To say the last eleven months has been a “challenging” time is probably a misjudged attempt at understatement. “Challenging” is way off the mark, the pandemic has delivered uncertainty in spades, affected every aspect of our routine, every aspect of our lives in one way or another and if you’re anything like me you, you’re probably getting fed up (another understatement but I’ll use it as I’m in polite company) of the constant, relentless, frenzied reminders all around us. But I guess you really don’t need me to tell you this.
Even catching up with friends on the phone or Zoom/Teams/Blue Jeans (other one-dimensional platforms are available!), I’ve suddenly taken to asking bluntly “How’s your pandemic going?” Any attempt to sidestep the subject is an exercise in futility so one may as well cut straight to the chase, right? If you don’t ask, you’ll probably be greeted by silence as nothing much else has been going on in most people’s lives, and if there has been good stuff, they are racked with guilt so probably won’t indulge!
If there is a positive to come out of the last eleven months then I would suggest that we have had a lot of time to reflect on what’s important, I mean what’s really important to us as individuals and as a society.
Music, art, theatre and hospitality have been missed as they, in a myriad of different ways, connect, stimulate, move and inspire us as humans. They will come back but they have been injured and probably scarred. Some unfortunately won’t make it.
I know that during this time, latent creativity has been fired into action, the writers, playwrights and performers of tomorrow have been laying down lyrics and plotlines during the various iterations of lockdown. We need to come out of the turmoil nurturing this new talent, energy and creativity – ensuring we provide the infrastructure and support at a grass roots level.
Communities for Good
As we have all been locked up in our homes only allowed out to walk the cat (I’m sure it’s been used as an excuse) we have looked back, closer to home, to our local communities, local businesses and local high streets and towns. This was a sputtering trend towards hyper local which has now become a thing. Unfortunately, pubs have been doubling as food banks, exhibition halls as Nightingale hospitals and Brewdog offering their pub estate as vaccination centres.
However, the counter side to the trend has also been exacerbated, equity backed restaurant chains closing, high street fashion brands leaving the real world to go 100% online leaving cavernous gaps in an already skeletal high street offer. Surely this can’t continue.
Future of Towns and Cities
There is a massive debate around the future of our cities – they have historically been work, business and social hubs, intrinsically intertwined, not mutually exclusive, feeding each other to create vibrant landscapes for everyone to enjoy.
The trend to work from home has again only been accelerated – having worked for global companies with teams all over the world this is not something unusual just the technology is much, much better.
So, if offices become more transitory, smaller spaces with less people what does that mean for the city model and its ecosystem?
The Future is our Kids
I am driven to despair every time I hear the term “lost generation” due to the many issue’s kids are facing right now. Sure, they have had to deal with all sorts of issues from home education to cancelled exams, but it is up to all of us to pull together and build a strong nurturing culture and society – one where prodigious talent in other areas than just grade attainment is encouraged and road mapped.
Partnerships for Good
There is a fundamental shift in the brand world – that is towards purpose – CSR, diversity, BLM, this shift is palpable. I’d like to see brands, and I am being sweepingly generic, look at this with a more granular lens and truly nurture and get into the muscle of creativity, arts and culture in an enabling and facilitating way. Let’s give reality “star” fake Instagram lives a miss, shall we? Let’s develop true talent – they will be the loyal consumers of the future, the Holy Grail every brand search for.
Coalition of the Willing
As consumers and businesses, we all make choices – sounds kind of obvious I know. Terms like “come back stronger”, “build back better” will not be the default position unless it is a collective and joint enterprise, and we should be wary of just falling back into the old normal – as much as we might crave that normal right now.
We need to rethink the value exchange and look at what what’s really important. We must all pull together public and private is irrelevant in reality. When we needed to pull homeless people off the streets in lockdown 1 – we did. And to boot many of those had the first chance to address the issues and turn around their lives. So, when there is a will, there is a way
Our “soft” exports are world renowned. Our arts, culture and education will need energy and creativity to navigate the near future. We need to challenge the status quo. As I join the family at Counterculture I look forward to helping clients manage rapid change, rethink their business models, build resilience in order to emerge stronger / more focused and indeed more relevant.
Change can be good – only if we make it.