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What is social mobility?

I have a better education than my parents, a much better job and live in a more affluent location. So I guess I was  a beneficiary of social mobility. But what of today's generation? How easy is it to do better?

Last night I attended the Lord Mayor's Charity Leadership Programme Social Mobility Debate. 

In some ways there are more opportunities for social mobility, in many ways less. Education is better but far more competitive. I got to a top ten university without an A grade and amongst only one fifth of my peers who went to university in the 1980s. It took a while but through experience and hard work I developed a consultancy business, earn a good living, got a PhD and have spoken, on invitation, at international conferences. 

But I don't think that journey would be as possible for someone like me today. There are too many people chasing the same dream, fighting for the A grade. That bright, but painfully shy unconfident young person lacking grit would fall at the first hurdle and not be picked up.

Social mobility today requires us to see, take and stick with opportunities otherwise we will fall by the wayside completely. Yet the more we have overprotected our children and reserved confidence building and character building for a too select few, the harder it is for the remainder to spot, seize and follow through when that vital possibility or opportunity comes their way.

Without the right skills and drive, without self belief, without the self regulation to see through adversity, all the opportunities in the world will be meaningless and the shy, brittle teenagers of today will go sideways or backwards.

There is a solution. In addition to the right opportunities we need to level the playing field. Promote and develop confidence, encourage resilience through experience, teach the skills which make us enterprising but also play to our inherent passions and personalities. Promote and develop this for as many children as possible. Otherwise, the divide will get bigger and the poorer, disadvantaged kids might as well not bother.

Time for something new to emerge.

Dr Simon Davey, Director, Emerging Scholars www.esipforest.org.uk


What is child like - the importance of play

We are born explorers. We don't know the limit of our potential. We keep trying new things like breathing, crawling, grabbing, walking. We try and sometimes cry but we are persistent. We learn a whole new language and how to control the human body. We are fascinated by simple things like empty boxes and why leaves move in the wind or what happens when we chase birds or prod cats and dogs.

We grow up. We learn rules. We get put into boxes. We fit around other people, organisations and systems. We get told that doesn't work here.

What does it mean to be child like?

I think it means a passion to explore, the freedom to try and fail regardless, about having a go, about accepting yourself.

I've watched my nephews and nieces grow up. They have a sense of wonder - a smile delights them, they build wild and meaningless structures with lego, they mess with paint and dirt. They have no obsession with tidiness and structure or neat corners. They take pleasure in the simplest things. When very small they are remarkably persistent in reaching things you don't want them to reach. They care little about consequences.

Of course children lack adult responsibilities and they need us grown ups for boundaries and consequences. But they know how to play and how to be free. They don't get stressed. They don't think in terms of measurable outcomes. They get frustrated but only for very short amounts of time. They have a go because they don't believe consequences matter. They live by the moment and they give themselves time and space.

So what can we learn and how can we be child like?

  1. Live in the moment - notice what is happening around you, smell the flowers, see the sunset, forget, if only for a while, your responsibilities. You are neither a machine nor an output producing being.
  2. Don't worry what anyone thinks. Whether you are playing with lego, drawing, dancing or creating a new project, realise no one really cares how good you are or what it looks likes. Stop being so judgemental and self-critical.
  3. Let go. Find a place to shriek or let off steam. Cry, run, shout, scream. It works for toddlers. Probably not wise to bawl your eyes out in the office though...
  4. Get better at something without caring about the consequences. Learn something for the hell of it rather than because it matters. Enjoy the skill rather than the learning objective.
  5. Be you. No really. We are who we are. We can all be different or better but sometimes we just need to accept ourselves and stop worrying about self improvement for a while.

So that's how to be child like. And kids, if you're reading this in 15 years time, I've just called it as I saw you at the time.


So proud of the 60 Emerging Scholars

Alongside my work as a management and IT consultant one of my great passions is leading the Emerging Scholars' Intervention Programme (ESIP). We work with 60 bright adolescent girls in need of support to become the enterprising, confident, resilient leaders the world needs. We work to a model of ability, belief and character (the ability to do something, the belief you can do it and the character you can get it done). Adolescence is a challenging time as you adapt to a role which is not a child nor an adult whilst your brain goes through a major rewiring process lasting years.

If we want a more diverse pool of professionals (by ethnicity, gender, faith and life experience) we need to work harder so we don't just keep recruiting 'people like us'. We need to be encouraging the curiousity and providing the environment which enables our young people to build their confidence and resilience. ESIP is one way to do this.

Enjoy our Journey brochures - the girls certainly enjoyed the journeys.

Year 8 ES Journey 2012-13

Year 9 ES Journey 2012-13

Website - www.esipforest.org.uk


One more half marathon...

So I quite fancy a run around the park in October and what better way than to do it in the company of 15,000 people and raise money for UNICEF. 

Yes, it's Royal Parks Half Marathon time again, or it will be on Sunday 6th October. Why not sponsor me at http://fundraise.unicef.org.uk/MyPage/drsimondavey2013 and make a difference for children?


Doing more than one thing at once - your brain just can't do it!

Life rushes by at such a pace and we are often tempted to do more than one thing at once. We call it multitasking and some people are proud of their ability to multitask. But multitasking doesn't really exist. You're not doing lots of things at once. You are rapidly, and ineffectively, switching between different activities very quickly. 

The powerful computer I am writing this article on seems like it is doing lots of things at once. But it's an illusion. The computer has four brains (otherwise known as a quad core processor) so can, in theory, do four things at once but it's power is the ability to switch quickly and seamlessly from one thing to another. If it does 'too much' of this switching then it overheats.

If I do too much of the switching I will get very stressed, rather ineffective and unless I heed the warning signals more than likely burn out (nice term, we used to call it a nervous breakdown). And the bottom line is I won't have been paying sufficient attention to anything in particular to have got anything important done.

A Stanford University study shows just why multitasking doesn't work in practice.

So why not enjoy your day and experience by doing one thing at once. Read the book, write the report or (gosh!) just listen to the person in front of you and pay full attention to what they are saying. And give up reading your email whilst you're on the phone to someone else... it's not big, it's not clever and you might just miss something important.

"True productivity means completing things of quality – not simply doing lots of things at the same time and completing very little." - Jim Benson

"The key to just doing anything is not doing everything else"