Time for new kinds of conversations

President Barack Obama and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. have lunch with Amanda Rothschild, Mary Stein and Morvika "Vika" Jordan to discuss balancing family and jobs, at Charmington’s Café in North Baltimore, Maryland, Jan. 15, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

There has been a shift in the world today in the way that people engage with each other, from the endorsement of co-operation and tolerance, to divisiveness, in many places.

Our experience suggests that sharing of coherent positive views of the future may provide a lever to start to change the prevailing conversations, towards living with respect for our neighbours.

Let’s not ignore the current, divisive conversation: as one of our American friends has said: “The only good I see from Trump is that he caused so many rocks to be turned over, and so many bad examples of humanity to come out publicly.  It was a shock, but energised people to better define who they are, and what they want for a future.”

What would happen if we took the opportunity to engage with each other, across the board?  What if we didn’t wait for leaders, but instead each took responsibility to make a difference? If we used our creativity and innovation to work together and develop visions of possible fair and positive futures?

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: “Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”

We are searching for what this vision might be, and where it might come from.  If anyone has ideas, please contact us ([email protected]). 

With a positive vision of the future, we have something hopeful to work towards achieving together.  And working with hope will shift our conversations to include fairness, trust, co-operation and tolerance.

Changing the conversations.  Here are some examples and we may get more from colleagues as we proceed –

  • Project Libero (Switzerland): back to foundational Swiss values to defeat the right wing with humour.
  • Yellow House (Nepal): using social media and networks to change the conversation from “this is too difficult”, to “this is how we do it”.
  • Talk Europe (begun in Germany): face to face between people with explicitly opposing views, issue based, people self-selected to talk about it with someone who had an opposing view.  The outcome sought was differentiating between the person and their views and getting an understanding of the opposing viewpoint – to counter divisiveness.
  • Natural England: changed the underlying understanding and worldview.  Environmental scientists (40-50 years old) and young people and how positive visions of the future changed their understanding and conversation.
  • Valve (USA): how they redefined not just the customer experience, but also blurred the lines between customer and developer.  By changing the conversation, making it a new type of conversation, they developed a new type of business.
  • Alibaba and Jack Ma (China): he and his company changed the prevailing view of what a successful company looked like and why, starting with why so many of his staff are female.  What if we had more women in leadership, what would that bring?  
  • Preparing for a different style of work, bringing the ageing population into that (Europe, Japan):  Changing the conversation about working and retirement – how do you do that?

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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.

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