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In times of crisis, such as a recession or a depression, people talk about social innovation a lot. Other words that are being heard are civilian participation, social responsibility, etc. In fact, what we see happening is that the old dominant institutional world is calling out for help. When we look at my blog about the Kondratieff sinus we see that at the peak of an economic hype the conservative dominance of risk avoiding governance is blocking all kinds of social innovation. When the people are happy, get what they want, have nothing to complain about, few stand up to become creative with a desire for change. The social cash cow of conservatism in a peak economy is not the best basis to introduce social innovation. If you would want to do that you would need the Otto Scharmer U-Theory to simulate chaos and get people to become artificially creative. It is not the same as a genuine crisis.
A depression seems to get the best out of people in terms of adding true and lasting value to their community, especially when it collapses. Now why is that? There are a few reasons to mention:
1. Creativity needs stimulus
When a communities enters a recession is wakes people up to look at their own reality in a different way. Previously wealth was a matter of fact, now it is not anymore. Old securities disappear and people need to find access to new ones. They are obliged to think, triggered by their intense emotions. Fear for shortages, the pain of loosing previous wellness, the need to find a way out of chaos, the worries about their operational wellness, it all opens up peoples mind to change. It triggers a whole series of reactions, from complaints, aggression, suicide, etc, but also a boost of creativity in many.
2. Change needs to be “different”
In a recession people tend to do the same things over and over again to try to regain their old securities. They do not want to acknowledge that the crisis is caused because the “old ways” simply have become obsolete. You can’t take them for granted anymore, not matter how well they worked in society, business or family life before. When the markets shrinks one needs to adjust, not in the shrinking but bailing out by being different. When an economic peak gets people to copy each other to benefit from wealth without any new creations, a dip gets them confronted in competition. It shakes up their similarities and stimulates the search for renewed uniqueness. Pioneers appear who propose new things and a sense of social innovation invades the surroundings. This stimulates others to do the same.
3. Change needs freedom
When you wake up at 7 in the morning to start the day, bringing the kids to school, go to work, worry about the bills, the shopping, the taxes and a personal career, to get back home at 18.30 tired, feed the children, take them to bed, crash on the sofa and watch the telly……. Then you have little time or interest to even think of social innovation or whatever. Your world turns around your daily responsibilities and that is type of worldview you have.
When however one has enough freedom it is much easier to find inner strength to overcome the burden of a daily routine and become creative. Need combined with available time gets people to experiment with innovation. Some do this by discovering new abilities or pick up old forgotten talents (they start to act, dans, sing, play a musical instrument, paint). Others start doing voluntary works and start meeting totally different people than before. New ideas are born, some are actually tried our and can even flourish. In freedom people disconnect from old structures and mingle with new connections, developing new communities and change happens organically.
4. Innovation needs to be seen
During peaks of abundance there are also people who have a creative nature and develop social innovations. They are however hardly visible because no one seems to be on the look out for inspiration. When a recession wakes up people the sensitivity for innovation grows and all kinds of inspiring novelty get the chance to be highlighted or “discovered” for public enlargement. Someone who has the creative urge to create innovation may lack the managerial leadership to outgrow it to make it a new social standard. The interaction of an institutional world in crisis with a new dynamic world of creativity in purpose driven freedom can boost any novelty to huge proportions. Visibility of inspiring innovations is hence a double sided phenomena. On the one hand it is the creativity of social innovation boosted by a recession that wants to be seen, and on the other, the open attention of crumbling institutions that need innovation fast to renew their expectations for survival.
A paradigm shift is not the same as social innovation. Can social innovation produce a paradigm shift? Or does a paradigm shift cause social innovation?
A paradigm is defined to be “a specific way of looking at a reality, determining the way one makes decisions and acts in accordance”. This means automatically that there are different ways of looking at a reality, challenging the way people make their decisions. In our current social paradigm the consumer based capitalist economy has a dominant position, determining the way governments, business, public in general, institutions, etc interact. Social innovation at an individual level generally may change the texture and coloring of the paradigm but will not change this overall paradigm.
So when we address the issue of climate change, global warming, global pollution, new possible global diseases, etc and attribute this to the dominant paradigm then social innovation within the reigning paradigm may address these issues from a consequences point of view but will not solve them from a cause point of view. To do that a paradigm shift is needed.
Sustainocracy is a paradigm shift
Sustainocracy was idealistically conceived when I decided that I did not want to pass the old paradigm on to my children because of the negative consequences it causes. Of course I did appreciate the positive elements of this paradigm but realized that we had reached a point that the balance had tipped over to the accumulation of negative effects, creating permanent instability also at the positive end. So in a way my decision early in the 2000’s was a social innovation. Back then my surroundings had no desperate feeling of a crisis yet even though the signs were abundantly present already. The establishment was still confident that change could be done from within the reigning paradigm. In fact, the established power structures were also an inherent piece of that paradigm and gained their existence from it. It was not up to them to challenge their reason to be. The only one that could challenge the paradigm is the one who has eyes to see and awareness to distinguish between realities. And that is the human being itself, because we are the ones that create our instruments, even if we allow them to reign us for a while. We have come to point that we need to redefine the usages and positioning of those instruments. And that is what we do in Sustainocracy. We respect the instruments as human creations and reposition them around a new paradigm in which the human being is placed at the center of sustainable human progression, not the financial systems.
