Profitability…

This weekend, I witnessed a conversation at a family meal that got me thinking. There was a discussion about the cost-effectiveness of social science research. It is obvious that when a university institution, for example, invests funds in research into a type of cancer, it is likely to eventually produce results that are of interest both to science and to the advancement of the patient’s cure. But what happens when you invest money, personnel and time in research, for example, social relations in the neighbourhood, the era of disinformation, the evolution of house design or social tribes and their influence on art? Some people think that this type of analysis is not profitable and its conclusions look good in books and encyclopaedias, even as study material for future research, but they do not contribute real, quantifiable value to society.

The problem is how to value profitability, or rather, why value things only in terms of economic profitability. If we were to think only in terms of money, efficiency, results, there would be many aspects and even people that would seem useless to us and that we would discard because they are not profitable for society. But this vision would do a disservice to the already self-interested and utilitarian society we are building.

Without Anthropology we would not know man, without Philosophy we would not have asked ourselves the why of things, without Sociology we would not understand how human beings relate to each other, without Art we would not value creativity or the abstract aspects of life.

A youth centre is not profitable, each minor costs society about £100 a day, £36,500 a year, but the community makes every effort to ensure that the young people who have ended up there are able to obtain sufficient tools to integrate into society and be good men in the future. And I can think of many other examples like this one. We cannot think in terms of profitability when what is at stake is the person.

It is very sad that we are only able to pay attention when life is measured in figures. Institutions such as ours devote enormous efforts to defend and foster the well-being in homes without which the individual would not achieve the balance necessary to survive in this world that demands so much profitability.

The invisible disability

Can you imagine a 3-4 year old boy lying on the pavement and kicking his legs in the air because he doesn’t want to cross at the traffic lights? What would you think? What might you say or even do? Well, stop and reflect for a moment, because probably what you are seeing as a tantrum or an unruly child has more to do with a disability.
There are millions of people in the world who live with invisible disabilities. We tend to associate disability with something that requires a wheelchair or crutches but many disabilities are not so easily recognisable.
In our Communication Project we talk about some of the less visible disabilities such as autism, hearing problems, mental disorders, multiple sclerosis or also called a thousand faces disease because it can affect people very differently. Not being able to identify them in an obvious way can make us fall into greater social and employment discrimination.
We have received thousands of responses to our latest project on Caring at Home for those with extra needs. We are happy, overwhelmed and very grateful for your help in the dissemination of this topic. But we would like to go further, and encourage people to take their time reading it and to empathize with the true life stories that it contains … In other words, for people to be aware of how important these people are to society and how sometimes we can make judgments through a lack of understanding.
I received this photo through our Instagram profile. A person with one of those invisible disabilities posted it in an act of protest. How many times do we complain because someone ignores us when we request something … can you imagine what it must be like to feel that society as a whole isn’t responding to you, but instead judging you?
This project will hopefully serve as an eye opener and help us to be more understanding by drawing attention to the fact that disability is not a problem but a different way of being and living in this world, which demands acceptance, respect, and caring attitude. At HRF we acknowledge that this must all begin and be cultivated in the home.

Happiness – more than a feeling

If during this tumultuous year someone had asked “How do you feel?” very few of us would have answered by saying “Happy.” But if the question had been phrased “How are you coping?” many more of us would have answered –without false optimism– “quite well” or even “surprisingly well.”

This highlights the distinction between personal feelings – often fleeting emotional reactions – and the deeper, more lasting resilience of response to the demands of life.

This is the argument of Richard, Lord Layard in his extensive work in the field of what he has called “the new science” of happiness. The words “happy” and “happiness” are a necessary shorthand for a range of activities and attitudes that contribute to personal well-being. Taking happiness seriously has led to the development of several well-authenticated strategies for building this well-being in ourselves and fostering it in our children.

Action for Happiness is a movement of people building a happier society by making positive changes in their personal lives, homes, workplaces and communities, and a charity with which Lord Layard has closely identified. Its 10 keys to greater happiness have as a mnemonic “GREAT DREAM.”

