Jon Alexander is an advertising executive turned social entrepreneur and writer. In 2014, he co-founded the New Citizenship Project with the mission: ‘what if we saw people as citizens, not consumers?’. He has brought his experiences and insights together in a new book ‘Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us’.
This interview was recorded on 13 Jan 2022, just before the book was released. As I type, Jon is on a book tour. You can buy the book directly from the publisher Canbury Press here (unfortunately, the discount Jon mentions right at the end is no longer valid) or all good bookstores.
There is two uses of f*ck (‘people are f*cking good!’).
New Citizenship Project and key document This is The #CitizenShift.
Estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000-10,000 ads each day is here.
More on the Value Action Gap.
Orit Gal‘s Social Acupuncture.
Amartya Sen’s thesis is democracies prevent famines but not chronic malnourishment.
1:09 – Q1 What are you doing now? And how did you get there?
10:30 EXTRA QUESTION: What are the strongest good faith arguments against your thesis and how do respond to them?
17:48 – Q2. What is the future you are trying to create, and why?
20:46 – Q3. What are your priorities for the next few years, and why?
27:55 – Q4. If someone was inspired to follow those priorities, what should they do next?
30:00 – Q5. If your younger self was starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
30:36 – Q6. Who would you nominate to answer these questions, because you admire their approach?
31:09 – Q7. Is there anything else important you feel you have to say?
-What would it look like to put as much energy that we put into consumers, into giving people agency as citizens.
-The diagnosis: that feeling of powerlessness comes from the story that has shaped our society for the last 80 years or so is it is collapsing around us.
-But in that moment, the emergence of the idea of ‘citizens’, that we can arrange society around the idea that ‘all of us are smarter than any of us’, rather than the idea of ‘we should always pursue self-interest’.
-How can we open up the institutions and organisations of our society to get in behind people and support the fundamental power they are trying to express?
-How can you put yourself in service of the people, be an organiser not just a transaction?
-The idea of consumerism is it’s essentially a kind of species level of self-hatred. We are telling ourselves that we are lazy and selfish. It’s the responsibility of a a clever few to figure out how to channel the inherent negativity of human nature to positive outcomes.
-It is a hard time to have faith in humanity.
-We are story-telling and story-dwelling creatures. In consumerism we have created a story which makes us believe that pursuing our individual self-interest is the right thing to do.
-Future trying to create: every industry and organisation of our society sees people are contributors and participants, not just as consumers.
-Talking about shift from consumer to citizen brings the locus of control back to us, in contrast to talking about capitalism and post-capitalism.
-Let’s replace marketings 4Ps (Product, Place, Price Promotion) with participatory organisation’s 3 Ps: Purpose (what you’re doing in the world); Platform (how you create opportunities for people to be part of it); and Prototype (how you experiment to build the momentum).
-What would a crowdsourced version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights look like?
-Today we live in a ‘consumer-ocracy’ where our agency limited to choosing between options someone else offered. Voting is essentially an act of consumption particularly when it’s framed through self-interest.
-Interested: What is a citizen democracy? What is deliberative democracy?
-If you want to follow these priorities: (1) Where do you feel you belong and agency? ; (2) how can you step up to your own agency and encourage others to step up as agents?
-Advice: Back yourself and know what you can’t do alone.
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