February 2023 picks

Welcome back to my ‘Picks’ series. Here is a selection of my favourite content published in the last twenty eight days:

This insightful article on Open Global Rights looks into the misappropriation of human rights discourses by populists and other actors to repress and control populations. “This “reformed” characterization includes a novel emphasis on particular rights, such as family rights and unborn rights, and an exclusion of others, such as gender equality and LGBTQI+ rights, and a highly selective use of particular sources of international human rights law while ignoring others.” Authors Gráinne de Burca and Katharine G. Young skillfully explain how these discourses work and how to recognise them.

The New York Times Valentine’s Day article on friendship. In ‘The Unsung Joy of Falling in Big, Deep Platonic Love‘, writer Catherine Pearson explores what friendship means through powerful stories of intense connections. Interviews with psychologists also illuminate how language lacks words to properly describe these platonic relationships: “We don’t have nuanced words for that kind of deep, deep, deep caring and connectedness (…). When we talk about friendship, we kind of take the magic away”.

A podcast on motivation. The latest episode of the Voice Hugs podcast offers a new narrative on productivity and personal development that is more intentional, and connected to others and oneself. In episode #39, hosts Rowena Tsai and Vivian Van discuss motivation and the lack of it, and how to shift our views of what it means to be productive. Also, the two hosts employ great metaphors of ‘Chapters’ and ‘Seasons’ to describe life and illustrate how some moments are for resting and some are for doing.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) comments on the extraordinary profits of oil and gas companies in 2022. In the article ‘Fossil fuel giants profit while households and environment suffer’, Joseph Evans reminds us that these record profits can and should be taxed to help the British government support households. This could also encourage companies by reinvesting their profits to contribute to the green transition.

Funder Impact on Urban Health has decided to change the name of its Childhood Obesity programme to the ‘Children’s health and food’ programme. The power of language is the reason for this change: “Childhood obesity is a top-of-mind issue for the public, but people think about it in narrow, stigmatising, and fatalistic ways.” Instead, talking about children’s health offers more positive reactions and support, and is solution-oriented. This change, supporting the idea that the way we talk about an issue also influences people’s perceptions of it, is backed up by thorough research by the FrameWorks Institute (the toolkit is available here).

In ‘Blurring the Boundaries’, Brett Davidson explains that many social and environmental issues are connected and how we can work together to solve them. The author proposes a new way to view and organise narrative change work that is “inherently integrative and cross-cutting. One way to do this may be to develop structures and budgets based on our visions for the world we want, rather than the specific injustices we are trying to eradicate.” With creativity, optimism, and solidarity, structural change is possible. The article offers a list of symbols/words creating a more helpful language to discuss interrelated issues and their solutions.

The success of the four-day workweek study in the United Kingdom, explained in this Guardian article. This study encouraged 61 companies in the UK to allow employees to work for four instead of five days, with the same salary. Results show that “wellbeing has improved dramatically for staff; and business productivity has either been maintained or improved in nearly every case”. As most companies are extending the trial or making permanent this new way of working, it proves that systems can be changed and improved. Here is the link to the entire report of the results from the study.