Be enlightening, be enlightened. Stretch your mind with people you might never otherwise meet.
In this debate we took a broad look at the challenging area of crime and punishment. Considering reports of high correlations of those in prison and those with dyslexia, communications disorders, child abuse, sexual abuse etc, maybe it is time we reflected on how to address crime in a more integrated way – and we saw more empathy for criminals than the popular press might suggest.
For the first time we ran the discussion at two time slots – afternoon and evening (GMT) to see which worked best. Turn up at the evening slot was very low but we will try it again in the March 17 debate in case that is just a one-off. All the results below are based on the combined debates. All comments are verbatim and got support from at least a third of the group, those in bold had majority support.
Tough on crime and the causes of crime?
The overall attitude towards crime was split with about half the group on the “hang them” side of the spectrum and half on the “heal them” side. There were diverse views about the underlying causes of crime because of this diverse group of participants, but we did agree on:
- lack of community
- sadly enough it is often related to social factors, education, family life, role modelling.. moral values
The view that “there are really bad people out there” split the vote, but there was general agreement that putting all crime in one basket from shop lifting to murder was unhelpful. The Thinking Tank did not feel that it was reasonable to manage these through the same system.
- I am more relaxed about petty crime.. the stolen PC etc is annoyance, but no infringement in my family’s physical safety
- Though crime is always crime I think a clear classification of crime is needed. Also perhaps for really petty crime a better way of dealing with it.
- eg just focus on violent crime / criminals
There was a lot of debate about the possibility of pretty much anybody losing their path and becoming a criminal of some sort. Many did not see criminals as a different species. But there was not enough convergence on this view to generate strongly supported statements other than:
- Criminals come in all ages, ethnic backgrounds, etc.
- I’ve done massage for women prisoners. Very moving (and disturbing) that they are so unused to kindness
There was much more agreement on the positive aspects of criminals, particularly if they are reformed and prepared to communicate about their journeys:
- There are some reformed criminals who make excellent mentors for younger people. They understand how it goes, on the right wavelength, high credibility and a strong message
- indeed my son has been given info from an ex drug addict criminal and this has helped him
- My decorator was an armed bank robber… now he works in the local community centre and tries to discourage young people from making the same choices that he made
- Yes, I think there are examples in lots of communities where criminals have made a positive contribution to society. In terms of peer education, many young people are more likely to listen and take heed from people who have experienced it themselves. It’s much more meaningful and so if they can prevent even one other young person from following a life of crime then that is positive
But this wasn’t enough for everybody and these statements also got support:
- I don’t like the hopelessness of giving up on people but I’m no softie either, I’m a mum of 2 kids … I agree with the comment re life should mean life … but for me that would be a lifetime’s worth of rehab I guess!
- Although I can see many criminals as “victims”, I believe that their real victims are more entitled to attention and fair treatment – which is not trivial
Lastly we discussed ideas for useful action in this area – which focused on prevention and cure rather than punishment.
- Rehabilitation through work: couldn’t prison sentences be turned into useful work ? Doesn’t have to be slavery …
- “I have recently learned how poorly “re-entry” into society is managed. Criminals need to be welcomed back if they are to “”recover”” rather than be treated as outcasts – so they may as well reoffend.
- If criminologists can use their skills to work out who committed a crime, or profile a likely murderer can they not use this insight to help prevent criminals before they are fully developed?
- it must simply be awful if involuntary
- being homeless would be an extreme vulnerability nowhere to rest
Why does it happen?
There was reflection on the individual’s state of mind and external factors combining to create this situation
- Causes: chaotic life style, inability to cope, loss of job, mental health issues, ill equipped to cope with life (life skills absent) lack of self esteem exacerbating chaos and belief of inability to cope eg forget to pay the rent so evicted
- Cause: discharge from institutions definitely but also loss of financial resources, running away ( yes children but also adults), nowhere to go/maybe thrown out, no resources at all. That said a few do actually choose it.
