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Introduction

Do you sometimes feel as if the world’s gone mad? From Coronavirus to Brexit, nothing seems to make sense any more, and sometimes things seem to change so fast that it can be difficult to keep up.

Whether or not things are any more crazy now than they were in the past, or whether social media just makes it seem that way, the world is a quick-moving place, where ideas and knowledge can move and change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes change takes decades, sometimes seconds. Social media can make this feel worse – everybody seems to be talking about topics you have never even heard of, and what’s more, everyone seems so much more clued up on it than you are.

Relax.

It’s ok.

We’re here to help.

It can be intimidating to be told to educate yourself if you don’t know where to start. Sometimes the views of our parents are out of date, and sometimes the things we were taught in school have changed, or developed. How are we supposed to know that things are different? It can sometimes feel as if you’re playing by the wrong set of rules, and on social media, saying the wrong thing can be disastrous.

This is the reason why we created this book. We believe that most people want to understand the way the world works, but sometimes don’t know where to start. Especially if we’ve grown up around very different opinions, it can sometimes be quite a challenge to recognise that we need to do some more research to really understand an issue. We are all different, and this is what makes us unique, but sometimes these differences have been weaponised to turn us against one another through fear, prejudice and scaremongering.

The truth is, if we can understand one another better, we can all get along better. When we take away the inaccuracy and the misinformation, our horizons are opened and we can feel that we belong and that we have a part to play in the world. Sometimes, all it takes is that first step.

This short guide attempts to bring together some of the most pressing issues facing the world today. To keep it pocket sized, we have had to be selective. By no means is this meant to be the final word on these issues, but simply the very first step. In writing about issues as diverse and varied as gender, immigration and disability, we believe it is essential to allow people who most identify with these issues to be the ones to tell you about it. What we want to achieve, in this small guide, is for you to feel comfortable reading about issues which you may not know much about – so that our authors can help you start a journey to break down any gaps in your knowledge. I have created a very difficult task for our contributors by asking them to write only very brief guides to complex topics, and my hope is that this guidebook will direct you towards more learning and more engagement. You will find a full list of recommendations at the end of the book. As with the chapters, these were picked by the authors themselves, and as far as possible, we have tried to provide links to information which you can access for free.

I’m incredibly proud of the diverse range of voices who have been brave enough to tell you something of their own stories in these pages. I hope you enjoy hearing about their different perspectives on life, and I am convinced that even a short read will help you to learn a lot. That was certainly the case for me.

There is nothing more powerful than educating ourselves to learn more about the world in which we live. The more we learn, the more we realise what we have in common. Learning more about each other makes us more empathetic, more welcoming and more of an ally. We live in a world with deep divisions, and by taking the first steps to find out why, I firmly believe we are better prepared to support one another to achieve and to thrive. Thank you for taking these first steps with us.

Author photos by Angela Denore Lopez