Friday, 23 June 2017

What 3 things could we do right now to improve our communities?

There is a lot of going on in our society today. Just in the past month we have witnessed major atrocities at the hands of extremism, terrorism and polarisation.

We have also seen first hand the wide gulf between the wealthy and the poor and much deeper divisions of people through politics.

In the face of what seems an unscaleable mountain to climb, how can we as ordinary people participate in resolving such huge challenges?

Maybe... just maybe it is the simplest of ideas that could help us? What if we were all able to just do our bit, however small, but collectively... could we achieve something special?... a phoenix from the ashes. But what?

Here are three things that we could all join in with. They don't require any special skills, they are not intimidating and every single person can participate. The 3rd is the most challenging... but having achieved the first two it is very necessary to ensure we progress and implement the third also.

1. Conversation

We all do it. We all have conversations but often it is within our existing connections and those that think in a similar way to us. We rarely get into conversations with people who have differing views, especially if we're not comfortable with confrontation. Most of us don't want a scene, and we certainly don't want to be trolled on in public.

Everything however starts with a conversation. If we are to understand other people we are going to have to talk to them. Why do people think differently to us? ... is it just so they can argue with us, annoy us, appear more clever? ... or is it perhaps because they have had different experiences and a different life? We can't learn about different perspectives if we never engage and have conversations with others... but... this does not appear to be as easy at it seems.

If you're brave you can invite conversation and differing views on social media. But on Social Media people tend to make statements. They will offer their opinion as if it were the truth. Arguments often ensue and gaps between people are widened not narrowed. Facebook also provides into your feed people with whom you have most contact... so this tends to bring to your notice posts by those you are likely to share the same viewpoints with further exacerbating the problem and polarising us... Facebook groups can sometimes alleviate this... but moderators often become highly influential in what goes!

2. Spaces to have conversations

What if we created spaces. Community spaces, where anyone in the community could come together to have conversations. No agenda. No programming. Local people in your neighbourhood or community just coming along to meet other people who also live nearby. Open to all, totally inclusive.

But... and it's a big BUT... these spaces must be provided with the following caveat... people attending are "Free from the pressure to meet the needs or expectations of others". What does that mean?

This means that everyone that attends can be their true authentic self. They don't have to perform. They don't have to do anything they don't want to do. They are not under any obligation to do anything they are asked to do. They have the choice to have conversations or not, with whom they talk too, or to sit quietly or not...

Conversations can be about anything. People bring their own need to the event... it might be to make new friends, avoid loneliness, it might be to have conversation with adults having looked after children all day, it might be to seek advice or guidance about something... or maybe ask for connections to people who can help with a problem, business or otherwise.The conversation might be about different cultures, nationalities, customs... absolutely anything.

Through conversation we get to know people... how they think... who they are... their life experiences... their challenges... and how we can all begin to support and help one another... Life is pretty complex, we all need the support of friends and community around us... we don't have to do it alone. The chances are there are people close by also going through the same issues as you... shared stories, shared challenges... knowing there are others you can talk too... it makes a world of difference... wouldn't that be great to be a part of?

3. The only right way is that there is no right way

Having created spaces which are inclusive, open to all, and where people can engage in conversation there is one thing left to do. Ensure that it remains that way.

Often when community groups meet there are folk who are more confident on social situations, perhaps used to taking charge, have a greater need in themselves to lead and create a tribe or following. Sometimes these folk also develop a tendency to want to be right. Be the ones seen to have 'the solution' that will be benefit everyone. All that needs to happen for them is they need to be recognised as such and 'followed'.

Step 3 exists to ensure that this doesn't happen. To create followers and non followers invites division. This is what we have in our society at the moment. Division everywhere, with 'charismatic leaders' trying to persuade us that they are right and we are to follow their truth.

There is no right way, only that which works for you. The right way is one that each individual chooses to follow, accepting the risks that go with taking responsibility for those choices. That might sometimes be to follow what someone else is advising, at other times take a lead with an idea, or at other times to just get on with creating something new, 'out of the box' and unique.

Final Words

These three steps are like algae or plankton of the natural world. The basic building blocks of the food chain from which anything and everything can grow. If we just created the framework to enable these 3 steps to take hold we could begin the transition to a more conscious and aware human race and improve how we harmoniously live together in our communities.