“Love can jump two metres.”

Archbishop of Canterbury, on 24 September 2020

When last week’s General Synod was arranged in order to pass legislation for remote meetings, many probably thought it would be used just twice - in November this year and probably again in February. As the second wave of the virus hits us, no one can be so sure.

A welter of news has hit us in the last few days - university students heading swiftly for herd immunity and, potentially, Christmas away from home; a new job support scheme from Rishi Sunak to underpin ‘viable employment’ (what’s that, in the context of the virus?); and the global Covid-19 death toll has gone through one million today according to Worldometer.

But this pandemic is very different in its impact to Spanish flu one hundred years ago. Then, the second wave was devastating. Today, we not only have vaccines almost ready to go, but also ‘isolation’ no longer means losing contact with each other. So, this week we look at how our ability to share has transformed the experience, and how it’s helping us to find inclusive, not exclusive, solutions.

Readers will be aware of our passionate support for individual freedom and free enterprise, but our combined focus on egalitarian capitalism is only possible by embracing a shared responsibility for enabling others to succeed as well. The values of ‘respect for others’ and ‘empowerment’ have underpinned The Share Centre, Share Radio and The Share Foundation, because they are essentially inclusive.

Capitalism which leads to excessive polarisation of wealth fosters a backlash, which may be socialism but could also be a kind of communitarianism such as that called for by Sir Paul Collier and John Kay in their CSFI webinar event today: ‘Greed is Dead: Politics after individualism’.

The human race is a social species, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury said ‘love can jump two metres’ in his opening presentation at last Thursday’s General Synod, he was speaking the language of sharing. It’s also well worth reading the text of the new Archbishop of York’s address at the same event, which puts this theme into the context of everyday life.

Meanwhile, closer to home for us, I particularly recommend listening to Adam Cox’s first hypnosis programme: a remarkable testament to human connectivity, and how the quality of life is a shared experience.

Also, we must work together to get through the virus emergency, as Boris said in his ‘address to the nation’ last Tuesday. However fed up people may be with restrictions on their daily lives, we must, for the sake of each other, buckle down and get on with it. If the virus runs rampant before the vaccine becomes available, we will suffer a repeat of the Spanish flu experience - and it is absolutely in our power to avoid that.

One of the greatest differences with 1920 is our ability to connect virtually. We have learnt a great deal about these new tools: how they can enable participation as well as an ‘audience experience’. If we want to develop that sense of sharing across online media, we must avoid the latter - just propagating a series of video experiences - and welcome everyone’s contributions.

The Church is no different in this regard: I have never understood why it’s not acceptable to ask a question or make a point during a sermon. And so many of its streamed services and events are just videos which you can put on pause or shut down without any sense of taking part. There needs to be much more use of break-out groups, and of encouraging use of surveys and other interaction with those taking part.

Similarly, when we wrote about investment clubs on 20th January, we were encouraging the same live interaction, so that everyone feels a sense of involvement and participation.

This is the key to remote working as we move forward in this brave new world. The reason why online training is difficult, for example, is because it’s a two-way process - it’s not just a matter of pumping information into people and hoping it will stick. So, the successful businesses in future will be those who really take on board this concept of online sharing.

But let’s not kid ourselves that the economic challenge will just disappear. This pandemic is forcing massive changes in business models, and many, many people will lose employment this winter. It’s hard to see how sectors such as air travel and tourism, hospitality and entertainment can survive the pressure of another six months of quasi-lockdown.

We must look urgently at how the world is going to change post-Covid, and Boris’s plan for a green revolution is a good example of that type of forward-thinking.

But the best ideas will emerge out of sharing, not trying to find all the answers exclusively. So, I hope politicians will engage rather more in listening in future, and not simply pontificating. It won’t come naturally.

The great biblical explanation of the power of sharing came in the ‘feeding of the 5,000’. Challenged to send the multitude home, Jesus instead used five loaves and two fishes volunteered by a young lad and distributed them for everyone - so that when his followers cleared up the remnants there were 12 baskets of leftovers.

That’s what sharing does. Self-interest combines with generosity to trigger the immense abundance around us, so that all, including the initial sharer, benefit from the experience. It’s a great way to build a business, too.

Gavin Oldham OBE

Share Radio