Continuing to reflect on happiness and social capital

The Office for National Statistics have this month (May 2017) just published another edition of the research generated by The Social Capital Project.

Read more here…

The ONS research key indicators of social capital to measure our societal constructs, begin by defining social capital as ‘…the connections and collective attitudes between people that result in a well-functioning and close-knit society‘.

Social captal, the ONS argues, is a useful indicator of ‘…positively functioning well-being, economic growth and sustainability‘.

(We like the framing concept. A better composite measure of human well-being, despite its overt press for economic growth. Better still than measures of ‘human capital’. Prof. Peter Fleming of the Cass Business School has, ahead of his new book The Death of Homo Economicus, written a comdemnatory article of this latter movement in the US journal aeon. Explore it further here…).

Social Capital in the UK 2017 - image and web link
View, print or download the full ONS Report here…

This new ONS Social Capital report builds upon a 2016 version, ‘Measuring national well-being: An analysis of social capital in the UK‘ .

The original twenty five key indicators have been modified slightly in this new edition, although the report intent and key analysis remains the same.

See the full ONS report here (.pdf).

The main findings:

1. The most recent data show a largely positive picture of social capital in the UK over the longer-term with over half of the indicators showing improvement over a period of 3 years; a majority of indicators showed improvement or no overall change over the shorter-term 1 year assessment.

2. Most adults in the UK have at least one close friend, rising from 95% in 2011 to 2012 to 97% in 2014 to 2015. However, there has been a fall in the proportion of people saying they have someone to rely on a lot in case of a serious problem; this figure fell from 86% in 2010 to 2011 to 84% in 2013 to 2014.

3. Over two-thirds of UK adults (68%) report stopping and talking to their neighbours in 2014 to 2015.

4. More people are engaging in unpaid volunteering; in 2010 to 2011 the figure was 17% compared with 19% in 2014 to 2015.

What we find interesting in a time where the surface layer of community would, taking a ‘tabloidest’ view perhaps, be comprised of dissent, emnity and huge inequality – there appears to be, in the human interactions referenced, a solidarity and an acceptance of the ‘the other’ that media headlines would deny.

The data presented indicates that this local solidarity is not shaded interpretation or government spin.

The broadly rising ‘close friendship’ indicator may be that in times of community erosion or flex, then people will talk to each other more, seeking a compassionate connection in the face of adverse societal perceptions.

That we now have less people to rely on in emergencies or difficulty may be an indicator as to the qualitative depth of those interactions. We are less likely, perhaps, to seek aid and succour from those whose political opinions, or economic empowerment, we now know radically differs from our own.

The indicator on neighbourliness, whilst good in itself, is a pointer to a shallower qualitative social encounter perhaps? (Not least further affected by the ‘Brexit’ referendum perhaps?

Working in the Third Sector, as we do, the most telling headline for us is the rise in volunteering. This can be a reflection of, for example, more food banks need more people to staff them. More likely, in times of fractious community or political change, the Third Sector and an engagement with it, sees the power of voluntary group activity continuing to manifest itself.

To create your community enterprise or social support service with volunteers provides balm to a troubled community, no doubt, but also increases self confidence, active participation and engagement in communities which hugely benefit the skill set and self-esteem of the person volunteering too, we would argue.

It is heartening that this indicator, in the report, shows a consistent rise from 2010 onwards.

Section Eight of the full report contains the Trust and Co-operative Norms data, drawn from a variety of sources. Whilst 70% of survey respondents say that ‘…most people in their immediate area can be trusted’, only 35% have trust in central Government, and only 35% of respondents indicated that ‘most people can be trusted’ on an aggregate view of their nation, or beyond their local neighbourhood.

In our small way, we work creating community projects across the UK, and work to engage a wide variety of families, children and young people and Third Sector organisations. Those communities, for us, are conditioned by their similarity, not their difference.

The old maxim, that cities are in fact a collection of villages, holds true, we think. From within, all our neighbourhoods, in our experience, are populated by individuals striving for their contentment and happiness, to add to their community’s social capital, if you will.

