What if a #newworld could be created as a result of Covid-19?
First up: if you read this and are intrigued by what could come of some of the questions posed at the end, would you kindly share across your networks and ask people to do three things:
- Point to any research that can think about this more deeply
- Share across your networks and mobilise others
- Share the essentials your #newworld would include
Over the last few weeks I have been very fortunate to listen to some valued colleagues and friends share their interests over a #virtualcuppa: When I think about each conversation there are some overarching themes that emerged:
- We are enjoying working fewer hours but worried about how long this might last and what it means for our livelihoods
- We are concerned about what the impact of the virus will be on those who are the lowest paid and those who are living in difficult circumstances
- We are wondering what this means for our democracy, and our social and economic systems
These themes came out of diverse set of topics covering cemeteries, a view from Spitalfields window, the history of Policing, hand washing and wellbeing, money, anxiety, overwhelm, technology and our young student population – phew! Then I listened to Newsnight on 8th April and it reflected a lot of what our #virtualcuppas had covered. It doesn’t seem to matter what you talk about at the moment, everything comes back to hopes and concerns about now and a post covid normality.
Equality is at the heart of all we do at MutualGain and so it is no surprise that we want this very negative situation to provide a platform that will help us create a new and very different future. When I think about that future at the moment, I am doing so with a radical mind (and I am not a particularly radical person). I am not talking about incremental changes like paying nurses and shop workers a bit more money, or clapping regularly to show our support. I am not talking about valuing the numerous volunteers that have stepped forward (they have done this before in crisis and it hasn’t radically changed our society), and I am not talking about getting back to normal quickly! All are important but not enough to build the radical new future I am hoping for.
A new social contract
This is literally an unbelievable moment for humanity isn’t it? A perfect moment to rethink what ‘living’ means’? A perfect opportunity to rethink what we mean by ‘society’, by ‘government’, by ‘public services’ by ‘governance’, by ‘citizenship’? A perfect time to rethink what we mean by ‘work’ and ‘currency’? Could we use this moment to create big, bold, radical change? What could a new social contract look like in Britain? I think the easiest way to start this conversation is to think about a world without money and work backwards from there.
If this is a ‘crisis like no other’ as described by the International Monetary Fund, and it ‘takes a government to step in during these times’ (Yvette Cooper), what is it that we want from our government? What will be the relationship between the State (Central Government, Local Government, NHS, Police, Housing etc.) and society?
Professor Stiglitz from the World Bank told us that the economy is not resilient; he described it as being like running a car without a spare tyre – there is no spare capacity; the social protection system is fragile and we need to rethink the market economy. He said it hasn’t served us well, and that structural overhaul is required.
So, when will we mobilise the mass conversation about what that structural overhaul might look like? Whilst I wish a speedy end to all this, I also have a really strange and guilty desire for more time. I don’t want this to be a temporary blip that enables us to go back to ‘normal’: I don’t want to return to a normal that is divisive and grounded in views about ‘the other’. I want us to have some time to think and learn together about how we could create a new social settlement or new social contract that completely overhauls our economic system. One which houses the homeless, tackles poverty, and re considers social justice. Not in a piecemeal way – I want us to create something beautiful and kind – something radically different.
Vicky Pryce from the UK Government Economic System said, “at some stage we will have to rethink”. She described how the European Central Bank has had to rethink their policies to save Italy. Yvette Cooper talked about the way in which political choices impact on social and economic circumstances, and we know that these choices can be made for good. Look at the choices and developments made post WWII – the NHS and the Welfare State weren’t new ideas: Atlee and Bevan made choices to take them from idea to reality.
So here are some questions that may bring ideas to reality if we choose to give them some focus and help our politicians make the right choices:
- What would we see as the universal laws of a new modern society that are inclusive for all?
- What could we create if we wrote off the debt with international agreement from the financial organisations, such as the World Bank and governments?
- What would a Universal Basic Income need to be set at to encourage civic and creative contribution writ large?
- What if we didn’t revert to traditional political activism and protest, and instead our government facilitated large scale deliberation on what the necessary ‘laws’ or ‘social contract’ would need to be for this #newworld order to happen?
- What if, whilst we were all locked down, the government facilitated dialogue on a radical new future?
I want to join (if it is out there) or grow (if it isn’t out there) a movement using the hashtag #newworld to demand that radical new conversation from those in power. I want the conversation to be inclusive of frontline workers, the homeless, the unemployed, the vulnerable and the marginalised. And I want it to include the billionaires, the millionaires and the very powerful. We can’t have a #newworld if we can’t design something that brings benefit to us all. This crisis shows how much the privileged need key workers – it is a good time to have the debate and to re imagine a new future together, but that new future must ensure equal voice. Let’s grasp this before we lose our sense of togetherness and revert to the old normal.