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How we've all changed: 2020 in review for Opus

This defining moment in our history is daunting, but it’s also an opportunity to use our privileges differently and re-vision the kind of society we want to live in, says Opus director James Lock. 

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A single new experience can cause us to reflect deeply on our own natures.

It can change our sense of who we are, where we fit in, who we fit in with, where we’re going, what we want to achieve and by what means we are prepared to achieve it.

The last ten months have been characterised by an onslaught of new experiences across every section of society unlike any since the Second World War. We are living through a ‘whole system shock’, a defining moment, what historians might call a turning point.

As we close out the year, I wanted to reflect on this wider landscape, before sharing a bit about how Opus, the organisation which I co-founded and which publishes Now Then Magazine, has evolved in 2020.

‘A terrifying privilege’

To live through a defining moment must be a terrifying privilege. Or at least that is how it feels to me, on the eve of beginning another year.

It’s a privilege, because times of great change are characterised by the sum of our countless human choices, which make a real and lasting difference in the world. It’s a privilege and a gift, however inadvertent, to make a difference in the world.

A person’s privileges could be defined by how much control or freedom they have to affect the quality of their own lived experience and the lived experiences of others. We all bring different privileges to the table. The fact that these privileges really count has been crystallised over the last ten months, as we all do our best to control the spread of coronavirus and look after each other.

It’s a terrifying privilege because every one of us will be judged by the generations which follow us on the choices we made during these difficult times. Quite rightly, historic turning points are scrutinised mercilessly by those who come after us, and it’s our terrifying privilege to meet the challenge of making the best of it.

‘Coronavirus has instructed us’

After 2020, the world will not – and cannot – snap back to normal like an elastic band.

The upheavals of 2020 are far from over. The waves of the pandemic and their aftershocks are not yet resolved and the knock-on effects of our actions this year are still building, like a snowball rolling downhill, gaining mass and momentum.

Getting to grips with this is daunting, but it’s also an opportunity to use our privileges differently and re-vision the kind of society we want to live in. We should be brave and thoughtful as we do this.

Coronavirus has instructed us. It has refreshed our sense of interconnectedness with each other and with the wider ecological and social systems which sustain us. The falsity and obvious unfairness of individualism has been laid bare. Conversely the triumph, hope and potential of collectivism – of recognising the value in our commonness, our shared experience of just being human – has been lit ablaze like a beacon for all to see.

When I look back over the work that the small but mighty team at Opus have done over the last few months, I am in awe at their dedication, their creativity and their commitment to supporting each other. I believe – perhaps naively, or perhaps because I have to – that our work has vision and can be useful in this emerging landscape. And I am hopeful.

A Year in Review

Opus ally and associate David Edwards has produced a report about our work in 2020.

It covers how our social enterprise has re-focussed its mission, what we did in immediate response to the pandemic, and our plans for the future. It felt important for us to capture and share what Opus has worked on this year, because we’ve learned a lot and we think there is so much potential for new partnerships and collaborations.

Our aim for 2021 and beyond is to create and deliver project work that addresses current environmental, social, economic and political concerns, through the lens of seven ‘systemic areas’:

  • Electoral Reform & Local Democracy

  • Income Redistribution & Local Economy

  • Anti-Racism & Marginalised Voices

  • Promoting & Collectivising Independent Media

  • Climate Action

  • Not-For-Profit Structures

  • Narratives of Change

That last one feels more important than ever, because along with all the upheaval, stress and uncertainty, we think there are very real opportunities for creating, sharing and building on positive stories of change within our society.

We want to think big to contribute towards solutions to big problems – and we want to work with as many people and organisations as we can to achieve that.

So, if you’d like to talk further about anything you’ve read, or you just want to put something on our radar, please get in touch.

Lastly, a big thank you to everyone whose brains we have picked, everyone who has teamed up with us to share ideas and make plans. We are interested in doing work which has a clear social benefit – in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and the world, through Now Then and all our other projects – and we want to connect with anyone who shares that mission.

Thankfully, it continues to be an inadvertent and terrifying privilege to be here.

Happy New Year.

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