A gift worth givingKieran Madden - 24-07-12

Multi-millionare businessman Owen Glenn recently announced an eighty million dollar investment into New Zealand’s communities in an effort to tackle domestic violence and child abuse. 

Eighty million is a big number and philanthropic giving of this scale should be applauded, especially as it reminds us that government is not the sole provider of welfare and business has a part to play. But big money does not necessarily guarantee big results. As John Key noted in the foreword of the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children: “Just throwing more money around will not improve the lives of these children. If it were that simple, then New Zealanders could expect significant improvements in outcomes for vulnerable children to have occurred in the past decade – but they haven’t.” Indeed. The statistics, particularly around vulnerable children remain “a great shame,” as Glenn put it. 

What gives me some hope however that this initiative may be different, is the manner in which Glenn has decided to spend the money. Of this eighty million, eight million has been earmarked to be spent in the south Auckland suburb of Otara, where he spent two years of his young married life in the sixties. "We have to start somewhere” said Glenn, “so where better than Otara, a place where I once lived and still have an affinity with.” Focussing on a particular community, and supporting particular groups who already have a stake in that community is I think, a wise and humble decision. 

What this highlights is the way money is spent is important. Instead of waltzing into the impoverished suburb of Otara with initiatives conceived in wealthy Monaco on the other side of the world where Glenn currently resides, he is relying on and empowering the hearts and minds of those who intimately know the people there and the dire problems they face. As there is a chance that this programme will be extended nation-wide, it will be interesting to see how Glenn’s vision of providing community organisations in Otara with “long-term funding and better coordination” pans out. I hope for the best. 

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