Walk a mile in each other’s shoes

2 min readJan 10, 2021

“I was lookin’ back to see if you were lookin’ back at me
To see me lookin’ back at you”

These are the lyrics of Massive Attack’s Safer From Harm, a song almost 30 years old, but very relevant for how many of us feel today.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the inequalities we were experiencing in our neighbourhoods and how we needed to bring them to life.

Strangely people who are more affluent have had more time to observe the inequalities on their doorstep faced by people who are poorer and with less time on their hands. They’ve also had time to see which employers were paying their staff and supporting their wellbeing through this difficult time and which were laying them off. Some of us in work and who may have saved money as a result of not commuting or going out to bars and restaurants may be using that cash to donate to good causes or businesses on our doorsteps.

What do those trends mean to the cohesion of our neighbourhoods? Will people retreat into just bonding with people they know or will the need for solidarity bridge people from different backgrounds? Will people try and create stronger networks of support that help support their mental wellbeing?

What skills are needed to build cohesion? What can we learn from Finland using influencers to encourage their networks to stay safe and give them “key worker” status or Taiwan using “humour over rumour”?

Having said all of this, many of these trends weren’t created as a result of the pandemic, but they were either exacerbated like increasing inequalities or the displacement many of us feel in our neighbourhoods being lonely in plain sight or the proliferation of division and hate which led to Brexit or Trump because people felt they couldn’t recognise their communities or they had their futures stolen from them?

Whether it be because we have been restricted to being able to navigate a much smaller geography or because we’re checking out what the infection rate of our local neighbourhood is, we have not only got closer to our neighbours and the lives of those around us, but the neighbourhood itself has become more important — which shops have got which essentials to which roads are car free so we can take kids to school or go for a peaceful walk to what the gossip is in our local area.

What does this mean for how we produce and share local information & media? For how we design our local infrastructure? From investing in what jobs & skills will be needed to create the goods and services we want in our neighbourhoods — like learning pods or food coops?

The Universal Basic Everything model could point the way





Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese