We are what we do

12 August 2008 at 9:44 am 1 comment

Anouk Van Den Eijnde writes:

With increased mobility and growth of individualism in British society, the sense of community spirit is in decline. As part of our biennial Planning for Consumer Change survey, we have seen a decrease in community in the UK, with only 41% of Londoners feeling that there is a sense of community where they live1. As Alessandra Buonfino and Paul Hilder have noted,

“The most common walk in British neighbourhoods today may well be the short distance from the front door to the parked car”.

The government is trying to strengthen communities and find local solutions to the rise in social problems. In a recent qualitative study for Communities & Local Government, we spoke to a wide range of citizens across the country and without fail there was nostalgia about the good old days of leaving your doors unlocked and neighbourhood street parties. For most of them, having a sense of community and being friendly with your neighbours was the ideal, but often not the reality.

I recently did some volunteer work for We Are What We Do, best known for the ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ tote bag and Change the world for a fiver. Their aim is to inspire people to use their everyday actions to change the world – we’re talking manageable things like ‘write a letter to someone who inspired you’, ‘recycle your mobile phone’ or even ‘smile, and smile back’. It got me thinking: do we really need a book to tell us to talk to our neighbours or have more meals together? Isn’t that common sense?

What I did with WAWWD was to help train 200 young people across the country to become public speakers , so they can spread the word to their younger peers in schools about the social and environmental actions they can all do. You always get something back when you volunteer, and I was lifted by their immense enthusiasm and their belief that they are capable of making the world a better place. At HCHLV we have done a lot of work around the Millennials generation and one the biggest themes that has emerged is the importance of ‘making a difference’, of ‘actions, not words’. Maybe we do need a book to remind us that we are what we do, that the fading sense of community won’t just come back by magic. Or maybe the Millennials will discover that individualism isn’t the way forward and maybe, just maybe, they will change the world. Which action will you do today?

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Recession and sustainability Learning from your staff

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. hans vandeneijnde  |  29 September 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I lent a wheelbarrow to my neighbour across the street (his had a flat, he is fanatical about his garden and did not have the patience to wait until his tire is repaired), made half the freezer available to Emilienne, our next door neighbour whose freezer broke down and needs to get a new one, lent moral support to Wim, our other neighbour across the street, who is trimming his hedge of what must be something like two cityblocks long, and bought a new orchid for Mam (last year’s succumbed despite my best efforts to keep it alive).

    These things and most like these are easy to do, don’t cost anything and make life better for people around us. We should all foster community living and social contact and I applaud your initiative and drive to make people aware of it. Great stuff!


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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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