Apr 22, 2024

Five things we need to solve before the decade ends…

Exploring societal growth, justice reform, and global cooperation post-COVID.

Five things we need to solve before the decade ends…

Navigating Post-COVID Challenges

We all face a juncture in the road at this very moment (2023). As we start to learn to live; with, past, and through COVID. The stress, anxiety and change it has caused can leave us more heightened and impacted by the challenges we face in our modern economies as exemplified by the Great Resignation in action, the worrying growth of support for thinking such as the Great Replacement, the incredible rise in the cost of living, and the looming recession.

We must meet this moment of change. We must rise to the occasion. Those of us leading (or trying to lead!) and working to deliver social good must evolve new approaches, while driving efficiency and impact in the traditional things we have done.

Social Good in a New Era

The era of smart people leading on behalf of others is over - it needs to be a joint enterprise of insights. This does not mean a pendulum swing to being led purely by passion, or a sense of injustice - it means striking the right balance between intuition and ingested learning, it can be done.

The social sector is in a challenging place. Its inefficiencies are finally being called into question but all the good it’s done shouldn’t be written off. This is about justice - and it’s about fairness, and it’s about not assuming the role of the oppressor but taking their tools and using them to change the oppressor, their friends, their children, grandchildren, allies and even their enemies - all the while having compassion as we all change for the better.

We need to embrace the principle of allyship to reach the next stage of our existence - otherwise we will languish in division - aka culture wars, failing to address climate change, racism, sexism, ableism, sexual preference discrimination, increasing cost of living, perpetuating low quality work, ignoring the health of the planet, impacting our health outcomes, allowing AI to dominate and more.

Personal Contemplation and the Way Forward

As we firmly enter the mid 2020’s I’m starting to reflect on what I want to do for the rest of the decade. I don’t have the answers (and I’m working on that one - ideas welcome!). It then got me thinking, what do we ‘humans’ as ‘citizens’ or as ‘social impact leaders’ need to do for the rest of the decade to help us achieve our next stage of our existence?

Again, I’ve got no idea but below is an exploration of five ideas that could help us get there. What I do know is we must be hopeful and believe in our youth. I am hopeful we will soon be on track to a more fair, inclusive, prosperous, aspirational, net-zero, and loving world - where we cross borders, cultures and communities with ease and trust because we are humans first.

Reassessing Our Global Position Amidst Conflict

Rebasing ourselves after a period of being debased - doing the work at all levels from individuals through to global citizenry. A good friend (they know who they are) said to me we are de-based. It struck a chord with me, I researched just to make sure he was using it as I thought he was intending to. He was. Debased means out of sync and doing things for the wrong reasons.

He was partly referring to his views on why Vladimir Putin has chosen to attack Ukraine now. While NATO bordering Russia seems to be his reason - it’s also because he saw the West as debased - too busy worrying about Instagram, Netflix, wealth accumulation, and canceling each other.

We failed to take a non-capitalist response to COVID, allies were run out of Afghanistan while ignoring the plights of so many other countries, and a failure to look after our poorest, or support our own people regardless of characteristics (ie inequality, discrimination, the refusal to value teachers and nurses) - none of this justifies an awful war but exploring these things further could help us understand why Putin (and allies) have chosen now as a time to test, prod and challenge our ‘so-called’ democratic way of life.

Embracing Identity and Continuous Growth

We need to rebase ourselves. I feel it in myself as I return from a bout of burnout. Or in simple terms we need to revisit our approach to running our economies and get back to doing things for the right reasons. I was born in the U.K. and owe it so much.

However, my identity is now more complex and integrated than that. I’m British, I have spent time in the USA, I’m Ghanaian, I’m black, I’m a man, I believe in inclusion, and I am a centrist. I’ve experienced all sorts of emotions and traumas and yet I’ve just powered on, sometimes not communicating and many times not resolving these complexities.

Papering the cracks with achievements, labels, social impact, posts, and glory - great things have been established and many lives touched and impacted for good (I hope!) but there is also so much more learning and growing to do for myself, until I die.

On my journey, I’ve discovered that I’ve been driven by impact too much, when actually being driven by a love for my family and friends and saving my energy for my family, and friends is more important than trying to pursue impact for others which can sometimes be based on protecting reputation, growing ego, or some self-anointed sense of trying to prove to the world that I’ve overcome my early life challenges.