The measure of our own social capital, and happiness, from the reading of this ONS report is perhaps to step up the fight on inequality and to resist ‘tabloidism’ and the ‘three word headline’ when thinking in community or humanitarian modes.

You can read more about the ONS Social Capital Project on-line here.


Coda: The psychologist Robert Waldinger, in a TedTalk of 2015, discussed the findings of the Harvard Adult Development Study. Continuously tracking the lives of 724 adult U.S. males over a sustained period of 75+ years to now..

What can be drawn from the research is the immense importance of relationships and community, in the emergence of healthy, active and content lives. Clearly the pursuit of wealth, fame and other ‘commonsense’ consumerist goals for achievement fall away in terms of objective true value.

(See more at Security of attachment to spouses in late life: Concurrent and prospective links with cognitive and emotional wellbeing – Robert J. Waldinger et al – Accessed May 2017)

It is interesting that the ONS study above should be focused on human capital as a driver for economic growth. Whereas, in the Waldinger thesis, the very opposite is true of long-lived, happy humans.

Oh that government should directly invest in equal measure, then, in the voluntary sector, with all its diversity, complexity and community affinity, as it does in trying to achieve economic micro and macro permanent ‘market’ growth?

Now that would make us happy!

International Day of Happiness

A Happy School, image
Image: Yonjeee Lee – 12 years old, Rep. of Korea ‘A happy school is not only education, but also friendship…’

Pursuit of happiness is on the global development agenda, but not enough is being done to address learner well-being. UNESCO’s ‘Happy Schools’ framework (pdf) addresses the disparity.

The Global Partnership for Education has a wonderful blog referring to the UNESCO’s Happy Schools framework, whch was originally launched on March 20th 2012.

We hear so much about achievement and attainment levels and the need for testing and assessment so it was with real joy that I read the article and found that there are others who know that happiness is key to learning.

If a child is not happy they do not find it easy to learn!

Some of the source comments are quoted below. They makes inspiring reading and a great encouragement for education principles which believe in the word ‘educatio‘ meaning ‘leading out‘, rather than levels and testing assesments.

”Happiness has captivated great minds since ancient times, with thinkers as varied as Socrates, Aristotle, the Buddha, Confucius, John Locke and Johann Pestalozzi expounding on its nature and the importance of well-being in our lives. And today messages about the importance of well-being, mindfulness, positive thinking and how to live a more meaningful life seem ubiquitous.”

”Happiness has also become a dominant policy concern for the global community. The United Nations designated today, March 20, the International Day of Happiness in 2012 and identified the pursuit of happiness as “a fundamental human goal” the previous year, while the concept of well-being features across many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Just last month, the World Government Summit held in Dubai included a high-level Global Dialogue for Happiness, which examined the issue of happiness from a policy perspective. Speaking at the event, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said:

“Paying more attention to happiness should be a component of our efforts to achieve human and sustainable development.”

“But what role does and should happiness play in education?”

Sue Martin: SmithMartin Partnership and Books Go Walkabout

An Equal Start in Life – Finland’s Baby Box

Finnish Baby Boxes
Finnish Baby Boxes

One of the most beautiful things we have seen is the Baby Box for all newborns in Finland.

‘I started life in a box, we all did!’ said a colleague, who was proud of the equality given to all babies in Finland since 1938. An equal start, and an equality in society that is mirrored throughout life.

Every Finnish mother receives a maternity grant when baby is born.

We started to get really interested in the concept of the box. At our meeting in the Finnish Embassy, which was actually not to do with provision for babies, we were shown the most beautiful boxes. The box has a mattress and sleeping oufits so the baby can sleep in the box for several months of their life.

The contents of the box include all that you would need for a new baby, and in excellent quality. The clothes, including very warm snuggly ‘all in ones’ are in colours that are gender neutral, and really beautiful. Who would not to have one of these?

An equal start in life it really is. And an equality that pervades the whole of the Finnish culture.

The baby box has been available since 1938 and is provided as the maternity grant. Mothers can choose between cash and the box. Of the 60,000 grants distributed annually by Kela, Social Insurance Institution in Finland, two thirds are taken as maternity packages as the baby boxes with contents.

