Let's Come Together

 Image:  Nick Treharne  

Image: Nick Treharne 

These really are the most challenging of times, I don’t think I’ve ever sensed such open division between people in our country, and it really does feel uncomfortable. The closeness of the results in both the Scottish and EU referendums has always been a concern. Resounding one way or the other results would have been much easier to comprehend. 

And, as we’re increasingly seeing, Social Media algorithms are doing a great job in pushing people deeper into silos, in effect magnifying divisions by feeding people with increasingly extreme content based on their existing views, beliefs and opinions. As the volume of this content is ever increasing and often unsubstantiated, it allows groups to be targeted with messages and stories (however accurate or inaccurate) that serve to deepen and harden their views around the issues that resonate with them.

Plenty is being written about this topic, and concerns around the impact Social Media is having on human behaviour shouldn’t be underestimated. However, such is its level of usage you have to wonder just how quickly, if at all, it can be curbed.  At the very least its ability to be used to create damaging divisions between people has to be challenged. This will be difficult to achieve because it's the same algorithms that are used to drive the commercial success of the Social Media platforms. 

Whilst we may have to wait some time before an effective solution to this achieved, I do believe it’s important to acknowledge that in society we are becoming more divided, and then to look for innovative ways to bring people together.

For example, with the urban regeneration and workplace transformation work I’m currently undertaking, working with clients it’s been possible to find ways to achieve precisely this. As these are ongoing projects I can’t offer specific details, however, I can share my thought process. 

From the outset I know that any recommendations I make need to fit into the overall commercial objectives for my client. So whilst being able to bring people and communities closer together is fundamentally important, my proposals need to ensure that in doing so they  also provide benefits to, or at the very least can be accommodated within the overall project. 

I like this challenge, and I meet it by gaining an understanding of the different aspects human behaviour. Of course this isn’t a constant, and I find it important to understand how people see and experience the world differently depending on who they are and their life circumstances. I then look at the factors that are likely to impact the way people live and work in the future. 

So for example, we can see how traditional High Street retail is currently under exceptional pressure with increasing numbers of shops closing. In this instance allowing High Streets to become ghost towns shouldn’t be seen as an option, in part because people are intrinsically social and it’s good for us to get out and meet other people. This is also important as increasing numbers of people are struggling to live what are very lonely lives. 

So my thinking is focussed on finding new ways to bring new life into our town and city centres that will naturally appeal to people. This in itself creates an opportunity to find ways to achieve this in an inclusive manner that hopefully allows our urban environments to offer a positive solution to our increasingly siloed society.

If one thing is certain its the uncertainty surrounding our future, and whilst individually we have little capacity to influence the overall outcome of the UK’s future, we can on both professional and personal levels ensure that we work to challenge the divisions in our society. 

Through urban regeneration there is a prime opportunity to ensure that new development programmes consider the role they can play in facilitating a greater sense of inclusion and togetherness for all members of the community. 

Ultimately the current state of “Divided we Stand” that’s being fuelled in part by Social Media isn’t desirable or beneficial to anyone, and now really is the time find ways that we can all come together.