Attachment to place

Forgive me for personalising this post so much, but I find myself in a life situation that truly reflects the focus of our forthcoming book ‘Happiness and Domestic Life‘ already on sale, and one that speaks to the focus of our next Experts Meeting ‘The Home and Displaced People‘ that we will be holding in Washington in September at the Catholic University of America.
As once again, for work-related reasons, I am moving to another country.
For the past five and a half years I have been writing and working from Brussels. A very cosmopolitan city whose population is difficult to calculate as the turnover of people is extremely high and the MEPs of the 27 countries that make up the European Union come and go from Monday to Friday.
And although during these five years I have welcomed and said goodbye to many people, I never imagined the attachment I would feel for this place and for this country which despite being very different from mine, has become my home. It’s hard to leave and say goodbye, it’s hard to turn the page, and it’s hard to pack up and pick up everything I’ve lived through. It is a great physical, mental and emotional effort. These are weeks of instability and uncertainty.
At the age of 18, I left my hometown of Logroño to study and I never went back to live there again. It was my home place, which my parents tried hard to make sure met all the requirements of a home. A place for the growth and development of a person: stable, warm, friendly and happy. It is that HOME with a capital H because it is the one that will always serve as a reference point for me and because it is the one I still call “My home”. To differentiate it from the different homes that I have created and built throughout my life, I sometimes specify “my parents’ home”. But when you come and go so much and you have to create, cherish and then say goodbye to homes so many times, that first home becomes even stronger.
Well, as I said, after different homes in Spain, our stay in the UK and Belgium, we are going back to Spain. The feeling is enormously contradictory, I feel sorrow and joy at the same time. I feel that I am leaving here in Brussels a root that had germinated and was growing strongly and I feel that, once again, I have to sow again. It is a never-ending story, but one that always brings good things, despite the difficulty of the situation.
And my experience is one that is shared by many people who, wanting to improve in our professional lives and grow in our personal lives, have freely decided to take this step and assume these risks that in one way or another bring enormous instability. But it is a free decision. I can’t imagine what it means for all those who leave because of war, hunger, or obligation. Often running, leaving family members behind, separating from their children, parents, grandparents… Uprooting dramas that affect the person so fundamentally.

And now that I have to start again, and reading the book that you will soon be able to hold in your hands, the question is key: what must a home be like to be happy? what relationship exists between the home and the happiness of the person and their development? to what extent does the home form part of a larger community on whose wellbeing it also depends?

I leave you with these questions for reflection. If you have a home, value it and care for it. If you are in a delicate or difficult home situation, I give you hope because the key lies in the simplicity of daily care.

Home Again

Photographs of Mariapol’ and Kharkiv in Ukraine tell the story of devastation – of buildings, and of the lives of those who once peacefully and simply lived in them. We can see the same impact looking at aerial views of Aleppo, Beirut, and the towns of Eastern Afghanistan: the first destroyed by war, the second by an explosion, and the last by the very recent earthquake in that region. Whatever the cause, the rubble and the tragic remains of what had been places of family safety and pride touch our hearts.  Although we pray that it will never be our story, it is not hard for us to enter the stories of others as we see the broken fragments of these much-loved homes.

It is also not hard to feel despondent – how can these broken places be mended? How can they ever be called home again? The places referred to above are still in the early stages, if at all, of being able to even think about “what next?” There are though examples which offer whispers of hope to those whose homes seem gone forever. One such whisper or glimpse is the story of Roombeek in the Eastern Netherlands.

Roombeek is a suburb of the Dutch city of Enschede. On 13th May 2000 a fireworks warehouse exploded, killing 23 people and injuring nearly 1000 more. In total 2000 homes were either destroyed or seriously damaged. This was not a war-torn land or a place of natural disaster, but for the inhabitants, the loss of home was nonetheless as heart-breaking as it was life-changing.

