what we are thinking about

A focus on difference

So much of the time we are focused on our differences, rather than the similarities, and we believe that seeing the world as populated by people different from us reduces our motivation to improve the world for everyone. At the foundation, we are interested in developing ways to increase our sense of connection, focusing on our inherent similarity to increase our motivation to assist and serve those that need our support.

Understanding our individuality, cultural heritage and group identities is important and valuable – our uniqueness as individuals and communities is part of being human. However this focus on difference also perpetuates conflicts across the globe, and we believe that a different balance needs to be struck; we need to find ways to boost our common human identity.

We have been doing work in schools and communities to understand this better – and we have developed resources that everyone can use to increase their sense of connection with fellow human beings here. We have also developed a toolkit for organizations interested in engagement and campaigning who can see that increasing feelings of connection and motivation might increase their impact here.

As we develop more insights and interventions, through our multidisciplinary work with behavioural experts and project partners we will disseminate these to individuals and organisations who are interested in bringing people together to improve their world.

Capacity to care and to affect

In the 21st Century, our capacity to affect the world, especially in developed countries, seems to have outstripped our capacity to care for others. In the past we lived in smaller communities, where our capacity to affect and care might have been in better balance – we could care about our contained community of 100 people, and they were the extent of our capacity to affect others too. In the 21st Century each of us has the capacity to affect the lives of people across the globe, through our consumption, campaigning, purchasing power and donations. Our capacity to care seems to still be limited to smaller scale – we are easily overwhelmed by the plights of others and a sense of futility is easily triggered.

We are interested in understanding more about how to increase our capacity to care, and we believe it lies at least partly in exploring how we relate to our fellow human beings, focusing on our difference from them in order to reduce our guilt and discomfort at the inequality that they experience.

We have been doing work with Oxfam and the WI across England and Wales to understand more about how to reconnect each of us with our capacity to care. Using exercises, activities, films and stories we have started to understand more about this area, and have identified some ways to shift our ability to care, and explore feelings of futility, complacency and established a toolkit for individuals and organisations to use.

Distancing strategies

There are intolerable things happening to our fellow human beings across the world as well as in our own streets and neighbourhoods. As communication technology in developed countries has evolved we are presented with images and facts from around the world with immediacy and power. We can no longer pretend that we don’t know what is going on, and yet there has not been a parallel increase in action to resolve or improve the situation for people across the globe.

We all employ distancing strategies that allow us to sleep at night while intolerable things are happening in the world. No doubt these serve us well and keep us sane. However they also create complacency and leave extreme inequality. We are interested in understanding more about what these strategies are that we all employ, bringing together social psychologists, and other specialists who work in these fields.  Having identified strategies we will also develop and test interventions that allow each of us to turn these down, and connect more actively with our fellow human beings.

The gap between what we believe and what we do

Many of us would subscribe to the universal declaration of human rights. Indeed it has been signed in our name, and refers to each of us. If we look what we do, and how we live our lives, it probably doesn’t reflect those beliefs and at the Everyone Foundation we are interested in how we can encourage people to explore their own personal gap between what they believe and how they act, since this will release in each of us the motivation to improve the world for everyone.

Currently the Millennium development goals have just over three years to be met, and there are significant gaps in many of them. And yet meeting them is not an impossibility. In a world where we can make iphones, a space station and get coca cola to the remotest parts of the globe, it is clear that motivation, not logistical difficulty is the critical factor. We believe that exploring our relationships with each other and the extent to which we identify as part of a common humanity is key to unleashing the motivation required, as Desmond Tutu said, “This organisation has the potential to shift the way we see ourselves as human beings. Each of us, one part of everyone.”

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

At the Everyone Foundation we are working to understand more about how we relate to people who are distant from us (physically, socially or philosophically) and how to enable these relationships to be stronger, so that we are more motivated to improve the world for everyone.