Cater's Choice

Nick Cater's pick's of the week include a TV documentary about autism, a volunteering conference and a book about social entrepreneurs.

TV "They're not parrots; they are creative," was the conclusion of a recent radio show on autistic savants, answering in advance a question posed on Five today in Extraordinary People: The Human Camera. The programme profiles 'autistic artist' Stephen Wiltshire, who draws detailed landscapes from memory. Wiltshire has created a world that works for him. He has opened his own gallery, and the programme shows him coping with social situations and achieving a limited form of independence.

Q: How do the credit crunch, sub-prime loans and the City's greedy stupidity affect isolated peoples in the depths of the Amazonian rainforest? A: The soaring price of gold lures thousands of illegal miners to invade the remote territory set aside for the indigenous Yanomami people. On 11 April, in Channel 4's Unreported World - Brazil: The Amazon's Golden Curse, reporter Jenny Kleeman asks whether this gold rush - and the disease, alcoholism and prostitution that come with it - could kill off the Yanomami.

Meanwhile, on C4 on 14 April, 40 years after Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech, Rageh Omaar continues his short series Immigration: The Inconvenient Truth, in which he investigates how Britons are dealing with migration.

Conference Under the bold title Transforming Passion into Power, Volunteering England's National Convention is coming up from 23 to 25 April in Newcastle. It will consider whether the 2012 Olympics volunteering legacy is really just a clever PR story and ask if there is actually room within the sector for all the new volunteers the Government would like to recruit.

Book Non-profits can be much harder to grow than for-profit ventures. That's one of the findings of Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan, recently published by the Harvard Business School Press. It notes that of the 200,000 non-profits it says have been started in the US since 1970, only 144 have reached $50m in annual revenue. With necessary adjustments for GDP and so on, I wonder what the equivalent British figures would be?

Contact Nick Cater at

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