By Iain MacRitchie

We may all be in the same Covid storm, but we are in very different boats. Some cruising through, but sadly many are holed below the waterline and others entirely unseaworthy. The return of calmer waters brings a once-in-lifetime opportunity to rebuild back better. Let’s be very clear on what we need to focus on and see through. The absolute priority is a swift economic recovery, but one where everyone matters, actively participates and directly benefits. It makes social sense but also makes complete financial sense. It can be done. Here’s how.

It is a transformation that needs a relationship-first approach with social inclusion, social mobility and social contribution as three governing principles and essential component parts. Economic success that will drive social benefits and vice versa. We need them fused, as two sides of the same coin. This is the way to establish a fairer economy in fact, not rhetoric. It is not a pipe dream. We already have the knowledge, examples and expertise to deliver.

The Covid crisis has come at an extraordinary economic cost. However, it has shown that we can deliver change based on social cause and need. Hopefully, we can ultimately agree to a 100-year term for the Covid debt, but let's face up to the fact that it will have to be repaid. As an entrepreneur come social entrepreneur, I know we have to generate wealth before we can spend it. We need a successful economy and as an absolute priority.

As we emerge from the pandemic, the greatest challenge is to not repeat our mistakes and rebuild inequality and its destructive power. We cannot swing from one extreme to another, from austerity to free spending to bankruptcy or where our kids pick up the bill. We can move beyond polarising party politics or divisive negotiations where one side looks to win at the expense of the other. Our energies and creativity should be devoted to building consensus and a collective commitment to the three simple principles.

The first is social inclusion. This means everyone has a basic right to nutrition, a home, internet access and health and well-being. This is not idealistic or about adding to our national debt. The cost of failure is far more expensive than prevention. It needs investment, but this investment will generate cost savings immediately and over the long term. Make no mistake that is the truth of the matter. We talk about early intervention and have models demonstrating significant savings. What we have struggled to accept or deal with is that the savings come from different institutions, departments and budgets. Our systems have created conflicts of interest which slow development and kill progression. This is not a criticism, it is just a fact.

Any change such as this requires leadership, focus and a measured outcome. Effective leadership requires active listening skills, empathy and trusting relationships. Inclusion is not about one party doing what they think is best. It is about engaging, listening, creating choices and teamwork. We have more than enough evidence of what works. With social inclusion as first base it gives us the ability to build the second in social mobility.

An equality of education outcomes, job choices and subsequent life chances is social mobility in its truest form. Blind to colour, class and gender. It isn’t about one group or certain postcodes achieving at the expense of others. It’s simply about each individual realising their potential irrespective of their circumstances. A level playing field so that everyone has the opportunity to be the best that they can be.

If deprivation or lack of resources is a constraint, then we provide the relationships, support and social capital to ensure it isn’t. This simple principle must empower our education systems, institutions, and all sections of society. MCR Pathways has a proven and inexpensive model that ensures this is the case. Mentoring the most disadvantaged young people through school, in partnership with teachers, local authorities and government is transformational and closes the attainment gap. When MCR becomes fully embedded and publicly owned, we will have a process to deliver social mobility at scale. A platform to build meaningful and sustainable social contributions.

Social contribution is where organisations demonstrate their commitment but in a manner where they also make significant gains. A contribution that drives wide-ranging corporate benefits for sustainability and not based on fashion. This is the next generation of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Indeed, an increasing number of businesses are seeing the benefits of aligning their strategy to social purpose. Purpose-driven strategy has already been shown to drive share price and brand value. It is a two-way process where all parties benefit, both giver and receiver.

MCR mentoring is a perfect illustration of this in practice: the mentor more than often gains as much benefit as the mentee. This directly translates into benefit for employers as increased employee engagement drives improved productivity and profitability, both by more than 20 per cent (evidenced in research from 263 studies covering 49 industries and 192 organisations in 34 countries). Focused, local community based volunteering is the most potent way of increasing employee engagement. The gains in mental health and wellbeing are profound.

Each of the three components feeds the other and becomes circular and self-sustaining. This is not new or revolutionary. We already have the evidence and examples. It is just about leadership with the motivation, commitment and resilience to make it happen. The future should combine social causes and benefits with economic drive and prosperity. It makes complete financial sense. Let’s not talk about one without the other. Soconomics is the way to rebuild back better.

Professor Iain MacRitchie is founder and CEO of MCR Pathways and a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde