The power of connection, and hope
Written by Malcolm Robertson, founding partner
22 May 2021
As I write, I’m sitting in ‘The Dugout’, the new Edinburgh home of Street Soccer Scotland, a pioneering social enterprise (of which I am chair) that harnesses the power of football to improve people’s lives.
Aside from the football pitch, our new home is a safe place where our players can gather – these are often people with complex problems but solving those is far from complex. Our players need what we all need – purpose, relationships and support, and we put those at Street Soccer’s heart.
I was moved to reflect on all of this by one of the pieces we recommend this morning – it is an obituary, but an uplifting one. Written by our chairman, Sir Angus Grossart, of his friend Vartan Gregorian, it is essentially a story of friendship, ambition and purpose and of the opportunities that come from being outward looking – a refreshing perspective in a world defined, at least for now, by closed borders and isolation.
Back at The Dugout, I’m surrounded by good people, all wearing the word ‘hope’ across a facemask or a t-shirt or whatever. I guess that’s a word at the front of all our minds these days.
Have a great weekend and please enjoy this week’s reading list.
Why meritocracy is a sham
Meritocracy is a concept as pervasive as it is scrutinised. While its supporters often use personal rags-to-riches anecdotes, its critics routinely point towards the “intellectual aristocracy” that entrench social mobility. Breaking the barriers of entry to the elite remains merely an idea, as the wealthy can afford better schooling, better standards of life, and better connections.
At a time when meritocracy has become the standard-bearer for moral superiority, we are in desperate need of a “moral revival in our values to counteract our society’s obsessive celebration of intelligence”.
Read in The Times.
Can you really change your personality?
Femi was 21 years old when he was pulled over for speeding and charged with a cannabis offence in Colindale, London. Four years later, Femi, or to use his full name, Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua OBE, cleaned up his act and became an Olympic gold medallist and a two-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
So, are personalities more malleable than we think? Tim Harford, author of ‘How To Make The World Add Up’ suggests that while “it’s hard to grasp the possibility that we might adapt”, we do, and we will.
Read in FT.
How vaquitas became cocaine of the sea
Elephant tusks, rhinoceros’ horns, pangolin scales… we’ve known for decades about the illicit trade in animal parts and the deadly consequences it has for some of our most recognised endangered species. The latest victims of illegal fishing are the totoaba – a large marine fish found only in the Gulf of California – and the vaquita, the Earth’s smallest cetacean.
Whilst this double whammy against two of our oceans’ species may – and should – outrage the western world, the socio-economic conditions of the region mean that conservationists face an uphill struggle in efforts to bring the totoaba and vaquita back from the brink.
Read in BBC.
Putting a price tag on trees
Natural capital initiatives are all the rage on Wall Street these days, which has left academics puzzling over inexplicable questions, such as “what is a tree worth?” or “how do you accurately value a bee?”
The act of putting a price tag on nature has been deemed abhorrent by many climate activists and will strike many people as a manifestation of capitalism at its worst. And yet, Diane Coyle, professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge ripostes, “if you don’t try to add a monetary value, you’re putting zero in. And that is definitely the wrong answer. Everything you invest in needs to be seen through this lens.”
Read in FT.
And finally… Vartan Gregorian: Remembering a true friend of Scotland
This obituary to an immense talent and mentor to many caught our eye, not least because it was written by our chairman, Sir Angus Grossart. At a time of too much introspection, it reminds us of the value of ambition, engagement with the world beyond our shores and sheer tenacity. And of friendship too.
Read in the Scotsman.