explore whether the discussion had reached a stage where the governance and accountability issues had finally surfaced…Adele Simmons was great in highlighting the issue, and interestingly it was companies around the table that highlighted the issue…worrying was that the NGOs in attendance most involved in partnerships were least willing to put this top of their agendas, a sign of an Orwellian transition of at least some engaged NGOs into part of the accountability deficit, rather than the means through which it would be addressed…the representative from one fair trade labelling operation was clear about their agenda, which was in part “to pursuade more aggressive NGOs to come to the table to work with business”…a curious interpretation of the politics of change…we debate the pros and cons of ownership in fair trade as part of partnerships…Starbucks not impressed, Oxfam and Transfair cautiously supportive...another person argues, ‘fair trade is about trade, not ownership’, and the conversation dries and moves on…“The significance of partnerships in the world of MDGs is very small”, says a key UN person…we need to focus on going to scale and replicability…other people say that partnerships are the route to scale…

Oxfam gives feedback, highlighting that we had talked about governance and accountability in our session, but not mentioning that all that had in fact been discussed was the accountability of farmers, not at all of the commercial partner…I am confused!…Starbucks talks about the challenge of scaling up, “it will take decades to really get anything significant on the way”...my poor memory in the early fair trade days was that it was both a thing in itself but also a trigger of systematic change in how specific markets function…this version of scaling seems to have vanished in the discussion, the real strategic options of remoulding markets by taking full advantage of competitive dynamics between companies, and even viral effects between essentially non-competing markets….here we still seem to be confusing scaling for ‘getting bigger’, and confusing normalisation for ‘standardisation’…NGOs are seriously at fault here, again not trusting the potential of the market in getting to scale and so falling back on a compliance model of accountability, and institutional growth as the preferred model of scale.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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