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A call for ideas

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Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this conversation about social experiments based on small kindnesses. There are now several ideas in this thread but I’m sure we can generate more.

I visited Karma Army and Team Nice as Laura and Ian suggested. They are both great ideas although I sense neither currently quite has the momentum to reach a tipping point. We need to create a small kindness alliance.

Maybe it’s because I am a policy wonk social scientist but I like the idea that the RSA initiative is not just about acts of kindness but about gathering evidence (albeit impressionistic) of the effect of benign behaviours on others. I wouldn’t want to vouch for the safety of Peter Mansfield’s lane blocking strategy but it would be fascinating to see whether lots of drivers copying him did start to have an aggregate impact on behaviours.

Ian Gilmour mentions PledgeBank and I too him am a great fan of the concept. PledgeBank is already doing good thing but I have always believed that it needs to grow into a network of local banks to really deliver on its potential (after all most of the concrete things we want to do together are at the local level). Maybe RSA networks can help to take Pledge Bank to this next stage (what do you think Tom?).

Back to kind social experiments; how about this as a target?

Let’s discover/generate 100 ideas.

Then I can approach the Faculty of the Royal Designers for Industry based here at RSA and ask for assistance from some of their members to design and illustrate a little book of the 100 ideas.

Then we can sell it (one of those checkout books you see in major bookshops) with the proceeds going towards a fund for civic initiatives emerging from RSA networks.

The first step is to keep the list of ideas growing – once I’ve got up to about a dozen I’ll ask the team here to design a space on the RSA site to list them and so we have a link to send around to encourage more of the same.

Ian Gilmour has already suggested this idea, and I fully agree with it.  Of course, some people will see this all as very whimsical but it is a mistake to think that big change and small change are mutually exclusive aspirations. Not only can small changes tip into big changes but doing small things provides legitimacy, credibility and insight to those calling for social transformation.

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  • I heard Tim Smit talk once and he said that he was not one for traditional staff rules - for example, one he had put in place at the Eden Centre was that each member of staff was not able to start work until they had said hello to 20 people (strangers) before they got into the office

  • Matthew, Ian and all,

    This is such a great initiative!

    Malcolm Parlett, a Gestalt psychologist, inspired me to see just how much we can change by improving the quality of contact between people. His favourite social experiment, which I try to emulate, is to find 2 or 3 opportunities to create more 'contactful' exchange each day...maybe striking up a little conversation or sharing a funny moment with someone on the bus or in a coffee shop (without being weird..!) maybe asking your child an extra question about the Warhammer model they're raving about, etc.

    There's a pizza take-away in Soho which has a notice saying they won't serve you if you are trying to order while talking on your mobile phone. I think this is a wonderful example of self-respect/pro-social behaviour in action, and it's made me apologise to the assistant every time my phone goes at the Tesco check-out...

  • Sometimes I think the we've gone too far. Do we really have to create books in order to remind ourselves to be kind to eachother - shouldn't we do it just because we believe its the right thing to do.

  • In a delayed train, doctors/dentist waiting room, start a conversation with the person next to you. More often than not this will spark conversations throughout the room which would otherwise have been quiet. Does this mean that we are bursting to talk but do not have the confidence to do so? Or is it self-consciousness? Or do we keep quiet as we think that this is what others want?

  • Interesting article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/eng... - film director Mike Figgis has made a short film, Together for London, to encourage better behaviour on Transport for London's (Tfl's) network

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