- I feel sorry for homeless women and children who have had to escape domestic violence
And those who are homeless because their home was destroyed by war or natural disaster
… as well as acceptance of shared responsibility for the issue.
- [we need to] think radically about housing solutions that ignore everything we know and look afresh at the issues
- The practical issues of being homeless seem secondary to the causes (practical or psychological). No point addressing the symptoms and not the cause
No talk of the homeless as a problem to others, begging or other negative issues raised in the popular press. The reaction was much more humane:
- downside: wasted human potential
- downside: children growing up homeless must struggle to ever feel secure / worthwhile
- there is a big moral implication
- downside: home has become associated with personal value. Someone with a big house counts for more than someone with a small house who counts more than someone with no house. A big house is a delight, but doesn’t make a better person
- downside: the children get bullied/miss education and the cycle continues
- temporary = feeling insecure
- [feeling] Damp cold lonely miserable depressed unloved
Benefits of a sense of home
- Home is not a building but a feeling of belonging which is essential to a feeling of wellbeing and worth
- Home is an internal feeling not an external condition
Actions and Ideas
Both personal and political actions were suggested and these are the most supported:
- One evening I took 2 homeless guys on the street to Pizza Hut. They enjoyed the meal but more importantly we all 3 had a great conversation. Gave me a lot of insight and re-humanised the homeless for me.
- Think radically about housing solutions that ignore everything we know and look afresh at the issues
- Lobby government, read widely, school offspring to avoid debt
- Redevelop the concept of govt housing but in a society based context, not just a poverty farm on the fringes of town. Ensure formerly homeless people are properly supported and become part of their new neighbourhood
- Try to separate the wealth / ownership side of housing from the home related issues. eg Allow wealthier people to buy shares in someone else’s home. Not to live there but get some of the benefit of value increase.
- provide homes for people who are made homeless because they have left their previous “home” for good reasons ( abuse, …)
Note that all statements in italics are verbatim comments that received support and little or no opposition from the group. Those in bold had no opposition and the highest level of support.
The last word from one of our participants
- thank you for providing such an important platform and a lively debate.
For further information on this subject see:
A far from peaceful debate, though with slightly more convergence around barriers to peace than we saw regarding desirability or actions for peace.
There were clearly different schools of thought – the peaceniks and the economists for one.
The most strongly supported statements throughout the discussion was about the challenge of peace (less appealing than polarity):
- It brings focus to be against something. A sense of unity. Easier to agree on what we hate than what we love
Building on the earlier statement:
- Polarity give us a feeling of safety or of “righteousness” it is clearer to see what one stands for.
As a new feature we had “guest” participants – relevant quotes from a range of well known people. Not all of them went down well, but top performers were
- “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” Peace Pilgrim
- “Without conflict, there is no progress or change.” Marx
- “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Nelson Mandela
- “If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” Dalai Lama
And these views were reflected in our conclusions at the end of the debate:
- more than ever we need leaders who are able to move the crowd in an ethical way
- funny he we talk about world peace and yet our own peace over Xmas is a challenge
- I like the comment that peace requires “material and cultural equilibrium” bit this may be the start of a possible solution!
Barriers to peace – religion, poverty and ignorance
Before we got there though, we considered why peace is so elusive – what gets in our way?
- Religion was an early suspect: Or power struggles USE religious beliefs to generate loyalty
- And poverty: how can you feel peace in your heart when you are hungry every day
- Lack of guidance: Who teaches children about peace? parents, schoolteachers, priests, etc: – not many of them
- And greed: We don’t want to be equal, we are greedy to be better off than average. So we encroach on each other
As usual, at the end of the debate we considered the actions we could take personally. In the course of the discussion, some developed an appetite for peace action:
- There is still time to do something for peace in 2010! 15 more days!
- Support charities working for peace!
- In the home / workplace / community / traffic jam I might try to notice when I’m taking a polarity position instead of a wholeness one
- make peace with one of my enemies
- I am buying peace as my xmas presents
The most supported idea (over 8o%) was that the perfect family would be
- a family full of support, affection and belief in you
This was despite the fact that half the group agreed that
- family can be seen as a restriction
Overall, we had two main points of view represented in the debate, those supporting a traditional, strong, nuclear family and those who took a more fluid view.
Threats to families in today’s world
Families are seen as facing some challenges today – from societal changes and other distractions
Family life has changed from a nostalgia of sledging and Sunday tea to a confusing, challenging chaos
- Anti-social behaviour
Changing state of families
But the changes are not all problematic. The new openness of the idea of family is also seen by many as an opportunity
- Cultural diversity is a challenge not a threat
- Monocultures are easier to manage but don’t offer the same opportunities.
- More varied structures have potential to accommodate a greater number of individual needs
Meanwhile, most of us are part of a family, so what should we do for the best? These ideas were supported by the group:
- So we’ll go through a messy patch – and then… brave new world
- Parenting today is more about leadership than dictatorship
Support each other
- Accepting that being a family doesn’t mean necessarily living under one roof
- A general broadening of the sense of ‘family’
For the authorities
- Challenge organisations who still produce forms that are impossible to fill in if you’re not a “proper” family
- Minister: promote positive family models, based on values and behaviour, not structure
- More inclusiveness then exclusiveness
If you have connections with any such group or individuals and could help to set something up then please contact the Thinking Tank to discuss how we could make this happen.
If you have personal concerns on these issues then there are various organizations working positively in this area who may be able to help you.
If you represent such an organization and would like a link from this page, please let us know.
If you would like to see a full list of statements please email me
Pause for thought
While it was sympathetic to the challenges of the unemployed, this debate focused much more on the value of unemployment to society and to the individual as a pause for reflection. The most supported statements from the whole debate were:
- An opportunity to change direction should one wish to.
- It can be a fantastic moment to rethink your goals and priorities, to make (new) choices
- We were told twenty years ago about a leisure society yet we still work our socks off…
Compared to other Thinking Tanks, this debate was more reflective, less fast paced. In all however over 100 points of view were proposed by the group, evaluated and ranked.
There was clear acknowledgement of the downsides of unemployment for the individual, particularly in the absence of hope
- I grew up in a town with mass unemployment (closed steel mill) – the new norm became hanging around feeling hopeless
- Stress on families
And the detrimental impact on the economy / society:
- If the unemployment rate is too high, so then, there is a negative economic impact for society
- Waste of human resources – missing to include these people’s potential
Actions for business leaders
There was a belief that business leaders should be managing for growth and business success and this will in turn maintain employment requirements.
- There must be very valuable workers in my company, so that, we should redefine new markets. (there are always new opportunities to discover)
Two sides of the coin
On the issue of our role as employers / business leaders, there were clearly two schools of thought. Bipolar Synthetrons (where a statement attracts both significant support and significant opposition) on actions that we can take to address the issues raised by unemployment included:
- Maintain a relationship with ex employees eg as ad hoc team members while they are looking for next job
- I can help employees to grow personally while being on the job and by such creating resilience in the face of unemployment.
- Be aware of the research showing that the hard fast high cutting companies do very much worse after a crisis than the ones that keep some slack, fire in a humane way, let the employees keep in touch with each other, stimulate these contacts, …
- I can coach people better
This bipolarity was also the case concerning some of the advantages to society of unemployment – maybe reflecting personal experiences.
- I always learned that a certain degree of unemployment helps the economy to grow, change have a real labour market.. and I do believe that could be a benefit for society if we were all part time unemployed with time to do other important things. now a large group of people work more than 100% neglecting themselves, family and friends, while others do not have any work at all.
The word cloud (below) shows how the content of the debate went—the bigger the word, the more mentions and the higher the support. Most of the larger words are positive and focus on new beginnings. Of course many of the participants are successful in life—maybe due in part to this positive approach.