Real Growth Over Comfort

So the goal is not to stop, or pour water on all the achievements we’ve made or now say it’s a problem - or to get to a place of comfort and now say right this system that made me comfortable sucks - I’m going to go against it. No. Rather it’s to say we are all constantly growing and evoking. What we valued yesterday might not be what we value tomorrow - we shouldn’t be trapped by the past, when our future is there to be created - I think we need to rebase ourselves.

The Need for Shared Experiences

Common service is needed - we need obligatory ‘in-service’ experiences that bind us, connect us, and ground us. We need to take more experienced-led and innovative approaches to tackling our social problems. I lived in San Francisco for 6 years - it’s got the world’s worst homeless problem. Millions of dollars spent focused on the symptoms - street sleeping, drug taking, mental health, housing - all important and critical work.

However, as someone who’s been homeless- the first thing is just being seen, regarded as human and regaining your sense of self-worth in this world. Just an army of experienced coaches and mentors flooded onto the streets at key times - could be a great foundation to building people's confidence and self-esteem to re-integrate - the foundation of people being part of our society is them being seen. It just begs the question on so many of these big, enduring problems, do we really know what we are doing? Like really.

Fostering a Global and National Dialogue

The solution to your problem (and why do we always need to solve a problem, why not create a new hope over there) is usually very close by. We need a global conversation (driven by well-organized national conversations) about who we are, and why we are here. We need that on a national level too - we need a great conversation to recalibrate.

I hope we will do this sooner than later. The founders of Democracy (ie Socrates, Plato, etc.) had these conversations on a regular basis - we need those types of conversations today, as models of deliberative democracy demonstrate - we need to deliberate and be deliberative between elections. If you take the UK and Brexit for example - I have it on good authority that Jeremy Heywood advised Theresa May to host a national conversation about Brexit - and she refused, thinking she could do it. History will judge Theresa May a little fairer than Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak I suspect, but the arrogance of our recent political classes is widespread.

The Role of Work in Society

The importance of good quality work as a source to a good life - I’ve spent the last three years working intensely building a worker owned COOP focused on staffing in California. When we began we were a quiet and small voice - now we are in a marketplace. Work is at the root of a lot in our communities. Good, quality, well paid, and balanced work hits so many buttons. The work of GSTCC shows quality work has an impact on people's health outcomes.

We know quality work is positively influenced by people's access to quality housing and is connected to health and socio-economic outcomes. I’ve seen this firsthand living in the UK and USA and from spending extended periods of time in places as diverse as Ghana to India and Mexico.

Criminal Justice Reform and Workforce Development

All the data shows that the criminal justice systems in the USA (especially) and UK are not only broken, but they are racialized oppressive systems that need complete reform. However, while that reform moves through (check out the work of Darren Mack to close Rikers Prison in New York or CROP’s work to support returning citizens in California) a key route to preventing entry to the criminal justice system or rehabilitation out the other side is - work, skills and value creation activity.

There are now some clear trends in relation to workforce development that we need to acknowledge. There is too much focus on skilling people up to enter a biased, oppressive and purely profit-driven marketplace - is this a good use of funds? Maybe some resources should go towards working with employers / businesses to transform their

approaches, and where necessary using legislation. We are way past ‘the Seat Belt moment’, an analogy for this moment - we need to stop allowing extractive employment practices/models to thrive - especially those that extract from low wage workers. At the heart of this is encouraging a multitude of ownership models - and even driving it into the market.

At Turning Basin Labs, ownership is at the heart of its 21st Century operating model. We need to train and prepare people to earn, learn, and own - not just earn and learn. The emerging work of Trevor Parham at Oakstop, where he is investing in the local black community to build skills and capacity through his family of Oakstop businesses, is an example of culturally sensitive workforce development that I would really like to see proliferate in the USA.

Ownership and Economic Inclusion

It’s time to support the proliferation of ownership across the work system - especially for low wage workers. Workers can play a role in the inclusive growth of companies. The COOP movement is driving this, but other areas of the economy are doing it too - shared ownership, share allocations, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, and shared ownership models.

Understanding Motivations in Social Impact

Homing in on our true motivations - zooming in on winning hearts and minds to an inclusive vision, and away from a revenge mindset - this is a new one for me, and I’m still forming my thoughts. I’ve been known to take people at face value, I like to see the positive in people. However, people’s motivations can vary. In the current social impact context - understanding people’s motivations is critical.

