Valuing what’s old and plentiful

In copywriting circles, 'new' is widely regarded as a 'trigger word' that attracts attention and generates interest in whatever is being promoted. I've used it liberally in 30 years of not-for-profit marketing and I believe that, when true, it strikes a positive chord with most people.

 

The idea of presenting something as 'new' - even if it isn't - is well-known to anyone who has ever applied for grant funding. The pressure is on to re-present what you've been doing for years as new, just to attract that grant. So the reception area becomes an 'information point' and the receptionist an information officer. Which isn't to say that a change of name can't change perceptions - when our council dump became a re-cycling centre I did visit it in a different frame of mind, and I hope the staff working there felt better as well.

 

Genuinely new products, services, approaches, and ideas are exciting and to be celebrated but where does this leave tried, tested, and proven products and processes? I'm not a Luddite, but I don't want the latest gadget, I want one that that I can rely on to work consistently well. And if I have a system that works well for me - I'm thinking here about my trusted Filofax which fought off competition from an electronic interloper some years ago - I'll stick with it.

 

Just as we're all conditioned to want the latest products and services, so the current market economy attaches greater value to that which is scarce. Think of the price of diamonds, think of the wages of world-class footballers. Edgar Kahn, the father of community time banking, points to the absurdity of this value system which denigrates those building the essential foundations of society - in child care, community development, social work, community-based health and social care - to some of the worst paid jobs. The skills involved in these essential services are somehow regarded as being ubiquitous - reflected in their low pay or, in the case of parenting, no pay at all.

 

What does this mean for social enterprises?

 

Can we buck the trend and value everyone who works in the sector equally - at least in the way we treat them, if not on the basis of equal pay as found in co-operatives? And what about overcoming the fixation with anything 'new'? While falling back on the "'if it ain't broke, don't fix it" cliché could be a recipe for inaction and possible atrophy, I still think there's real value in sticking with what you know best and doing it consistently to the best of your ability.