A few weeks ago I promised to share some thoughts on something that had left me feeling somewhat conflicted, yet the fact that I am only now putting it out there must say a lot about the general state we find ourselves in as a society - to disagree these days seems to take a huge amount of time and effort.

However, as someone who has always felt compelled to amplify the voices of those who get drowned out, or even worse those who are never given the same opportunity to be listened to, I am always hyper alert to the language used by others or the subtlety of words chosen to deliver an impact-grabbing headline.  

Thus my objection with the rider "Crisis? What crisis?" for the press release following a debate I attended at Blenheim Palace, organised by Oxfordshire Voice.  The topic being discussed was the lack of affordable housing and whether or what impact this is having on economic growth in the county.    

As always happens, it is very difficult to understand things you haven't personally experienced, and even worse when everyone in the room is not starting from the same place in terms of knowledge.  So it's also easy for the loudest voices to want to rush to a solution rather than realise they have two ears and one mouth and society might become a lot better if only we listened ever more attentively to what the silent majority might be wanting to say. I think they would be unanimous in their opinion that there is most definitely an affordable housing crisis.

I am very supportive of what Oxfordshire Voice is aspiring to achieve, yet the voice of business is not the only one that needs to be heard, especially when the topics being discussed affect so many who would not necessarily see themselves as natural bedfellows with business. Therefore, I would suggest that Oxfordshire Voice will have the greatest impact when it reaches out with open arms to welcome more of those with quite different opinions and ideas into its discussions in future.   

As I mentioned in January at the Blavatnik launch event, the social challenges we face today need a totally different approach and will require us all to pool our collective knowledge and resources to solve them. Perhaps, I am being naive, but this is still something I would really like Oxfordshire Voice to embrace. It is also why I have agreed to add my support and help to make it a powerful and influential force that could set it apart from the many other networking groups out there.   

What I would like to believe the press release was attempting to do was highlight that whilst there is a huge amount already happening, almost no one has a good overview of what that is or how they might find out about it. 

Furthermore, there are many existing and community-led solutions that could benefit from our support, enabling them to be scaled up.  It is obvious to me that these have the potential to make a tangible difference right now, as opposed to accepting the status quo and deciding to wait it out for the delivery of the Growth Fund, or depending on those with the loudest voices making plans on our behalf.

I believe as humans we thrive best when we can interact with each other, and by making connections with those we wouldn't typically meet we also create opportunities to hone our skills by learning to disagree and become more open-minded to change.  

Hence the quote below: "It is only when we can understand different viewpoints, disagree well and find common ground that communities can move closer and grow stronger" - more meaningful lives for ourselves as well as a greater common good.

For more ramblings of this kind, I will be sharing further thoughts at this year's BIO 2019 on June 6th at the Mini Plant, Oxford.