Mark Goyder is a senior advisor to the Board Intelligence Think Tank. He’s the founder of Tomorrow’s Company and co-author with Ong Boon Hwee of Entrusted: Stewardship for Responsible Wealth Creation.
“A great garden is a symphony.”
Thus spoke Tim Smit as – for the first time – The Eden Project closed its doors to allow the Anthropy conference to open.
I love it at a symphony concert when the music stops and all you hear are the echoes.
Anthony Selon – educator and historian – was asked what the biggest single quality of life challenge facing us.
“Mental Health,” he said. We need to discover peace in our lives.
Easy to point out to others... what matters is our own lives. Along with others he had set up Action for Happiness. A key insight in Action for Happiness is that happiness – as opposed to pleasure – comes from giving to others, serving others.
This theme was echoed in a conversation with Anthropy Founder John O’Brien about ‘Activating Ideas For Good’.
The first thing he had learned, he told us, what if you have an idea and what it to succeed , share it with others until it inspires them. Then once that has happened, give it away. That’s how 40,000 people in New Zealand and thousands elsewhere across the Commonwealth ended up volunteering an hour for the Queen's Jubilee.
Anthropy was a gathering of people dedicated to making things better in the UK.
A diverse and concerned group of energetic and practical people who want to make the UK a better place to live in.
The question before us all is : how do we improve the quality of life in the UK?
The first answer – which I heard again and again in the course of Day One of Anthropy discussions – was a plea for government to be more long term in its time horizon. There is overwhelming agreement that the current electoral cycle, with ministers feeling the need to make apparent impact within months, is undermining the quality of our lives and damaging economic growth.
The conclusion which follows from this is the following. To all politicians of all parties. Health, education and migration policy are too important to be left to a single government. Please come together. Please agree some frameworks that will last beyond any single government. Promise us that you will not introduce yet another single-party reorganisation of the NHS or social care or education. From now on, in these crucial areas, work together, and create a set of priorities that any party of potential government will be committed to. Let the parties compete on their effectiveness in implementation. But give us a break and let us have an agree approach as ton structure and objectives.
Which leads to a second priority, well articulated by prime ministerial biographer Anthony Seldon when he talked about the atmosphere that he had witnessed in visits to Downing Street and other centres of power.
‘These people are the most buzzy, ungrounded group of people I have ever met.’
It is time to pause. We need political masters – and advisors – who are focused not on the short term but the long term. Who reflect before they react.
Why is this so difficult? Tik Tok and Twitter don’t help.
Ask any group of government advisors: what matters most? Short term or long term? Ask the voters. What really matters most - that you pay less taxes this year or that your grandchildren inherit a more promising future? Who would claim that the primary job is to maintain popularity today rather than wellbeing tomorrow?
No-one who takes Anthony Seldon’s advice. The problem is that we are all so keen to join the instantaneous conversation there that we forget the enduring conversation. And the instantaneous conversation, as Anthropy founder John O’Brien said, tends to be about the bad things we dislike more than the good things we want to get done.
Earlier in the day we had heard from Peter Flavel, CEO of Coutts, about his experience of operating in Singapore, a country where such a focus on the longer term really did take priority.
This matters to us. Political parties need to respond. To find ways of engaging the public in shaping policies and frameworks that can last.
If a great garden is a symphony, what about a great reform that improves the quality of our lives? Perhaps it is like Homer’s Odyssey, a long story woven together over time by many contributors so that authors and listeners alike feel they own it.
It would be good if Anthropy could achieve that kind of influence.