The You and Me Principle

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Introduction to The You and Me Principle and David Robinson

David Robinson is Practitioner in Residence at the Marshall Institute exploring the causes and consequences of current trends in the nature of our relationships. He has written a series of blogs exploring these themes, linked to below, and on March 12th delivered a lecture putting forward his practical vision of a place where “meaningful relationships are the central operating principle” and setting out a route map for reaching it. The response was led by social entrepreneur and former UK designer of the year, Hilary Cottam, and by politician and political theorist Jon Cruddas MP.

10 Blogs on Connecting Well

I Connecting Well
II Human beings being human
III Doing what anyone would do
IV Land of our children
V Joining the Dots
VI Humbug or Hallelujah?
VII: Relational Offset: The New Imperative
VIII The Heart of the Matter
IX: Beauty of Care
X: What have we learnt and now what?

Lecture

12th March 2018, London School of Economics and Political Science

Transcript

When I was growing up, Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets made up one of the biggest blocks of urban poverty in western Europe. Some of us at school raised money bought a bus, we took out the seats, replaced them with  some footballs, paints  and dressing up clothes… organised a rota of volunteer drivers from the bus garage and visited regular sites evenings and weekend attracting  120, 140 children every day. So began Community Links the organisation with which I have been involved ever since.

Sometimes I would arrive early for those play sessions and walk around the estates, talk to children. They’d tell me about their lives. I learnt that poverty is about more than money. Often we were the only adults with whom these children had a regular conversation. I saw how this kind of “relational poverty” links to three effects.

  • An absence of “cultural capital” –  the Knowledge and capabilities we acquire from mixing with others about how to behave, dress, speak.
  • An absence of networks – the people who can arrange a useful work placement, tell us about college, help us understand a wider world, be an assessable role model.
  • And an absence of belief, confidence, self esteem.

I saw that relational poverty is every bit as aggressive and destructive as material poverty and that the two are inextricably entwined.

I therefore come to this lecture with a simple conviction: We need each other. Think of the turning points in your life and what made the difference. Family, teachers, carers, friends? This is the Warm Web – our personal  tapestries of real, meaningful relationships that enable us to thrive individually and, that in aggregate, enable communities to succeed. I think of the Bus children and of others I’ve worked with over the years, repeatedly unpeeling  their troubles has revealed flaws or inadequacies in that Warm Web – relationships either broken or never existing to a meaningful degree. And equally invariably the building or rebuilding of meaningful connections has been a big part of the answer.

I think of it as the You and Me principal – It is not only possible for one human being to make a real and lasting difference to another, it  is often, in the most difficult circumstance, the only thing that ever does.

Sadly however I believe that  we are moving in the wrong direction and so do many others. Before the last mayoral election  I led a small project called Changing London – effectively a conversation with Londoners. Social connection and the lack of it, was the top concern for the largest single group. Higher than housing or health or crime although it is not unrelated to any of these issues..

This reinforced my own experience: Relational poverty didn’t begin 40 years ago but it has become more widespread and acute at a time when we might have expected it to recede. We network and transact more than ever but meaningful time together has been systematically displaced by fast and shallow connections – the consequence of three tectonic shift in the course of my working life:

The Tectonic shifts

First, the shift in technological capability

An ever bigger proportion of modern life is conducted online – the Cold Web. Benefits aren’t collected anymore but like rent and other payments, transferred electronically. Bookings and other communications with GPs, or other public providers seldom involve real human interaction. Shops have closed and smaller high streets in particular have changed, even disappeared because more shopping is done online.

None of these changes are additional to more personal interactions but are in place of, with advantages for many but not for those who relied on such routines for their only conversations. Invariably these people are also most likely to have been most disproportionately disadvantaged by shift number two:

Second the shift in ideological influences

Two years after Beveridge published his first report in 1942,  Hayek was arguing in  the Road to Serfdom that government planning would  extinguish individualism and lead to the triumph of totalitarianism. Beveridges work had an immediate impact,  Hayeks was on a slower burn but burn it has relentlessly, fuelled by a steadily growing network of academics and influencers, then policy makers and politicians.

By the 1970s the post war Keynesian consensus was wobbling through a series of economic crises and an alternative was by now oven ready. Milton Friedmans monetarism, Margaret Thatchers property owning democracy, privatisation, deregulation, the celebration of wealth, the market solution. All start here. Neo liberalism became the prevailing paradigm in Westminster and Whitehall with multiple and continuing implications for social connection.