Overall the group are aware of the need for a change in style in this Thinking Tank carried out in partnership with Aspire Coaching. The time for rigid leadership styles is over, in our fast changing world, flexibility is key.
- Someone like Obama is changing what being a leader means
80% of comments about leadership style are about TRANSFORMATIONAL (traditionally female) attributes.
Communicating is the most frequently mentioned behaviour for a leader today while the need for emotional intelligence and empathy are also well recognised. Teamwork is an important aspect of this approach.
- The key attributes are good communications, clarity of vision and purpose, high emotional intelligence, openness
The group see a growing need for honesty and openness in the way senior management deal with their teams… as well as a demand for a more ethical and sustainable approach to business decisions
The remaining 20% of comments about leadership style are about TRANSACTIONAL (traditionally male) attributes.
Despite the emphasis on transformational attributes there were also several comments about the need to be tough as a leader.
- Leadership is a tougher job in an uncertain climate and it takes more than a sympathetic ear for staff concerns!
Some comments are about leadership in general – neither transformational nor transactional
Clarity and focus are important for any type of leader and inspiring visionary leaders are valued. Customers are mentioned in the context of the need to understand their needs in order for the business to survive
Lastly, the process of business leaders in a peer group discussion was seen as useful by many participants and there was a desire for ongoing on-line connections
- We need some radical changes. Business and people need to be led by STRONG leaders with clear vision and the will to tackle the issues
In December for the first time we ran two Thinking Tanks. One for under 16s and then one for adults. Children talked a lot about families, the sparkle of decorations and the feeling of excitement. Adults talked about the over-commercialisation of Christmas but recognised it only works because we buy into it. We concluded with some great ideas to buck the trend.
It’s not the way we want it
The general conclusion was this Christmas had lost some of it’s spark for adults. For some that was the declining religious significance while the majority rued the seemingly irresistible commercialisation of the event – almost 60% of adults felt Christmas had less value today than when they were young.
- Pity it as been turned for many people into a purchasing circus over the last 15 years
- [I feel a] bit of guilt, as we are not celebrating it as it should be celebrated
What we like
The positive aspects of Christmas for the adult group were mostly around feasting—good food and wine, shared with family and friends. There was nostalgia for a simpler era when presents were homemade and there wasn’t the same pressure to spend.
- human beings need rituals, especially those to do with change
In the young people’s group, the emphasis was also on family, though food was hardly mentioned! 60% of them felt that Christmas was most enjoyable for families (surprisingly, 20% thought turkeys!)
When the young people got to make a wish for Christmas, they went for peace, snow, health and love. Much lower scores for i-pods and quad bikes.
Offered a wish for the world, less environmental destruction, poverty and racism were unanimously supported.
- racism to stop
- don’t waste the world
- people to recycle
When we forced the issue by challenging participants to limit to a £50 budget most adults chose to spend it on food. And many thought they might even enjoy it more
- More. Because the reason to come together is not the gifts, the food, …. it is only the friendship
- More value. Will have to be creative and invest personal time to find the right present and please the recipient
Hope for the future
In good Dickens tradition, at the end of our discussion we considered future Christmases and whether we might find ways to increase their value. 50% felt this would be possible.
Some of the more popular suggestions were:
- I’m a great fan of the “random acts of kindness” school – if we ALL do it, it encourages others!!
- ensure that we see giving of their time and presence as valuable as presents
- maybe if we include a personal promise (eg to read a bedtime story, get home from work in time) in each Christmas card we send, word will get around
When the young people came up with their suggestions for improving Christmas they recognised adults need some help with enjoying themselves:
- but adults are part of the family (!)
- help each other more on Christmas day – my mum always says it’s exhausting
- I think a lot of the magic that is “created” at xmas is FOR children – and maybe adults should enjoy that more, seeing children happy and excited
- I think if it could be made a bit simpler and be more about being with people and showing the nice side of life, rather than consumerism all the time, it would be loads better.
The final word comes from the children’s debate on how to improve Christmas for everyone: