Chances are, if you’ve had any involvement with The Cares Family over the past decade, you know our origin story. On election day, in May 2010, while out canvassing for votes, I met my 84-year-old neighbour, Fred, was exposed to the dual isolation of older and younger people in our rapidly changing world, and inspired enough by my new friendship with a longtime but previously unseen neighbour to set up North London Cares to help others build connection across the generations too. …


The 2018 Obama Fellows at the 2019 Obama Summit

Two years ago I wrote a blog about what I learned as I became one of 20 inaugural Obama Fellows. The blog focused on the slowness and toughness of social change, the patience and energy required to make a difference and how, in spite of the inevitable setbacks, when people work together towards a better future, they can bend the arc of history toward justice.

Last summer, I shared more about my journey with the Obama Foundation, and how much I’d learned from my fellow Fellows. …


Jean and Orla, friends through North London Cares, connect at a distance during the pandemic.

My friend Lil is 87. Dyed-in-the-wool working class, she was born and raised in London’s Cally Road district — the sort of rag and bone neighbourhood they really don’t make anymore. Lil is a diamond, with the accent and stories to match. She will regale anyone and everyone with memories of evacuation, of love and loss, hope and heartbreak, mischief and misadventure. I’ve never met anyone that wasn’t instantly drawn to her charisma.

But Lil is also the first to admit that she’s lonely to the point of desperation. Her only daughter lives on the other side of the world…


The path through the Covid-19 crisis is long and hard. Organisations making a huge difference now, and leaning into the challenge in communities, must also consider the world we want to see in a decade, and our role in shaping it. To do that, we need to look after ourselves and one another in new ways.

Eighteen months ago, I wrote about my experience of burning out — a brutal numbing of energy and joy that came from working 100-hour weeks, sixteen weeks running, several times over. It wasn’t an easy vulnerability to admit. …


In a leafy, affluent corner of Hampstead, tucked away in high-up north London, I meet Eliza, aged 88. A retired journalist who also worked as a teacher and film producer, she regales a broad social network with stories of global travel, music, and theatre. This week, with her tenth decade on the horizon, Eliza is performing her first ever comedy gig.

Seven miles away, across the river Thames in Peckham, it’s a different story. Ray suffers from COPD, the result of years of exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke in local pubs, and the industry that paid for his labour. Ray…


This article was first published on The Huffington Post in August 2011

My hometown has been battered this past week, eaten by its young in an apparently senseless, spontaneous, sustained attack that later spread to towns and cities across the country. Commentators have done what commentators do: fumbled for hasty analysis of cause and effect, and made judgements about issues they don’t always understand, at least on any visceral level. Some have been more considered than others; Nina Power’s piece in the Guardian was particularly thought provoking. …


It’s been over a year now since I first wrote about my experience of being one of the inaugural 20 Obama Foundation Fellows, and what I’d learned at the opening gathering of that group in May 2018. …


Earlier this month, the BBC launched its new Crossing Divides On the Move initiative. In partnership with travel companies across the UK, the intention was to spark conversations between passengers on some of their seven billion journeys a year across their neighbourhoods and nation — all in an attempt to reduce the stigma and creep of a national epidemic: loneliness, and our broader disconnection from one another.

Virgin Trains designated ‘chat carriages’ and gave out free hot drinks to passengers willing to converse with a stranger. Arriva placed ‘conversation starter’ cards on buses. National Express hosted spoken word poets on…


At a couple of events recently I’ve asked the question: ‘what is the opposite of loneliness?’ I ask the question because, in our disconnection in a connected age — in which we so often prioritise what’s efficient over what’s important, and how to save time rather than how to spend it by being with people — the question elicits rich and emotive responses. Is it friendship, community or connection? Happiness, homeliness or familiarity? Even love?

In our work at The Cares Family, which brings older and younger people together to reduce loneliness in rapidly changing cities, we’ve recently been mining…


‘Disconnection in a connected age’ and how we overcome it to live happier, healthier lives.

Speech to UK Active 2018 National Summit

Watch the speech “Activity for interactivity” above

I want to congratulate my old mate Tom Watson for his inspiring speech earlier, and for sharing the personal journey he’s walked, run and cycled along the way. The last time I saw Tom, some years ago, was, perhaps fittingly, on a sedentary boat on the river Thames. He was half my weight heavier than he is today, and I was half as grey. …

Alex Smith

Founder/CEO of @TheCaresFamily . @ObamaFoundation Fellow. Previously @Ed_Miliband aide and @LabourList editor. Camden head, MUFC heart.

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