Andy Issott
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Headspace Stories: Meet Counterpoint

Counterpoint is a recent resident of Headspace Farringdon and have been a wonderful addition to our community. In fact we are lucky enough to have them as our next door neighbours to our Headspace Office Headquarters. Find out more about Counterpoint in our latest #headspacespacestories below.

Headspace members

Who are Counterpoint?

We are a tight-knit group of people who carry out research and provide specialised advice to our range of government, corporate and non-profit clients on the social and cultural dynamics underpinning political and economic change. We reveal the hidden wiring shaping people’s choices, perceptions and actions, so that our clients can better understand the context they operate in and effectively manage new forms of risk and uncertainty.
In our core team, our backgrounds include political science, psychology, philosophy and anthropology, and between us we speak six languages fluently. Our associate network includes experts from many other disciplines and professional backgrounds.

We are officially registered as a community investment company, which means that everything we do has to support the public good. This is something that matters a great deal to all of us.

What type of work do you do?

Our work is always geared to the precise needs of our clients, so our projects are varied in nature. For example, we have helped progressive politicians understand how to effectively counter populist rhetoric and language. Elsewhere, we are working with a government client on the future of public sector work in an era of automation, specifically trying to understand the anxieties and concerns public sector workers are facing.

We have assisted a multinational company operating in a foreign country to build better relationships with local communities. We are just starting a new multi-year research project on how the digital transformation is affecting human thinking and behaviour and what these changes mean for democracies and political institutions.

What makes Counterpoint unique?

There are lots of other companies which deal in managing political and economic risk, but we look at risk in different ways by privileging social and cultural dynamics. We believe that effective risk management depends on a deeper understanding of these dynamics, because they underpin every aspect of politics, finance and security. Moreover, it is important to broaden the traditional meaning of risk management to include an organisation’s capacity to deal with uncertainty and unpredictability.

In this way, we help our clients to be more innovative and robust. We make sure they can decode the world around them, tell them what it means for them in their context and assist them in building the relationships they need to prosper.

You carry out a lot of research, can you tell us your most interesting finding?

We recently concluded a research project where we travelled to various communities across Europe to discover how they were affected by the refugee crisis of 2015. We were moved by the way in which host communities, particularly in rural areas, were shaped by the arrival of refugees in their neighbourhoods. Many of them found it to be a life-changing experience, forming profound emotional attachments to the newcomers. In some of the smaller communities, refugees moved on to larger cities once they had settled, leaving many people bereft. One elderly lady we interviewed told us that she wished the refugees would come back. This is the kind of voice you do not hear in the migration debate, and it was both surprising and touching.

lalaland joke comic

What trends are you noticing at the moment that you think organisations should be more aware of?

We live in an interconnected world and access to more information has made us better able to predict future trends and challenges, but the nature of some of these changes is so dramatic that we often do not know how to respond.

We are living through turbulent times – events such as Brexit and the election of Trump have challenged the pillars of Western liberal democracy in ways we could not have imagined just a couple of years ago. Populist parties are breaking through in many parts of the world, reopening debates on norms and values that we thought had already been won. Meanwhile, the pace of technological advancement is having a profound impact on human relationships and will continue to restructure the way in which our societies function in the coming decades.

To deal with the pace and depth of change around us, organisations need to have a better sense of the social and cultural landscapes in which risks emerge and evolve. This is not just about perceiving risk more accurately, but about coping with change more effectively and being efficient, agile and intelligent in the decision-making process. This goes far beyond the notion of forecasting and traditional risk management: in our world it means learning enough about the context around us so that we can negotiate threat but also participate actively when it is to our benefit.

Office dog

You’ve only been with us a short time, but what do you like most about being based at Headspace Farringdon?

Well, that’s easy: Nolah! But we also like the yoga classes and sense of community. The building is also great – it has lots of character with its original features creatively integrated into a modern design, and you can have privacy without feeling lonely or isolated. We are looking forward to meeting other members of the community and playing our part in it!

Thank you to Counterpoint. We love having you at Headspace Farringdon and particularly admire the personal touch you have given your office.

Catch Counterpoint at our next #talkingheads event ‘How is the Digital Transformation changing politics as we know it?’, Wednesday 27th June 2018 at the Studio, Farringdon. Register to attend for free.

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