15th November 2015Caroline Underwood
Good is best – it’s official
I was delighted to be on the benches for a debate, which drew a full house, at the Oxford Union on the 10th of November. The motion: “this house believes that there is nothing wrong with spending more on looking good than doing good”.
The motion was hardly black and white. Even those who were defending the motion erred, on occasion, towards supporting the ‘doing good’.
James Bevan, Chief Investment Officer with CCLA (Church, Community and Local Authorities), also sponsoring the evening, opened with an argument that suggested that if we looked good then good would flow.
Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at Oxford University, who has developed a website which describes, by postcode, the disparity between the haves and have-nots, described the deep pockets of poverty, homelessness and deprivation which exist alongside the dreaming spires of Oxford.
Nigel Mercer, a leading plastic surgeon described the emotional benefits visited via surgery on many victims of facial trauma and disfigurement. His provocative call, which marked a lurch towards the ‘good’ side of the house, for a 20% tax on Botox, which, he claimed, would halve the NHS annual deficit, was met with enthusiastic applause.
James Partridge spoke next. He writes and presents widely on disfigurement and is CEO of the UK Charity, Changing Faces, which supports and represents those who, like James himself, suffer from facial disfigurement.
The fashion and beauty writer and broadcaster, Sali Hughes, defended the beauty industry and the emotional and financial benefits that it can bring to individuals and via corporate social responsibility inspired giving.
John Nickson asked the provocative question that whereas there has been an explosive growth in levels of wealth, charitable giving has been static for the last 30 years.
The whole event was brought together by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, which is one of the most progressive and fastest-growing funders in Oxfordshire.
There was an extraordinary sense of unity and energy to the crowd. It is wonderful to see so many people gathering to celebrate Philanthropy and to work out how to improve the lot of the more vulnerable members in our society.
At a time of cuts in front line services, this sort of work is going to be crucial if it is to counter the gap left by what John Nickson described as a ‘receding state’.
Behind the theatricality, bluster, good humour and fun lies the very serious business of people gathering and giving together: the business of Philanthropy.