Please may I draw your attention to this report on civility

The Young Foundation has today published a report entitled “Charm Offensive: Cultivating Civility In 21st Century Britain” [full text here].

The report states:

“The available statistics confirm that Britain ranks either positively or average in international surveys of inter-personal trust, tolerance and politeness.”

The report concludes:

“First, civility is an issue that matters hugely to people. Far from outdated, it is something that people still value, and which is critical to overall wellbeing. While the term civility may not always resonate, people relate to the concept. Most recognise that as we wrestle with high density living, greater levels of cultural diversity and individualism, as we become less deferent and as technology begins to permeate almost every aspect of our social lives, civility becomes more rather than less important.

Second, our research shows that generalisations about declining standards of civility are inaccurate and problematic. While there are flashpoints of incivility, these tend to be contained to certain places or certain times. But in general Britain remains a well-mannered and courteous country. We still compare favourably to other developed nations. Most people still feel like they can trust others and that their neighbourhoods are free from anti-social behaviour.

Generalities about incivility pose a number of problems. They get in the way of a more granular understanding of the conditions that drive incivility, the character of a specific area or the qualities of specific people. They also inspire wider public unease and unhappiness, irrespective of people’s actual experiences. They can fuel prejudices against certain groups, particularly young people. Ultimately they can deter civil behaviour, as people are likely to live up to the negative generalisations rather than positive examples. More data and thorough empirical analysis on the state of civility in Britain are needed in helping to dispel some of the inaccurate generalisations, which dominate.

Finally, we argue that a lack of serious focus on this area has limited thinking about the best ways of tackling incivility and inspiring civility. The policy landscape around this area tends to rely on a very narrow set of responses, most of them focused exclusively on sanctions. Punitive responses have their place and will continue to be needed, particularly in areas where incivility has become the norm, threatening the most vulnerable groups and triggering wider criminality.

But overdependence on punitive measures is both costly and signifies a failure to establish a suitable balance between deterrence and positive steps designed to inspire civility: from respectful policing and public servants’ duty to provide high standards of service to the design of public space. A better understanding of civility should be important to both central and local government; particularly at a time of austerity where ‘hard’, expensive interventions are squeezed and when communities face additional pressures.

The findings of our research suggest that if we want to tackle anti-social behaviour and build stronger communities in the long term, a better balance is needed between punitive top-town policy and softer bottom up interventions based on local understanding of key tensions and perceptions. We already know, for example, that it is often our ‘everyday’ contact with public services that shape people’s sense of satisfaction with the state.

However, this report is very clear: incivility is a shared problem that cannot be tackled by state interventions. People care deeply about civility but are not always aware of when their own behaviour is perceived as rude or offensive. The evidence set out here is as much about how we – the people – change our own awareness of what it is to be civil, as it is about the way in which institutions, public spaces and services understand the largely invisible role that civility plays in individual and community wellbeing.”

One Comment

  • Ellie

    Thank you for posting the link to this Interesting report Roger … much appreciated : )

    Important that such opinions are expressed as these points of view are so often perceived as ‘old fashioned’ or irrelevant in modern society.


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