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!


  • News and fresh thinking from SmithMartin Partnership LLP
    We are always happy to explore new partnerships and projects in our core expertise areas - childcare, early years, education, charities, social business, governance, fund raising, literacy, books and web communications to support the work across all sectors.

    Email office@smithmartinpartnership.com for an exploratory review...

  • Books for a school in the Philippines

    Books for Philippines
    Packing for the Philippines…

    Books Go Walkabout have recently sent parcels of books to the Philippines with parents from Kellett Care, delivering social projects for Kellett School, Hong Kong.

    Committee members and parents are travelling to the Philippines to meet directly with the teachers and children, and delivering the books as part of their work with Kellett Care. They are also taking goods that have been bought with funds from parents and these packages include essential items for the school, such as pencils, paper and stationary.

    The books from Books Go Walkabout are picture books and will be used by the school to enable further work on reading and writing. We hope that this will bring some stories of faraway places to their shores and also to help and encourage them in learning to read and to write.

    We are hoping to continue our work with the school in the future and help in other ways to support reading, writing and communication. We want to share aour love of reading and sharing stories and books across the world.

    Books Go Walkabout is a global project, based in Cambridge, UK and is a part of SmithMartin Partnership LLPVisit Books go Walkabout on-line...

    Sue Martin & Tim Smith

    BooksGoWalkabout.com


  • News and fresh thinking from SmithMartin Partnership LLP
    We are always happy to explore new partnerships and projects in our core expertise areas - childcare, early years, education, charities, social business, governance, fund raising, literacy, books and web communications to support the work across all sectors.

    Email office@smithmartinpartnership.com for an exploratory review...

  • Tailor Made: How do community groups improve society?

     

    Image 2
    Supporting community, supporting society…

    Research from the Community Development Foundation shows that vital contributions from small community groups are making huge benefits nationally to society.

    Today sees the launch of a research project ‘Tailor Made: how community groups improve people’s lives’; from The Community Development Foundation.

    The CDF have developed a specific micro-site, where the range of research into community group impact can be found. See more detail here.

    ‘Nearly all of the groups identified as being under the radar, are providing tailored services to their community with an income of less than £2,000 a year. With increasing pressure on public funding, we are using this research that demonstrates the important contribution that community groups make to society as a call to action to secure their future.

    The research found that community groups are able to develop ‘tailor-made’ support for people in their communities. They complement statutory services because they have the flexibility to meet specific needs with groups of people or whole communities – providing bespoke support.

    The types of outcomes of the work being carried out by these groups include:

    • building safer communities: They prevent crime, support victims of crime and support ex-offenders in rebuilding their lives
    • improving the physical environment: They maintain and improve the physical environment including parks, allotments and buildings
    • improving health and well-being: They tackle the wider causes of poor health and wellbeing such as poverty, housing, employment, crime, pollution and isolation
    • improving local economies:They provide training and support to help people into work. They also contribute to economic growth by supporting people to start small businesses and helping people to manage their money better so there is more to spend locally.’
    Posted on cdf blog 29.10.2014

    The community groups provide ‘lived experience’ of the issues they are working with which provides a unique insight to support other forms of knowledge. The trust gained by these groups makes people in communities more likely to come forward for help and support.

    The research project can be viewed on Community Development Foundation website, as a downloadable document or as a series of chapters on the Tailor-Made research page.

    It was jointly funded by The Community Development Foundation, Asda Foundation and Trust for London.

    Sue Martin – SmithMartin Partnership LLP, Cambridge- building better communities


  • News and fresh thinking from SmithMartin Partnership LLP
    We are always happy to explore new partnerships and projects in our core expertise areas - childcare, early years, education, charities, social business, governance, fund raising, literacy, books and web communications to support the work across all sectors.

    Email office@smithmartinpartnership.com for an exploratory review...

  • Volunteering in Children’s Centres

    Children’s Centres and Volunteering is just the start…

    Helping each other manage a life(Image courtesy of Pleasent Valley Children’s Centre)

    What better way is there for parents to get involved in their local Children’s Centre than through volunteering programmes?

    There is a wealth of activities and services for young children and families from Stay and Play sessions to visits to local outside spaces.

    Children’s Centres are an excellent place for families and parents to make that first step in involvement. They have well defined systems for volunteering and training programmes to enable parents to know they are doing the right thing!

    Many centres are now very encouraging to parents to join their team of volunteers and become active in the life of the centre.

    The real beauty of the system is that in all communities, whether a highly populated inner city area or rural countryside, there is a Children’s Centre for all young families.

