This week I attended the premiere of an inspiring new play at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre.
Same Team is a beautiful, occasionally heart-breaking, and often funny story of five vulnerable women from diverse backgrounds, each with unique challenges but bound together in a collective effort to win the Homeless World Cup.
The play is inspired by the real-life stories of the women of Street Soccer Scotland, a charity I am privileged to chair. It exists to provide hope, purpose, and relationships to some of the most vulnerable people in society, helping connect them to whatever support they need to improve – and sometimes save – their lives.
To say the role played by Street Soccer is important is to wildly understate the long-term significance of our job, and that of countless other third sector organisations and charities.
Poverty and deprivation are now seemingly permanent scars on society. Their treatment, never mind eradication, is a task that will span many generations. That will require consensus, compromise and for those of us who choose not to enter frontline politics to be a little more understanding of the competing priorities and pressures of those who do.
The modern political establishment can be forgiven for thinking that these intergenerational problems are too difficult in the noisy here and now. There is always a job-securing, power-preserving election on the horizon, the scrutiny on those in public service is intense and constant, and – thanks to social media – the criticism and abuse is immediate and public.
One is left to wonder: is there any room for big, bold vision and long-term strategy in modern populist politics and in how we view and treat politicians?
Are we creating the space for leaders that are undeterred by risk and willing to make not only mistakes, but unpopular policy decisions grounded in the nation’s best long-term interest?
Those who have the capacity and the courage to think and act far beyond their time in office, or even in life. Those who imagine the future they can create today and take steps to ensure it is one that pays dividends to our children and their children and the generations that follow.
In the case of the third sector, it inevitably falls to a coalition of politicians and the likes of David Duke – who founded Street Soccer nearly 15 years ago – that will deliver societal change over decades, provided they have the means, space, and time to do what they do.
We should, of course, ensure that politicians are accountable to those who put them in positions of power – and demand the highest standards of integrity. That does not stop us being more patient and far-sighted. Why can’t we measure the success of social and economic investment over 50 or 100 years and not just when the next round of elections come along?
There is an urgent need to create a more balanced political environment in which we encourage the successors to those entrepreneurial minds in past generations whose vision led to the building of airports, harbours, hydro schemes, fuel pipelines, railways, concert halls, motorways, sewage systems and tunnels.
Some of those projects may have been beset by familiar problems, but those who persevered, facing down the short-term political headwinds, left a legacy of thinking, investment, and innovation on which we still depend. Some of them no doubt paid in part with their reputation or career, but our generations owe them gratitude.
The women of Same Team agreed collectively to abide by five rules, none of which could be broken, even if it compromised their chances of personal success. They are:
Imagine what might be achieved collectively if we thought of ourselves – regardless of our political affiliations – as being on the same team.
Same Team runs until Saturday 23 December 2023 at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre – information and tickets are available here.