Philanthropy takes many shapes and for Mia Morris, whose parents came to the UK from Grenada, giving is all about CSR – community social responsibility.
Morris, a well known community activist, is described by Operation Black Vote, the first initiative to focus exclusively on the Black democratic deficit in the UK, as a ‘renaissance woman’.
And, she defines her philanthropic activities as being deeply rooted in belonging to a community of people who arrived in the UK from the West Indies at the time of SS Empire Windrush – which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year – and had “to fashion a life out of nothing”, giving each other support with “good grace” and encouragement.
“My motivation to give comes from my favourite quote from American Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks: ‘We are each other’s harvest, we are each other’s business, and we are each other’s magnitude and bond’,” explains Morris.
“This correlates to my earlier experiences growing up in the 1960’s in Stamford Hill, London. My Grenadian parents regularly helped and supported people, and I was brought up to do what you can where you can. I have fond memories of playing in a local schoolyard. Recognising that we children had nowhere to play that was safe, my father persuaded the local school caretaker to allow parents to take it in turn to keep an eye on the space while we played.”
This was also reflected in how the community ensured a financial future in their new country. As Morris explains, because many banks were not forthcoming in giving loans, the community established its own informal savings networks, called sou-sous, based on trust and spread across most of the West Indian communities. Some of these later became credit unions.
Morris has continued the community tradition first establishing Black History Month website and then the International Women’s Month (IWM) site – International Women's Month – which has been operating for five years.
“I care passionately about the plight of women internationally and I am keen to support groups that would not necessarily get much support and publicity. And the websites are reflections of these causes.
“I have fond memories of organising and attending events during the 1980's where there were more women’s organisations and units at local authorities focusing on the equality agenda. The site has been created to be a 365-day portal available to inspire visitors.”
Campaigns and projects promoted by the IWM website include supporting survivors of the Asian Tsunami, breast cancer and zero tolerance to female genital mutilation.
In the Caribbean, Morris has supported a Grenadian library project and engaged the publishing house Penguin to donate books from its children’s range.
The IWM site is supported by the community work Morris does through her company Wellplaced Consultancy, which organises events, conferences, seminars, and provides a successful speakers bureau and training.
“In our community we do what we can where we can, not for reward or accolade but to make a difference. We don’t talk about philanthropy but community social responsibility. It is more of a way of life, an integral part of what we do and how we view the world.”
Community Social Responsibilityb y Roxanne Clark from Philanthropy UK's Special Report: Women & Philanthropy, 2008)