Whatever happened to Community? Dis-connection to Re-connection

The notion of ‘re-building’ community has been rattling around for some time, but what do we actually mean by that? What is it that we mean when we talk about the ‘breakdown’ of community? Moreover, what are we going to do about it? If we can’t even define it, how are we ever going to re-build it?

For some, it is a nostalgic hark back to the days when your entire family lived under one roof, or down the road, or in the village. Or, when you could knock on your neighbour’s door and borrow some milk. Even in my lifetime, the hole in the neighbour’s fence meant that our parents could have between 1 and 4 children for tea each day, or, when we were slightly older, we’d roam from open door to open door between friend’s houses, build dens in the fields, and answer the village phone box telephone, and send one of our friends home for tea!

So, what is it that we mean exactly? And why is it so important right now?

Well, the ‘breakdown’ or as I prefer it ‘dis-connection’ of community doesn’t take a genius to figure out and that has been happening for a number of generations since industrialisation and the technological revolution that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

People moved out of their immediate locations to find work, and now we can travel vast distances, quickly, by various modes of transport. Either that, or we can live anywhere, and be instantly connected to the other side of the world via the internet.

To keep this bit brief, basically, we are more dispersed, families live great distances from each other, both men and women go out to work leaving no one at home during the day, and we have all of our entertainment beamed to our front room via satellite. Community centres and pubs are closely every week, and the increasingly secular society no longer goes to church on a Sunday.

In effect, we can all live extremely isolated lives even in the family home, where each person is glued to their own screen, and never have to step outside our front door for shopping work, or entertainment.

However, for all of its benefits and convenience, there is an enormous cost to this type of lifestyle. That is only just beginning to be noticed, even though the epidemic of loneliness and dis-connection are already well underway.

In short, loneliness has been found, in countless studies, to be the most harmful of all stressors. Stress has now been found to be at the root of nearly all physical and psychological health challenges (see Gabor Mate). I say ‘nearly’ only because the studies haven’t got around to them all yet.

Much of our stress is hidden and takes a bit of identifying. So, for example, if you are feeling depressed or you keep catching colds, would you have considered that your level of social contact or interaction could be the cause? Stress impacts our physiology by producing certain chemicals that out our body into survival mode.

Prolonged stress, from, for example, loneliness, will eventually impact our immune systems, brain function, mind, hormone production, and pretty much every other system in our body, because the stress hormones, are toxic and were not meant to be in continuous production. Hence, major illness, such as heart disease, autoimmune diseases, cancers, chronic conditions, and psychotic breakdown, can all be traced back to stress of one form or another. Including the stress of repressed and supressed emotions (which I’ve written about elsewhere).

So, what of loneliness then? Well, humans are pack animals. We rely on a social structure to survive and thrive. Connection between members of a community is akin to a nutrient to us and affects all five domains of our physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual lives, all of which need to be in balance to both survive and thrive.

Take human connection, community, away and we are in grave peril.

In most western societies, we no longer have close families to take care of the elderly together; or strong male and female role models close at hand to show the next generation of men and women how to transition to the next stage of life (what we call ‘rites of passage’), or close knit communities to share the role of raising children and teach useful skills to the younger generations.

Imagine our ancestors and forebears. They would pull together as a community to support the bereaved, tend the sick, and care for those in the aftermath of tragedy. They understood, through community ritual and ceremony, how to grieve and honour the dead, and told stories to make sense of their world and life experiences. They understood the cycles of life and worked with the cycles of the planet, the seasons, the weather, to optimise their chances of survival and thrival. These natural phenomena were not deemed pathological, as they often are in our society, as grief becomes a time-consuming sickness that must be masked with pills, for example. I could go on with infinitesimal examples.

As we query and worry and hear figures of the increasing levels of mental ill health (another myth), heart disease, cancer, or the rise in this or that chronic condition, we desperately search for more and more quick fixes for our ‘ills’ and Big Pharma’s slick marketing campaign is very seductive, not least to the government officials whose salaries they pay (oh yes!).

Community dis-connection is at the heart of the issue, and Community re-connection is the heart of the solution. Once we are re-connected, we can begin to handle the challenges posed and will see a major turnaround in the health of individuals, and hence, communities.

A lesson of Commerce & Community – A Christmas Carol

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A lesson of Commerce & Community – A Christmas Carol

https://youtu.be/QTa4K7GGBwM

Dickens both understood the human psyche and appreciated commerce, yet remained cautious about the worst excesses of both. Through Dickens’ caricatures, we have learnt a lot by repeatedly watching and inadvertently studying the worst of Marley and Scrooge. We might have studied the best too, by journeying more with the First Ghost, of Christmas Past, who introduces us to Mr & Mrs Fezziwig.

The Fezziwigs are good partners, thriving in marriage and business, together. They teach and apprentice Marley, Scrooge and others with generosity. They understand the need to make a profit, a fair profit, keeping their customers’ and staff’s needs in mind.

They throw a community party, leading the singing and the dancing.

Employees who feel valued and respected are happier. They provide better service. They are more creative, more resilient and more productive. They work harder, bounce back better and support one another with passion.

In a wistful, almost regretful, moment, Scrooge says of his mentor ‘It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

Fezziwig’s leadership is born of high regard for the people he employs, and exhibited in ways too numerous to count. The Christmas party serves as a celebratory accent to relationships that are already rich and rewarding.

We are looking forward to catching up with you all, following the Christmas and New Year period.

All three events in January in Bedford (10th Jan); Hitchin (12th Jan) and London Colney (23rd Jan) will be focused around planning for our lives and businesses, bearing in mind the lesson of the Fezziwigs that we are a supportive community always ready to help each other through the toils as well as the pleasures in life and business.

Bedford

Bedfordians lead the way ! …..

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Holding a launch event is one of those things that you simply have to just go for, and see what happens! In the case of the Community hub launch in Bedford this week, it was a really pleasant surprise and its success was very rewarding.

When we measure success at the Community Hubs, we do so in terms of the quality of conversations & interactions; the amount of learning that takes place; the supportiveness of attendees & participants; and the extent to which people leave feeling enthused, inspired, optimistic and eager for the next one.

I would argue, and I’m not just saying this for the benefit of our new comrades in Bedford 😉 , that the event in Bedford this week was one of the most promising yet. And we will do well to learn from the feedback and format going forward.

Bearing in mind that this was the first hub event in Bedford, ever, there was quite a lot of talk about it going on in the weeks leading up to it. It seems that the Bedford folk, had already understood the ethos of the hub before it even arrived.

I’d had the pleasure of meeting Sarah from the fabulous establishment 44 Harpur Street sarah-smiley-2-launchbeforehand and to invite her to speak at the launch, as it seemed that our ethos and values were in alignment. Sarah was very supportive of the Community hub in the lead up to it and has very kindly agreed to let us hold all future events at 44 Harpur Street, starting on 20th December. I have no doubt that it will be prove to be a very fruitful and rewarding collaboration and we are very excited about it indeed!

I was encouraged by the number of early birds who arrived even before it started on Tuesday! And, as more people arrived, it was clear that everybody was quickly getting stuck into those ‘good conversations’. We all chatted for around two hours before the first presentations started.

Emma, founder of the Community hub, gave us a presentation about the idea of Intelligent Cooperation and how that is what the Community Hub aims to encourage through sharing emma-2our knowledge and expertise; inspiring and collaborating with each other and building relationships through Peer Support, Friendships and Partnerships. We will be enabled to get our needs met, deploy our resources, build resilience as well as creating ‘mindful’ communities.

In the afternoon, Emma expanded on this idea from the business perspective looking at how we can balance the ‘Three Ps’ of People; Profit and Planet by:

  • People – having good conversations; interaction; support; passing on knowledge & skills
  • Profit – creating value through providing services to each other; supporting growth in personal & business life; supporting all forms of meaningful occupation paid & unpaid
  • Planet – taking care of ourselves now and for future generations

We then heard from some of our Bedford sponsors who introduced themselves – Paul from Natwest Bank; Rachael from KSK Accountants; Rupert from A-Plan Insurance; Sharna & Jules from Bedfordshire Police. Paul from White Label Development also told us about a Growth Hacking group he founded for business owners to join together and help solve issues in each other’s businesses, there and then. We will hear more from Paul over the coming months I’m sure.

In the main presentations, a number of questions were asked about why people liked the idea of the hub and what could the hub offer to the Bedford Community, as well as how people might like to get involved.

This provoked a lot of discussion. Nick, CEO of a charity in Bedford, felt that the future of our country lay in the hands of local Communities. That it is down to the small businesses and charities to work together to create meaningful change. It was felt that this is lacking from a lot of the authorities who are gradually running out of resources, innovative ideas and creative solutions to the problems faced within local Communities.

There was a sense that the Community Hub signals the potential for people and businesses to collaborate in local initiatives and hands on projects which could potentially initiate social change.

The extent to which people felt a common bond at the Bedford launch, was demonstrated by the fact that, even though we all had to leave the building to fetch lunch, everybody returned and ate their lunch together! There was real camaraderie and the nurturing and friendly atmosphere was tangible – I felt quite moved by the day. It was a long day, starting at 8.30 am but almost everybody stayed for the majority of the day and had real fun.

I am very much looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into the Bedford Hub. I believe that everybody left on the day feeling optimistic and enthused. Roll on 20th December – Sarah and I will be ready and waiting for you all !!  🙂

For more information about events please see the Events page on this website, and visit us on Facebook : www.facebook.com/communityhublive/

Twitter : @communityhubs

We are also on Eventbrite where you can register for free tickets!

Risk in Personal Life and Business

The morning started with an introduction from your host who talked about the difference between risk and uncertainty, explaining about our personal and business risk profiles; are you risk averse, risk seeking or risk neutral he posed? Pondering further he showed us how businesses might assess risk from the basis of being a ‘Prospector’, an ‘Analyser’, a ‘Defender’ or ‘Reactor’. He introduced us into the TARA model for managing risks. Tara Blog

Martin Waller developed on this explaining how our personal approach to risk would impact on how we planned for our future and for our pension. This was all about the ‘R’ in TARA, i.e. reducing risk by understanding and planning for it. A good planner makes good sense!

Martin Blower explained how a good insurance broker could not only help us reduce personal risk (or at least take sensible risk), but also ensure we Transfer (The TARA ‘T’) the right of risk to an insurer – that’s what insurance is!

With financial risk being a key concern for us all Kym Nahar explained how the banks ensure we are protected from risk when we go online. It is amazing what a few small tips, just a little education and a bit of effort can do for our confidence. That is the first ‘A’ in TARA, ‘Avoid’ risk.  And on inspiring confidence, Sharna Raine was on hand to remind us of the great work that Bedfordshire police do, both in the community and with businesses. You can volunteer you know – as the second ‘A’ is Accept – so that we can make our community even safer in accepting some risk. 

In the afternoon, which switched to business. Your hosts, in supporting businesses, like to think of Business Risk as comprising:

1.       Strategic Risk: Peter Bays spoke about property investment, either by buying or renting and how to plan for the right approach in your business, whilst Matt Wallis explained the importance of recruiting correctly.

2.       Operational Risk: this led on to Alan Moore explaining the importance of proper risk assessment to keep staff safe, focusing on the valuable community resource, pregnant women, which Veeran Lala expanded on with Health and Safety in the workplace.

3.       Compliance Risk: Akash Gupta explained how small businesses need to comply with work based pensions, legislation designed to provide for our future by investing in our now, showing us how to minimise the administration burden associated with complying.

4.       Reporting Risk: Adam Fernandes then explained how to use cloud computing to meet the requirements of HMRC, starting in April 2017, to report self-employed and company tax each quarter. This will be a big change and significant risk.

Jean Flower showed us the benefits of proper business planning to ensure that we can identify, plan and monitor risk. Martin Blower then returned to remind businesses that a good insurance broker will add value in assessing and covering risk way beyond the small additional premium it may cost.

In pursuing their aspirations for people and business matters to be effective (in this case understanding risk), efficient (by covering risk) and economic (by saving more than they spend), for this reason, we feel this subject will have more and detailed focus in the future

 With thanks to: Speakers: Keith Abrahams – Positive Ways; Martin Waller – HC Wealth Management; Martin Blower – A-Plan Insurance; Kym Nahar – Natwest Bank; Claire McCartney – WorldPay; Sharna Raine – Bedfordshire Police; Alan Moore – HR Dept; Matt Wallis – Pask Partnership; Akash Gupta – APG Wealth Management; Veeran Lala – Natwest Bank;  Peter Bays – Just Clarity; Adam Fernandes – UHY Hacker Young; Jean Flower – ALF.

 

 

 

TARA Ra RISKY Away

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Risk is something we assess and take comfortably each day. We humans are hardwired to do so. Your next hub day is focused on risk.

Most of us have grown up with the idea that risk is associated with the ‘likelihood that we will suffer harm or a loss’. Understandably that can make us feel anxious, yet there are two things we should keep in mind:

  1. There is also an upside to risk (i.e. business people make more profits, & individuals enjoy life more).
  2. Once we know what our attitude to risk is there are things that we can do to minimise it, we call this mitigation.

During the course of this Hub day you will be able to listen to and discuss with a psychologist what your risk profile is – we will help you as individual find out if you are ‘Risk Seeking’, ‘Risk Neutral’ or ‘Risk Averse’ and for a business (or future business person) if you are a ‘Prospector’, or an ‘Analyser’  ‘Reactor’ or ‘Defender’. None of these are better or worse than the other, but they do guide what action you might take towards:

  • Moving beyond self-limiting beliefs about risk & enjoying your life
  • Keeping your banking online secure
  • Insuring and maintaining your home, car and pets
  • Assuring your life
  • Building and Managing your income or pension & other investments

For businesses we will discuss Risks and their management across three broad headings:

  • Business Risks:
    • Strategic – a good business plan that identifies & addresses risk like competitors
    • Operational – ensuring good housekeeping & property management & managing IT risks
    • Hazards – Keeping you and your staff Healthy & Safe
  • Financial:
    • Managing your risk of non-payment from customers
    • Protecting your cash, currency & interest rates
    • Having in place a ‘Business Continuity Plan’
  • Compliance:
    • Employee Legislation
    • Tax rules
    • Business Rates

In addressing your risks your will be introduced to a very elegant model, TARA.

This is a light-hearted look at how easily we can address risk and lead secure, confident lives. The topics suggested are intended to get us to look at how we can do so with more ease and it is hoped you will find other risks that you may wish to manage and reduce during the course of the day. If you do our panel of expert sponsors will be on hand.

https://communityhub.live/thursday-24th-november-hitchin-community-hub-day-sun-hotel/

Valuing the French Connection

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Your Hub Hosts, whilst acknowledging the division of (sometimes bitter) opinion over Brexit, are beyond stoic and remain positively pre-disposed to the positive ways in which community, that is togetherness, can respond to all kinds of challenges successfully without needing government initiative.

Therefore, we have decided to adopt a project policy initiative (for that read ‘fun talking point’) named after the French for ‘Do-It-Yourself’ i.e. ‘Bricolage’

Bricolage is the creation of action from a diverse range of ideas and amalgamation of unrelated knowledge, and experiences to bring novel solutions to existing challenges. It is innovation in action.

Your Hub plans to hold a day focused on ‘Creating Creativity’ but for now believes it serves up Bricolage by enabling ‘Good Conversations’ and ‘Peer Support’, bedrocks of co-operation that lead to:

  • Sharing of knowledge and resources
  • Careful observation, listening and commentary
  • Trusting one another’s and one’s own ideas
  • Providing kindly feedback to enable personal development

The next hub day is on Wednesday 19th October : https://communityhub.live/wednesday-19th-october-hitchin-community-hub-day-sun-hotel/

Beyond Brexit

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Your Hub hosts, between them, recently chaired and spoke at a meeting about ‘Post-Brexit 2020 onwards’.

Whilst the debate was intended to be focused on the response to the challenges, it was evident from the speakers that there is still a great deal of uncertainty, even fear. Your hosts do not need to explain that part of the debate, which is already well aired.

Instead, our focus is on how remain resilient, be that personally, in business and most especially in the community. Your hosts are confident that by being diverse, inclusive and accessible, and by facilitating ‘good conversations’ and ‘peer support’, we will not only gel together, but also develop together.

This is essential to our future (Post-Brexit is irrelevant, as we will always have external challenges to face, this is just the current one) 2020 onwards, will be one in which the Government does less for us (public sector employment is set to reduce) and we will do more for ourselves (self-employment will increase).

This self-employment will be at two levels; skilled knowledge workers (‘Consultants’) and contracted flexible workers, who provide necessary but non-core services (Contractors). Charles Handy described this beautifully in his idea of the ‘Shamrock Organisation’ in which the flexible (resilient?) firms will have employed core workers (Staff), supplemented by additional contingent Consultants and Contractors.

Those Consultants and Contractors may be somewhat small and lonely (by definition they will be small and micro business) and may need a place to belong, develop and feel supported and advised; your Hub intends to meet that need.

Keith outlines what he spoke about here: https://eisba.com/2016/10/09/to-brexit-and-beyond