With this simple change in mindset and observing the world, the world itself learns to see itself differently and starts to reshuffle their power positions accordingly. Slowly the two paradigms become visible to everyone and so does the choice everyone has. Social innovation then gets an entirely new dimension that changes everything simply because of the way we look at things. We live in a unique time-era in which we see a new paradigm arise, co-exist with an old one for a while, interacting probably with certain conflicts and eventually take over. People in next generations will read about this era in their history books but will look at society from that new dominant paradigm without the challenging adventure of living through the transformation, or even playing part in defining it. This era is therefor unique in the history of humankind and referred to by me and some others as “the quantum leap in human evolution”.
Open up your mind and be part of it. It is exciting, challenging and rewarding to be a pioneer of a new world.
In the world there are roughly three economic “worlds”, the old rich, the new rich and the poor. These can be seen horizontally per region in the world. The old rich regions speculate with value, the new rich countries create some of the value still through industrial process with cheap labor, and then there are the poor that have nothing but themselves. Meanwhile climate changes and pollution of the rich make the globe more inhabitable affecting the rich in their quest for resources using greed, and the poor who are being robbed of their chances for survival. Some try to get to the rich parts of the world by hazardous migration, others just perish, accepting their destiny in some way as inevitable.
This has always been the case ever since industrialization began and even before. Nowadays the old rich suffer crises because they cannibalize on their own wealth, the new rich do not learn the lessons of the old rich and go into the same direction while the poor remain poor, exploited by the rich, die and don’t know much better by lack of reference. What is “rich” anyway? That your children survive beyond age 2 or 5? That you have a car, a house to live in, two TV sets, a mobile phone and access to the supermarket every day? Peace at home or in the street?
Poverty among the rich
Then there is this other way of looking at the same three worlds but vertically, within the confinement of the rich countries. We find the same mix of poverty, wealthy and rich but within the same region. The difference with the general poverty around the world is that this type of poverty has known what it is like to be rich in material sense and sees it around them all the time. In the area of poverty within rich regions we see three ways that people deal with it:
- Solidarity, meaning that fellow people, families, friends and surroundings help the people out voluntarily for their primary needs. Often people who are being helped just need some support because they thrive to be self supported and need no official help. They are the entrepreneurial types of society that do their best. They normally see their situation as temporary and part of life, trusting to be able to deal with it.
- Social welfare, a government caring system to assist people who have entered in some kind of misery until they can find their way back into the system by themselves or through pressure of the government. Often these are people who have suffered a loss, a divorce or whatever mishap. It can also represent a cultural problem of employment diversity. Social welfare is the social cushion that provides them with rest and material peace of mind for a while.
- Criminality and chaos, is when people do not trust the system or themselves anymore and abuse the system through rebellion acts, criminality and chaos, out of mentality or need.
In new rich countries we see governments trying to deal with the newly growing rich, taxation, equality and old poverty through education programs and welfare creation. In the current old rich societies however we see a general raise of poverty that covers all three situations. Yet the mix tends to alter due to the development of the collapsing richness. The crises that the culture and paradigm suffers develops an explosive situation that eventually will provoke a paradigm shift. It is these poor that upset the old system and introduce new conditions for stable progress, but not before some chaos and collapse is created in the community. It is not the money that will change the world, it is the poverty among the old rich.
The traditional solidarity of local people goes to their own relatives or close ones. Many rich countries have opened up their borders so much for the entry of cheap labor that foreign poverty mixes with local poverty, both with a different mentality around scarcity. The local poor start to believe that the chances are being taken away from them by the foreigners. The newcomers come for work and see the rich society as something to take their chances no matter what. Some come with a genuine interest to take benefit, others with a hit and run opportunistic attitude towards the abundance in the materially rich environment.
Crime rises among all populations groups simply because of the masses in jeopardy, the distrust between locals and foreign groups and the declining “can do” culture in the region. When social security funds dry up as the old rich country cannot keep up the old standards the welfare support is taken away gradually and causes more poverty. The solidarity in the community slows down and finally stops because people lose faith and ask their people to take responsibility. They do that by finding ways to rise against the inequality through marches, protest or attacks, yet they also develop new pre-paradigms and paradigms. The significance of have lived through different worldviews as an individual is key for progress. Poverty then is a way to let go of the old securities that the remaining rich try to defend. But this defense, even with the powerful support of the law, is not enough to withhold the demanding forces of the people who want to introduce change. We have seen this happen in Northern Africa and the Middle East. We will see it happening across the globe.
The following questions arises:
- When, with what proportion of poverty in the mix, does a stable economy of old rich collapse into chaos prior to renewal
- Can a country take precaution before? Eg by allowing social innovation by the poor instead of defending the situation of the rich
- Is social welfare always an adequate cushion? Or should it be limited only to the new rich while the old rich should focus on paradigm shift through social investment rather than protection?
As poverty in the rich countries grows we general see the difference between rich and poor grow too. The speculation at the top end of the social pyramid is showing economic growth while the bottom is reaching a point of starvation. The differences grow and so does the social stress. Yet the new poverty has the insight, knowledge and education to produce change that can move the old rich into a new phase of development through fundamental changes. The growing rich out of the old paradigm will try to influence change negatively. I also referred to this in the blog entry of the route of least resistance. The only problem any country deals with in this situation is its governance. What side does government chose? The conservative rich out of tax interests and their influential lobby? Or the innovative poor understanding the need for social innovation? Can a middle way exist?
Looking forward to your reactions……