Circles of support

Richard Branson walks with a large group  of people.  He is wearing jeans, a black leather jacket and a white shirt
Image by Julian Goldswain
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 24 November 2017

The challenges facing the world cannot be solved by individuals, governments or organisations alone. To get on top of problems, and seize opportunities, it is going to take everybody working together.

This applies particularly to those of us lucky enough to have the resources to make a big impact but applies to everyone. 

The way we do it as a family and a company is to use Circles. In my new autobiography, Finding My Virginity, I say how I start by drawing a circle around myself to make sure everything inside that circle is working well. Am I meeting my fitness goals, have I got my alcohol intake right, have I got my work-life balance about right. Once I feel that circle is fine I widen the circle to include family and friends and do everything I can to help them and make a difference there too.

Richard Branson and Holly Branson in New York City for the Virgin Money Sail Challenge
Image from Virgin Money

Once you feel that is largely achieved, widen the circle to further to incorporate your immediate neighbours and your street. Make sure you get to know your neighbours well, what their issues are and try to help them. Keep the street outside your house as clean as you’d keep the carpets inside your house. If all neighbours drew circles around themselves and their homes soon many would overlap and the elderly, the lonely, and people more generally would feel connected, loved and cared for. The same goes for our environment which is in desperate need of this attention.

At Virgin we take it a step further. At my home in the Caribbean, we’ve drawn a circle around it covering the sea, the reefs and neighbouring communities. We have set up a local foundation that sets about protecting  and helping the species in the ocean, the local community, the environment and so on. Our circle overlaps with other circles. So in the British Virgin Islands where Larry and Lucy Page have a property close to ours, his circle overlaps with ours so together we provide loans to young entrepreneurs to help them get on their feet, build businesses and so on.

Richard Branson scuba diving in large cage
Image by Matt Young

Whether you have fitness goals, want to change your work-life balance or make any type of positive change in your life, draw a circle around yourself and start from there. Then expand to your family and friends, and then to your neighbours. You’ll find your own goals are more easily achieved with their help too, as your circles overlap.

These steps don’t have to be earth-shattering. For instance pick up the rubbish outside your homes and on your streets. If there is an elderly person living alone on the street visit them; arrange a Christmas hamper or birthday present. This may sound overly simplistic, but simple solutions are what lead to action. I wrote recently about 15 simple acts of kindness, from handwriting letters to introducing yourself to strangers, to create a massive groundswell of positive change.

Richard Branson hugging family after a hike
Adam Slama

As The B Team states, Plan A – where companies have been driven by the profit motive alone – is no longer acceptable. It’s time for Plan B. Imagine a world where the purpose of every business is to drive social, environmental and economic benefit.

Small companies – small circles. Large companies – large circles. At Virgin, our individual companies have relatively targeted circles. But the Virgin Group has been bold and drawn a circle around the globe to get out and tackle the big issues of the world.

Climate change, ocean preservation, drug reform, abolishing capital punishment, universal healthcare, LGBT rights, conflict resolution issues, to name a few! But many of these big issues wouldn’t exist if everyone in the world started off with a small circle around themselves that grew overtime so that every circle in the world ultimately overlapped.

If every person, company, shop, factory, home, college and office drew a circle around their surroundings and pledged to help those inside the circle, together we would make the world a better place.