The work of Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett1 resonated with the design team.
They used socio-demographic data to chart change in U.S. society from 1850 to 2020. From 1850 to around 1925, the U.S. was an ‘I’ society, fiercely individualistic, dog eat dog, winner takes all. From 1925 to 1965 it was a ‘We’ society, represented by communities with strong social cohesion, social capital and collective efficacy -our willingness to look out for our neighbours.
Putnam and Romney Garrett are interested in what it took for the U.S. to shift from I to We in 1925. Was it an enlightened government or politician? Was it wealth trickling down from the rich? Was it the guilt of the billionaires wanting to put something back into society?
The answer is none of the above. These were merely products of the main catalyst, which was civil society. People talking to each other, not only about survival but about ethics. People under pressure helping those in similar situations. As a species we are primed for mutual aid. People enduring poverty wanting something more for their children, so they worked together to find new ways of learning.
Activity like this, between 1880 and 1920, put the pressure on politicians to act, for wealth to more evenly distributed, for businesses to look after their employees.
Give a Day is quintessentially ‘We’ activity.
1 Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett, The Upswing, Simon and Schuster