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Posts Tagged ‘social change’

Fake relationships and Revolution 3.2

Monday, February 13th, 2017

The launch of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission a couple of weeks ago attracted more media attention than might be expected for such an event. No doubt this was largely due to the appalling circumstances of its genesis: Ms Cox was deeply concerned about the issue and was planning the commission at the time of her murder. MPs Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy are now carrying forward the work that she began.

However I don’t think the tragic association accounts for all the attention: As I have written previously, at least one in five Brits are lonely often or all of the time. Loneliness is a twenty first century  plague and although almost all the press coverage over the last two weeks has focused on  older people this is, as I noted a couple of weeks ago, a misleading emphasis.  Study after study has shown that no age or social group is immune.


We have been thinking about the early action contribution to this conversation. Our Early Action in Later Life report stirred passions in 2014 with the assertion that “befriending schemes are to social isolation what food banks are to poverty”.

We meant no disrespect to befriending schemes or to Food Banks, both are an essential response to a crisis, but neither, on their own, offer a long term solution. Alongside the remedial work we need a deeper, longer term approach to redressing the causes of loneliness.  Just as we must ask “why are so many people hungry?” and tackle those issues, so too must we ask “why are so many people lonely?” and confront the causes

This takes us into the wider issue of social isolation which we need to address not only to beat loneliness but also to boost educational performance, enhance economic opportunity and social mobility, reduce health inequalities, improve social cohesion and indeed do almost everything that really matters.

And, far from making progress on social isolation, we are not even moving in the right direction. Instead we are, as Alvin Toffler wrote, “experiencing the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future”.  Our every transaction is now automated from paying the rent to fixing a doctor’s appointment. Social media has redefined our understanding of friendship. We have limitless virtual networks but fewer real friends. Those that we do have are likely to be scattered and distant. We network but we don’t relate. And we have devalued our understanding of the concept of “relationships” to the point where I travel to Birmingham and Virgin Trains assure me that they “value our relationship”.

Fake relationships are as ubiquitous in 2017, and just as insidious, as fake news.

Across the sweep of history this sequence is not unfamiliar. First the agrarian, then the industrial revolutions disrupted social patterns and called for new ways of behaving individually and collectively. Social change followed but it took a while. Now we are again in the catch up phase. Part 3.2 as it were, of the technological revolution that has so transformed our lives in recent years.

We have to tackle the scourge of social isolation by fixing the cause. To do that we must begin with a two part question:

First, what is a real relationship?  I think it is one that nourishes with depth and meaning.  It is between people, possibly facilitated by a machine or an organisation but not with a machine or an organisation. And it is about more than kindness or reciprocity, empathy or solidarity although it is all these things. It may be closest to what in Africa is known as Ubuntu – “my humanity is inextricably bound up in yours. We belong in a bundle of life” Desmond Tutu.

And then, what is a real 21st century relationship? We can’t rewind the clock even if we wanted to. Our generation’s big challenge is to fathom out how we use and benefit from the recent advances in ways which don’t devalue our essential humanity but which value, sustain and enrich it.

Voluntary organisations like ours don’t have all the pressing mandatory duties of a statutory authority. We have the freedom, and with the freedom a responsibility, to try to understand not just how we manage or ameliorate a problem but how we build a better society. I’m not sure what Revolution 3.2 should look like but I do think  we should try to free the space to think about it not least because, as Dr Toffler also said, You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”

Chain Reaction Programme launched

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Chain Reaction LogoThe LinksUK team have today been busy with the launch of the Programme for our new initiatve Chain Reaction.  


On the 17th and 18th November we’ll be bringing together social leaders, community activists, policy makers, business leaders and young people from around the globe for an event at London’s Southbank to share learning and to generate new ideas for social change, locally, nationally and globally.  

Chain Reaction is based on the simple idea that none of us on our own can change the world, not governments, not businesses, not charities. We succeed when we work together. This event will result in 25 new ideas for social action that participants have committed to take forward together. 

We’ve got lots of exciting people taking part.  Alongside four Cabinet Ministers, our contributors include boundary crossers like Dr Victoria Hale, founder of the world’s first non-profit pharmaceutical company and Rachel Lomax, one time permanent secretary of two government departments, deputy governor at the Bank of England and former Vice President at the World Bank. America’s Nipun Mehta, the creator of Charity Focus and Comic Relief founder Jane Tewson, now doing ground breaking work in Australia, will challenge and inspire us and angry alchemists like John Bird (Big Issue) and Tim Smit (Eden Project) will be sharing their special brew, reminding us that some things are hard but nothing is impossible.  In addition to this stellar line up, venture capital guru Sir Ronald Cohen will be applying his experience to the financing of social change and Mark Thompson Director General of the BBC will tackle the contribution of the media.  Sir Richard Branson will be joining us via a video link, and City father Sir David Walker will be with us in the flesh. 

Over 20 organisations including Global Entrepreneurship Week, the IDEA World Congress and the VSO Global Exchange Programme will host sessions and grass roots practitioners from nine countries (and rising!) will join us to share their learning on transforming communities.  A compelling programme will focus on themes such as the potential of new technologies, the power of sports and arts as tools for transforming communities, and the experiences and contributions of young people (100 places are reserved for under 21s – the leaders of tomorrow – some of whom will come from Community Links projects).  Practical workshops will explore issues such as financing, communicating and the ‘scaling up’ of ideas.

A unique feature of Chain Reaction will be the opportunity for participants to self organise, with bookable meeting spaces, and places to connect with others and collaborate in building new projects, new partnerships and new ways of working.

We’re excited about the prospect of bringing together an inspiring group of people to work together on issues that concern us all…
… will you be part of the Chain Reaction?

G8: whose job to build a better world?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

G8 world leaders plus EU president July 2008So, the leaders of  the G8 have issued their (heavily negotiated) final communiqué  with governments of each country signed-up to agreed positions on climate change, the global economy and tackling international political corruption  – generally setting about the job of building a better world.

But is it their job? …theirs alone?

Previous G8 meetings, notably Genoa, have seen demonstrations on the streets outside the conference centre, co-ordinated by pressure groups, NGO’s, political parties and concerned individuals. When the UK held the presidency in 2005 protestors formed a symbolic white band around Gleneagles in a manifestation of the “Make Poverty History” campaign. But who decides which demands get voiced from “civil society”?

And where does this leave the commercial organisations – the businesses and industries whose manufacturing processes and transportation is causing much of the carbon emissions that concern us all?

So whose job is it to build a better world? Who are the social leaders? … is it government, business, individuals – or all of the above

To examine some of these tricky questions the inaugural Chain Reaction event in November will bring together community activists, policy makers business leaders and young people from across the world in an event which combines the seriousness of Davos (the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum) with the eclectic and magical sharing of ideas that is Hay (the UK’s largest literary festival). Last week we launched the Chain Reaction website, which will connect people together virtually, celebrating examples of social leadership, and inspiring others to take action. And you can take action too – the first simple step is to engage in the debate. Take our sixty second survey online and talk about it in the website forums.

Go on … get involved!

We’re starting a Chain Reaction

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

2geher08 logo

Yesterday I went to the 2gether Festival to talk about in public for the first time a new Community Links initiative called Chain Reaction.  Chain Reaction is about connecting people together from around the world – both virtually and in real life – to work together on new ideas for social change. 

The website went live yesterday.  And then on 17-18 November this year we’re holding the first Chain Reaction event on London’s South Bank. 

Both the website and the event are designed to bring together people from different worlds – community activists, policy makers, businesses leaders, geeks, young people, and anyone with an interest in building a better world.  We believe that none of us on our own can change the world, not governments, not business, not communities.  We succeed when we work together.  And by the end of this year we aim to have at least 25 new practical ideas for social change which people have committed to taking forward together.

We began working on this idea about a year ago.  Chain Reaction is now part of the programme of the Prime Minister’s Council on Social Action, and with the backing of four government departments and the support of many companies and partner organisations we can now make this a reality.  Although it’s an ambitious project, it builds on principles embedded all Community Links’ work – local and national – in particular that those who experience a problem understand it best and that everyone has the potential to do great things.  

Chain Reaction is about one talent, experience or idea unlocking another, creating massive energy in a chain.  Our individual actions multiplied by millions of others are a driving force for change.  If our individual actions are reflected by those of organisations and businesses, and supported by governments, then, together, we have the power to change the world – literally creating a chain reaction.  

Will you join us?  Here’s an easy first step – visit the website, or complete our sixty second survey online.