What happened next was inspirational. The national and local governments saw the rebuilding of Roombeek as an opportunity for its residents to have real say in what the rebuilt community should be like. Questions were asked about what was really valued. The answers to these questions were very encouraging. The priorities were that the past should not be forgotten but that the building should look to the future. For this reason the general ground plan of the area was kept the same. People wanted to return to familiar surroundings and to feel at home, but not for each home to be rebuilt brick by brick. There was a recognition that what made Roombeek home was more than the houses themselves. It was about being neighbours as well as households.

People wanted neighbourhoods that were safe and welcoming for all. Certainly that each home should reflect the needs of the household, but more than this, that each home would have, metaphorically and often actually, its doors open to others.  With the guidance and skill of sympathetic architects and with the financial commitment of the government, twenty two years on Roombeek is a thriving place of real community and with confidence in its future.

This is a vision to hold onto as we contemplate the destroyed places of today. They need the will and means and skills of many agencies to become places where people can feel at home again. They also need the will and skill of those people themselves: to make each other feel at home again too.

The contribution of home to the well-being of individuals and their communities cannot be overestimated. Our new publication ‘Happiness and Domestic Life’ examines the vital connections between the home and human flourishing. To order an advance copy please click here.

Newsletter June 2022

Dear friends,

As we reach the midpoint of the year and summer holidays approach for many of us, we are grateful that 2022 has allowed a long-awaited return to more normal days. For HRF this has meant that we have been able to meet in person once more, both with our own team and our research partners – we have been glad of virtual communication but it is very good to be in the same room again.

Since the Easter Newsletter, I would like to highlight our Communication Report: The Impact of Technology in the Home.  Our work, both through our 2021 publication  The Home in the Digital Age and this recent report, has allowed reflection on how the fundamental values of the home are being challenged by technology. The testimonies of experts, academics, engineers, teachers and parents have helped us to shed real light on the incorporation of technologies into our lives.

Related to this, earlier this month HRF participated in an event hosted by the Family Watch Foundation in which we were asked to share the main ideas of our work in this area. It is a great joy to serve as an inspiration to other associations with concern for the life of the home.

Also in June, HRF was represented at the UN Experts Meeting in Cairo by our patron Professor Mohammed Gamal Abdelmonem,  Chair in Architecture at the School of Architecture, Design and Built Environment at Nottingham Trent University. The meeting in preparation for the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Families was an opportunity to share our vision and to connect with experts from the Middle East and North Africa. It is important for HRF to have a seat at the table where decisions affecting homes and families across the world are made. I would like to thank Professor Abdelmonem for his generous contribution in terms of time and expertise on behalf of HRF.

Our activities continue; our new publication Happiness and Domestic Life will be published by Routledge this autumn (available for pre-order on July 29, 2022, item will ship after August 19, 2022) and our next Experts Meeting The Home and Displaced People will take place in Washington DC this September. More information to follow soon.

As summer begins I hope that you will be able to find time for rest and for family, and to also take time to enjoy and treasure all that our homes mean to us.

Bryan K. Sanderson

Have we looked through the peephole before we let technology in?

How many times have we said that our home is that safe, private, intimate, stable place that allows us to develop normally and gives us the tools to go out and live in society? Thousands of times.

However much society evolves, however much change comes, however much technology bursts in and develops at breakneck speed, nothing is going to change the raison d’être of the home. That is why we must pay attention to anything that could jeopardise this value and role.

Last week HRF participated in a meeting with the Spanish association The Family Watch. We were invited to talk about these issues and one of the conclusions we came to and which we have all experienced is that the impact of technologies in the home is both positive and negative. It is undeniably bringing benefits and saving us time, and being able to recognise this and take advantage of it is important. But we also need to be aware of the problems it is causing us in terms of privacy, instability, isolation, communication and relationships between family members.

The participants in the session asked me for formulas, alternatives, recipes to ensure that the integration, the incorporation of technology is adequate. And, even at the risk of disappointing the audience, I could only be honest and answer that there are no magic recipes, but that every home has to develop an approach that works for their circumstances.  The response to technology will never be simple because we are facing a complex reality, as explained in our report by Mei Ling Fung and Patrick Scannell.

