NewslettersJanuary 19th, 2021

PG #73: Looking back to look forward

Iain Phillips
Iain Phillips, Design Director
Two faces stand back to back, one looks backward, the other forward.

Illustration by Iain Phillips


The month of January is thought to be named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. Janus is depicted as having two faces – one looking forward and one looking back. One eye on the past and one eye on the future.

In January 2021, we could all be forgiven for not wanting to look back, but instead staring straight ahead into the new year and hoping that it brings something better or at least closer to what we feel is normality. But, if we do that, we could lose some of the big changes that we want to keep.

2020 was the year that:

  • Services became more accessible than ever before, with remote access – previously deemed too hard to implement – now being commonplace across healthcare, government, the justice sector, culture and more.

  • Remote work became normalised, opening up opportunities to people who couldn’t reach them before and improving the work/life balance for many others.

  • Social media and technology companies started taking (slightly) more responsibility for the environment they are creating, as their role in society continues to increase.

  • We realised what services are truly essential and how much more we should value and support the work that teachers, nurses, doctors, scientists, cleaners, delivery drivers, warehouse workers and retail workers do

Our ability to forget can help us move forward. The ability to put bad things behind us, to contextualise the emotions we feel, to make things ok in our mind, is essential to living day to day.

However, that ability to put things behind us can let us down when it comes to tackling the big systemic issues. The sense of returned normality can make it feel like things are fine. But if you were to ask any historian, climate scientist, or biologist about their outlook for the future, they wouldn’t paint a rosy picture.

So, let’s not sleepwalk into going back to normal as we set out into a new year.

Let’s look back on last year and decide which positive trends to accelerate.

Let’s use our momentum to reverse the negative trends with renewed vigour and dedication.

Let’s make 2021 the turning point towards a better future.


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