Meaningful Conference Change Makers and Key Messages
It’s been one week since I was at the annual Meaning Conference in Brighton and I’m still buzzing from it! I came away feeling fired up after meeting like minded people and listening to Aditya Chakrabortty and Marjolien Lips-Wiersma plus many more with their wise words, stories and inspiring messages. Here are my takeaways from :-
Aditya Chakrabortty said ‘In order to truly understand meaning, we must consider the opposite’. This is so true, we need to connect with what’s not being delivered both for us individually and others and then fill this gap as best we can.
Aditya talked about someone he interviewed while he was working for the Guardian called Gareth Meek. Gareth was living in a Welsh town called Llanhilleth and shared how he felt that the British government weren’t representing him, that his town is in a state of social and economic decline and resentment now grows which led to them voting to ‘Leave’ in the 2016 EU referendum. Aditya then shared how he has met others around the world who feel like this and it comes from feeling surplus to requirements, disregarded and ignored. Life feels meaningless to Gareth and others feeling the same sentiments. Aditya said ‘to find meaning you first have to find meaninglessness’. Once you connect, process and understand this sense of meaningless you can put action in place and it’s at this point where you find meaning in what you do. ‘Finding meaning is one of the most fulfilling things we can do, but it’s not easy’.
Marjolien Lips-Wiersma spoke about meaning not being a fad because it comes from facing the struggle, it’s who we are. ‘It’s our anchor in times of turmoil and it’s our compass when we need direction’. Leaders need to ensure they provide a vision and focus that is meaningful to their employees so that helpful connections are made and obstacles are removed by empowering the work force to a common goal.
Lani Morris, gave a fascinating incite in to the book she co-authored called ‘The Map of Meaningful Work: A Practical Guide to Sustaining Our Humanity’. She asked us to consider what we can learn from our own relationships with work and use the Map of Meaning. By reflecting on this and uniting together with a common framework ‘we can create meaningful work and a meaningful society’.
Dan McQuillan from Goldsmiths talked about how humans have ‘unknowingly been imperative to some of the world’s biggest technological advances’. He asked the question ‘How far will artificial intelligence go?’ With advancements in facial recognition software such as the one used by Facebook we have started to created and trained a machine. He said by using the software, we have strengthened the algorithm’s capacity to perform. But this poses the question of what lengths will it go to? ‘With smart speakers in our homes monitoring changes in our speech will the help from Amazon’s Alexa one day mean that it’s a viable replacement for a screening interview with a psychologist?’ ‘It’s not a silver bullet for mental health services’ he surmises.
Poppy Jaman delivered a wonderful speech about her journey with mental health. Mental ill health costs the UK government £99 billion each year with 91 million days lost each year to sick leave. Her vision when she started Mental Health First Aid England came through her own experience of mental health. Poppy shared her personal story from how she grew up in a second-generation Bangladeshi family that moved to Portsmouth and how she struggled to find her own identity. She then talked about an arranged marriage with a man she had only met twice and then the arrival of her daughter and the struggles she experienced all before turning 20 years of age. She soon became a single parent and struggled with depression. It was one day when she was sitting on a beach that someone demonstrated a small act of kindness that changed her outlook on life. This person sat next to her and said ‘are you ok’. The very fact that someone showed they cared, gave her the energy to turn her life around and also set up Mental Health First Aid which has helped thou