DRAFT CHAPTER: A path to sustainable 2050: positioned to thrive, and unprepared to struggle (a work-in-progress)

Below is the current draft of a chapter for Fast Future’s ’50:50 – Scenarios for the Next 50 Years’. They’ve given me permission to test my thinking so far. I’d love your thoughts – positive or negative – and connections to other, better thinking.

It is an attempt to imagine the world in 2050 as if what we do now matters. The speculative vision below will be wrong, but hopefully it will be useful. It is one path I can imagine to a sustainable footing. I don’t like all of it, and I don’t necessarily think it’s the most likely future. There’s so much more I’d like to add (links to culture or knowledge production, for instance) – but I’m already twice the word count! It applies some of the analysis from my work on industrial strategy, which you can watch here or see a rough cut here.

Please do let me know what reactions, comments below or via email!

Introduction

Here in 2050 we ask: given how uncertain the world looked in 2020, how is it that most people are thriving? How did we deliberately and rapidly reduce our impacts on the Earth so nature to thrive? (Gaffney and Steffen, 2017) And, how did that lead to us becoming a two-speed world?

The short answer: back in the 2020s one group of countries tried ‘good growth’ as an open and future-facing strategy – and were able to renew as crises happened. These countries are now the Primary World, where people are thriving in ways that work in synergy with nature. Another group wanted security by preserving the past – and, when the crises came, weren’t able to adapt. This Secondary World is not in sync with nature, but at a much reduced pace and scale that nature can cope with.

Now for the long answer.

  • Late 2010s: Many eras ending
  • Early 2020s: ‘Good Growth’ vs ‘Security For Us’
  • Late 2020s: ‘Renew For Climate Safety’ vs ‘Protect What We Have’
  • 2050: the thriving Primary World and the struggling Secondary World

Continue reading

Advertisements

People-powered knowledge production and ‘Transformations 2017’

 

Last week I was at Transformations 2017, the biennial academic conference on transformations towards sustainability, hosted by Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), University of Dundee. I had an excellent time, including presenting my paper on industrial strategy (rough cut here). In this post, I reflect on the importance of people power in knowledge production that is in the service of transformation to a just and sustainable world.

Continue reading

On advising the Cabinet Office on inclusive economy

My time advising the Cabinet Office on inclusive economy came to an in April, just as the General Election was getting going. There’s a limit to what I can say about my four months, because of normal confidentiality of working within an organisation. Below are some thoughts I can share with you all.

Continue reading

Starting to unpack my invisible knapsack of professional privilege

The political shocks of 2016 – Brexit, Trump – and a period advising the Cabinet Office on Inclusive Economy, has forced me to reflect the advantages I have because of my professional status. inspired by Peggy MacIntosh, I’ve been compiling a list of daily privileges that I enjoy.

The votes last year for Trump and Brexit have caused much discussion on inequality, whether focussed on the white working class, the ‘left behind’, or the ‘just about managing’. I was struck by how much was about the people over there, and rather neglected the role that all of us have in re-inforcing the status quo through our own behaviour.

Thanks to Zaid Hassan, I came across a rather brilliant piece from the early eighties by Peggy MacInstosh. She was a feminist academic who had been very critical of her male colleagues for their behaviour – and then realised that she had been behaving in a similar way on race. Her insight:

“I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege.

“I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.”

She then gives “a list of special circumstances and conditions I experience that I did not earn but that I have been made to feel are mine by birth, by citizenship, and by virtue of being a conscientious law-abiding “normal” person of goodwill” but which are not true for a person of colour. For instance, “I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.” or “I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.”

That got me wondering. What if we are taught not to recognise professional privilege? What if the many moments of small differences pass unnoticed, but nevertheless accumulate (brilliantly illustrated here)? What would be the equivalent list for me, here in 21st century Britain, of the privileges I experience but did not earn that the ‘just about managing’ do not?

In no particular order, here is a first stab:

  1. My accent and phrasing is widely trusted; I don’t have to overcome bad first impressions from my accent.
  2. I get confidence in my situation through the vast majority of the people I know are working and are financially secure.
  3. I get confidence in big institutions from the fact no one I knows has had a bad experience of the policy or anyone else.
  4. I know that if something goes wrong I can ask one of my lawyer friends about what legal actions I can take.
  5. I know that, if something goes wrong, then I know how to complain or make my way through the bureaucracy.
  6. I can turn to the ‘bank of mum and dad’ to step up the housing ladder.
  7. I can be confident that much of my job cannot be easily automated or off-shored.
  8. I can be sure my neighbours are not worried about me.
  9. I can stay with friends for holidays on pretty much any continent.
  10. I can browse in a shop or sit down in a restaurant and they won’t be worried if i can pay.
  11. I can be confident my credit score is good and accurate.
  12. I can do well in a challenging situation without it being a credit to my gender, race or class.
  13. I can be reasonably sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person with similar professional outlook.
  14. I can arrange my activities so that i will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my class.

