• Eugene McGarrell

Reconnecting the disconnected

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

The power of connection for people, families, communities and for business

Ever felt lonely? Ever been surrounded by people, friends and family and still feel lonely? I know I have. Strong emotions emerge from loneliness and we are tempted to take on risky behaviors to distract those emotions.

Internationally there is a recognition that loneliness is the root cause to costly social and health problems. In the UK they have created a Minister of Loneliness to tackle this critical epidemic. As we become more connected on social media, we are becoming more disconnected from people. And as social animals who require face to face connection this is showing up as deteriorating health and social outcomes.

Johan Hari author of Lost Connections explains that link between social fragmentation and addiction, depression and anxiety. His recent TED talk is worth watching.

But working in our communities quietly and efficiently as neighbourhood centres. There are neighbourhood centres in most communities across NSW and Australia. They connect with people who are disconnected to help them get back into the game. And they’ve been doing this for decades. To put it in context, there are more neighbourhood centres in Australia than there are McDonald restaurants.

This video showcases the work of neighbourhood centres in Australia.

A networked infrastructure exists across Australia and a wealth of expertise in community development is engaged with the most vulnerable communities. Funded in the main by State Governments they continue to work to reconnect the disconnected.

To support this network of autonomous neighbourhood centres there are community managed organisations (CMOs) such as LCSA in NSW. There are 200 centres in NSW, more than a 1,000 in Australia and 30,000 plus worldwide. In addition, there is an international peak body called IFS who have negotiated a role within the UN committee structure. In short, there is a worldwide networked infrastructure with potential to tackle loneliness and the results of loneliness.

And this potential is relatively untapped.

In 2020 IFS will be holding their international conference in Sydney. This is the first time the IFS international conference will be held in the southern hemisphere. And this provides a real opportunity to partner collectively to reconnect people, families, communities and business.

In short the infrastructure will connect community with the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals. This means we in Australia have an opportunity to leverage this conference and form a way of collective organisation in order to combat loneliness. We can form a coalition of socially conscious people, agencies and businesses to lead the way in this venture. This is an opportunity for business to connect with the context of the communities of their customers and for them to find effective social impact investment strategies.

IFS is working in partnership with the CMOs representing the neighbourhood centres in Australia to coordinate a collective approach so that the conference has benefit right across the country. They will also be looking to build partnerships in South East Asia.

IFS are looking for partners and sponsors in government, business, universities, philanthropy and not for profit sectors to form a collaborative movement leading up to the conference. A conscious collective approach is the only effective way we can tackle the causes of loneliness in order to reduce the cost of the health, economic and social impacts of loneliness.

This is good for people, it’s good for community and it’s good for business.

Come and join the journey.

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