Martin Howlett September 29, 2020

This is an age-old question that invariably prompts several further questions around the topic. I would say that the biggest question around this is what motivates individuals to do anything, good or bad? Is it the psychology of an individual? Is it purely our life experiences that prompts our behaviour? Clearly there are many theories around this topic and lots of evidence supported by science. I like to think that I have seen and met many people in life who can support the theories and challenge both the theories and science.

Our current position in relation to Covid-19 is a typical example of this. We have some individuals who have openly challenged and even abused police officers, NHS workers, transport workers and others when questioned about their behaviour. When investigated it has been found that the demonstrated behaviours have been ‘totally out of character’. On the other side of the coin, we have seen a surge in people just wanting to give something back to the community. This is something we have witnessed within Cheshire Connect. Over the past six months, so many individuals and businesses have ‘stepped up to the mark’ to offer charities and not for profits their unique skills to support them through the current challenges they face.

I am intrigued to look at what motivates individuals to come forward to help. In one of my previous blogs I have discussed the three main reasons why people give.

·       They have a ‘connection’ whether physical or through experience

·       Their religious beliefs motivate them to get engaged

·       They want to give something back to support their community and they can afford the time/ donation

Of course, I can only comment on my own experience having worked in education, voluntary and not for profit, private and public sectors. I have been in a unique position to work in leadership across all these sectors and get the chance to see the thousands of individuals that give back. In education, you have such dedicated teachers and school staff that are passionate about giving every child the best chances in life. In the private sector, I have seen businesses that give their time and effort due to a ‘moral compass’ within. In the public sector you have so many individuals who continue to do what they do because they really do care. And then you get the voluntary and not for profit sector who truly believe that helping people is their vocation.

To answer my original question, I must look at the things that have inspired me as an individual to ‘give back’. We are all born as ‘empty vessels’ and our life experiences and nurturing forms some of our very basic behaviours and characteristics, both good and bad. However, what is it that makes us lean towards the good characteristics rather than the bad? Again, I think we must look at what those basic needs are to succeed in anything, whether it be learning or life. My mantra to success is three words: Inspiration, Aspiration and Support.

Inspiration is a key driver for giving back and for success. We can all think of someone who has been an inspiration to us. For me, this has been several individuals throughout my career, starting with my DT teacher at school. A Mr. Horton believed in me and started me on a path which has got me to where I am today. ‘On route’ others have inspired me to do extraordinary things and believed in me and what I am doing. Recently an individual inspired me by their knowledge, vast experience and friendship. They have again inspired me to give time energy and effort to others in the field of Cyber security. Therefore, inspiration plays a large part in our behaviour and actions. When we give our time freely to charities and not for profits, we are often inspired by people around us who do this already. Inspired by the difference they make by giving.

This leads me on the next key word, Aspiration. It is our aspiration that drives us. Once we are inspired, we can clearly see what is achievable and if we know what is achievable, we can aspire to achieve it. We can aspire to get that same feeling as the person or situation that has given us the inspiration to do things. Of course, Aspiration must have a ‘marker’ or a ‘reference point’. It is others that can give us this. For example, a young person could look at a sports field and see the athletes working as a team. This can at the time give them the aspiration to achieve the same things. It is just the same with the giving of time. You can meet an individual who talks about what they get out of giving. This then leads to giving you the aspiration to do the same. This is slightly different to Inspiration. I describe Inspiration as been externally influenced and Aspiration being internally generated.

We then come to Support. Well, you never get anywhere without support do you? Once you have been inspired, achieve the aspiration, you then need to look at what skills, opportunities and outlook you need support with to achieve your goal. Support in the ‘giving’ sense means the facilitation of the doing. It takes the right environment and experiences to really achieve in the long term. I see this more as the ‘conductor’ in an orchestra. The member who plays the kettle drum is passionate about the instrument, sound and power it has. If it is used in the wrong place, it is disastrous. The conductor will support the member to play the instrument in the right place for it to be a success. We all need this support to be able to give our time effectively and make a real difference.

So, in summary, what motivates someone to do good? In reality and in my opinion, there is not one individual thing that allows someone to do this. Giving of time and resource requires an ‘orchestra’ and the conductor is just another member with another title and role. A conductor may well be singled out for an excellent performance, but without the Inspiration to be the very best, the Aspiration to lead others and more importantly, the rest of the members of the orchestra, success and therefore motivation to do good just will not happen.