There are, though, recommendations that we can try to apply and that require effort on our part, namely education and prudence. Have we looked through the peephole before opening the door of our home and letting in someone who is friendly and beneficial but who is also a stranger? Have we taken into account that technology seems innocuous but once inside can we lose control of its impact? Have we read the small print or the side effects and still want to go ahead? Are we aware that artificial intelligence is already among us and is changing the way we communicate, the way we work, the way we relate to each other?

The changes do not have to be bad, we simply have to be aware of them and be the ones to decide in which direction and in which way we want these changes to influence our lives and our homes. Let us be the ones to take the reins now because only we should be the ones making decisions when our homes are at stake.

Homes on the Breadline

The phrase “on the breadline” is often used lightly to suggest that we have found something expensive – “any more rounds of drinks at this place and I’ll be on the breadline!” You can often hear the same kind of sentiment after a fancy restaurant meal – “it’ll be beans on toast until payday now.”

Most of the time, for most of us reading this, these are metaphors. We shall not really be queuing for bread or food from a charity; we shall not really only have enough money for the cheapest food in the shops. This is changing. It is changing not just in faraway places where having enough money for the equivalent of beans on toast is a luxury, but on our own doorsteps.

The current economic crisis is driven by many factors, some easier to understand than others. The war in Ukraine has had a devastating effect on those suffering its violence and destruction, but also on the price of energy and food, including, as Ukraine is a major producer of wheat, bread itself. Other factors at work are more hidden, but their impact too is that more people will find that this hitherto notional breadline is a real one.

There are so many things to address here, but just two for today. The first is the role and situation of the home in this crisis. The home is the place where the family returns each day to be fed. Both physically and emotionally. The pressure is on wage-earners and homemakers, and so many who are both, to continue to provide this nourishment. Fine words do not make full stomachs, but healthy attitudes to material things can and do sustain us.

A meal prepared and shared which is received with thankfulness can be a simple one. Making the ordinary special is one of the true gifts of the home. Remembering that this is not the first time things have been hard, remembering the places where they do not remember things not being hard, does not minimize the struggle families are facing, but it does anchor us in gratitude and compassion.

Compassion, because the second aspect that comes to mind today is that of those whose bread is shared in that breadline. The charities whose work to support the neediest will be at full-stretch as times become harder. The homes where there is always space for one more at the table. Where there is an understanding that the best life offers is collaborative rather than competitive when it comes to our resources.

Combining attitudes and material things is the daily work and “bread and butter” of the home. At Home Renaissance Foundation we urge policymakers to recognize the contribution of the home to everyone and to encourage those agencies which support the home – especially the increasing number of homes finding themselves on the breadline today.

Educating in waiting

We have become accustomed to wanting something and having it now. The immediacy which is brought to us by the Internet, online shopping and mobile apps, while allowing us to avoid queuing at the bank, at the store and at the supermarket, does not make us better. Maybe more efficient, maybe more practical, but also more intolerant. This is something to be careful of,  because this can also become transmitted and infect our attitudes at home.

We live in a hurry to do everything immediately and a simple traffic jam can make us angry. Now there are appos that help us avoid them, but not always… And those of us who grew up sending letters or postcards, not whats apps, those of us who grew up waiting ten months to meet our summer friends again, without facetimes, those of us who grew up waiting at the door for our neighbour to come down, without missed calls, should be an example for the “amazon kids”, as the digital expert, María Zalbidea, calls them.

Waiting at the doctor’s office while reading a book, waiting in line at the supermarket while ordering groceries, waiting for petrol while listening to the radio, waiting for the elevator while time simply passes, helps us to work on our patience, our tolerance and our frustrations. In addition, waiting allows us to think, reflect, evaluate, analyze and decide calmly, without haste.

Patrick Scanell says in our report, “The Impact of Technology in the Home,” that technology is complex, it is not something simple, so how can we incorporate it into our lives so quickly without evaluating and waiting to see its impact. Complexity requires thoughtfulness and we haven’t stopped for a minute to assess whether we want to introduce these dizzying changes in our lives.

I have grown up in a small city, far from the hustle and bustle of the capital, and immersed in the agricultural sector where the sky rules and the earth has its own rhythm, and often remember those sayings of the older generation such as: “more haste less speed”, “no matter how early you get up, the sun rises at its time” or “good things come to those who wait”. Wise words today as well as yesterday.
Why do we want to rush and put a screen in our children’s hands when they are young if they have their whole lives ahead of them to use them? Why not educate them to wait and offer them such a tool when their brain and personality are finally formed and they can make good use of them?  Rushing into things is never a good idea.

The home can be a place where time can be taken and the vital skills of patience and discernment taught. Learning to enjoy and benefit from all that technology offers us is well worth the wait.

The self-esteem of teenagers depends on their success on the Internet

Last weekend in Valencia, Nacho Gil Conesa, “Nachter,”  the humorist influencer, with millions of followers on Tiktok, Instagram and Youtube was signing copies of his book and the queues were very long. HRF CEO Mercedes Jaureguibeitia was there to present him with a copy of our most recent communication report “The Impact of Technology in the Home” to which he and his family contributed. His testimony adds a positive note to the potential of the new technologies in our lives and homes.

Nachter has succeeded in making healthy humour across social network platforms.  He was motivated to do his bit to help make the places where young people spend so much time offer content that made them laugh and hopefully feel better about themselves rather than worse. It would be good if his approach of using social networks for good, rather than feeling used by them,  was more widespread.  If young people could come to this digital world equipped with the necessary maturity to avoid the problems they often experience. If the developers, the big tech companies, took on board that the famous attention economy need not lead to or feed on aggressive or hostile responses.

This week we highlighted the report’s testimony of Ana Oyonarte, a teacher and mother in the United States. She is alarmed by the great influence that such platforms have on the personality of young people. Concerned that their self-esteem depends on “likes”. Can you imagine what your character would be like, how you would deal with situations, how you would behave at work if your personality had been shaped by your digital popularity? This, Oyonate argues, is a reality for many youngsters.

Marc Masip is a psychologist and expert into on how to make good use of new technologies without damaging our personal relationships and without creating dependencies or addictions. He is clear and categorical on this issue and says that from 0 to 6 years old, children should not have unguided use of screens either at school or at home. His experience of tech-addiction is that early unprotected exposure can lead to serious long term problems. Unhealthy screen use is clearly part of wider social and environmental early life experiences, but his insights are cautionary for parents of young children.

It is good to join with Natcher in being optimistic about the opportunities out there,  but we must be aware the supersonic speed at which the digital world evolves still needs the human navigational aids of reflection, compassion and self-control.

Technologies require maturity

It is a fact that the big technology companies are trying to keep us hooked. After watching the documentary ‘The Dilemma’, I was struck by the number of things they have in mind to capture our attention and how well they study their audience. That the workers themselves decided to leave their management positions to tell the public about their experiences and become guarantors of digital ethics through foundations that counteract the power of the technological platforms gives us pause for thought.

We know that there are thousands of dollars behind every “like”, every post and every user. Social networks have become sales channels that move a lot of money through influencers, but the more we are aware of these details, the more we know about the intentions and raison d’être of these companies, the more we will be able to develop tools that allow us to make correct use of them and discern between the real and the unreal: to avoid acting blindly.

The Communication Project that we launched last week, ‘The Impact of Technology in the Home‘, gathers valuable testimonies. It is not about being alarming, but about taking the right steps. We already know that technology is neither good nor bad in itself, it all depends on the use we make of it and also on the responsibility assumed by the developers. Marta Sánchez, Global Head of Retail Digitalisation and Distribution at Vodafone UK, explains that her company has tried to face the challenges that this rapid evolution offers, putting the person, the user, at the centre of its objectives. As she says, they are well aware of the importance of going down this road together, sharing the challenge with society.

