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A new year’s resolution by Collaborate

At the end of last year, the Collaborate team spent a day reflecting on what we are learning from our work and made a collective resolution for 2019: to be bold about the future we want to create.

This is about lifting our heads from the day to day of our projects and research to ask ourselves what we, and our partners, are ultimately working towards. Our mission is to support collaboration for social change through developing new thinking, culture and practice: across sectors, across services, across systems. In most of our work we are thinking about this in terms of the future of places and public services; and we are also exploring some cross-cutting themes we think require development beyond the lens of places; for example, collaborative leadership, collaborative funding and commissioning and culture change within organisations and systems.

But is collaboration a means or an end, or both? If we collaborate, will we see a better society, or is a collaborative society itself the vision? What would a collaborative society really look like, and what would it mean for our social contract, for the economy, for the future of government and public services? And why have we concluded that we need to push our thinking further?

Here are some reasons why we want to take stock and look ahead now:

We are at a moment of disruption

Today the UK faces huge uncertainty in relation to Brexit, but also our future direction as a society and a country. As our relationships with the rest of the world are re-negotiated, we face fundamental questions about who we are, who we want to be and what we stand for. Brexit will not stop the forces that are re-shaping our lives: globalisation, climate change, mass migration, demographic change and the impact of digital, to name a few. So, as we seek to understand these forces, can we also collectively think about the future we want to transition to?

We are a deeply unequal society

More than 14 million people live in poverty in the UK[1], with two thirds of children and working age adults in poverty coming from working households[2]. If a child is experiencing poverty at age three they can then expect to lag behind their peers for their whole life[3]. In some places you can see a difference in life expectancy of up to ten years depending on what side of the tracks you were born on, almost literally. We have the fifth largest economy in the world, but despite the huge economic and social advances of the 20th century such as the welfare state and the NHS, huge disparity in wellbeing outcomes and economic exclusion remain. And our economic model comes at huge environmental, as well as human, cost.

Our national politics are failing

It is tempting to overstate the extent of the political crisis we currently face. In the past 100 or so years the UK has lived through major ideological, social, economic and political changes. It is too soon to know how the political challenges we face today compare, or what the end effects will be. However, it seems clear that we could be in, or entering, a period of democratic crisis. The authority and leadership of both the Government and the opposition parties seems fundamentally compromised and it is not clear where new, future-focussed political vision will come from. Can our national political system get us through this time of profound dislocation? Can trust in our national politicians and the political system survive it? Or are we witnessing the difficult birth of a new politics?

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