Framing a New Optimistic National Narrative
By Anand Kulkarni, Robert Masters, Kay Clancy, and Victor Perton
There is a need for a new optimistic national narrative for Australia in 2022 and beyond.
COVID-19 has altered the economic, social, and environmental landscape. Many businesses have faltered and industries, such as tourism and hospitality have been teetering.
Around the world there is disquiet about the state of the body politic, government and institutions. This is reflected in research by Freedom House and the Edelman Trust barometer.
In spite of these challenges there is opportunity for renewal and growth as the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic if we can reframe the current narrative to an optimistic, collaborative and care driven one.
The Australian national narrative remains framed in old behaviours: state-federal squabbling over policy and service responsibility, hand-outs supposedly addressing market failures, institutional inertia, and short run responses to crises.
However, there is another way.
The Centre for Optimism has conducted regular globally surveys about optimism and what supports individual optimism. There is a groundswell for change. Large corporations, consultancies and design experts have correctly identified a public yearning for optimism and hope rather than pessimism and public squabbles.
Our vision is for a future that is built from an optimistic mindset which reframes challenges as opportunities rather than constraints, which brings people together on the journey, and which is aligned to new possibilities that are limited only by individual and collective imaginations. In short, a future where optimism is the fuel for a better normal.
An optimistic outlook is underpinned and supported by a range of factors including life experience, mindset, faith, science, family, and friends. Similarly, when asked what keeps people optimistic, there are a number of recurring features that stand out: regular positive conversation; strong stories of hope and optimism; meditation and mindfulness; smiling at people; and more laughter and gratitude.
These features transcend Government.
Volunteering is strong, but traditional volunteer organisations like Rotary and Lions Clubs have experienced a decline in activities due to the challenge of fitting volunteering commitments around paid work, family, or caring commitments.
And an ABS Survey noted that 67% of people have received excellent or very good support from family and friends, almost half reported having excellent, or very good sense of being part of a community or group, and 60% reported having an excellent or very good level of confidence to have a say about issues that are important to them.
The upshot of this is that people want to remain connected, are driven by wanting to engage in the policy agenda, to be able to speak up and be heard and want more optimism and hope for the nation.
To meet these ‘wants’, there is now the opportunity to put into place dimensions of a new policy and practical agenda of optimism and hope. We have identified six core inter-related elements – collaboration, vision, community, measure, economic development, and institutional change.
Most importantly, to achieve a new narrative and re-frame thinking and our focus on the future, we need new framings around optimism in all its forms and endeavours. This includes an optimistic lens on how progress is measured, a focus on boosting capabilities and industries with promise, a commitment to developing institutions in accordance with a positive, uplifting mindset emphasising collaboration, and participation and transparency in tackling any challenges in a manner that reflects this re-frame.
Our recent poll asking Australians about leaders who inspire them had a surprising result: The top-nominated leader was Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel adopted an optimistic mindset seeing opportunity in drawing the old West and East Germany together. On the international platforms of the G8, G20 and the EU, she was brilliant at pulling people together in conversation. She had 16 years in office; in the same period, Australia had 6 Prime Ministers.
Optimism owes more to mindset, life experience, faith, and family than to politics or economics; it is the fuel that drives people and the foundation upon which leaders build greatness.
Building a more optimistic nation or community requires leadership that fosters and generates a mindset for collaboration, gives voice to the essence of the community’s optimism and activates optimistic citizens.
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