Legacies of hope: creating a happier future together

The Jo Cox Foundation and Spirit of 2012 are launching a significant new three-year partnership to deepen the impact of The Great Get Together


If you think back to the summer of 2012, what do you remember? Most people would immediately recall the Olympic Games. For many it was a time of national pride, where we united over the best aspects of modern Britain: our inclusivity and progressive values, our diversity and goodwill, and a sense of togetherness that connected the capital to the rest of the nation and beyond.

Eight years on, much has changed. As a nation we have united again, but in the face of horrific terrorist attacks. We’ve weathered profound political storms, and are coming to terms with future challenges from the climate crisis to coronavirus. We can be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed by all that has passed and all that lies ahead.

But all is not lost: hope, energy and inspiration can be found right on our doorsteps, in the very heart of our communities. The Foundation and Spirit of 2012 are dedicated to nurturing this hope, so that communities nationwide can thrive.

One devastatingly tragic event in 2016 brought our need for community spirit sharply into focus. The murder of Jo Cox MP was an unprecedented act of violence. It took from a family their mother, sister, wife and daughter; from hundreds, a valued friend and colleague; and from the world a committed humanitarian. Alongside the outpouring of grief at Jo’s death came a renewed commitment to the values she truly embodied: values such as kindness, tolerance and respect. Jo’s belief that we have more in common than that which divides us lives on and is at the heart of The Jo Cox Foundation’s dedication to building the kinder and more compassionate society that Jo dreamed of.

This legacy is being built through our commitment to stronger communities, a better public life, and a fairer world. Many are familiar with our flagship initiative, The Great Get Together - the joyful annual celebration of Jo’s ‘more in common’ message. In 2019 alone, an amazing 720,000 people participated in 11,000 events nationwide - more than double the number of 2018.

This incredible momentum wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership of our two organisations. Spirit of 2012 was founded by the National Lottery Community Fund, recognising the transformational effect on many of the Games - particularly on disabled and young people. Spirit of 2012 now invests in projects that use the spark of events to make tangible, lasting changes to how people feel about themselves and their communities, sustaining the powerful legacy of a potentially fleeting moment in our national history and identity.

Building on our successes to date, we are delighted to announce the launch of this significant new three-year funding partnership, aimed at harnessing these powerful legacies and having a sustainable impact on our communities. Our special relationship is rooted in our shared commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity in all forms, as well as fostering positive local grassroots action. We will transform The Great Get Together from a moment in June - coinciding with Jo’s birthday - to a year-round movement of community-led social action. Together, we’re dedicated to breaking down barriers and ensuring all people, no matter their background, feel like a valued member of our society.

In taking care of our communities, we also take care of ourselves. Nine million people in the UK report suffering from loneliness, and one in four has a mental health problem. Positive change comes in many forms, be it through building bonds that prevent social isolation or coming together to tackle social issues that matter locally. It’s a simple and self-perpetuating circle: happier people create happier places, and happier places lead to happier people.

Since Jo was murdered, The Great Get Together has shown just how powerful an event can be at galvanising a movement of positive action. One organiser, Tony Mcpherson, used his event in 2019 to launch a campaign to tackle knife crime in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. The event was hugely inspirational, bringing people together to talk about sensitive and difficult issues and inspire positive action. In one attendee’s poignant words: “We can do more, and we can save our communities, if we all come together as one.”

This work extends well beyond the capital. In Newcastle, community organisers have restored a local allotment; in Chorley, a beloved local theatre was saved from demolition; and in Widnes, hundreds of donations for local food banks have been collected at Great Get Together events. These are just some of the many powerful examples of how communities can work together to overcome local challenges.

Almost one decade on from the 2012 Games, our nation may feel very different. Unprecedented challenges require us to unite as never before. Yet instead of being nostalgic for the past, or daunted by the future, we should take inspiration from the every day and unite alongside the nationwide community already embodying Jo’s powerful message that we are far more united, and have far more in common, than the things that divide us.

From the capital to the countryside, we invite you to join us this year as we continue to build a shared society rooted in our values of kindness, compassion and respect. Now more than ever we must unite over the things we share and sustain a legacy of hope: we all have a part to play in building a much happier future.

- Catherine Anderson, CEO of The Jo Cox Foundation & Ruth Hollis, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012