And as  individualism and self-interest developed into a powerful philosophy for government  it also bled into the ways in which we think about ourselves and others becoming  the new popular common sense as we disconnected the consequences of our behaviour as consumers from our interests as citizens.

These narratives, both popular and political have harnessed and directed the new capabilities.  At the macro level narrow, short term competitive advantage has been chased at the expense of solid sustainable relationships. My point here, and elsewhere, is not anti business. It is anti a certain way of doing business and applies as much to Head Teachers and Ofsted as it does to corporate leaders and quick spikes in the share price. At the micro level insecurity and inequality has displaced our capacity for meaningful connection. The fiercely infectious FOMO “fear of missing out” has driven an obsession with followership and, as we see on Twitter, no responsibility to treat the community well, classic detached Cold Web behaviour. Division and disempowerment ensue. Ultimately alienation and scapegoating.

Third, the shift in managerial models and protocols:

Partly because of these first two influences  our organisations  have got  bigger, more remote, less human. Personalisation has been a objective in both public and private services but wherever we look from Job centres to shops, hospitals to banks organisational structures and management protocols  have been redesigned to customise not humanise, to effectively depersonalise – the local grocer, the family GP, the recognisable bank manager, all this now so last century.

I stress again, there have been huge benefits but at great cost as we have hollowed out the heart of our businesses with call centres, our high streets with cash points and self-service checkouts, our neighbourhoods with design that strips out interaction and our public services with carers commissioned for 7 minute visits, retendered every 3 months.

So… whether it has been the economics of globalisation, the realisation of opportunities presented by advances in science and technology or the pursuit of  fashions and ideologies  the consequences have been the same… we have lost the human touch, the you and me relationship. Furthermore each separate influence, has supported and been supported by, the other two so driving fundamental change in the way we live our lives and relate to one another.

We can’t rewind the clock and I wouldn’t want to, BUT nor should we accept what we have lost.

The consequential losses

First, a loss in the quality of our lives

73% of older people in the UK say they are lonely, 49% “have been for years”.

And not only older people but also teenagers, new parents, recent arrivals…  Across the whole population one in five are lonely, at least one in ten are severely isolated. 

Second, a loss in our collective capacity, resilience and readiness

I talked about the social capital that was missing for the children on the bus. We are four times more likely to find work through friends than through the Job Centre. 

Similarly stronger neighbourhoods have significantly less crime and improve our chances of good health by 27%  – a recent account even  showed that better social connection in one community correlated with a 17%  reduction in hospital admissions at a time when they were increasing  elsewhere by 29%. These are the opportunity costs, the losses we incur, when our bonds are weak and  why, our Changing London contributors were right to see that relationships  are fundamental to the fulfilment of every other promise.

Third, a loss in the efficacy of our agencies and our services

In Community Links “Deep Value literature review”  we considered the role of relationships in various services. We learnt  that “patients who experience a good relationship with their health care professional are more likely to engage in positive behaviour change” that “the relationship between the adviser and the client has consistently been found to be a key element in helping people into employment”, and that “pupils who develop positive relationships with teachers achieve better academic results”.  Wherever we look services are most effective when relationships are prioritised. We lose when they aren’t in more ways perhaps than we might imagine.

An examination of health care malpractice lawsuits in the US found that “interpersonal aspects such as the communications behaviour of physicians, are often cited as central to patients decisions to initiate malpractice litigation.” This failure of relationships costs 2.4% of the health budget. The NHS spent £1.7bn on negligence claims last year. Better relationships wouldn’t eliminate the cost but it would reduce it.  

So…  three sets of consequences flow from the systematic erosion of meaningful relationships and again they overlap. Those most disadvantaged by the loss in our collective capacity are also most dependant on effective agencies and personalised services.

The sum of the parts in this “relational poverty” is the kind of structural inequality and “broken caravan” scenario with which we are already familiar on material poverty. The camels at the front of our society moving so much faster than those at the back that it eventually ceases to be one caravan, one society.

Neighbourhoods, cities, nations are built from the aggregation and interweaving of countless personal relationships – the world wide, Warm Web.  When those ties fail that which is isolating individuals ultimately leaves  behind entire communities distrustful and polarised – fertile territory for xenophobic populism. So it is that that which has made loneliness a 21st century epidemic has  also made Donald Trump the 45th President.

An extravagant claim but if the foundational bonds are inadequate or dysfunctional then so inevitably is the national discourse, unstable and fractious. Trump is the flower in the button hole of the invisible man.

