Drawing circles around what matters most

Black and white image of Richard Branson walking towards the camera, smiling, with his arms out wide
Image by John Armstrong Photography
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 30 December 2019

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. I hope that 2020 is the year of cooperation and collaboration. This applies particularly to those of us lucky enough to have the resources to make a big impact but it also applies to everyone who wants to make a difference.

Richard Branson speaking at the Caribbean Climate Accelerator
Image from the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator

The way we do it as a family and a company is to use circles. In my autobiography, Finding My Virginity, I explain 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, am I looking after myself, 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.

Once you feel that is largely achieved, widen the circle to further 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. 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.

Richard Branson on hills looking at the views
Image from Virgin.com

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 foundations: Unite BVI, which supports projects in the British Virgin Islands, and Ocean Unite, which has a mission of protecting 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030.

We also find that the bigger our circles get, they start to overlap and include wider networks. At Virgin, our individual companies have relatively targeted circles, focusing on the issues that affect their industries. 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.

With our foundation Virgin Unite, we’ve helped incubate initiatives such as The B Team, The Elders and The Carbon War Room (now merged with The Rocky Mountain Institute), which are organisations driving change across the world on the climate crisis, sustainability, safeguarding human rights and many other issues.

Wind turbines on Necker Island
Image from Virgin.com

I also speak out on topics such as drug policy reform, abolishing capital punishment, LGBT rights, and 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.