There are many more, of course. And there are other ‘assets’ that I have earned, for instance my academic achievements came in part from my own hard work. But those achievements also came from other things too, like local education provision (I went to a good grammar school) that wouldn’t have been there for others with the same aptitude and effort. But I’ve found it a useful exercise to return to, and keep noticing my invisible knapsack of professional privilege.

Rough cut: Qs for pro-sustainability industrial strategy and innovation policy

Earlier today I gave a short talk and Q&A on ‘Pro-sustainability industrial strategy and innovation policy’ at Transformations 2017, a leading academic conference on the transition to a sustainable future.

Now, I wish I could share all my thinking to date. But it’s just too rough to share. So, here is the top level thinking: the questions I think any decision-making should ask themselves when they are formulating an industrial strategy or innovation policy for a sustainable world.

Slide1

The idea is a decision-maker in any organisation (government, city, big business, foundation and so on) in any context can ask themselves these question to provide a bespoke approach to industrial strategy / innovation for a sustainable world that fits with their situation.

Basically, answering these questions will help you come up with your way of driving the economic component of the profound changes we need for a just and sustainable world. Well, that’s the idea.

Looking at Industrial Strategy and Innovation Policy has become a vechile for me to organise all my experiences and insights on economic transformation into one place. This explains why my more detailed version is too rough to share at the moment: there’s lots of are tools and other supports underneath each question! But this gives you a flavour, and the people who saw me speak at the conference now have the questions (as promised).

One thing that came up in the conference is about how linear this looks, while we know that transformation is not. Well, this is a deliberate design choice. This summary gives a clean and clear 4-step process to make it easy for a person to use. The tools for answering the questions bring in more complexity (using, for instance Embracing Complexity and Three Horizons) and other thinking. It is designed to be used in a linear way, at first, in order to open up the deeper transformations.

Here are the questions laid out:

A. Understanding the pre-conditions
1. What is your purpose and what are your beliefs on how an economy changes?
2. What is the political context you are operating in?
3. What approach and principles for formulating and implementing fits with your situation?

B. Understanding the context, global and specific
4. What does ‘a sustainable world’ mean here?
5. What are global trends do you need to consider?
6. What is your starting situation, and existing vision?
7. How can you use the formulation itself to make the policy successful (including obtaining long-term mandate)?

C. Formulating policies/strategies in priority areas
8. MISSIONS: which innovation missions should you set, and how will you run each?
9. HORIZONTALS: how will you craft the cross-cutting conditions that stimulate the appropriate investment and innovation?
10. VERTICALS: what direction(s) are viable for each major sector, and how support appropriately?
11. GEOGRAPHIES: How enhance specific clusters and enable resilience everywhere?

D. Implementing
12. How implement each part of the strategy with the required guiding principles (e.g. accountability)?
13. How can you keep adjusting to and replenishing the political mandate?
14. How can you evaluate, using that for improving and accountability?

Over the coming weeks I’ll be pulling this into a toolkit and testing it. Also, I’ll be explaining more about where each part comes from in depth. In the meantime, watch this for more detail.

The full slides I used are here (only 4 slides – more detail soon I promise!).

If you have any thoughts, comments (positive or negative) do put them below or get in touch.

 

 

Video: Industrial Strategy for a Sustainable World (April 2017)

Back in April I did a two hour session for London Futurists, a group for people who are interested in the future and maybe want to help shape it.  David Wood, the smartphone entrepreneur who runs the group, asked me to run a session.

For me it was a chance to try out my latest thoughts on industrial strategy for a sustainable world. I speak for about an hour, and then there’s another hour of questions.

In a nutshell, the talk gives a wireframe which I believe you can use to organise all of the economic elements of the transition to a sustainable world. You can look at the slides here.

Doubtless the talk is wrong about lots of stuff – my aim was to be wrong in useful ways!

I’ve had lots of feedback from the people at the talk, and others to whom I’ve given (shorter) versions. I’d love your thoughts too. Please comment below or get in touch in the normal way.

It’s clearly a work-in-progress but so far people have been finding it useful, especially to see how their work is a contribution to the wider change.

Even so, I know it is far from the finished article. I’ve had thoughts since on where to improve and where to pivot. These will have to wait for another post! In the meantime, enjoy the talk and thank you again to David Wood for giving me the chance.

 

Let’s be inspired by Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope.

‘Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope’ by Bill Sharpe is a tremendous book for anyone who works on profound change. Below I hope I can give you a flavour of it, and why I was inspired. My key takeaway:  rather than aiming for distant, definitive visions, we would be better to act from a shared awareness of the future potential in this present moment. Continue reading