When our society is robust enough to venture back to something that resembles normal life, how can we build up its resilience to cope with the next round of external shocks? Here is a thought which may resonate now, because it focuses on how we work together. We are great at collaborating during crisis, not so great when we feel safe.
There is an invisible line that stretches from the engine room of civil society – local stakeholders such as Councils, utilities companies, infrastructure operators and so on – to their communities. It is a fairly benign relationship: you pay your taxes and bills, they deliver you a service. What if that relationship changed and local stakeholders started demanding more from its communities? What if they said that it is your property which the State needs to requisition as part of the answer to future security? Each property then becomes a factor of production in the fight against environmental and societal challenges. Each property could host all manner of energy producing and water conserving devices to help us achieve our SDG targets.
For better or for worse, that isn’t going to happen easily within a strong democracy. In the stillness of our quarantined economy, there may well be revolutionary thoughts fermenting. But as Henry Mintzberg says in ‘Rebalancing Society’, the trouble with revolution is that it usually replaces one form of imbalance with another. We need change, but we need stability. If the noise of revolution proves too disturbing for a post-viral and pre-climate catastrophe society, what tune can we play which could rise above chat-berg filled media channels?
Instead of revolution, might there be a quieter approach that our community stakeholders can take? Nudge theory might just fit the bill, but only if it is applied on a significant enough scale and leads to a significant enough outcome. Here is the thought. What if stakeholders could nudge hundreds of thousands land and building owners to all make small changes in how they manage their assets? If that nudge was then able to turn consumers into producers – ‘prosumers’ – communities would see a world where they had a larger role in determining its future. That nudge could consist of an incentive – a tax break here, a discount on services there – where just enough was given to convince the many to take on this new role. All it needs is a gentle nudge from those in control of significant social and financial capital to incentivise communities to take up arms and fight a quiet revolution.
© David Arscott April 2020