In this blog, Social Value International’s Director of Impact, Dr. Adam Richards, reflects on the World Day of Social Justice 2021 and on the importance of the social value movement in combating inequality. While the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and deepened existing inequalities, including the growing digital divide within, between and across developed and developing countries, it has also shown us that rapid and meaningful change is possible when we set our minds to it.
February 20th marks the World Day of Social Justice, with a relevant focus this year on the digital
And I’m sure like most of us, last year I had to adapt to a more digital work and personal life. And as
someone who is not “the best” let’s say when it comes to technology, I had my moments of worry
(how many times can you say “can you hear me?” in a meeting before it becomes farcical?), but
overall, I had it easy. So, other than the occasional inconvenience with signal, I am now a fully-
fledged digital nomad.
As we progress into the 21st century new opportunities and ways of living will continue to bring
increased prosperity for many people, but, like so much else that 2020 brought us, there is an
unequal distribution of benefits and disadvantages. For those people in much of the global South
and the school children from poorer and disadvantaged communities who are forced to go without
the necessary access, the digital divide is set to create yet another barrier preventing them fulfilling
their true potential.
Sadly, across the world, as the COVID-19 virus has accelerated the rate that technology is
influencing working practices, it has also had the effect on accelerating another deadly virus –
inequality. Earlier this year, Oxfam reported how existing structural inequalities of wealth, gender,
and race have heightened the effects of the pandemic on those communities that already face the
greatest challenges. Whilst in contrast, the wealthiest individuals in the world have in many cases
benefited and continued to accumulate vast sums of wealth.
And all of this matters, or certainly should matter, to us all. The decisions we take that further
create divides between those that benefit and those that are disadvantaged affect us all. Our
wellbeing is dependent on so much more than money – and there is generally an acceptance that
when we reach a certain amount of wealth, the effects of more are marginal on how we feel. But it
is even more than that – extreme equality differences within our societies mean our life-chances are
reduced, our security is threatened, our health is put at risk, and our day-to-day lives are impacted
upon in almost every way.
I, like many, want to live in a world where everyone has equal opportunities – opportunities to live a
healthy life, to have equal access to education, to be able to live in peace, and choose their own
destiny. But all-too-often we are told that it is simply not possible to achieve such a reality – that it
would take too much change and too much time to the status quo, that it is just impossible.
But I question this. If you take yourself back to just a small number of months ago, before the
pandemic took hold, and think about how much change we have encountered over such a relatively
short amount of time. Could we then have ever imagined that we would be able to make such rapid
and fundamental changes to the way so many of us live our lives? I can guess I know your answer.
What this shows is that when we want it bad enough, we can make radical changes. Yes, they are
not always easy – but when it is worth it, collectively, we can achieve great things. And this, today, is
where we find ourselves, in a pivotal moment in history. A moment where we can reflect on how to
ensure society better upholds the values of social justice and equality.
Across the world so many people are questioning the status quo, challenging the norm and thinking
about how we need to change going forwards. We have seen, from grassroots activism to the halls
of the whitehouse, that there are some well-intentioned sentiments about building back better but
even within this I have myself have my own concerns, constantly wondering ‘if not now, when?’
Now more than ever, we need to go beyond the soundbites and hashtags and make them a reality.
This is where you come in: Social Value International and the members that make us who we are, is
an important cog in that machine of change. Collectively, we are leading a movement. A movement
that recognises the need to change how decisions are taken; where value is not only about the
financial return on an investment but where the effects on people are prioritised; and where we
respect and protect our natural environment for all future generations.
I am not naive enough to think that this can be done without a radical shift and a fundamental
rethink of what matters. But if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that meaningful change can be done
when we set our minds to it – and what better goal than a more just and equal world?