The tenth day of Christmas: start with strengths

Why might people vote against the policies and institutions we design to meet their needs? Maybe because meeting their needs, changing their lives, dealing with their deficits, doesn’t necessarily build their self-esteem, capacity or autonomy. It was nice to see “strength-based services” in PolicyLab’s Predictions for 2017. More of this, please.


The sixth day of Christmas: spinning the wheel

It’s easy to mistake accentuated uncertainty for accelerating change – the liberal myth of directional progress in the hands of a new exponentialist priesthood. But pace layers have always been with us. The challenge is to reconnect fast-moving fashion and commerce to the slowest things most essential for life.


The fifth day of Christmas: card table time

Laurie Rubiner, who served as Clinton’s legislative director from 2005 to 2008, recalls being asked to block out two hours on the calendar for “card-table time.” Rubiner had just started in Clinton’s office six weeks before, and she had no idea what card-table time was, but when the boss wants something put on the calendar, you do it.

When the appointed day arrived, Clinton had laid out two card tables alongside two huge suitcases. She opened the suitcases, and they were stuffed with newspaper clippings, position papers, random scraps of paper. Seeing the befuddled look on Rubiner’s face, Clinton asked, “Did anyone tell you what we’re doing here?”

Clinton, in her travels, stuffed notes from her conversations and her reading into suitcases, and every few months she dumped the stray paper on the floor of her Senate office and picked through it with her staff. The card tables were for categorization: scraps of paper related to the environment went here, crumpled clippings related to military families there. These notes, Rubiner recalls, really did lead to legislation. Clinton took seriously the things she was told, the things she read, the things she saw. She made her team follow up.

— Ezra Klein, ‘Understanding Hillary

The fourth day of Christmas: we are families

Christmas, a time to spend with family, at home with children, catching up with relatives. Meanwhile the populists play profitably on family values, but only for families that conform to their stereotypes.


The third day of Christmas: 1916 was worse

The second day of Christmas: before the truth has its boots on

A lie in unfeasibly tiny shoes can travel around the world and back while the truth is lacing up its sensible boots. Calling ours the “post-truth era” merely masks the fact that is was ever thus. The question is not how to stop the lies, but how to outrun them.


The first day of Christmas: back to the future

2016’s slogans pitted past against future: “Take back control”; “Make America great again”. Yet the past can be a platform for positive futures too: think of the optimistic “New Elizabethan” age of England’s early 1950s; or the Kennedys’ “Camelot” in 1960s USA. How might we rekindle those spirits in 2017?