    Involvement does develop even further and all Children’s Centres are enabling a Parent’s Forum to be in place, many are extending this to parental involvement on the partnership board. It is in fact a requirement from government and empowers the parents to have a voice in the direction of their Children’s Centre.

    Sure Start Children’s Centres have been in place since 2006 and although some have experienced some changes in organisation and governance, for the most part they are still a supportive presence for local communities.

    Their work is undoubtedly recognised and desperately needed, they have become a real zone for support in a friendly and positive role. Their work with outreach and families prevents many problems from developing to more serious issues. The partnership with health teams and Early Years teams gives children a much better chance in life.

    SmithMartin Partnership LLP is working on a pilot project with a national campaigning organisation on how volunteering can be extended and the positive role that it portrays to all parents.

    The Dept. for Education has recently published a paper;

    Increasing Parental and Community Involvement in Sure Start Children’s Centres.

    This can be downloaded here…(pdf file).

    It discusses ways that parents can achieve even more in the development of the Children’s Centre. It describes ways in which volunteering, parent’s forum and partnership board involvement, can be extended into parents becoming even more involved in the organisational structure of the centre.

    Much to be considered and interesting to chart the next stages of Children’s Centre development.

    Sue Martin

    SmithMartin Partnership – Broadening horizons in communities

    Enhanced by Zemanta

  • News and fresh thinking from SmithMartin Partnership LLP
    We are always happy to explore new partnerships and projects in our core expertise areas - childcare, early years, education, charities, social business, governance, fund raising, literacy, books and web communications to support the work across all sectors.

    Email office@smithmartinpartnership.com for an exploratory review...

  • Creating the right zone

    We have been doing a lot of work recently on the creation of good governance structures for a variety of charitable and social enterprise organisations.

    Policies and process play a large part in this delivery, but so do relationships. How boards or committees relate to one another, how their vision of what it is they think they are doing as individuals all temper the outcome of organisational development exchanges.

    The video below from  EQmentor places stress on emotional safety as a facet of healthy organisational development.

    A nicely put argument about the wealth of resources that organisations offer to health and safety of the physical kind, but highlighting the meagreness of consideration often given to enotional support.

    We are not totally won over on the office as home concept, which is not really a part of the argument, but the illustration of how at home we feel safe because we talk to each other, know each other very well and have permission to fail does ring a chime.

    Governance within the board room is also about emotional safety and should operate along these lines too, we would argue, for an organisation in our sector to be fully functioning.

    A group who operate on this ‘home’ principal can be more effective and dynamic. Is this what happens in governance development situations?

    Do you agree?


  • News and fresh thinking from SmithMartin Partnership LLP
    We are always happy to explore new partnerships and projects in our core expertise areas - childcare, early years, education, charities, social business, governance, fund raising, literacy, books and web communications to support the work across all sectors.

    Email office@smithmartinpartnership.com for an exploratory review...

  • Big Society

    helpThe wonderful vision of a Big Society where people help each other, not for reward but just because they can.

    In some places where this is happening through volunteering and support groups you can see that confidence is built and self esteem is lifted. People reluctant to step forward for fear of being unable to join in can find they step out on a ladder which gives them a feeling of self worth, helps them to have fun with their families and can even lead to a start of something new in their lives.

    A great example of how a school ‘Home to School’ support really helps directly with people is shown in Children and Young People Now, wk 22 – 28 June 2010.

    At the Marion Richardson School in Whitechapel, 30% of parents are now involved in some form of volunteering. Previously they were reluctant to leave their homes.

    There is a credit union, after school clubs, maths and reading clubs. A group has started for teaching Arabic to Bengali and Somali parents, which is led by a Moroccan parent .

    Alison Jones, who is employed by the charity School Home Support, is often found in The Parents’ Hut – the mobile in the playground. She supports parents as a listening ear on family sickness, bereavement, unemployment and housing and domestic violence.

    The Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities programmes and courses are also a way in and Alison says,‘It helps them to get to know other parents, but also learn about violence in our community, how to stop kids getting into gangs, what is domestic violence and child abuse.’

    At SmithMartin Partnership we are involved in many schools around the extended day and activities that are happening in after school clubs and holiday schemes

    We like this approach, being there in a place where parents are comfortable, even if nothing else the time to listen can be a real life line.

    And as Alison says, ‘For most parents its about having the confidence to move out of depression and into the community.’ What a difference that must make.


  • News and fresh thinking from SmithMartin Partnership LLP
    We are always happy to explore new partnerships and projects in our core expertise areas - childcare, early years, education, charities, social business, governance, fund raising, literacy, books and web communications to support the work across all sectors.

    Email office@smithmartinpartnership.com for an exploratory review...