What I’m doing now

Inspired by nownownow.com, this page describes what I’m doing, now. I will update it, especially linking to explanations of what I’m exploring, periodically.

My purpose*: be part of a generation that puts global society on a sustainable footing.

My diagnosis*: our global natural and social systems are overwhelmed, and we need to be a global ‘innovation function’ so those systems are coping, and people have access to what they need to choose their own lives.

My role*: contributing to that global innovation function through supporting institutional efforts to shift the macro patterns and dynamics of our lives.

* as I understand them at the moment

If you have any suggestions for me, do get in touch!slide2

I organise my activities into different ‘branches’:
  • Executive (working for an organisation, not always paid);
  • Advisor / affiliate (providing insight from outside an organisation); Policy (working on policy analysis);
  • Social entrepreneur (setting something up from scratch);
  • Field-building (making connections and general percolating).
Cabinet Office: Inclusive Economy — underway, paid
I am advising the Cabinet Office 2 days a week on an inclusive economy initiative with business (see here). There’s only so much I can say about it at the moment, because of the status and because of confidentiality. Let’s say lots of implicit learning coming from: being at the ‘heart of government’; from trying to build what can be understood as an accelerator from concept to ’turnkey’ (actually more complex and nuanced than that, but that’s what I can say for now); and from looking at the current dynamics in UK impact investment.
  • Best case: 5 years time, many more people able to choose how they live their lives and the UK has an on-going source of adaptation
  • Worst case: my enthusiasm and/or civil service naivety means it all crashes and burns.
EIRIS Foundation:  How to stimulate reallocation of capital in financial markets — early planning, unpaid

The EIRIS Foundation set up the UK’s first ESG ratings firm 30 odd years ago, as the main way of delivering its charitable objects (around promoting sustainable and responsible investment). Now that EIRIS company has merged with Vigeo, EIRIS Foundation is looking for other ways to deliver its mission. Last year, as a Trustee, I worked with the board to create a strategy which used its unique capabilities for what is needed now.

One of those strands was ‘reallocating capital’, within companies (from the unsustainable to the sustainable products and services), within sectors (from the worst to the best sustainability performers) and between sectors (from those with limited future to those who will form a sustainable future). There’s a wide agreement that there is financial capital to deliver the SDGs, it’s tied up in the ‘wrong’t things at the moment. I’m going to work with the Foundation CEO to diagnose what, if anything, EIRIS Foundation can do on that topic going forward.

  • Best case: exciting initiatives from ERISI Foundation that reallocate capital
  • Worst case: find out nothing can be done (but build a better understanding of the finance system along the way)

There are two other roles where my hat is in the ring. One is part time, and again around the finance system. The other would be full time and about shifting business.

Forum for the Future: Affiliate  as requested, ongoing, differential rates (depends on how interesting!)
My former colleagues call me back for certain projects when they think I might be useful. I generally spend at least a day a month (some timers more) in the Forum office, so people remember I exist and also to feel the pulse of sustainability (at least, the Forum ‘wrist’ of sustainability). I’ve also done a bit of match making between things I’m coming across in the wider world and Forum priorities I know about.
  • Best case: keep up to date with best practice, make connections useful for all concerned.
  • Worst case: annoy people
Good Karma: Affiliate – proposal in, paid (Sri Lankan rate)
I was approached by this rather excellent Sri Lankan consultancy, Good Karma. (Turns out LinkedIn is useful.) After checking with my contacts, I spoke with Yami and Sandya to find two kindred spirits. They want Sri Lankan business to be sustainable. Hopefully I can bring some experiences, and some external credibility. We’ve got one proposal in with a possible client. If that comes off then we’ll use that to gather more.
  • Best case: help this consultancy spark a shift in Sri Lankan business
  • Worst case: have fascinating Skype chats which help me keep a emerging market perspective.
Gigatonne Lab for Roller – underway, unpaid
A couple of years ago my friend Zaid Hassan had a fantastic idea: a Gigatonne Lab. The fundamental hypothesis is there is plenty of mitigation technologies and solutions. But they’re not scaling because of lock-in (including the ‘rent-seeking’ of incumbents to make the status quo ante last just a little bit longer) and a lack of finance. So, let’s focus attention, time and money through an initiative that aims to get 1 gigatonne of carbon emissions equivalent out of the global economy in less than two years. Given Trump’s likely actions, the need for an ambitious intervention like this – already high – goes up. We’re currently in business development. I think of this as one of my moonshots.
  • Best case: bring peak emissions forward, and accelerate the reduction of emissions afterwards.
  • Worst case: find out more about what’s holding back key players for the urgent climate action that is needed.
Pro-Sustainability Industrial Strategy and Innovation Policy (Centre for Science and Policy, Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand) underway, unpaid
I’ve thought for a while industrial strategy could be a lever. A friend, co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, asked me to pull something together. As you can read here, I’m gong up a level – what are the questions to ask in general – before applying to NZ. As a result, I’m having to think about many aspects of the transition to a sustainable footing.  He is co-leader and wants to have an economic policy which brings included an innovation policy for sustainability.
  • Best case: a set of useful insights that are applied in new Zealand and beyond.
  • Worst case: have to think through what I think is needed for the sustainability transition.
Long-standing relationship with Duane Raymond’s pathfinder organisation. He first spotted that social media had the potential for mean greater participation in the early 200s. I’ve been bring my thoughts since.
  • Best case: Duane’s business rocks the world.
  • Worst case: some in-situ insights on social media and political campaigning
EIRIS Foundation
Trustee of the Foundation – see above.
So, there’s lots of this. I’m having lots of very interesting conversations with people who are experts and/or are spanning themselves and/or are setting things up. A selection:
  • Chair, edie Sustainability Leaders’ Forum 2017. I had 2 days chairing edie’s flagship conference, with cutting-edge corporate sustainability (my write up for edie here).
  • Way of Nature: Open Evolution. The tremendous Adrian and Andres have put out “a call out to connect with us and build on the momentum we have already achieved towards our vision of inspiring a culture of nature connection”. I’ve just been a hanger on so far, but getting a lot of ‘field-building’ insights.
  • Quadrangle Trust. I was privileged last year to be invited to an enquiry weekend – ‘is nature alive?’ at the Quadrangle Trust. You can read about it here. This year we’re looking to extend this community in ways that keeps the qualities I described (I’m very much in a minor role).
  • RISE Transition think-do tank. The irrepressible Dennis Pamlin is creating a new think-do tank within the Research Institutes of Swedish. I’m one of many offering a few suggestions and connections.
  • Visiting ‘random’ co-working spaces. Over the last few months I’ve been a couple of WeWorks across London (the views from Southbank are probably the best, but each has their strengths). I also spent a day in the new Rain Clouds Victoria, in close proximity to #civtech and #govtech entrepreneurs.
  • I’m also carrying some wider questions in all my conversations:
    • How could we identify the systemic shifts needed to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals as a way to discover where there are opportunities for significant action?
    • How could we support and connect efforts at the leading-edge of the sustainability wavefront to accelerate to a living system paradigm? How could that act as an innovation function for global society?
    • How could an ‘Anthropocene Art Prize’ help society engage with the environmental crisis?
    • How could we establish a digital currency that rewarded behaviours for sustainable innovation?

Across all these domains I am holding a few questions (jargon alert: first person action inquiry questions) , to guide my development:

  • How can I combine compassion and insight? (Inspired by the Shambala Warrior.)
  • How can I maintain a clear sense of long-term objectives but acknowledge the limits on my day-to-day actions? (Inspired by the Stockdale Paradox.)

I’m living in Honor Oak Park, South East London, with my wife and two children.