A Better Way: Bulletin number 1 (November 2016)

We have had an amazing response to the Better Way initiative, with groups already in formation right across the country. “Disruptive social activism at its best!” as someone said.

Below you can see our recent blogs, and a selection of links which bring our propositions to life, all of which we hope you will enjoy. Do keep sending your ideas and insights, and if you are not yet part of a Better Way group but would like to be, just let us know. 

About A Better Way

A Better Way is a new initiative, to build a network of social activists, from the voluntary sector and beyond, in order to challenge business as usual, improve services, and build strong communities. We have set out some simple propositions, which we believe, if pursued with courage and conviction, would bring about a radical shift in favour of the common good. The initiative is hosted by Civil Exchange, in partnership with Carnegie UK Trust and is also supported by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.  You can find out more here: http://www.betterway.network/

We already have a group going in London, and further affiliated groups are in formation in London, Coventry, Manchester, Sheffield, and hopefully Hastings, Newcastle, and many other places, and we are also building a wider network of people interested in Better Way thinking and practice. 

Our recent blogs

A better way for business, by James Perry: can the ‘homo erectus’ of shareholder capitalism be replaced by the ‘homo sapiens’ of stakeholder capitalism?

Enabling people to take more control of their lives, by Steve Wyler: are charities maintaining people within the system, rather than helping them move out of it?

Love, trust and the teachable moment, by David Robinson: what if love was the guiding principle at the heart of public life, public services and public discourse?

Our Better Way propositions

We are always looking out for articles and material to share with each other which illustrate or shed light on our propositions, so please do send any to us that you come across or write yourself. Here’s some material that we’ve recently found that may be of interest to you:

Prevention is better than cure: the Rough Guide to Early Action published earlier this year is very persuasive: seven compelling examples, illustrating that early action can be measured, can have rapid effects, and can stimulate unlikely alliances.

Building on strengths is better than focusing on weaknesses: the Foyer Federation’s ‘advantaged thinking’ philosophy has profoundly changed the way foyers across the country work with young people, and their ideas are beginning to take hold elsewhere.

Human relationships are better than impersonal transactions: for many years Newham-based charity Community Links has promoted the simple but often-neglected idea that ‘deep value relationships’ should be at the heart of public services.

 Collaboration is better than competition. Do have a look at these articles Apocalypse NAO! and Children in Charge by Kathy Evans from Children England, which highlight a systemic crisis in children’s services, explain why it cannot be addressed by ‘outsourcing to Deloittes, KPMG or the marketplace’, and propose a national ‘Care Bank’.

Mass participation is better than centralised power.  A recent article by Duncan Green explores how change happens, and we really like his insights that social activists need to be able to dance with uncertainty and seek out ‘positive deviance’, rather than expecting a linear plan to work in a complex world.

Local is better than national: a report by Locality and Vanguard promoted a ‘local by default approach’ and has led to a Keep it Local campaign. But Chris Whitwell from Friends Families and Travellers has reminded us that localism can have an ugly side: for example, devolving decision-making to local councils has resulted in a severe shortfall in authorised sites for Travellers and Gypsies, leaving thousands of families with no legal right of abode anywhere. This is important debate, and we hope Better Way can make a useful contribution to it.

Principles are better than targets: this report described how over-prescriptive regulation undermined the culture of the Camphill movement and highlights the ‘dangers of treating care as if it were just another industrialised product’.

Changing ourselves is better than demanding change from others: here is a provocative blog by Simon Duffy, from the Centre for Welfare Reform, suggesting it is time to rethink charity.

And finally…

This was written by William Hutchison Murray, a Scottish mountaineer, back in 1951:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’

I think this is true of the best social action. Once action is underway, provided there is an open and creative spirit, possibilities and opportunities arise which can never be predetermined.  

Steve Wyler and Caroline Slocock