“In 2014 the total number of deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent when compared to the prior year,” according to the most recent Global Terrorism Index report, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace. “This is the largest yearly increase in the last 15 years. Since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been over a nine-fold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism, rising from 3,329 in 2000 to 32,685 in 2014.
“Terrorism remains highly concentrated with most of the activity occurring in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. These countries accounted for 78 percent of the lives lost in 2014. Although highly concentrated, terrorism is spreading to more countries, with the number of countries experiencing more than 500 deaths increasing from five to 11, a 120 percent increase from the previous year. The six new countries with over 500 deaths are Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon.”
This collapse of governance, the paucity of jobs mixed with a time of massive unprecedented social change across the world has one immediate and pervading effect: many people have lose faith, and hope, in the reality of building a good life for themselves, of succeeding in the world, and creating value.
In essence, this intersection of challenges appears set to rob much of this generation’s capacity to stand up and act.
Perhaps, nowhere is this more evident than an oft-ignored soft metric: the global state of mental health.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is now the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease, new data indicate, according to a 2013 report by the University of Queensland’s School of Population Health.
The World Health Organisation – according to its 2015 Factsheets – makes a starker case: Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
This ricochets in entirely unpredictable ways.
According to the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel in April 2015, 76 percent of millenials (born after 1980) call themselves irresponsible, 73 percent say they can’t fend for themselves, 71 percent consider themselves hard of heart, and 83 percent describe themselves as immoral.
This is, it bears repeating, a crisis. It is one thing to provide investment, infrastructure, even jobs. It’s another for the people for whom you provide these interventions and solutions for to be in such doubt and self-hate that they are unable to pick up the baton and move for themselves.
This is the problem the founders of RED (acutely aware of the oncoming trends even without the research to back it at the time) came into business to solve – when they were aged 19 and 20.
We were a social business long before the word became a global trend – and inspiration is the product that we sell.
Malcom Gladwell, in the influential book The Tipping Point, told the remarkable story of a syphilis epidemic in Baltimore (United States of America) in the mid-1990s: in the space of one year (1995-1996), the number of children born with syphilis increased by a dramatic 500 percent.
More remarkable, though, was what caused the change.
The nature of syphilis and the nature of government intervention didn’t change. What changed was attitudes. It was the people. “Suddenly,” the book noted, “People who might have been infectious for a week before getting treated were now going around infecting others for two or three or four weeks before they got cured.”
It turns out that “syphilis was a disease carried by a certain kind of person in Baltimore — a very poor, probably drug-using, sexually active individual.”
‘Intangible’ things like the neighbourhood a person lives in, the psychograph of persons, social mobility, patterns of social connections and dramatic increases in risky behaviours based on a particular mindset led to a huge existential crisis.
The findings make it clear: If you can change the attitudes, the mindsets, the motivations of these people – if they could see the world differently, and be inspired to change their attitudes, and ultimately their actions – the tangible problems could be solved.
We have been saying this for 10 years. You could give boreholes to a community that needs water. But if they don’t believe in you or in change or see how crucial that is to the future, if they are not inspired to see what the provider sees, the boreholes could be destroyed, maintenance abandoned, and eventually, the project fails.
It is not enough to provide schools, to provide water, to provide food. You have to provide inspiration. It is the fuel that keeps solutions and interventions going.