Just how do you go about rebuilding a nation?

I often find myself saying the same things at Link4Growth events to different people and when I notice that this is happening I often put 'pen to paper' so to speak and write a blog post. This means I can send a link to the post to convey the message, and it often ends up in it being forwarded to others and shared around.

This subject is one which often comes up in conversation... there is no doubt that the country is in a bit of a pickle... a housing market out of control once more... £1.47 trillion in personal debt... and 1 million of our young people educated and trained for a workplace that no longer exists... didn't we do well? In fact we are in a worse position than in 2007 and we all know what happened then.

So how do we rebuild a nation? Well it starts with accepting that the responsibility for this huge task does not rest with the government, nor does it rest with big businesses to create more jobs... nope the only people who can create a different future is us, the people of this country... there is no cavalry, there is no one else but us. So... how do we do it? We have to focus on people and relationships not money... but why? Well let's just consider if something terrible happened with the money supply... if the banks crashed next time and there was no money to bail them out (and there isn't), what could we absolutely rely on? ... our relationships are all we really have, people who are there for us no matter what... and the more people we know, who like us and would be prepared to help the better our chances... this translates into 'Community' ... we have to rebuild community, like we had after the war... like the Japanese after the disaster over there... when everyone pulls together for a common goal (money just doesn't come into this)... everyone goes the extra mile to help others out, and if you have ever been in a group with this energy it really is awesome... we need to rekindle this spirit to rebuild our country, it isn't about money, and we need to do it now!!

Ok... so we are going to rebuild community? ... how? ... I often say when talking to charities or business owners if everyone within a 10 mile radius knew who you were, do you think this would open up more opportunities? ... the answer of course is yes. For charities it is NOT money that is the real issue, it is connections... and it is the same for businesses... the more people that know about us or are thinking about us the more that happens.

So what is this going to look like? ... well we need to provide online and offline opportunities for people to begin to get to know each other and it needs to be geographical. We need to be organised in such a way that it is easy to find people that are local to us... the vast majority of us would do things locally if we could, what is the point in driving around and travelling great distances if what we actually need is right here on our doorstep... the strapline of #Link4Growth 'What if we knew you' is at the heart of the solution... what if everyone local was able to be connected to everyone else locally... wouldn't that be something special?

Connecting physically... do you remember the good old community centres? ... chances are if you are one of the younger generation you won't. The concept was simple, a place for the local community to meet. Many have gone along with our community spirit... but what we need now are local community events up and down the country. Open to all, totally inclusive, free to attend... these would be an opportunity for local people to start getting to know each other again... Meet, talk, listen, learn and connect... or in other words start rebuilding those connections that are essential for community...

Connecting virtually... many of us are however nervous or a little apprehensive to going out and possibly meeting a bunch of strangers... so how about meeting and chatting online first. Get to know local people by connecting in local communities online. Wouldn't it be great if we could divide the country up into counties (we've already done that haven't we?) and within each, have a community for each of the towns and cities... you wouldn't even have to get off your chair... or go out of the house to begin talking to other local people in your town... and when you decide that you would like to actually meet people then arrange to attend one of the physical community events... online -> offline ... or offline -> online it doesn't matter you can do either.

What I have learned through talking to people is that they are most interested and "engaged" in what is happening where they live and / or work... Being able to share information about local events, local stories and news... or even finding like minded individuals to get together and take action over something that needs doing locally. What if we could just make the news and publish what we want? No editors or people to get in the way... an opportunity for us, the local people to have our say... for us to make the news about what we want to read, for us to share what is important to us... spread real local news not some edited highlights with a slant depending on who's reporting it.

What though... what if we could have some kind of low cost TV channel service? ... an opportunity to have an even bigger voice by spreading the messages through video... local TV? ... What if we could curate the local news, share info about local charities, Businesses, Sport and much more... Maybe a dedicated debate show on local issues? ... or even a show for the young people of the town? ... what if we could invite guests to join us??

I travel the breadth of the country and one thing is common everywhere I go, there is a high percentage of people who are depressed and moaning about where they live... I find myself constantly saying, stop focusing on the negatives... we should be grateful not moaning... everywhere is unique, everywhere has great stuff going on... we just need a place to expose the amazing places we have in this country and share with others... I am constantly taking pictures of things where I live in Watford... ordinary things that locals would find familiar but also things in the town that people who live here don't even know about!! ... If we were able to take and share pictures with others in our own community space, easily, I am sure we could start to create a change in the way people view where they live.

In order for us to create vibrant local communities we need to have a strong local economy too! I have been beating the drum of buying locally for some time now and stopped using supermarkets myself completely at the end of September 2013... we desperately need to remove the "cloak of invisibility" for our local independent businesses... But not only businesses... we also need to increase the visibility of the amazing work done by unsung heroes in the local small charities... Watford, where I live has 200 of these small charities alone!!

Sharing information about health... we need to reverse the epidemic of obesity and degenerative diseases... there are hundreds and thousands of people out there with great knowledge to help us all make informed better health choices, but how can you get to these people? ... the problem is we don't know where they are... it's just not easy enough to find them! ... but again, what if it were much easier?

What if we had a platform to engage and discuss on a whole range of other subjects and share best practice on anything from how to be more frugal to how can we live in a more sustainable eco friendly way? Collectively we know all there is to know... what if we could just share that information easily with others? .. what if we could match up those with the knowledge with those that need it? ... how amazing would that be?

What if we could also do something to help sort out the education system and get our young people back engaged with the community feeling positive about the future and not hopeless... please read my previous blog post to see the desperate situation we have left our young people in today... it is our responsibility to own up the mess we have left them in and help them create the future they would like to see... What if we could provide a platform for them to re-connect with the community, connect with all those living locally and open up new and exciting opportunities for them. I am personally working with local colleges to get these young people undertaking real live projects they will be interested in, getting them meeting local people, engaging with local businesses, using their talents to solve real challenges out there today... and providing them with real employability skills that businesses will be needing in the future... but these initiatives are needed in every town right across the country... what are we waiting for??

What if I told you that we can already do all of this? ... what if I told you that everything above is contained within the "Link4Growth community platform" and that it already exists? ... What if I told you that we are already building local communities and it is growing fast... What if I told you that all of the above is FREE ... yes, zero cost? ... What if I asked... would you like to participate and be part of it?

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