Briefing No. 1

WHAT WE'RE READING

On the Greenwood Place bedside table

We’re waiting eagerly for Arundhati Roy’s new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness to arrive through the  letterbox. Read the New York Times review here.

We’re reading The Rebirth of Education, by Lant Pritchett - (thank you to Girin Beeharry for the recommendation).  

Worldwide, 91 per cent of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school in 2013.  To put that in perspective, the average adult in the developing world today receives more schooling than the average adult in advanced countries did in 1960.  School enrolment, however, is far from the same as education. Few of these billion students will receive an education that adequately equips them for their future.  Pritchett’s book is well worth the deep dive, but if you want the summary try this:

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WHY POVERTY IS LIKE A DISEASE

The stresses associated with poverty have the potential to change our biology in ways we hadn’t imagined. It can reduce the surface area of your brain, shorten your telomeres and lifespan, increase your chances of obesity, and make you more likely to take outsized risks. 

Now, new evidence is emerging suggesting the changes can go even deeper—to how our bodies assemble themselves, shifting the types of cells that they are made from, and maybe even how our genetic code is expressed. 

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CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

We’ve been thinking and reading about Smart Cities this month.  
 

Over the last two decades the label ‘Smart City’ has been applied to a family of technologies that can speed up the flow of things around the city and reduce the physical frustrations of urban life – free flowing traffic instead of jams; smart flows of energy and less waste; public services better targeted where they are most needed. 

Many of these innovations are obviously useful.  But often they get tied up with interesting tech ideas rather than people’s real needs (I really don't need my fridge to tell me I am low on butter). 

Where the Smart Cities concept gets interesting is where it combines the best of new generations of technology that can use data, to co–ordinate, analyse and target, while also involving citizens much more closely in shaping how cities can work. As in many other fields, technological innovation is being combined with social innovation to achieve more. 

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ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS

 A great deal of our work at Greenwood Place is about asking questions.  And so we were delighted to come across this short piece by Roy Steiner.

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WEALTH & INEQUALITY

US household wealth was estimated at $83 trillion at the end of 2014, mainly stocks, bonds, real estate and personal property.  What if we divided it up so that everyone had the same amount?  With 320 million people participating, each would have around $270,000.

In reality, the median wealth of a US household fell 36% after inflation, from 2003 to 2013, decline from $88,000 to $56,000.  And the wealth of a household at the 97.5 quartile was 12 per cent better off, with its net worth increasing from $1.19 million up to $1.36 million. (Figures taken from Edward O Thorp’s “A Man for all Markets”)

 

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU:

Surprise,  forgiveness & healing

Rebecca is slightly obsessed with the On Being podcast series.  One of this week’s highlights for her was listening to Krista Tippett’s interview with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, entitled “A God of Surprises".  Hearing Tutu talk about his work with South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation commission is deeply humbling and has much to teach us today.  

“There’s no question about the reality of evil, of injustice, of suffering, but at the centre of this existence is a heart beating with love.” 

Ariana Murray Wells