If we are instead to benefit from progress in ways which don’t diminish our humanity but sustain and enrich it we have to learn how to do things differently. To rebalance, to lose the personal touch here but compensate elsewhere.

Focusing on  loneliness is one valid response but it is the Food bank solution, essential and insufficient. A minister of loneliness is like  a Minister of hunger – there is no denying the crisis but we need to address the causes not just the symptoms, to dig deeper, act earlier, and imagine a place where meaningful relationships  are the central operating principle running through everything we do, a “relationship centred” business,  city,  school, funding programme, democracy. What would change? 

Responding to the challenge

I think this is a defining challenge for our generation and it was with that in mind that I came to the Marshall Institute and heard Stephan say that social enterprise is about the “pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you control”. (Imagine my delight!  My peculiar way of doing business these last 40 years is actually a thing!)

Emboldened by this late epiphany I published a series of blogs. I wanted to do it in plain sight so I began to discuss them – London Tedx, an open meeting of the  Parliamentary Group,  many smaller meetings.

Together we began to think about the qualities of a “meaningful relationship”. Community Links looks  for “deep value”. Cicely Saunders the founder of the Hospice movement used to speak about “deep time”. The bonds in our warmest webs, have depth. They are  unique, equal and empowering, nourishing confidence, boosting loyalty, distributing agency, unlocking potential.

We began to look at what works, draw out some guiding principles, and imagine the “doable” changes that would embed such relationships everywhere. Here are some quick examples:

The principle: we saw how having fun together builds strong relationships.

A social worker told me about two elderly women living independently. Six months ago they both caught the flu, stopped eating, forgot their regular medication. The first has now been moved, permanently, into a nursing home. The second had been in an allotment group for many years. When she fell sick other members cooked meals, ran errands, checked daily.  Now she is back digging onions. Remember those numbers about the fall in hospital admissions in Frome? This is exactly how that works. No one in that warm web would call themselves a carer or even a volunteer. They would say, indeed did say for these are true stories, “we did what anyone would do.”

Participation and a shared interest engages more than charity. The allotment group, the choir, the sports club, play street enable the building of meaningful connections. Events – Street Parties, Socials, etc  play the same role  as a sort of social acupuncture – a localised pin prick but with the power to catalyse a wider change. We  could support more and not just with cash. Essex for example have opened 80 library buildings to “community keyholders”. Enacting a “Right to Space” would require all local authorities to accommodate such activity wherever there is interest and an open door.

Digital connections should be the beginning of such real relationships, the “fulfilment” not the end and certainly not the enemy. Ask of existing applications how might we develop it for everyone. Tinder for instance  – a marginally amended app with alternative branding could also be connecting new arrivals or unsupported carers. 

Another principle: We saw how some places enable relationships to thrive, some don’t.

Parents knows that their local networks improve when their children go to school but some improve more than others. A welcoming playground, a covered waiting area, seats all make a difference. Just as playgrounds bring us together so do markets, cul de sacs, even shared dustbins. These are the bumping places that we can design properly into where we live or design out. A “Common Ground Test”  added to planning guidelines would ensure it is always in, and what about the high street. How might we rethink the fulfilment centre, the new staple, what other needs might it “fulfil” as a regular meeting place?

A third principle: We saw how organisational protocols can obstruct relationships or help them to flourish.

If I want my holiday jabs in a busy working day I‘ll be happy with a seven minute appointment and a clinician I don’t know. If I need regular treatment for a chronic condition that keeps me housebound and alone for days I will want a doctor I trust and time for a conversation. GP caseloads could be segmented paying doctors more for patients who need more time.  And Social care might be better delivered by small local teams, based on the successful Buurtzog model, and trained and trusted to manage themselves. More broadly services might never be commissioned without demonstrating how they will enable relationships to flourish for those that need them.

Segmentation even works on the high street. Sainsbury’s are trialling quick shopping sessions optimising speed for the busy buyer and slow sessions for those who look for companionship. And couldn’t all supermarkets reimagine their cafes – the typical afternoon customer, one per table, is telling us something.

Making it happen

All these are “doable” possibilities. There are many more on the blogs.  How do we make them common place? I have three proposals:

First, a practical tool

We have seen that most things, hospitals, banks, supermarkets, funding programmes, classrooms, job centres, neighbourhoods, councils, governments don’t work well when relationships are undervalued, or, at the very least, they don’t work as well as they could. They have been planned for a smooth process, not designed for the best outcome. Systematic transactions are plannable. Warm relationships cannot be so easily reduced to recurring algorithms.  We can only unleash the potential here by designing or redesigning from a different, relationship centred perspective. And with good support doing it ourselves – “bare foot designers”. “Go with the people, live with them, learn from them, start with what they know, build with what they have.” Wrote Lao Tzu “With the best leaders when the work is done people will say – ‘we have done this for ourselves’.

