Upon first moving to London in 2006, we lived across the street from a housing estate and about 100 meters from Gwenyth Paltrow’s house in Belsize Park. Though it was a decidedly affluent area, people from all walks of life were mushed in together and I loved it.
Now, living in Southeast London, my borough is similarly diverse. There’s a famous artist and a model living around the block, but we walk through a housing estate on the way back from the shops and rub elbows with all sorts of people in our daily life. We volunteer to help out at the community garden in the estate down the hill. We do what we can to mix up our social circle and meet people from lots of backgrounds. This is the way we like it.
A couple months ago, I attended my first ever live TedX event. It was a lovely event in Clarkenwell (London) and one of the speakers, Jon Yates, is the Director of 'The Challenge’. His talk focused on bursting bubbles. Cutting to the chase, 90% of the time, we seek out the opinions of those who are most like us. Unsurprisingly, these peers agree with us and echo our thoughts and feelings about the world and our place in it.
Being surrounded by so many people who echo our own beliefs is a dangerous game. While being challenged by those who see differently isn’t a fun process at times, it’s a necessary one. We must be open to hearing differing perspectives so that our understanding of the world and empathy for others can grow.
Jon’s organisation, a charity, called NCS The Challenge matches 15-18 year olds from the highest-performing private schools with those from the lowest-performing state schools (and everyone in-between). A heavily subsidised programme, the cost to a participating teen’s family is negligible and every 15-18 year old in the country will soon be able to take part.
Through the programme, wealthy kids from the top paid schools grow to understand that it’s difficult to study when your belly’s growling and when you’re babysitting your younger siblings in the midst of revising. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds come to understand that they have a lot in common with the kids at the top paid schools and are entirely capable of making a nice life for themselves. In short, many of the stereotypes that invade our minds about ‘others’ are dismissed by bringing a diverse group together.
Following Jon’s talk, I contacted the organization for advice on how to help our subscribers to burst bubbles where they live. We’re in the midst of concepting a ‘bubbles’ kit (watch this space) and the organisation has asked me to get involved in judging/coaching local student teams’ presentations…I’m honoured to get involved.
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