All in COMMUNICATIONS

"You wouldn't tell a sighted person, 'oh it doesn't matter if you can't read'.  It shouldn't be any different for a blind person."  The ability to read braille can transform the financial and social health of blind people, of which there are 360,000 in the UK according to the RNIB.  That's why an emerging group of social entrepreneurs and activists have made it their mission to reinvigorate what they call "the braille nation".

“Feminism is about repairing and imagining a new way of changing the world.  It is not a set of demands, it’s about who we are,” in the words of activist and journalist Beatrix Campbell. Such a compelling call to action is surely something that we can all sign up to, isn’t it? The rallying cry for new social constructs and better political representation that is about the people, for the people.  The trouble is, too many of those terms are fluid, undefined and susceptible to manipulation if not misinterpretation – politics, identity, community, feminism.  Is it any wonder that we don’t know who we are or what we stand for, never mind knowing if we’re there yet?

Irreversible species decline, catastrophic climate change, fresh water shortages and global food insecurity – it can be easy to despair when every day brings another slap in the face of a headline. With each new report, hope can disintegrate as surely as the ozone layer. But it doesn’t have to be like this – if we take the time to pause and reflect on the causes of despair, some say there is a chance we can save ourselves.

Here we are in 2015, approaching 90 years since women got the vote, being urged to celebrate all that we’ve achieved in honour of International Women’s Day. And there’s a lot to celebrate – we are not only more visible, we are also playing more of a leading role in society, politics, the economy and the arts.  However, there’s no denying that the struggle isn’t over, we’ve a long way to go yet.

It’s fairly evident that we’re a selfish bunch — developing technologies that help us live as fast and hard as possible, spending money on products that will prolong pleasure if not life itself (though that’s also a heavily financed desperate pursuit), mining foreign lands for all they’re worth, all with relatively little regard for the long term consequences.  But what of those consequences, and do we care enough to react?

The question of what motivates and inspires writers has enduring appeal for anyone eager to pursue the creative life. It also reveals some fascinating insights from which anyone can benefit. We all have a story to tell, as individuals, organisations, communities, societies, businesses. And just like any story, if it’s interesting enough and told well, people will listen.

High up in the majestic rolling hills of Rwanda sit some 100 men and women discussing how they intend to tackle the challenges that have beset progress in this remote village where soil erosion, poor harvests, heavy rainfall, precarious roads and lack of electricity are the norm. From improving their crop yields, to a desire for social structure, the people of Siganiro are eager for change.

For anyone who’s ever harboured a perverse, semi-intellectual fetish for stationery, there is no substitute for the crisp, clean greeting that is the opening page of a new notebook. It’s easy to romanticise the humble pen and paper in an age when digital communication is taking over the world.  There’s no arguing with how computers have propelled productivity - the internet is flooded with an infinite tirade of verbiage.  But is this necessarily a good thing?

Documenting the past comes with a frightening number of challenges that at times beg the question, why bother?  With historical writing, the challenges are even more pronounced, particularly the lack of people and sources against which to check your facts.  Depending on how you look at it, it’s either the greatest investigative adventure or a guaranteed route to sleepless nights as the unknown quantities swirl around your tormented mind.

Women don’t make good researchers.  Feminism needs re-branding.  Education will only give girls a misplaced sense of power.  These are just some of the judgements pedalled in recent debates about the gender gap.  The common denominator seems to be the idea that women are neither capable nor worthy of changing the social landscape which, according to those harbouring such archaic views, they should simply accept as their lot.  Thankfully, the many who disagree have something far more interesting to say.