It’s a complicated world but you’ll be happy to know I’m a very simple man.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a very varied life with lots of different experiences. Not all good by any means, but life could certainly have been worse.
I’m one of those who believes that our birth is down to the luck of the draw and that most of the opportunities and successes we have in life are mostly due to external circumstances.
We just go with the flow.
It’s an outlook that makes me want to change things for the better - because we are not born equal.
I want to know that through my actions I have altered external conditions in some way so that other people benefit positively.
I do believe that as individuals we can rise above our circumstances, change our lives for the better and play our hand as best we can — but I’m not one of those people.
I’m not resilient or gritty or even that driven and I don’t believe that any of us should be expected to be. They seem like undesirable qualities in addressing equality or life chances. Do we really want a tough, gritty world?
Fighting for rights? Advocacy for others? These are qualities which feel less competitive and individualistic.
I believe that anyone can change the world for the better but don’t believe that we can positively change anything until we have had experiences that lead to some form of inner transformation and provide us with a wider understanding.
Our external conditions are mostly shared with others. They are common to everyone whereas internal conditions are individual to us.
In this way I see the ‘we’ as being more important than the ‘me’ and it’s the ‘we’ that leads to impact and lasting change.
We develop the ‘we’ by learning about other people and their experiences. By developing our empathy and our social and emotional capacities.
There is a lot broken in this world and it will take the ‘we’ to see it and to fix it.
The important work begins with ‘you’.
Reflections on a journey
My 2 most recent roles have been as a trustee of an educational charity and a district councillor.
GLADE (Global Learning and Development Education) bring the world into the classroom.
They help to encourage a new generation of Global Citizens who have the ability to see the world and it’s inter-related issues and commonalities, and through this lens to experience other cultures and ways of life, and by reflection also recognise themselves and their own hopes and dreams.
Bring a trustee there was an incredible opportunity for me too to learn.
During my time I developed their website, curated their blog and studied everything related to their work.
The conversations I had within the organisation with their Programme Director (Lynn Cutler) enlightened me and challenged me, and my fellow trustees were steeped in knowledge and experience.
I learnt a lot about the world, how it works, and why it works the way it does.
Which connects quite nicely with politics.
I’ve been able to apply many things that I learnt at GLADE within my role as a district councillor, always making the effort to learn about and understand the deeper aspects and implications of decisions which were being taken by the council.
Most importantly I did the things which count. I turned up. I got involved. I didn’t let go and I didn’t give up. I became a part of all of the communities and organisations involved. I did my best.
I performed the role from a perspective of Active Citizenship which I’d already been involved with through the British Council’s Active Citizens Programme.
My experience there led me to look at how things work in local government so that I could better understand where and how people and communities can become involved in the decisions being made on their behalf.
There is an understanding within local government that localism and devolution will help to drive forward citizen enabling and empowering approaches.
Meaningful involvement and participation will one day be the norm.
There is some reticence of course and this is hardly surprising. Innovation, experimentation, openness, transparency and power sharing are not what has previously been expected of local government.
Culture change takes time.
But it will come.
The end of a voyage
Through my involvement in other projects I have also had the time to look at wider concerns. The economy, rights, social justice, the environment, poverty.
I told you I was simple! :)
We’re stuck. I think we all know this. We have actually become quite powerless to effect the kind of changes needed to get out situation we find ourselves in.
Our ability to create the required vision is hampered by the fact that we can never achieve it. It’s little surprise that politicians and political parties have reduced their scope and focus onto short-term fixes — why set out to fail?
Instead we move slightly to the left or further to the right, never resolving the structural issues, just keeping things pretty much as they are. No need to rock the boat, what, what.
But we have drifted into dangerous times and we are facing multiple crises.
And if you think I’m painting a bad picture please remember that every other country is in the same boat. All of us swirling around sides of a world sized whirlpool.
The forces at work are much larger than we perceive and they’re almost impossible to stop.
We’ve been brought to the edge by political brinkmanship, cultural blindness, outmoded ways of working, a refusal to change, and an inculcated obedience to a system which places profit above all things.
Save our Souls.
We’ve lost control.
The easiest politics is to blame others and deny ourselves any responsibility. We blame China for pollution while putting their products on our shelves.
We blame the poor for making us poor, the sick for bringing down the NHS, and cyclists for clogging up our roads.
While we are busy occupied with blaming each other the invisible hand is stuffing invisible pockets while an invisible finger directs our attention somewhere else.
Wherever you look it’s utter lunacy.
A modern man-made mutiny
That ship above ain’t fit anymore for the job at hand, it belongs in the past. Every inch of it needs attention.
We need a vessel which is built for the 21st century and beyond. We need a vision of where we wish to travel to and a future where all of those problems are addressed. We need to set a different course.
But it’s impossible to bring a country to a stop for an overhaul. So we need to do this on the move. Working with the system as it already is. Making a start in our own backyards.
Our SOS has gone unheeded.
All that’s left is DIY.
Out of the depths towards abundance
Can you remember the ship in the picture?
Civil society, business, and the state. Those sails can take us to any shores we can imagine — when they are in alignment. When we have a vision of our destination and a map that will get us there.
This is a networked age. We can connect these things together if we choose.
We can learn to pull in the same direction.
We can create the conditions for the transformations that take us from the ‘me’ to the ‘we’. That’s all of us; we the people, we the organisations and the institutions, we the government and the media. It is time.
We can build a culture of change and compassion.
The anchor and chains which have weighed us down throughout the ages also contains the experiences and learning that can lead to empathy, understanding and transformation.
We can convert this into the fuel of social innovation. Those needs can give us a reason to work together in common purpose. We can solve our problems together.
A ship that’s fit for the 21st century needs a crew that can call itself humanity.
All of us can develop our empathy, our patience, and our kindness. Everyone has something to contribute in the new world. We all have value.
We’re all made of the right stuff.
It’s time for us to discover who we truly are.