The recent pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, the #MeToo movement, trans rights, and the spotlight on racial justice have created huge advances in how we debate, act, and share power and resources. Most motivations for this work are well founded - years of injustice, oppression, and blocking are now being replaced (slowly!) by access to opportunity and a realization of potential. However, for some and understandably so - the motivations can lead to revenge - an eye for an eye or a chance to take the crown and play the role of oppressor.

I’ve seen activism for a good cause turn into an all-out fight to just get back at the white patriarchy. I’m not sure this is how we win. Some of the greatest activists of the 20th Century who laid their lives down so we could get educated, get fair work, and a fair chance, called for an inclusive approach - King, Gandi, Mother Teresa, Mandela, Obama and more - they all advocated for inclusion even when so-called oppressors imprisoned, shamed, or even killed to stop it.

In fact, this is what frightens oppressors more than anything else - that the change will offer true fairness for all and we will actually see more and more excellence rise and mediocrity found out. Instead of providing the ammunition to allow the characterization of an ugly/revenge-driven version of changing the status quo - the result is this keeps the relatively silent majority, passive and fearful of what they don’t know.

This in turn maintains a comfortability with the status quo. It’s important in this time, with the opportunity we have, we must act in the space of forgiveness and persuasion. The old saying 'the Better the Devil you know,' comes to mind - this is where we must win.

The Imperative of Health and Environmental Stewardship

Taking physical, mental and planetary health seriously - it’s real. I’ve learnt personally through the pandemic that we ALL need to do the work - all of us. What this means is being intentional to take care of our physical and mental health - but it also means being intentional about how we treat each other and the planet - the watchwords here are love and discipline.

At a macro level, this manifests in multiple ways. It’s time to realize the rest of the world will not embrace the clean revolution if advanced countries do not embrace authentically first. In the 24-hour news and social media-driven world - international energy and commodities companies need to stop influencing African governments to not invest in their own infrastructure. Further, western governments can't expect the rest of the world to turn away from fossil fuels when they are not doing it themselves. Hypocrisy really has nowhere to hide when it comes to Climate Change. Although we shouldn’t underestimate the influence of the media and the digital sphere in shaping this debate.

The answer is not just switching to batteries - the need for young children to keep mining in Africa to source materials for these batteries doesn’t bode well for equity or health, work, wealth, and so much more. We need to get to the root of how we do things in a balanced way, and we need new international institutional furniture to help curate these issues - the current crop has gaps that need filling (i.e., The UN, the WTO, the IMF, and many more are not fit for purpose and need new mandates, reform or new incarnations).

Creating Balanced Global Institutions

Creating new global institutional furniture to help us make Global Capitalism more balanced - This is my favorite one to solve our geo-political issues. We are in a pickle. We’ve got a global economic system that we thought was delivering us a globalization utopia. Instead, we got a financial crisis in 2008, a period of epic growth, deeper inequality, followed by a global pandemic - and then a looming recession and the highest inflation in 40 years.

Rather than meet the pandemic with humanity we met it with Capitalism and lockdowns by privatizing vaccine production, and locking down communities to stop the spread. Coming out the other side we have a mental and physical health crisis. We’ve also seen technology companies continue to run rampant, climate change gearing up to be our next challenge, and now war in Europe (Ukraine). What does this all mean? It means we need new global institutional furniture - the current lot is out of date.

The IMF and World Bank are stopping the growth of Africa and Asia and the UN is failing to enforce the law, values and issues it was set up to address. Then there is zero regulation and no international body to oversee the emergence of AI/Tech and to balance its incredible potential against its possible downsides. So now, unlike in the past, we seem unable to end this epoch - we seem unable to break it up and allow a new tranche of innovation through.

Instead, we are stuck. Going round and round and round. To the point where we find ourselves in global culture wars and a global identity battle. We are being forced to align to one maybe two characteristics or identities and the extremes on the left and right determine which ones are legitimate or not - and if we do not align, we are shamed into silence or shamed into compliance.

The court of public opinion is now on social media. Technology has done so much - it’s connected us. Groups connect and help each other with sickle cell, cancer, and so much more. This has only happened because of tech. I’m grateful and think it has a place - it just needs reforming and realignment to our needs, rather than being wholly driven by its needs.

These are my reflections. These are my thoughts. I’m interested in yours.

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