We are planning a community of practice which jointly builds, applies and shares a new Framework for Relationship-Centred Design. It will consist of a set of design principles which draw on other disciplines in an approach that can be widely understood and adopted. The principles will be translated into practise with instruments for diagnosis, co design and measurement. And around these online tools there will be expert support and match making. Nick Stanhope and the award winning Shift team have been pioneering service design in the social sector and will lead the work. Ray Shostak, former head of the PMs Delivery Unit will lead on test and learn.

Second, something different: 

Alongside the Framework we need a different intervention to involve others beyond the immediately sympathetic and, to quote Pope Francis, “foster a new culture of encounter”. Tim Smit, says ”people need an excuse to connect”. The Lunch provided it with enduring impact. 82% stay in touch, 74% feel a stronger sense of community,  half now do things together they had never done before. There is dead wood here but with 9.3m people lunching last year this simple and blunt intervention is remarkably effective at growing the warm web.

Big Lunch was never marketed as a worthy thing to do but rather as fun, alternative, meet someone that you fancy,  a little local adventure. Stratford, Hull even Edinburgh have had much bigger adventures of their own with the Olympics, the City of Culture and the annual festival. Whether its Garage Sales, Dragon Parades or Easter Races, people behave differently, most visibly for a short time but like the Big Lunch with an enduring legacy if certain magic ingredients are present.

Suppose we think about Adventures everywhere guided by just two rules: That they are created by the local people and that they bring us together. To make that happen at scale we might look for inspiration in a different field:

Airbnb has never turned a single sheet but are offering more beds tonight than the entire world stock of hotels because they exploit an untapped resource with a light weight engine. If modern lives are crowding out the natural instinct to connect with one another it doesn’t disappear. Like the empty holiday houses it lies dormant. We too need something different to reach the unreached, a disruptor that would encourage such creativity everywhere but without owning the means.

Perhaps as much as a Minister for loneliness we need a Minister for Great Adventures? Can you see that happening? Me neither, and anyway we know that real innovation rarely starts in government so suppose we make an independent Ministry for Great Adventures to promote events and activities which stimulate the building of enduring  relationships.

The Ministry would offer brokerage with improbable friends, perhaps a managed fund, some regional, maybe mayoral, challenges, bespoke schemes for business, and practical support for whole community adventures and for small ones focused on a single street or school. It would be eye catching, quirky and surprising. We would track and evaluate. What are those magic ingredients which turn a local  moment into a movement bringing us together in ways that last? We would learn fast and with smart adaptive management grow more. Some experienced “adventurers”- Hilary Cottam, Tim Smit, Paul Twivy, Steve Wyler, Gail Greengross – are helping to take this forward.

My third proposal

Alvin Toffler said “you’ve got to think about big things whilst doing small things so all the small things go in the right direction”. That’s what makes apparently simple ideas transformativeIf it is the narrative of recent decades that has harnessed and directed the new capabilities then, we need also to develop our account of a relationship centred democracy and spread this different principle: 

Relationships shape every aspect of our lives.  When they are deep we are strong.  When they are shallow we are weak. Our goal is a place where meaningful relationships run through everything we do. They are the central operating principle.

In 2018 we don’t need to wait for seminal texts or to gather in a Swiss village to start a global conversation. This is where the technology really comes into its own. Hive minds could spread the word and spawn the practise with an Open Book – a simple collaborative platform for what others are saying, writing, doing. The object? Absolutely not a coalition of organisations, diversity is strength, but a coalescence of  ideas and a shared commitment to a relationship centred democracy. We are planning a seminar co-led with Michael Little at the Institute on April 25th to help plot the next steps on this one.

Of course a tool for redesigning what we do, a sparky disruptor for tapping fresh potential and a programme for spreading the word is not a linear process. Supporting good design enables more to do it better… Involving others generates further learning and fuels the rolling narrative. This informs better design, and engages more. Momentum is acquired over time with a heart of its own. 

This takes me to my final reflection. I think of the boot strap operations I’ve been involved in over the years cobbling together policies overnight, even party manifestos, the pea shooter budgets of think tanks and campaigns, and our fabulous aspirations, and I think back to Hayek and all that ensued. I’m no fan of the doctrines but am full of admiration for the painstaking realism and dogged commitment to build and deliver. That my friends is how you change the world.

