I think the world would be a better place if we could learn how to argue with each other better. I’m not talking about shouty and aggressive interactions; which are ultimately a combination of clamorous monologues masked as conversation. I’m talking about the ability to converse with others, as a way of making sense of the world and our ideas, beliefs and biases.

Individual reasoning can only really be improved by seeing or hearing a different point of view. It’s the basis of restorative practice, of conflict and healing resolution and also, in my view, of community development. Imagine if you had never been challenged on your beliefs or perceptions? What might you have done that you would now regret? In my adult life I’ve changed my mind on so many issues relating to religion, politics, class, family and yes, even pensions. If I’d never been encouraged or challenged to consider different world views or had the privilege of listening to the personal histories and stories of others, my views would not have shifted and that means that I would have missed the opportunity to grow and develop and evolve.

Arguments that are one way or aggressive are harmful and counterproductive. I’m talking about argumentation, which is an art form; its reciprocal, it’s articulating a world view, it’s being open to hearing another perspective, it’s about having the ability to change your mind and the confidence to communicate it. Essentially, it requires a certain quality within a relationship. And it’s been on my mind a lot recently due to a lack of argumentation in the EU referendum which wasn’t a sophisticated debate but a ruthless cock fight, using high grade PR tricks in place of sticks and stones. And this is the key; for argumentation to happen there has to be connections and relationships to wider networks.  In other words, access to a range of views is productive.

Research highlights that relationships are pivotal to increasing community capital, defined as ‘the sum of assets including relationships in a community and the value that arises from these’. The 2015 RSA Report (insert link) highlights that knowing someone in a position to change things or to offer practical help is an indicator of community capital. And access is uneven, with 60% of people surveyed not knowing anyone who could influence or change things locally. The main outcome of the research was this; people fare better when they have good relationships around them. We need relationships and networks.

At The Rank Foundation, we continuously seek to understand the barriers to community capital. We work in collaboration to identify joint intentions and implement solutions. We want all people to know at least one person they can turn to for practical help or to influence change. Connected communities are stronger communities. And it is in this spirit that we look to invest in and develop our own network; so that we can engage in argumentation, so that we can articulate our world view as well as really listen to others, so that we remain open to change, so that we evolve.

RankNet is the bedrock to this commitment. We will create the conditions for all of our grant funded projects, people and places to seek support, share learning, access opportunities, ask for practical help and connect with someone who can influence change.

Please let us know if you disagree.

Kai Wooder, Assistant Director – Enterprise

The RankNet Planning Group is, as much as possible, representative of Rank Foundation funded projects and programmes UK wide.  The Planning Group meets quarterly to review ongoing network activity and contribute to the annual conference.  The RankNet digital platform will be launched later this year – more information to follow.