Action for Happiness’s website tells us “Our happiness is not set in stone. Although our genes influence about 50% of the variation in our personal happiness, our circumstances (like income and environment) affect only about 10%. As much as 40% is accounted for by our daily activities and the conscious choices we make. So the good news is that our actions really can make a difference.”

To ourselves and to those with whom we share our lives. This has also been borne out by persuasive if only as yet anecdotal evidence that during this pandemic it is the quality of our relationships that have made the most difference to us all.

Happy people make happy relationships and this leads to happy communities. At Home Renaissance Foundation we have been keen to add the missing element to this equation: How does the home contribute to happiness – personal and for wider society. This is the question raised by our forthcoming academic sessions, supported by the Social Trends Institute, Happy Homes: Happy Society? The contribution of domestic life in a time of social changes.

We are delighted to have Lord Layard as a key contributor to these sessions, in which world-class academics share their perspectives on the relationship between home and well-being.

Please find the schedule of video presentations here ready for our launch on Thursday 12th and Friday 13th November. The agenda is also available on our site.

Happiness is more than a feeling – and it starts at home.

Happy at home, happy in life

We have just enjoyed the festive season when we give and receive best wishes for a “Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.” These kind sentiments are often exchanged without reflecting on what we are really saying. We are wishing – and being wished – happiness.

But what is this thing called “happiness”? How do we recognize it when it is there, and how do we find it when it isn’t? In recent years, there has been an increased interest and engagement with these questions. From personal happiness, through happy couples, families and communities, to what makes a happy society, research is being carried out to find evidence and answers.

Richard LayardRichard, Lord Layard, has been at the forefront of this study and his work in this field is world-leading. As editor of the World Happiness Report, Richard Layard has overseen the landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The World Happiness Report 2019 focused on happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes.

Richard Layard is also the author of what is described as “the key book in happiness studies”. Happiness: Lessons from a New Science looks at the paradox at the heart of our lives: “There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income and strive for it. Yet as Western societies have got richer, their people have become no happier.”

For Home Renaissance Foundation these questions are both relevant and timely. We believe that the work that goes into creating and maintaining a home has a direct connection to the happiness and well-being of both individuals and society as a whole. This is echoed in recent findings from the Happiness Research Institute that 73% of people who are happy at home are happy in life.

Conference PosterWe are delighted therefore that Richard Layard has agreed to be a keynote speaker and scientific committee advisor for our next conference: Happy Home, Happy Society? The contribution of domestic life in a time of social changes to be held in London 12- 13 November 2020.

Invited speakers and selected paper givers from across the world and the wide-field of disciplines concerned with “happiness” and the domestic context will seek answers to some increasingly urgent questions: How can our homes be places for life-long flourishing? How can this be supported and enhanced? In a time of increased technological connection why is there so much individual social isolation? Are SMART homes happy homes? In a time of increased homelessness what is happening in the early home experiences of the homeless? How can we all find a home to be happy in?

Richard Layard believes “We desperately need a concept of the common good. I can think of no nobler goal than to pursue the greatest happiness of all – counting every person.”

At Home Renaissance Foundation we believe the HOME is a common good which needs to be recognized, supported and valued.

For more information on this please see our Conference website.

 

Happy Homes, Happy Society?

We are about to launch our next international Conference: Happy Homes, Happy Society? to be held in London 12th -13th November 2020. This will be our fifth conference and we are very excited about the focus, which this time is on Happiness and the contribution that domestic life makes to the wellbeing –“happiness”- of wider society in a time of social changes.

There is a clear public as well as academic and professional engagement with this topic. Happiness indices and surveys at both popular and research levels are a current trend in monitoring and improving individual and societal wellbeing. At HRF we see an equally clear link between this and the attitudes and activities fostered in stable homes and a further link to how housing policies and practice and the new SMART technologies contribute to the home’s role in this wellbeing.

Next week, we will be launching a Call for Papers, so we would love to reach all those researchers whose work relates in some way to the home. Many disciplines from architecture to social sciences and from art history to town planning have vital contributions to make to this discussion. On our website, you will find summaries and papers that have been presented on topics relating to the home at our previous conferences.

Happy Homes, Happy Society? will have two main strands:

1.How is happiness/wellbeing linked to activities of the home? What are the key indicators for happy homes and what is the wider social benefit of happy people?

2.New technologies: Housing and Connecting. How do new trends in architecture and planning and the new digital technologies allow for maximum opportunities for those home activities and connections that lead to greater individual and thereby societal happiness?

We have hundreds of questions that we would love researchers to answer. Here is just a taste of some of the areas we are interested in exploring:

  • Is it possible to establish a series of criteria to consider whether a home is happy or not?
  • Are new technologies and AI developing according to human needs and contributing to people’s happiness?
  • How can we ascertain if the work required in creating a happy home and improving the coexistence of all its members is better performed manually or by machines?
  • Home and its role in children’s happiness. Why is this important?
  • Attitudes in the home that contribute to the happiness of its members
  • Poverty and happiness in the home: what is the relationship?
  • Unstructured families and happiness at the home
  • The relationship between happiness in the current home and that of the parents or previous generations
  • The elderly as “creators” of happiness for children and young people
  • How much do the material conditions of the home contribute to well-being?
  • How SMART technologies contribute to (or make difficult) happiness in the home?
  • Which housing schemes/policies best promote happiness/connectedness?
  • Why do we want to grow old in the home? How is this best achieved?

We hope that this gives you a good “snap-shot” introduction to our conference Happy Homes, Happy Society? and that all of you reading this post who may have questions about the relationship between Happy Homes and a Happy Society, will send them to us and help us in the promotion of the Call for Papers. We are looking for researchers from all over the world, perhaps that means you, or you know of someone worth contacting? Please keep us and them posted. Much more information in later posts, so please, “Watch this Space!”

“Society”: you, me, us, all

When we speak of “society” it can seem like something that does not have anything to do with us. We happily use the term society to refer to the number of problems that exist in it, but we are not aware that society is us. Society can only improve if everyone puts in their two-penny worth. Because society means everyone, including you!

For this reason, when the Home Renaissance Foundation affirms that society can collapse without well-managed homes, we observe that nobody is surprised, nobody screams, no one tears their clothes as though bemoaning a great loss. A dysfunctional society is a society that does not advance or grow, and we understand that nobody wants that, but it does not penetrate the heart or thoughts of many because the concept of “society” becomes more remote with the passing of each day.

It may be that another reason why we no longer give value to the idea of “society” is the lack of feeling of belonging. We do not belong to the “society”, we belong to the school football club, the neighbourhood association, the tennis club, the local gym. We feel part of groups or communities where we have a degree of influence, either because we pay a subscription, or because we feel we belong there and that our opinion matters.

And of course, you may say that apart from the taxes we pay in exchange for basic services, why should we feel part of a “society” where our opinion doesn’t appear to matter and authorities never consult us when making decisions? Who asks me what I think before introducing or abolishing laws?  We may feel so far removed from the management and governance of that “society” that we distance ourselves from the idea of society as a whole.

But like everything in life, nothing can be understood or seen in its true perspective if we cannot visualise it in a particular way. And to recover the meaning of “society”, we should take as an example that small and close “society” that we have in our immediate environment, the one in which our opinions matter, where we feel part of, that takes our feelings and opinions into account … namely, the home. Our family is a microcosm of society. And we feel that we belong there because of the unity that exists between members of our home. Each action we take has a consequence, which is normally direct and immediate.

At HRF we examine the home in-depth from many different angles, as a reflecting mirror for society. When households do not function well, the knock-on effect is immediate and direct on society.  We should therefore first and foremost take great care of the home as the microcosm of society.