The genesis of the Foundation was a Powerlist dinner hosted by JP Morgan in 2009.The suggestion was made that every member of the Powerlist should make a specific pledge to do something for society during their years on the list.
Michael Eboda and Ken Olisa took this embryonic idea and formed the Powerlist Foundation. The underlying mission of which is to enable those who are fortunate to have succeeded in society to support and encourage those who are yet to do so.
To date the Foundation has raised approaching £100,000 via donations and pro bono support given by our trustees and close supporters such as Damon Buffini, Baroness Scotland and Abib Bocresion. We have also benefited from the generosity of organisations such as Deloitte and Thomson Reuters.
I just want to highlight a couple of examples of what we have been up to:
We held our first Summer Leadership School in 2011. At the three and half day programme on the Deloitte Campus, some 40 graduates were mentored and put through their paces by a range of Powerlisters. They emerged with a clearer understanding of what it takes to be a leader in the 21st Century. Next year we aim to provide two further Leadership Schools the first for all young female A level and university undergraduates and the second for African Caribbean undergraduates.
We are also looking at establishing a sixth form school in London. We believe that leadership, resilience, self belief and stamina can be taught. An education committee comprising leading experts in the field and chaired by Trustee Phil Walker has been established and is driving this project forward.
When our Chairman Ken Olisa talks about philanthropy he often starts by challenging people to a bet as follows:
On a scale from 0 to 10, how selfish would you say you are?
I bet you answered somewhere comfortably in the middle; 4, 5 or possibly 6.
I also bet that your logic would have been something along the lines of acknowledging that being selfish is morally wrong; but so is lying, and so giving yourself zero would be wrong too. So you picked a safe middle score.
I’m sure that whatever number you selected it won’t have been 10.
But 10 is the correct answer. We humans are all totally selfish – by definition. We only do things because we want to, because they somehow satisfy our inner desires. They make us feel better.
So what? Why is this important? If everyone is selfish, it’s not much of a defining point and therefore not really worth talking about.
Well, I think it’s important because in our sound bite, celebrity obsessed, hyper-judgemental world, too much time is spent questioning people’s motives rather than the effect of their actions.
At this point, I need to declare a couple of interests. Firstly, some of my best friends are philanthropists. And secondly, last year, my wife Kerry and I made two major charitable donations. The first was to fund the Kolade Teaching Room at the Exeter University Business School which I attended and the second was for the Ambassador EO Kolade post graduate scholarships for West African students to study at the London School of Economics where I am a Governor.
Why did we do this? Certainly not to avoid paying tax. We pay our full UK tax bill each year – no dodgy schemes, no offshore companies, no fiscal acrobatics.
We did it for purely selfish reasons – because it made us feel good. And, for the rest of our lives, we will continue to feel good seeing young men and women advancing their learning that our hard work and good luck made possible.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines philanthropy as “practical benevolence” which reminds us that there is another form of selfish behaviour – “practical malevolence”.
We are all selfish, but some of us get our kicks from helping others while, sadly, there are those of us who are the opposite.
It is self-evident that the prosperity of society depends on the first group outnumbering the latter group by as much as possible. We’re all selfish. The only question is whether the effect of our actions is to the advantage of society or not.
I want to congratulate those of you talented and lucky enough to have made the Powerlist. However, I believe that with the deserved recognition comes a firm obligation.
An obligation to do more. The PowerList Foundation’s motto is: “Sharing success with tomorrow’s leaders”. We are giving our time, expertise and money to improve the lives and prospects of strangers. Not because the Government have told us to, nor because we feel guilty about our relative advantages, but because we each get a kick out of seeing the careers of tomorrow’s leaders getting a turbo-charge from us.
We are at just the start of the Charity’s life and we hope that through this vehicle we can achieve great things. But to do this we will need your expertise, contacts and financial support to build a strong foundation from which to have a greater impact in the years to come.
If you haven’t tried any philanthropy of your own yet – it’s never too late to start becoming practically benevolent.
We would like the opportunity to persuade you that the Powerlist Foundation would be an excellent place to start!