Book Recommendation: The Social Edge

In this final post of the year I wish to highlight this book… The Social Edge: The Power of Sympathy Groups for our Health, Wealth and Sustainable Future by Anthony Costello.

Buy it from Amazon here (please add us as your Smile Charity!) or listen and watch Tony talking about it.

Professor Costello was one of my teachers when I was doing my MSc in Maternal and Child Health at the Institute of Child Health, University of London (1996-1997). He got onto my own ‘top teacher’ list when he gave me a 10/10 for an essay! Thanks Tony! More to the point he was always a great champion of my work with the Child-t0-Child Trust; work that laid the foundation for all that I do now.

During the pandemic Tony has been a crucial part of, ‘Independent Sage’ a team holding the government to account during the Covid Pandemic…

But why I am turning to Tony today is because of his book, The Social Edge, written well before the pandemic but SOOO relevant for all of us right now as we try to cope and eventually rebuild our world. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The power of the ‘sympathy group’ (around 15 people) is an idea I have gone back to time and again. It makes the overwhelm become manageable, the planned gathering meaningful and important and provides a simple framework when undertaking project planning.

Here is a review…
Our twenty first century world is facing a series of unprecedented crises. Pandemics of loneliness, obesity and diabetes. Spiralling inequality. Financial meltdowns. Environmental destruction.

We’re obsessed with finding big, complicated, technological solutions to these modern ills. But what if the solutions lie not in techno fixes, but in harnessing the power of one of the oldest and simplest human units – the sympathy group?

The sympathy group is the smallest social unit outside the family. People who share a common interest and solve a challenge through facilitated conversation.

Working together in sympathy groups is the secret of success in all areas of human endeavour – from agriculture to child-care, trade, science, theatre, music, the military, business and sport.

In a radical new argument, award-winning scientist Professor Anthony Costello lays out a new science of cooperation based on 20 years studying community participation through women’s sympathy groups in Bangladesh, India, Malawi and Nepal. He shows how tapping the power, ingenuity and tenacity of small groups:

• Has guided the course of human history, hidden in plain sight, from hunter-gatherer societies to the present day,
• Dramatically improved health and survival of mothers and infants in Asia and Africa,
• Could re-ignite revolutionary social change in over- individualised societies for our sustainable future,
• Can radically reform the culture of business, medicine, government and economics.

In this fascinating and important book, Professor Costello dares to suggest twenty two social experiments to underpin solutions, and lays out ideas to help managers and decision-makers create an ecology for success. Sympathy groups tackling their own health, organisation and environment challenges are not an optional, ‘nice’ extra. They are central, profoundly important, and ignored.

It is my end of year holiday reading and will be the second time I’ve read this wonderful book.

Buy it from Amazon here