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A new social contract for our times

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  • Behaviour change
  • Public Services & Communities

The social contract shapes everything: our political institutions, legal systems and material conditions, but also the organisation of family and community, our well-being, relationships and life prospects.

And yet everywhere, the social contract is failing.

At a time of global crisis, when we have an opportunity to think afresh about the future we want, visionary economist Minouche Shafik puts forward a new and hopeful framework for social, economic, and political recovery – one with profound implications for gender equality, education, healthcare provision and the future of work. Encouraging us to ask what we owe to each other – how we might better balance individual with collective responsibility, pool risks and share resources - Baroness Shafik identifies the key principles that every society must adopt if it is to meet the challenges of the coming century - and improve our life together.

The RSA has been at the forefront of societal change for over 250 years. Our proven Living Change Approach, and global network of 30,000 problem-solvers enable us to unite people and ideas to understand the challenges of our time and realise lasting change. Make change happen.

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  • Thank you for sharing this fascinating conversation. The ideas that you discuss with Minouche seem eminently practical and clearly right for our times. Certainly from the point of view of a left leaning liberal who believes in the social contract. I am struck by one aspect of the discussion. There is an underlying acceptance that we have to wait for an opportunity to put these ideas into play. That there will be a 'window of opportunity' when we can make them real, and that our role is to keep the ideas in circulation until that window is opened by a (political) third party. This seems essentially passive to me as it depends on the concept that there can be a 'currency of ideas' that will come to fruition as a result of external factors. And that change can be promulgated by a kind of subtle influencing strategy through academic, political and socially elite networks. This may be a realistic response to making change in the current environment, but I don't think its enough. The challenge for the RSA, the LSE and anyone else with an interest in change, is how to make it happen through pro-active engagement with those who will benefit most from the new social contract. Unfortunately, this very large and fragmented group will not be reading Minouche's book or be Fellows of the RSA. However, I think it is possible to create a genuine currency of ideas based on the social contract. This can be done through local activist networks by using targeted, succinct, locally relevant and engaging social messaging that addresses real concerns and shows how a new social contract can benefit daily life. It may be that politics will follow this new awareness.

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