In the 1960’s sleeping bags first appeared in the boxes instead of quilts. By the 1980’s and 90’s families had become better off, but since the package remained as popular as ever it was decided to continue.

In the 2000’s the boxes continue and the contents are reviewed annually by a social insurance committee following a competitive tendering process, in which quality and affordability are equally important.
The boxes are available to purchase for anyone living outside Finland, who is not covered by the Finnish social security system, and can range from a Summer Basket to a Cold Winter Basket.

Our partnership is very socially minded and this idea has a huge appeal, so simple, so beautiful and yet so practical. It provides an equal start in life and a pride of life in a box shared by all citizens in Finland.

Kela Maternity Box

Sue Martin FRSA
SmithMartin Partnership

 

 

 

 

New ways to search in 2017

We do a lot of desk research on the web, to find protocols we can recommend to clients, as well as looking for new material and content for the web sites we produce, for ourselves and others.

Using the big search engines is fine, but sometimes on a wet Wednesday in March, you long for the search sensation to be a bit livelier, a bit un-normative.

Here are some suggestions.

Answer the Public

Developed to deliver consumer insight in the ‘Age of Google’. We used our standard format testing keyword ‘trees’ and the search results looked like this.

Answer the Public question search....
See more here…

You can choose a variety of approaches to your keyword or phrase. We bet the next time you are deliberating over some stats, or working on a bid, the Answer the Public might help refresh the text.

It really does offer insights and approaches to subjects which, although designed for marketing professionals, can help refresh a jaded search palette.


PDFSEARCH.io

Using natural language processing, the search engine claims to identify relationships between documents and data that are ‘overlooked by conventional search engines‘.

pdfsearcg page - new relationships in information
See more here…

With over 18 million documents in their database, you are sure to find new data and information for your project or narrative.


re:search

‘Search for PDF, Office DOCS, books, images, videos, shopping, word definitions, and more! You can focus on popular sites for topics such as health, business, journals, sports, or recipes, or you can limit the search to EDU/GOV sites, or look deeper into Wikipedia, gene therapy @wikipedia . Google or Bing are still one-click away when you need it!’

re:search - a new qway to search
Discover more here…

You can conduct your search in privacy, with no intrusive advertisements and can pivot your search to a new variety of search sources with a single click.

See re:search here.

 


oscobo.co.uk

Another secure, private search engine that offers a new insight into your chosen subject. No tracking, just search. Looks and sounds like Google, but with none of the lingering oversight, allegedly.

Oscobo - web search made private in the UK
See more here…

Worked quite quickly on our standard searches too.

Oscobo is a UK-based company founded by two guys who left their corporate jobs to work towards a belief they both shared – that personal data should remain just that, personal.

Disillusioned with the corporate world and that the private individual is paying for what seems to be “free” internet content, they felt it was time to turn the tables the other way round.

Oscobo is the only UK based Privacy Search Engine that does not track or store the user’s data’.    Source: https://oscobo.co.uk/    Accessed: 03.01.2017


Whatever new changes and needs for your project in 2017, all our best wishes from SmithMartin LLP.  If we can help, with or without a search, just ask. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

A Social Business Christmas

Image: Christmas learning from Barcelona

Preparing for Christmas we realised that although we have a number of active and complex projects moving ahead into 2017, including more international book and author events, web and communications build-outs for community clients and development of our literacy and book projects, we had no homework!

So we have signed up, via the latest batch of FutureLearn subjects, to a course on Social Business and its development, delivered in partnership with the Universat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Social Business: a Sustainable Way to Face the Most Pressing Needs of Our Time, as the on-line collaborative course is called, will enable us to test our belief that we are a social business, effectively working as a not for profit company, or rather generating profits with social outcome as the expected significant return.

‘We will begin by defining a Social Business according to Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Laurate 2006. We will look at how a Social Business is different from other similar concepts such as Social Economy or Social Enterprise’.

We hope to see how the theories of Muhammad Yunus match our delivered practice, and to discover how other international social business developers interpret their work through the academic theory and practical dialogue that the ‘Pompeu Fabra course will deliver.

