Should social action focus on emotional need? - 23rd January 2014

The last FbRN bulletin threw out something unexpected: of all the information we linked to – advice on funding, policy, events and more – one item was clicked on and downloaded more than any other. It was the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s new resource pack on loneliness. With the focus of social action, and the work of FbRN, often on practical change within our communities, this interest in an apparently more hidden emotional aspect was intriguing.

At the same time we launched the FbRN survey to find out what our network were involved in and how we could help them in 2014. We heard from groups and organisations across England working to combat food and fuel poverty, actively supporting the diverse needs of asylum seekers, young people and the elderly and much more. Practical help was a priority for many and yet the emotional toll caused by these issues and others could not be ignored. 

In challenging times the need to tune in to the perhaps-unspoken impact of loneliness is vital, and not just for those we are working to help. For us as practitioners admitting our vulnerability to those we partner with in our communities helps bring an honesty and openness that fosters authentic relationship. Rather than seeming to be above struggles and isolation we can admit our own loneliness and need to be genuinely part of community.

Intriguingly, this may be part of a wider trend emerging in society. Left-leaning think-tank Compass held a recent event ‘Change How’, an un-conference aiming to open conversations around new ways to change society. The day was filled with sessions on failure, anti-heroes, grassroots learning, inviting conversations founded in honesty and openness, and a willingness to admit no one person or group has the answers. How can we continue to build in this way? Do you think we should? Should the purpose of social action be primarily external or respond to the deeper need for community within each of us? Tell us what you think.

We’d love to hear what you’re doing and your plans for 2014. If you could spare a few minutes to complete our survey, please click here