2017 - Forced Optimism or the Real Thing. It HAS to be the Real Thing.

by Amanda Harding

Over the past few weeks I've been astonished by an all pervasive determination to demonstrate the power of positive action. In one evening in Brussels to celebrate International Human Rights Day I was honoured to MC a powerful spirit of universalism that demolished our perceptions of an exclusive polarised society. A young Eritrean man braved an audience of six hundred to share how he was mentored by a retired business executive not only towards finding a job but also accompanied through the maze of adaptation and integration in an increasingly conflict ridden Europe. The inter-generational and multi-cultural beauty of this was matched by the mentor who described the self-esteem he gained through this friendship and the sensitive facilitation of Duo for a Job. Dare to be Grey, a Dutch student network inspired as a counter-culture opposing the black vs. white, Christian vs. Muslim, native (read nationalist) vs. migrant lived today. Naturally at ease with social media they are also engaging directly in schools, churches, town halls and market places, to encourage dialogue so that the middle ground becomes THE sexy place to be! As the evening went on an inclusive conversation bringing together the six hundred present merged into a concert given by first generation refugees. The audience was soon on its feet alight with the promise of the possible.


Local action that crosses boundaries is also crossing scales. When social media is alerted and policy makers start to sit up and listen a shift in realities starts to occur. France's latest feminist movement, le Salon des Dames, is close to my heart and a current conduit for my energies. A class act with a great sense of humour it is demonstrating an ability to embrace way beyond the traditional women's organisations. Its willingness to speak out, to inform and to step across established  established lines makes glow in the dark. How far it can now use its voice and growing weight to effectively move the lines remains to be seen.

With this backdrop, we seem to have started 2017 convincing ourselves and each other that this is the year for action. I loved the determined positive messages exchanged at midnight on the 31st. That we can't be bystanders watching from the sidelines, that we can't go on wringing our hands, that the militancy of our twenties has seen a renaissance energising us like never before is now a given. We have undeniably entered an era that demands urgent action and one that demands the type of emotional intelligence and insights that will lead us to alternative pathways and away from the ones currently drawn up before us. So, urgent action but also long term investment. 

I can say with utter conviction that the passion for change that has carried me for the past 35 years is stronger than ever and that, as an older person turning fifty in just a few days, I treasure the layers of experience, the privilege of multiple encounters and the permission I now give myself to step forward, to step up and to take risks in the knowledge that beside me others will reach out and join in.


In multiplying local initiatives and constructing communities that welcome difference, debate and dialogue the chances for the "possible" certainly increase. In opening up spaces where improbable encounters take place and authentic conversation grows, innovative solutions will doubtless be triggered. In building trust and common  visions where we are all "winners", dream lists of what we hope for will transform into the action, commitments and investments that go beyond intent and promise and ensure results.