You have to be quite a courageous person to talk about love in a meeting. You have to be a really really courageous leader to talk about love in a meeting with other leaders!
I’ve tried to do it quite a few times in various situations and very rarely does it land well. People tend to look at you as if you need mental health support. I watch the collective eyes do a slight “poor thing” roll as people squirm uncomfortably in their chairs or on their zoom calls.
It also feels a really weird, out of place word and concept to use in a formal meeting situation where we talk about performance metrics, deliverables and milestone targets. Love doesn’t sit well in the technical somewhat robotic language of new public management. It’s as if we are manufacturing a car sometimes when we talk about looked after children or adult social care. So eventually when we talk about relationships and especially when we talk about love, the words sound a bit funny coming out of our mouths as if we anticipate the subsequent derision and embarrassment.
But why would love not be at the centre of public policy in England in the same way that it is now in Scotland?
Love drives us to do the most crazy things in our own lives. The love we have for our own families and friends means we would do anything for them to keep them safe and make sure they can achieve their dreams. We forget this sometimes at work and act as if we are managing a capital project when we are supporting a new model of children’s social care or setting up an integrated neighbourhood team.
Nicola Sturgeon proudly unveiled the new Scottish Care Review in her Parliament whilst declaring her love for the children of Scotland, all the children , not just those in the care system currently.
Scotland and New Zealand and other progressive countries are hard-wiring love, compassion and kindness into their national systems and policy framework. Not just in token fluffy kind of public relations way but into the way everyone relates to and world with individuals and families, how they are listen to, cared for and enabled within this neighbourhoods and communities to live their best lives.
Some people say “if you can’t measure it – it won’t get done” but I don’t think that gets to the heart of what is holding public policy back. Some policies are very hard to measure by focussing on the easily measurable outputs.
We live our lives through relationships, with ourselves, with our families and friends, with colleagues and our neighbourhoods. It is the quality of those relationships that defines much of not only our happiness but also our life chances. It is virtually impossible to measure some of this stuff.
Sometimes in order to be taken a bit more seriously I will dress it up in a scientific cloak to give the idea more structure and seriousness, making myself sound a bit less bonkers. Let’s talk about anthropology- the science of human behaviour and suddenly people listen harder – instant credibility!
Bringing love into the room, into the hearts of all our relationships with communities, with families with each other is vital if we are to truly reform public services and the relationships between people and the state in the post pandemic world.
We have been shown that the only things that really mattered all along were love, health and happiness and the ability to care and nurture those who matter most to us.
Professor Donna Hall, CBE
Don’t miss the second webinar in our Caring Places series where we bring together Donna Hall and two other true change leaders to discuss ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ Request to join our webinar, Wednesday 20th May at 12 noon, here: https://bit.ly/CaringPlacesChat20thMay