At the launch of our Oxfordshire Uncovered research a couple of weeks ago, I recall summing up it's findings in four simple words ' Oxfordshire has real inequality'.
Less than 6 days later the UK had voted to leave the EU and 48% of the population were left questioning how this could be. Yet, it seems Oxfordshire is not alone and my four words could so easily have applied to the UK as a whole and I believe, whilst the outcome has undoubtedly shocked many, at least it seems there is now an acknowledgement that we all need to be doing more to tackle the inequality that appears to be dividing our communities.
At the Community Foundation we have always felt that local philanthropy has a significant role to play in helping those who through disadvantage or often simple misfortune find themselves 'left behind' and unable to benefit from the economic growth that many others have experienced.
Turmoil and upheaval in our political parties combined with a growing distrust for the apparent power and control vested in a small number of large businesses, do I believe, provide a real opportunity for Community Foundations to front a leadership challenge of a different kind; enabling those seeking real social change to take positive action and support local community based solutions that have the greatest potential to make a real difference and help to create better lives for everyone, not just for a few. Together we can tackle inequality and evidence the role we can all play as individuals in turning our communities into more caring and compassionate places.
The simple truth is that a country as unequal as ours is not just imperfect, it is practically ungovernable. How do you develop coherent policies for people so separated by their economic circumstances that they may as well be living on different planets? Extreme inequality is not the basis for a cohesive, happy, healthy society, and it is why politicians from all sides are rightly acknowledging it as a problem in dire need of solutions. We are all too aware that words are not deeds, and that until action is taken, there is little to truly celebrate. But we should be encouraged that so few of our politicians and business leaders are now willing to openly dismiss the need for greater equality.