Farah Jimenez at ThinkFest.
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Within the very liberal city of Philadelphia, there’s the still more-liberal world of the non-profit sector; within that sector, there’s the tiny subgroup of do-gooders who who dedicate their professional lives to fighting poverty and homelessness.
This is the world Farah Jimenez has worked in for much of her life. She’s not like the others.
“Not once have I ever been accused of having a bleeding heart,” Jimenez said Friday morning at ThinkFest, in a speech that amounted to a broad critique of how society generally — and the non-profit world in particular — approach poverty and homelessness.
Jimenez is a School Reform Commissioner, and the former president of People’s Emergency Center (a non-profit social service agency for homeless families). She’s also a prominent conservative who thinks bleeding hearts and compassion have gotten in the way of effective decision-making.
“Since the pronouncement of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, we’ve spent an estimated $22 trillion on anti-poverty initiatives,” said Jimenez. “Did it make a difference? Every year, just in this five-county region, the social — or nonprofit — sector, comprised of 15,000 agencies, generates more than $35 billion in revenue and employs nearly 250,000 people. Those are big numbers, big investments, but is it making a difference?”
Jimenez didn’t answer her own question. Her goal at ThinkFest, she said, was more limited: “to challenge the orthodoxy that at times keeps us from examining our collective work and insisting on an answer to: Is it making a difference?”
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