How I would spend a million pounds to create the greatest amount of love…

Last Thursday we held our roundtable discussing the question: ‘If you had a million pounds, how would you create the greatest amount of love?’

We asked each of the participants to present their answer for two or three minutes and heard an interesting mix of responses, ranging from increasing awareness about the importance of gratitude, to thinking about how to increase ‘joy and vitality’ in public services, to ‘spreading the love’ by giving away small amounts of money to young people with the challenge of doing something positive for someone else. (We look forward to sharing more on these ideas, and others, on our website over the coming months.)

This was my prepared response to the question and what I offered into the mix:

“If, as our report last year suggested, love is both a motivator and a mechanism for social enterprise and for radical, personal or communal transformation, then we need to address both.

Love as a mechanism for social enterprise & transformation

Starting with the second point first and working back. Intentionality’s approach has been to use the field of well-being to understand, measure and potentially maximise impact, by understanding and prioritising what makes the biggest difference to the lives of individuals and communities, whether positively or negatively.

If we start there, at well-being, then I’d invest much of my million pounds into something that tackles the basics – a warm, safe place to sleep, basic healthcare, freedom from debt and fear and so on – and then build from there. Therefore, it feels to me that houses and housing would lie at the heart of a love-based, well-being-based project. From there other aspects that are pivotal to well-being could be established and expanded.

Friendships, family and supportive relationships would come next as relationships are essential for higher well-being. This would, to a great extent, have to be embedded in the expectations and culture of the venture, although more formal, specialist support could be funded from rental or other income.

Employment and meaningful activity are also vital for well-being and should play a key role. Therefore, finding work, work experience, training and volunteering experiences from amongst the opportunities created in and by a community would be imperative.

This overlaps with the next focal point, informed by well-being research, to maximise participation in, and ownership of, the assets and opportunities of the community. This is what the literature calls ‘agency’.

Moving onto a few other ideas that I only have time to mention in brief. A friend called Andrew Grinnell suggested that a million pounds could be spent paying off the poorest’s debts on energy bills. The story that inspired his suggestion, here, is very compelling and moving indeed. While I’m sure that would be immensely beneficial, I think the idea hints at more – perhaps establishing community renewable energy generation, ownership of the means of energy production, and sharing of the things required to reduce energy consumption. My thoughts also turned to George Monbiot’s arguments for caring for the environment, for ‘rewilding’, that we care about the environment because we love and because the natural environment helps us love.

To conclude, back to the first of the two findings of last year’s report; love as a motivator.

Very briefly, part of my million pounds would be spent on investing in those people who already love, who have the capacity to love and who long to love. Umair Haque, management thinker, tweeted me his response to our question, saying that he’d ‘create a new kind of leadership academy’. Finding the right people, investing in the right people and training, encouraging and supporting the right people would be essential to our ‘million pounds of love’ project.”