Popular and enduring movements cannot be imposed but we can open up the possibility with patient, shared, ego less action on the ground, and the sustained, collaborative development of an honest, evolving narrative. Even the moment is right – a time of uncertainty is also a time of opportunity. 

Because everything starts with intentions we help to build relationships into the everyday with an Open Framework for Relationship Centred Design

Because we want to grow the Warm Web and  reach parts we never have we cultivate the unexpected  with The Ministry for Great Adventures.

Because real change is a patient game we work together on the Open Book, developing the narrative, spreading the word and spawning the practise in everything we do. 

And because of course  none of this will amount to anything if it isn’t collaborative. I’d love you to respond. Tell me what interests you. 

TS Elliot wrote about not ceasing from exploration until we arrive at where we started and know it for the first time. I started with those children on the bus. Mostly as I get older I am less sure of everything but of this I am now certain: strong relationships are not an alternative to a thriving school or an effective health service, a flourishing business or a successful society. They are the making of it all.

One of my proposals this evening is adventurous, like the Bus, targeting the unengaged. One, deep in the day to day, changes delivery. The third embeds momentum.  But if you are looking for the architecture that binds it all together, stop, there is none. Too often in the Third Sector we want to capture an issue and build an empire. We occupy when we should liberate. I am interested in sustained and collective impact, in planting trees in whose shade we may never sit. These  ideas would exploit potential beyond the resources we control, help to nourish and unleash the power of human beings being human  and yet be of a character  that in years to come, people will say, we did this for ourselves. You and me.


Framework for Relationship Centred Design

Building a community of practice. Project outline by Shift

There are two ideas here:

The first is about the value of design.

The understanding that design could be usefully applied to processes as well as products has changed and enhanced service development across the private sector but taken much longer to penetrate other sectors. Indeed here even the word “design” is often misunderstood.. “Design” said Steve Jobs “is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is about how is works”. It is a method and a mindset for resolving problems practically and creatively and because it is iterative every solution is another step in an ongoing journey.

The second is about the importance of relationships.

We believe that most things, hospitals, supermarkets, funding programmes, classrooms, job centres, banks, neighbourhoods, councils, governments don’t work well when relationships are undervalued, or, at the very least, they don’t work as well as they could. We would all do better if meaningful relationships weren’t treated as a nice to have but as a central operating principle.

This means going right back to the beginning and designing or redesigning what we do and how we do it with an idea about the primacy of relationships running through it all.

We are therefore setting out to build a community of practice, which jointly builds, applies and shares a new form of relationship-centred design.

Within our current hypothesis, this will consist of 3 main components:

1. Design principles

A set of core principles that put human relationships at the heart of the design and delivery of services. These principles will:

  • Draw on existing best practice and evidence across design (e.g. IDEO’s human centred design principles) social innovation and other relevant disciplines (e.g.Behavioural Insight Team’s MINDSPACE
  • Embody a mindset that can be understood and adopted easily by a wide range of audiences, not just those experienced with design-thinking
  • Aim to inspire and inform action across many sectors and within organisations and departments with a diversity of resources and capacity
2. Methods and tools

These principles will be translated into practice via accessible methods and tools. These assets will evolve and adapt over time and accumulate evidence of their usefulness and impact. Initially, they will include:

  • Diagnosis tool: a simple process to help organisations and individuals assess the current role of relationships within their services, the impact they have on users’ emotional and social state and the opportunities for increasing this impact.
  • Co-design guides: sessions and workshops that bring groups of users together to generate insights, create ideas for service innovations or improvements and become part of the design process.
  • Measurement framework: drawing on existing measures of connectedness, such as the Duke Social Support Index, Lubben Social Network Scale, and wellbeing, such as WEMWBS, we will create a practical framework that supports relationship centred design projects to plan concrete outcomes, test, learn and adapt and generate credible evidence.
3. Network

We will build a diverse network of individuals and organisations that share ambitions to innovate or improve services with meaningful relationships as the central operating principle. This will consist of:

  • Database – a growing database of actively interested individuals and organisations, kicked-off at the March 2018 event and actively promoted through partner channels, which will receive regular newsletters, invitations to events and opportunities to participate in the community
  • Event series – a programme of free events will build this network and bring it together to: co-design and test principles, methods and tools; explore case studies and share experiences; receive training in elements of relationship-centred design
  • Expert support – we aim to make free support available to this network that can help inspire commitments within organisations and departments, build capacity and culture and plan, deliver and measure relationship-centred design projects
  • Network building – we will seek to make introductions and build relationships that facilitate action and change (e.g. Amsterdam Smart City); as well as inspire and challenge the network (e.g.Oslo Climate Change Challenge)

