In a recent blog, the entertaining and erudite author and blogger, Tom Bennett, wrote the phrase “the possibility of change”, in the context of the remarkable improvement in state education in London over the last 10 years. Indeed, there has been a remarkable improvement (apparently; I don’t have direct experience, having moved away from London over 30 years ago), and no one’s actually sure what has caused the improvement. Lots of stuff has happened to actively attempt to improve things, but too many things have been tried all at once such that unravelling them to arrive at the key changes can’t be done. (Probably there isn’t one or two key changes).
I’m interested in the phrase. “The possibility of change”. Mr Bennett used it right at the end of his blog post, suggesting that the example of the London improvement shows the possibility of change elsewhere (a beacon of hope, perhaps). But, it struck me that whilst this is true, it is also probably true that once it became apparent that there was a possibility of change in London, then the weight of initiatives that pointed to this possibility started to gather belief around them….and change started to happen. Because, hope of change is a powerful thing. In almost all circumstances. I think that the Arab Spring demonstrated that, and the Fall of the Iron Curtain. The reverse, the belief that nothing can ever change, is very, very debilitating. If people can see a chink of light at the end of the tunnel, then they can often summon up the hope required to make an attempt to bring the change about. That’s why charismatic leaders can often catalyse such change. They see the possibilities and communicate the hope.
In the liberal democracies of the West, change must always be a possibility, surely? The change seen in London can be brought to other areas of England, even if we don’t know what the key aspects in London were. The possibility of change, actively believed, is the chink of light at the end of the tunnel.