We all live our lives through communities of one sort or another: local communities, communities of common interest, educational communities, faith communities, work-place communities, virtual communities. They are where we (and our families) find meaning and purpose. They are the life-blood of any society because they create a sense of belonging and connection. Values are at the root of this. We both shape and are shaped by the values of the different communities to which we belong.
Are we doing this successfully?
The evidence suggests that we are not making a great job of putting our values into action, and as a result our communities are under growing pressure. Increasingly mobile populations and rapid social and technological change pose difficult challenges to community cohesion. Social isolation is on the rise, and this is a real danger to life - those with poor social relationships have an alarming 33% lower survival rate compared to those with adequate relationships. Mental health among children and young people is deteriorating at a frightening rate. The recent rise in violent crime is both a symptom and a cause of increasing social stress. The problems facing our communities are everywhere around us.
What can we do about it?
We believe that values can unite us and bring us together. Shared values can heal sick communities and re-energise tired ones. The theme of this year’s World Values Day on 18 October is about putting our values into action in the community. As ever, it starts with us.
The value of Joy expressed with a smile at Joy Village in Nigeria
World Values Day gives us all an opportunity to do something positive in our communities. With just one small action, one small change, we can begin to make a difference.
Any specific ideas?
You might be inspired by a community in Lancashire doing small random acts of kindness for each other each day. Other communities are caring for their local environment by holding a blitz clearing up of litter in public areas.
Or how about approaching a local community group to hold an event to bring that community together? From the World Values Day website you can download a resource pack on how to hold a Community Dialogue. Too often the way we communicate pushes us apart rather than bringing us together. This dialogue offers an alternative to divisive argumentative ways of communicating, and allows us to connect through meaning and values and find new ways of looking at the people and world around us.
Maybe you could prompt a group to run a Values Challenge, a one hour values refresher course (put together by the RSA, the Forward Institute, PwC and the UK Values Alliance), which involves developing a plan for values-based community action.
UK Values Alliance members begin a Street Values
Or else try a community walk with a difference. In collaboration with a remarkable outfit called Street Wisdom we have produced a special resource pack showing how to hold a “Street Values” walk. It transforms an ordinary walk in any village, town or city into an enjoyable, powerful and free learning experience. By simply being present, alert, and observant, we find ourselves naturally exploring and learning more about our values as we take in what’s around us inthe street.
There are so many ideas on the World Values Day website, but I’d like to pick out just two more of them. If you’d like to explore what’s going on with values in communities around the world with a lively and diverse group of people from all kinds of different countries, please book a place for an online (and free) World Values Virtual Café at 6pm on Tuesday 9th October 2018. It should be a fascinating discussion, with participants from over 25 countries already signed up.
And if you are somewhere near London on the evening of 18th October please join us for a free event in Charterhouse Square at the World Values Day London Event: Values at Work in the Community. We’ll be asking: what if more businesses looked to work with each other and with their communities to achieve something bigger than the local projects they generally focus on? We believe that values provide the key to unlocking this bigger ambition. On World Values Day, we want to explore how businesses can engage with communities and their values, and what those bigger ambitions might be.
Charles Fowler FRSA helps co-ordinate World Values Day. He is member of the Steering Group of the UK Values Alliance and Chair of the Human Values Foundation.
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