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Making good decisions, for seven generations to come

“…Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the past and present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation…”

Steve Scown, Dimensions CEO, blogs

Imagine if every decision you make was aligned to positively affecting your descendants 7 generations into the future.

You’d probably make very different decisions around your carbon footprint, for example. Around consumption and waste. Around family and friends. Certainly around the forthcoming general election.

Your decisions – at home and at work – would probably be unrecognisably different from now. I know mine would. And of course, our entire political and economic system would be reconfigured, root and branch.

This is known as the “7th Generation Principle” and was so important to Native American cultures that it was codified in the 12th century Iroquois Great Law of Peace.

It simply means that every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, must take into account how the decision would affect descendants seven generations into the future.

It makes for some ‘interesting’ contrasts with our political system: with a 4 year election cycle, what politician or civil servant is incentivised to consider the impact of their decisions even 5 years out, let alone a generation or seven?

Is that ultimately why we spend money on acute services in preference to preventative ones, for example?

For any of us today, following the 7th Generation Principle would without doubt be extremely difficult.

How for example would we take into account the development of new technology and how it might affect the consequences 7 generations on as we might envisage them today?

However, despite such uncertainty and endless possibilities there are lessons we can learn and approaches we can adopt that respect the ambition of the Principle.

Adult social care is heading into probably its toughest ever year. Financial pressures are mounting and in such a climate it would be easy to react by cutting. Cut all non-essential services? Only spend on activities required by the regulator? Reduce support to the minimum? Focus on the bottom line? Focus on survival?

Sounds great doesn’t it? Sounds motivating and inspiring? Such short-sightedness would be a grave mistake. It would be a disservice to the people we are supporting today.

It would mean neglecting our organisational values of ambition and integrity. It would mean disabled people who have not yet been born would enter a world of institutional models of support.

They would be seen as a burden rather than members of society who with the right help and support can contribute and enrich our world.

As a not-for-profit, Dimensions is in some ways lucky. Our ultimate responsibility is to no investor, it is to the people we support. I have said many times that Dimensions will not join a race to the bottom in social care.

We will work only with local authorities and CCGs where we believe funding is sufficient to deliver high quality support that lets people have great lives.

We will continue to invest in brilliant new models of support; in supporting the development of our staff – who will be the leaders of tomorrow’s services; placing the people we support at the centre of our campaigns to tackle major social issues; and ensuring the people we support and their families are able to influence and shape the running of Dimensions.

This is how we have chosen to interpret the 7th Generation Principle.

This brings me to my challenge to you: spend a day – just one – where you consider ever decision you make, however small, from a 7th generation point of view.

Will you make someone a cup of tea or support them to help themselves? Will you go the extra mile to do the right thing? Stand fast in the face of adversity?

Positive change isn’t created by a few big decisions – it is the culmination of hundreds of everyday ones. If today we don’t think about the long-term future – who will?

In the run-up to the election I plan to blog about the key issues in social care and how they are – or aren’t – being picked up by the main parties.

I’ll take a look at Brexit, at voting levels amongst people with learning disabilities, at health inequalities and inevitably at funding. All with a long term (though maybe not 7-generations!) perspective.