Phases and resources

Phase 1 – Scoping

We will discuss, challenge and refine this hypothesis and generate a more detailed and validated brief for a prototyping and testing phase that will create the first version of the principles, methods and tools and network infrastructure. Through this process, we will build up the database of interested individuals and organisations, learn about their ambitions, needs and challenges and establish a more clear picture of target audiences and use cases.

Estimated period: 3 months
Estimated resource: £30,000

Phase 2 – Prototyping, testing and beta launch

Based on the insights, partners and plans, we will work through several cycles of design. This will take a collaborative and agile approach, working closely with target practitioners to create, test and refine lightweight versions of the main outputs. We will establish a business model hypothesis that aims to sustain modest central resources, events and marketing and expert support. By the end of this phase, we will aim to have a publicly available version of the design principles, methods and tools and an initial schedule of open events.

Estimated period: 9 months
Estimated resource: £150,000

Phase 3 – Establishing and growing a sustainable community of practice

We will continue to work through cycles of design, testing and adaptation of the design principles, methods and tools and network infrastructure, as well as transition from grant funded development to sufficient sustainable revenue streams to cover minimal core costs. We will aim to build a sense of shared ownership by the community and encourage integration, customisation and hacks of the model as much as possible.

Estimated period: ongoing
Estimated resource: minimal core running costs

Ministry for Great Adventures – Project outline

How could we “foster a culture of encounter”?

Pope Francis talks about “fostering a new culture of encounter”.  Tim Smit says ”people need an excuse to connect”. The Big Lunch provides that initial excuse but for some the impact endures: 82% stay in touch, 74% feel a stronger sense of community,  half now do things together they had never done before. There is dead wood here – some people would have made contact with one another anyway, some weren’t isolated in the first place and some relationships do not mature beyond the introduction but with 9.3m people across the UK participating last year this simple and blunt intervention is remarkable effective at growing the warm web – the tapestry of meaningful relationships that enable us to thrive individually and, that in aggregate, enable communities to succeed.

How do we take the insights from the Big Lunch experience and apply them in other contexts to reach more people?

Big Lunch  was never marketed as a worthy thing to do but rather, for instance, that you might meet someone that you fancy – cheeky, fun, alternative – a little local adventure. Stratford, Hull even Edinburgh have had much bigger adventures of their own with the Olympics, the City of Culture and the annual festival. Whether it is Horse Fairs in Seville, playing Pig in Appalachia, Garage Sale Trails, Dragon Parades or Easter Egg Races, people  behave differently, most visibly for a short time but like the Big Lunch with an enduring legacy if certain magic ingredients are present.

Suppose we think about Adventures everywhere guided by just two rules: That they are created by the local people and that they bring us together. To make that happen at scale we might look for inspiration in a different field:

Airbnb has never turned a single sheet but are offering more beds tonight than the entire world stock of hotels because they exploited an untapped resource with a light weight engine   If modern lifes are crowding out the natural instinct to connect with one another it doesn’t disappear. Like the empty holiday houses it lies dormant. We too need something different to reach the unreached, a disruptor that would encourage such creativity everywhere but without owning the means.

Perhaps as much as a Minister for Loneliness we need a Minister for Great Adventures?  More realistically perhaps an independent Ministry for Great Adventures erupting inspiration, funding and expertise?

What would the Ministry for Great Adventures do?

The Ministry would promote events and activities which stimulate the building of enduring relationships.

It would offer brokerage with improbable friends, perhaps a managed fund, some regional, maybe mayoral, challenges, some national partnerships, bespoke schemes for business, a gallery of inspiration and practical support for whole community adventures and for small ones focused on a single neighbourhood or school. It would be eye catching, quirky and surprising. We would track and evaluate. What are those magic ingredients which turn a local moment into a movement bringing us together in ways that last? We would learn fast and with smart adaptive management grow more.

Next steps

We are seeking small scale funding for a six month feasibility and development phase to engage partners, design and plan. Some experienced “adventurers”- Hilary Cottam, Tim Smit, Steve Wyler, Gail Greengross, Paul Twivy, Tris Lumley – are helping to take this forward with a view to completion of the plan by autumn 2018.

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