Yes, things are [email protected]#!$d! But we can start making better, together.

By NATHAN KINCH

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone light on so many aspects of society that need to change. Problematically there’s talk of “getting back to normal”. ‘Normal’ is a misguided ideal. We need better. We need something new.

But before we get into how we can start making better, together, let’s discuss a bit about our current state.

Sometimes the world around us looks pretty horrible…

Regardless of whether you believe our environment is warming or cooling, it’s bloody hard to argue the fact that we have too much pollutionmass deforestation and alarming species level extinction. Theoretical physicists reckon there’s a 90% chance of societal collapse in the relatively near future (two to four decades).

At the same time, populations are getting fatter and sicker. What makes this worse is that many of these negative health outcomes are largely preventable.

The wealth divide is growing. Power is disproportionally held by the few. Systematic information asymmetry is exacerbating these issues. Erosions of our fundamental rights and freedoms — specifically our right to privacy — is negatively impacting our mental health and wellbeing. It’s changing our behaviour in ways so subtle we don’t realise it’s even happening. Surely surveillance capitalism isn’t the most socially preferable model?

Our political leaders are largely distrustedThey lie blatantly and pretty much everyone knows it. Many corporate executives are much the same. At times these individuals and the corporations they represent literally reward misconductPeople are fed up. They’ve had enough.

It’s no wonder so many firms are being accused of ethics washing…

“there is no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasizes in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees”

Donald Sull - MIT Sloan School of Management and cofounder of CultureX
Too often technology is designed to serve corporations and not people. It’s used by those of wealth and privilege to maintain the status quo they designed. This makes sense because, well, they benefit. Social networks… This content from previous employees of Facebook just about sums it up.

It might be time to flip the switch.

Things are actually pretty brilliant

A pessimistic view point isn’t the one we should focus on. Our world can be better. And in many ways, it already is.

We’re amidst empowering social movements. Many organisations are fundamentally challenging the assumptions they’ve been built on. We’re seeing the rise of socially and ecologically conscious products and services. We’re witnessing greater support for more sustainable, circular or even regenerative practices. New approaches are emerging to help design with ‘wellbeing’ as the priority.

How many of us buy is changing. We’re more interested than ever before in aligning our purchases to our values. This may well also be the case when it comes to how we work, with half of millennials stating they’d take a pay cut to work somewhere better aligned to their values.

There are incredible things happening in education, from more person-centred learning all the way through to ‘unschooling’. Models developed for the industrial age are no longer fit for purpose. And this rethink isn’t just for those of us relatively new to this world.

Current models of democracy are being challenged and rethought. Experiments are, and have been, conducted for years. We’re learning more and more about what our future has the potential to be.

We’re beginning to remove the ‘middle man’ from protein production. This has the potential to help us overcome systemic inefficiencies in our food system. Oh wait! This ain’t new. It’s been proposed since at least 1971… Better late than never I suppose. Heck, even IKEA Group reckons they can reduce the carbon footprint of their meatballs by up to 96% with their new ‘plant ball’ (they might need a more marketable name for that one…).

We’re also seeing plenty of regenerative agricultural practices, a progressive transition towards local, community and even urban framing, along with a host of innovations worth celebrating.

Energy is power. Literally. And guess what, it’s being reshaped and rethought in a variety of ways. This is happening at the nation state level and at the grass roots level.

The way we live and interact with those around us being redesigned. This decoupling from traditional and densely populated urban centres offers many benefits. Our cities don’t have to be so big. Being smart doesn’t have to mean mass surveillance.

The role of central banks, the monetary system and the story of money itself is being questioned. While Bitcoin has it’s skeptics, it has taken hold for many. Discussions of alternative currencies are becoming more prominent. We now have modern monetary theory reshaping how we fund public infrastructure and economic growth. Maybe Jesus kicking the money-changers out of the temple now has its modern day equivalent…

Health care is often referred to as sick care. There are plenty of reasons for this. The good news is that the system is being challenged. There’s a new vision for its futurePrevention is quite clearly worth a ton of cure. We envisage agency, autonomy and patient centricity becoming a basic expectation in the years to come.

From a new internet to movements like MyData, progress is being made towards a more progressive, privacy and security enhancing approach to digital society.

Bringing it all together, by 2030 we may well have the ability for every person on this planet to live — food, energy, data, water, transportation and education — for as little as $250.

Although this is but a snapshot of the happenings in our world, we’d argue there is plenty of progress and momentum to celebrate. We are — by definition — hopeful.

It’s important to note we’re observing this from the top down and from the bottom up. From our perspective, these grassroots social movements, rather than those advocated for by the cronies at Davos, are the most exciting prospects for meaningful change.

And here’s the good news: We all have the power to make better.

If you help to design products and services, you’re a ‘choice architect’. Your work influences the choices people make on a daily basis. The seemingly small choices you influence through the products and services you design can impact the world in ways none of us can be completely cognisant of.

This is an important perspective. By accepting that we actually have influence — whether in our daily work or through our lifestyle choices — we can begin to design for better.

Tiny actions have compounding effects.

So what’s the point of all this?

You may have guessed it. I have an agenda. It’s a pretty simple one. I’d like to imagine a world where we all spend more time experiencing life’s most meaningful moments. For this to happen, ‘we’ need better systems of living. We need to accelerate the momentum that’s leading us towards a better future. We need to do what we can to put a stop to the stuff that isn’t.

To achieve these outcomes, we need better tools to support radical change actions. We need better ways to learn and grow together.

This is exactly why we’ve created Greater Than Learning.