We are all capable of appreciating the advantages that technology has brought us. We are also capable of seeing the changes that are taking place in the way we relate to each other, the way we work, the way we communicate, and even the way we manage our homes. What we have to achieve, and this is a personal task that the community must support by offering tools to families, is to develop an ability not to accept or fall for everything that is given to us and to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. For that, as psychiatrist Enrique Rojas says in the report, maturity is needed.

Therefore, while enjoying the marvelous advantages of technology, let’s encourage this maturity.  The digital world is parallel to the real world and that means that it will affect our mental, emotional, cerebral, rational, personal and professional stability. The conclusion does not change, it is up to us to be prepared and to prepare future generations so that this impact is positive, and we manage to avoid the risks that will always exist.

This report is also available in Spanish ‘El Impacto de la Tecnología en el Hogar’

The Impact of Technology in the Home

We know it’s not Thursday, but we have something very exciting to tell you.

After long months of hard work, our latest Communication Project, The Impact of Technology in the Home, is out.

Here you have the testimonies of experts, parents, psychiatrists, teachers, engineers at your disposal to understand a little better what impact technologies have on our home, on the relationships between the different members of the family and how we should prepare ourselves for the challenges that their incorporation offers us, which are not always negative but can also be a great opportunity.

 

As usual, we have it also in Spanish ‘El Impacto de la Tecnología en el Hogar’.

We hope you enjoy it and share it with those you think may be interested in these issues.

News & More

“I hope that the spring sunshine we are seeing is also a herald of hope as the world emerging from the pandemic finds itself with more challenges. When we look at what is unfolding in Ukraine, we must hope to restore the balance and peace that we have lost in recent times.

The sadly very relevant topic of homes lost and found is the focus of our next Experts Meeting in Washington DC in September, with the support of the Social Trends Institute. Led by Professor Sophia Aguirre of the Catholic University of Washington and director of HRF, the group of experts will address ‘The Home and Displaced People.’ Home is more than a place to stay: how can a fuller understanding of home inform approaches to migration and support of displaced people. Learn more here.

Our research partnership with the International Centre for Work and Family at IESE, is proving to be very fruitful as the team works on the first three papers.  Analysing and interpreting the complex relationships between the attitudes and activities of the home and the workplace is providing key insights into the role of the work of the home in individual, family and professional flourishing. Our thanks to ICWF Director Professor Mireia Las Heras and to Professors Marc Grau and Yasin Rofcanin for the high calibre studies they are engaged in with HRF to benefit all with an interest in this vital field.

HRF is also pleased to be involved in an advisory role with academic leaders of research proposals relating to our work on The Home in the Digital Age. One impact of the pandemic has been to reveal the home as the frontline of technology designed to support not just WFH but all aspects of domestic life. HRF champions the home as a place of life-long care and nurture and it is good to have our seat at the table when decisions affecting all our homes are being made.

In February, we were delighted to hear from our patron Professor Gamal Abdelmonem and his Vice-Chancellor that cultural heritage research at Nottingham Trent University, led by Professor Abdelmonem, has earned a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education: the highest national honour for a UK university. We are proud of our association with this work and send renewed congratulations.

Our forthcoming publication ‘Happiness and Domestic Life’ is due to go on sale later this year. In the meantime, we continue with the launches of ‘The Home in the Digital Age’. Just a reminder for Spanish speakers, that we had the privilege of participating in an event at the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico, with one of the co-authors of the book, Professor Matilde Santos. Please use this link to see the event.

We are also about to launch our latest Communication Project which reflects on the Impact of Technology in the Home.  The voices of parents, experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, engineers and developers have been gathered to help to understand how the integration of technologies in the home is taking place and how it is being experienced by families.

I am glad to be able to share this news of our work and all the work behind the scenes by the HRF team that this represents.

With best wishes to you and your homes this Easter,”

Bryan K. Sanderson CBE