Here in the UK, we have the sixth largest economy in the world, and the UK is the fifth largest exporter (and the fifth largest importer) in the world.
150 years ago, the UK accounted for 9.1% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), today it is around 3.1%.
The UK is and has always been a country that has had global background; however, I believe that local community action and enterprise has never been more relevant in the UK than it is today.
Advances in technology mean we can now interact with groups anywhere on the planet where there is a shared interest, this can be face to face video dialogue, shared media, gaming, or business. Covid and self-isolating has increased how much time society and particularly the younger generation devote to this activity and depend on technology to socialise.
The UK life expectancy has increased by nearly 3 years from 78 to 81 since the year 2000, and although the average retirement age is around 65, 3.4 million people aged 50-64 in the UK are economically inactive.
As a personal view I suggest that the majority of GDP is created by the activities of people aged from 20-50. Yet we aspire to better standards of living, more worthwhile lives, and more support from the state for the vulnerable in society.
I feel that many issues we face today might be better addressed by thinking locally rather than nationally or globally.
The average person can look after and maintain contact with 150 people (or organisations). But a community with a clear strategy can make good decisions early, and sometimes be a better leader than an individual. It’s a numbers game.
A large number of people with a diverse set of skills can use technology (like WhatsApp) to quickly solve an issue or gain competitive advantage.
With a large group there is always someone “on deck” and plenty of others ready to act to address a threat or take advantage of an opportunity in the interests of the community.
People generally like to be valued, and these actions that provide value to the community can provide satisfaction and become a focal point to be inclusive and to spread practical skills, knowledge, and experience. There are no barriers on age, ability, race, or gender, quite the opposite this activity is enriched by its diversity.
Westaway Sausages is in postcode TQ12 3 – a community of around 12,500 people, next door to the factory is an area of open land. This has been the home of Newton Abbot Rugby Club for 40 or so years. In just 4 years this has grown from being unloved to become the sports club with the largest number of playing members in Devon. But it is so much more than that.
The area of open land has become a true not for profit hub for the community, temporary buildings and a large events marquee have created a space capable of hosting more than 5,000 people. Furthermore some 50 local businesses are actively involved in contributing to add value and support. The “right people are on the bus”.
Also, it is a fertile ground for our business partners to network and source locally.
It might sound a bit glib, but our community hub is changing people’s lives, and it is surprising how much fun it is. With a director’s meeting once a week, and a shared enthusiasm from the senior team we are able to do small changes and improve daily.
We are just scratching the surface of what this hub can do to get people out of their homes and out from behind their screens. We have some 20 teams and over 600 playing members, all ages, abilities, and genders but we also have a superb legion of coaches guiding and setting boundaries.
As I sit in my office prodding my keyboard, I can hear 70 plus kids shouting and laughing, they are supervised, learning new skills, exercised, and being fed whilst their parents are able to do what ever they need to do in the summer holidays.
As we seek to educate and change to address issues about health care, parenting, loneliness, food poverty and climate change so we will need to have communities that can react to adapt to meet these challenges.
We can also give those economically inactive people a new purpose and a new value.
It’s like the adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”