I Savaged the #CEOSleepout in 2017 and I’m Not Sorry Today. Here’s Why.
Last year I was the only journalist who dared to unequivocally criticise the performative nature of the #CEOSleepout event.
It wasn’t long after I hit “Publish” on “The CEO Pikeout: How the Rich & Powerful Do Charity” that the CEOs started to respond. They said my words will stop people supporting the event and ultimately I’m HURTING homeless people. They asked what I was doing to help? They called me an attention seeker and said I slandered their good deeds just to make a name for myself.
My writing was a thorn unexpectedly and unrepentantly wedged deep into the sides of people who thought they were doing the right thing.
Now, one year has passed and I must admit, those CEOs were right – in one regard.
This month I’ve seen several articles voicing the same concerns about the CEO Sleepout I mentioned in 2017.
It isn’t just my blog’s comment section that is blowing up any more. All over LinkedIn and Facebook the CEO Sleepout is triggering fierce discussions about corporate posturing, structural inequality, home ownership, the shrinking middle class and the better ways we can and should do charity.
Assumptions about goodwill are melting into questions about power.
One asks: Is this REALLY all the rich can do?
Another snaps back: How dare you?!
Debate ensues and on the surface it appears as though little is achieved.
But unanswered questions foment into social unrest. And social unrest always precedes change.
We, as a society, need agitators.
So, those who don’t know me but ventured to question my integrity, here’s my answer to you: I AM that fucking agitator. THAT – as well as trying to keep my own head above water – is what I’m doing.
To the people with nowhere to go: Don’t give up. Don’t stop reaching out for help. Someone WILL throw you a lifeline, and you never know… that person could even be it a CEO. That’s what happened to me (but that is a story for a different day).
PS: I contacted many of the CEOs who attended the 2017 CEO Sleepout requesting interviews for a follow up piece that would establish a dialogue directly between homeless folks and CEOs.
I then, quite literally, got on my bike and rode along the river, conducting interviews with several groups of homeless people camped under the bridges (yes, I acknowledge that this “visible” homeless population isn’t representative of all who are without a place to call home).
When it came time to talk to the CEOs, however, I contacted dozens but only got two positive replies (this didn’t surprise me given the nature of my article). One very earnestly agreed to participate (you know who you are, thank you), the other agreed to an interview provided their head of PR was present (but they never did lock in a date and time).
I still very much want to write this follow up story. The invite is still open.