Our word of the year 2022: Optimism

Hand turns a dice and changes the expression "half empty" to "half full". A half full glass of water is standing in front of a grey background.

After two years of Covid, politics in disarray in many countries, and increasing geopolitical tensions, it is easy to slide into a pessimistic outlook for the future.

Yet we believe that there is much to be optimistic about.


The combination of vaccines and antivirals now offer the prospect of societies that can learn how to live with Covid as an endemic infection that we will cope with just like we cope with others.


COP26 ended much as expected – those in charge declaring it a victory; activists declaring it a failure. Agreements of this sort are naturally political compromises with many flaws. But the coalescing, despite a few exceptions, of some 200 countries around tackling the climate agenda as practicably as possible is a step forward in a world where geopolitical rivalry could have derailed the whole effort.


Politics, too, is changing. In the UK resurgent opposition parties will strengthen democratic accountability. In Germany, the traffic light coalition offers the prospect of leaving old ways behind and defining the new. For all the real issues the country faces, US democracy survived the January 2021 assault and is starting to lead the re-building a democratic coalition of interests. The European Union has tackled the Covid crisis with increased solidarity between Member States.


Business is transforming itself to embrace better governance, tackling the environmental crisis and finding ways to make a bigger contribution to creating a better society. Businesses that don’t embrace this agenda are looking increasingly vulnerable.

Crises provoke change. Some would say you cannot have real change without crises and without interim difficulties.


What has become clear to all of us is that the current system of political economy has run out of road. We are encouraged by the many people and groups working hard and with dedication to explore how that system can be renewed and regenerated for the exigencies of the 21st century.

At Radix and Big Tent we are determined to play our part: providing platforms for discussion and debate, with a focus on renewing our economy and our society.  We will continue to challenge conventional thinking, develop innovative ideas, and work with others to deliver real change. 

Our programme for 2022 is designed to move beyond slogans to real economic, political and social regeneration.  Expect papers and events, including our flagship Ideas Festival in Bristol in June, but also a new emphasis on ‘field testing’ ideas with partners to explore how they might work in practice.

As with all such major change, it will not proceed either quickly or in a nice straight line – as so many seem to expect. It’s a slow and uncertain process that moves like a sailboat in rough waters. Tacking this way and that depending on the prevailing political winds. Occasionally taking in water and seeming to be in danger of sinking. Sometimes seeming to be blown backwards rather than forward.

But the broad direction of travel is clear even if the exact shape of the final destination is yet to emerge. And an increasing number of people are buying into that direction of travel.

As for ourselves, we have strengthened our position to drive a positive agenda for practical change. With your help, support and collaboration we will, with others, make a valuable contribution to the process of systemic renewal.

Wishing you all an optimistic 2022.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.


    • Stephen Gwynne says

      I think the broad direction of travel is Net Zero in which where possible fossil fuel use is replaced with renewable energy. This includes a general commitment towards equality of opportunity and policy to address geographical inequalities.

      The tacking effect is largely determined by the exigencies of sustainability, resilience and sufficiency and the balance between State intervention and the operation of the Market.

      So for example, to what extent should a oil producing Nation sustain its oil energy resilience during the Net Zero transition.

      Headwinds include supply side inflation and the extent of energy productivity, material productivity and human productivity as the human population increases.

      My biggest concern, especially within democratic societies, is the extent to which the media is becoming politicised and in turn is closing down democratic debate and so rather than inform about the different policy choices, they are increasingly projecting their histrionic opinions with no democratic accountability whatsoever.

      Thus I would like to see the media codes of conduct reformed so that media histrionics are replaced with the debate of ideas.

      This I would frame as efforts to increase cognitive productivity!

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