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OpenLearn Live: 10th June 2016

Updated Friday, 10th June 2016

The Swiss were offered a basic income for everyone. How did they react? Then more free learning across the day.

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OpenLearn Live is the place where free learning connects with the world you live. This page will be updated across the day.

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Today's posts


Gardens and mental health

Can connecting with nature improve mental health? The OU's Jonathan Leach says not only can it, but he's seen it in action:

Having worked as a ‘horticultural therapist’ in the 1980s and 1990s with service users leaving the old long-stay mental hospitals I certainly agree that many people with mental health problems did seem to experience these benefits. However, as the years went on there seemed to be a move away from promoting gardening, farming and conservation work as mainstream therapeutic activities. In part this reflected a proper concern that people who had used mental health services should have the same opportunities to work in the modern industries of information technology, retail, leisure and manufacturing as the rest of the population. Also, farming and gardening work used to be a feature of some of the old asylums and so did not seem so appropriate in the age of ‘care in the community’.

So it is interesting that we now seem to have come full circle with the benefits of working outdoors being increasingly recognised by researchers.

Read the full article: Green care


This is about the football

Great news for fans of the Radio Times not knowing what's going to be on and publishing two schedules as a result, and for exchanging cold hard cash in the office in return for a small square of paper printed with the name of a country unknown as a soccer powerhouse. It's Euro 2016, and we're celebrating with a collection of football-related items for you:

Will the home nations be heading home painfully early? Simon Rea weighs the chances:

This is the first time since the World Cup of 1958 that four Home Nation teams have qualified for a major tournament and Wales were the team who progressed furthest reaching the quarter finals on that occasion. The 1958 team was built around their star player, John Charles of Juventus, just as the 2016 team revolves around Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid striker. He is backed up by other stars, such as Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams. The other players include a mixture of Premiership and Championship players.

Read the full article: An early Brexit?

Of course, it's all down to the penalties. Could we be better prepared? Ben Lyttleton considers:

And for the players who are not used to the pressure, who do not normally take penalties for their clubs, it can be the difference between failure and success. It is impossible to replicate conditions between training and competition 100 per cent, but you can try for 80 per cent; many coaches I spoke to like to add a competitive edge to penalties practise. The losers serve lunch or dinner to the winners after training; or if one player misses, everyone on his team has to go for a long run.

Read the full article: Can you train for penalties?

And if it's another year of hurt to add to the previous 50, how do you manage a team through the bad times? 

Jose Mourinho’s approach is to blame external factors such as refereeing decisions or the opposition’s tactics. This approach has its merits as it is ego-protective and means a manager can still feel good about themselves and their tactics and also protect their players from criticism. However, this externalising of failure can be dangerous as it leaves no room for learning from defeat. Brendan Rodgers fell into this trap after defeat by Mourinho’s Chelsea team when he said that failure was due to Chelsea parking two buses in the penalty area. Later he regretted saying this as he accepted it was his responsibility to find a way to play against these tactics. A subtle move from externalising to internalising responsibility. In defeat managers need to focus on the problems and resolve them.

Read the full article: Manageing a team through despair


37 Days in May: Switzerland rejects a basic income

This week, OpenLearn has returned after a short hiatus, and we've been starting up by catching up on just a few of the stories we missed while we were offline for May and a few days either side.

So far this week, we've featured these events:

We're finishing the week in Switzerland, and something that happened just before we came back. On June 5th, voters in Switzerland took part in a referendum to decide if the country should introduce a basic income.

Ten Swiss Francs Creative commons image Icon Charlton Clemens under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Ten Swiss Francs

A lot of economists think that a basic income could be a very good thing. Writing in The Conversation, Ralph Callebert explains the basics of the basic income:

Giving every resident an unconditional grant, regardless of whether you are a billionaire or destitute, is a significant departure from our existing welfare state. The latter offers only limited and conditional support when working is not an option.

Support for a basic income comes from very disparate political and ideological circles.

Some libertarians like basic income because it promises a leaner state without a large bureaucracy checking people’s eligibility and policing their behavior. Others see it as enabling entrepreneurialism – the poor helping themselves.

On the left, many see basic income as an opportunity to plug numerous holes in the social safety net or even to free people from “wage slavery.” For feminists, basic income is a successor to the old demand for wages for housework.

There are, of course, arguments against the idea. Bloomberg's Megan McCardle raises some of the objections - on cost grounds, the problem of reciprocity (the affluent have a duty to support the poorer, but the poorer would have no obligation in return), the political challenges, and - interestingly - the effect on attitudes to work:

If you make it possible for some people to live without working, some people will live without working. That decision will be rational in the short term but disastrous in the long term. At any given point, a minimum-wage job may be very unattractive compared with spending more time with your family. But over the long run, it's very hard to get a "good" job if you have been living on a basic income rather than working; employers do not like the signal sent by resume gaps. It is particularly hard if you are not a middle-class kid whose parents have friends with hiring power -- and no, this is not fair, but we go to a guaranteed income with the socioeconomic structure we have, not the one we would like to have.

Along with family, work is the defining element of most lives and communities. People who are out of work are much less happy than people who are in work, even in European countries with generous social safety nets. Discouraging people from making the short-term sacrifices necessary to gain a long-term foothold in the job market is not good social policy.

It's common knowledge that Labour's shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is considering whether his party should adopt a basic income as a plank of its policy; and the concept is being explored by politicians from New Zealand to Finland.

There's even been a pilot project in North Carolina, where a share of casino projects was given to every family in a rural community. Researchers have been watching the effects:

Not only did the extra income appear to lower the instance of behavioral and emotional disorders among the children, but, perhaps even more important, it also boosted two key personality traits that tend to go hand in hand with long-term positive life outcomes.

The first is conscientiousness. People who lack it tend to lie, break rules and have trouble paying attention. The second is agreeableness, which leads to a comfort around people and aptness for teamwork. And both are strongly correlated with various forms of later life success and happiness.

The researchers also observed a slight uptick in neuroticism, which, they explained, is a good sign. Neuroticism is generally considered to be a positive trait so long as one does not have too much of it.

But Switzerland was the first country to ask its citizens if they wanted everyone in the nation to get a basic level of support.

And the outcome? BBC News reports:

Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all.

Final results from Sunday's referendum showed that nearly 77% opposed the plan, with only 23% backing it.

However, that doesn't mean the end of the idea. Before the vote, yes campaigner Ralph Kundig explained how he saw this as only the first step:

Ralph Kundig, one of the lead campaigners, said ahead of the vote: “For centuries this has been considered a utopia, but today it has not only become possible, but indispensible.”

Kundig conceded there was little chance of the initiative passing, but said that “just getting a broad public debate started on this important issue is a victory”.

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