Our course starts on 5th December 2016, so there is still time to visit the FutureLearn pages and to sign up. Read more here

The course is free and lasts for four weeks, but is designed to enable you to both learn and share your experiences in just a few hours a week.

We’ll let you know how we get on. Happy Christmas to all our readers!

smpPlainButton

Motherhood Around the World

Image: Mother and child in Sweden, ready for winter?

Joanna Goddard’s U.S. on-line journal, A Cup of Jo, has been publishing a series of articles in recent years about motherhood and parenting across the world. You can find the collection here.

There are some surprises in store. What has amazed us, reading the collection of articles, is the wide variety of rules and regulations, benefits and opportunities, as well as the universal nature of care for children, expressed in the detail of the articles. The latter not a surprise.

The context for the articles, in our times of benefit cuts, constrained resources and political alienation, is that there exists a variety of models for parenting and parenting support. They depend on the socio-cultural norms of the country under examination. They depend on the economic ‘depth’ of the country too. They all depend on that universality of love that parents offer.

The article we liked the most, 14 Surprising Things About Parenting in Sweden, features parents and child, originally from the USA and Brazil, declaring their experiences of life in Sweden.

Cultural norms in Sweden are different. For example, leaving your child, heavily swaddled, out of doors in the midst of a Nordic winter takes courage. However, parents are given 480 days of paid leave, post arrival of a child, with 90 of them dedicated to the father.

Childcare costs cannot exceed $150 a month, and we got very excited for parents reading about Vabbing – the principle of the state paying salaries when you have to stay off work to care for sick children.

We also liked the Law of Jante, another cultural principle really, that insists ‘…that one individual is not more special than any other, and you’re not to behave as if you are‘. A great pre-cursor for enhancing social equality? Although we recognise that in some acquisitive cultures this lack of focus on success and ‘high performance’ might jar with some parents.

pippi longstocking cover image
Review or pruchase this book from Amazon.co.uk…

As booksellers we were truly delighted to read that Pipi Longstocking and Alfie Atkins are as popular as ever with Swedish children. Who could guess?

Dipping into the article series on the ‘motherhood’ pages of A Cup of Jo is an uplifting experience, particularly in the midst of a grey English winter. It also shows that with all the pressures of parenthood you are not alone and that there is always a different, even better way, to do things too.

Motherhood Around The World – we recommend it.

smpPlainButton

Tackling Charity Social Media?

charitymediatoolkitcoverimage1
View or download your copy here…

Skillsplatform.org have just published a new, very comprehensive charity social media tookit.

The work, by Zoe Amar and David Evans offers the sector a profoundly useful resource to grasp the first principles of social media. Helping you to understand the workflow and context needed and to be able to create and deploy a social media strategy of utility to your organisation.

‘We wrote this guide for everyone, from all-hands-on-deck small charity workers to experienced digital managers in need of inspiration. Most of all, we want you to finish reading this guide bursting with ideas, strategies and tactics for your organisation’.

Spread over eight chapters the toolkit includes:

  • Your Social Media Strategy
  • Putting Social Into Action
  • How to Grow Your Social Network
  • How to Campaign and Fundraise with Social
  • Social Media Style and Consistency
  • Social Analytics in Advertising
  • Employee Social Media in Advocacy
  • The Future of Social Media for Non-Profits

Whatever your level of engagement with your partners, donors and funders or service users, then this toolkit should prove invaluable in refining your strategy, improving your audience interest and engagement, as well as adding to your social media skills as a professional.

You can access the toolkit on-line directly here, or download your own pdf copy here.


SmithMartin LLP are providers of web and communication services to the charity, education, social and community enterprise sectors.

We are happy to help any organisation across the UK to develop a web presence or new media strategy at any time. Contact us here.

Building the charitable web as a compassionate social business.

smp Plain Button
Communications delivered…

 

Greggs and the Environment

environmentPicture4
Discover the Greggs fund here, changing environments for the better…

The Greggs Foundation environmental grants programme is now open for applications.

The fund is especially interested this year in applications from schools, but your project must meet the Foundation criteria for applications.

Individual maximum grants are for £2,000. The application deadline is 25th November 2016.

The Funding Committees of the Greggs Foundation are interested in…

‘…projects that improve the physical environment in a way that will improve people’s lives. This can include purchase of equipment, sessional salary costs, purchase of trees/plants, small capital projects and learning activities. We are also interested in new approaches and innovative ideas as well as sustainable approaches to supporting your local environment. ‘

Priority will be given to projects that meet one or more of the following criteria.

  • Improves the local environment
  • Ensures involvement of local communities
  • Delivers a sustainable and measurable difference
  • Supports people in need

You can find the fund application form here.

If your community organisation, or school, do apply…good luck.

smpPlainButton

Inequality in Education,
Turning the Tide

IETT 12 Oct 2‘The Future of Education in England’ an event at Royal Society for the Arts, London, was held on October 5th 2015 by the Inequality in Education Team.

Inequality in Education…turning the tide (IETT) is a movement to alter the balance of educational opportunity in the UK. In England inequality is a key social and political issue. Education has a vital role to play in abolishing inequality in society. Young people’s destiny is still determined largely by their social position at birth.

Presenting arguments demonstrating the inequality in our current education system were; Dianne Reay, Professor of Education, at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography of the School of Geography and the Environment of the University of Oxford, UK.

(SmithMartin Partnership is pleased to support the IETT in delivery of their website and engagement with partners. Education is key to our work and every day we see the effects of inequality in education in communities across the country.)

This is both unfair to children and their future lives but also a waste of opportunity and economically disadvantageous to our society as a whole.
Those societies who truly value children and education will thrive in the future.

Professor Diane Reay led with questions;
What needs to change to achieve greater equality in schooling?
What needs to change for the key indicators below to improve?’

Key indicators are;
” The degree of difference in educational attainment levels across different classes and ethnic groups.
” The levels of well-being and happiness of school students
” The difference in spending per pupil across different types of schools
” The levels of segregation and polarisation between schools and within them
” The degree to which all children have access to a broad and balanced curriculum
” Teachers levels of professional satisfaction and autonomy

IETT 12 OctProfessor Danny Dorling, who studies the social implications of educational under achievement from a geographical position posed four interesting questions.
” Is a more expensive education really a more privileged one?
” Have you learnt a great deal if you are awarded many A*stars?
” Do we value memorising above problem solving and experimentation?

” Can we imagine a schooling system without so much testing of children?

There was considerable discussion and examples of an educational system that is built on test results and ‘cut throat’ competition, with major funding discrepancies.

Inequality in Education, Turning the Tide (IETT), is developing across the UK and will continue to create a body of opinion with educational practitioners and academic research leading the way to unravel the current inequalities, present a reasoned argument and hold to account those who implement policy and direction of education in the UK.

We believe that education is a fundamental right as quoted in Unesco – The Right to Education, and that the UK should be delivering a free, equal and fair education to all its children.

Sue Martin – Educational Consultant SmithMartin Partnership LLP

Julia Gillard and The Inaugural Annual Mackworth Lecture

Image 2We were invited to the Annual Mackworth Lecture on June 18th and extremely interested to listen to Julia Gillard, the previous Australian Prime Minister.

The lecture was established and delivered by the Institute of Directors ( IOD), Pall Mall, London and in connection with Australia and new Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts.Margaret Mackworth was elected the first woman president of the IOD in 1926 and was a member of the Suffragettes. In May 1915 she was returning with her father, Lord Rhonda on the RMS Lusitania and was one of the few survivors.

A woman of spirit, with audacity and resilience.

Julia Gillard talked about her time in office in Australia and her experience of gender harassment and capacity to deal with that. There is certainly more than a little sense of spirit, audacity and resilience about Julia too!

Julia is strongly interested in education across the world and especially in developing countries. She is a strong part of Global Partnership for Education and she talked with great passion about the need to act quickly to give all children a primary education, and especially girls.Image 3

The Unesco report, Education for All, makes interesting reading for all of us passionate about education as a right not a privilege.

Sue Martin SmithMartin Partnership and Books Go Walkabout