A World Full of Potential: Placing Development at the Centre of the Economy

It can be almost impossible sometimes to look out at the world and imagine that things could be any another way.

But things can always be different.

For me the important thing is to learn how to see again.

Once we do that everything else follows.

A World that we Brought into Existence

I’m not going to reiterate my thoughts from other posts here. If you’re interested they’re not difficult to find.

I’m reminded of the film ‘The Age of Stupid’?

That’s us.

We created a world where you didn’t have to think.

We did something with our industrial minds and systems that took away our ability to think and act for ourselves.

A world where you are required to work and consume and as for anything else beyond that, well you can if you like, but nobody likes a reader, or a smart arse, or the person with a question, or anyone who’s different, or a dreamer, or someone who sees the truth in things.

That’s fine. We know that. That’s life.

Until its not OK anymore. Until you need the readers and the dreamers and the questions and the answers and the truth.

Until today.

We created a world where you could buy your way to anything or anywhere.

A better life. A great career. A more attractive partner.

All this can be yours!

We created an education system which ‘equipped’ us to function in that world and thinking was not really part of the equation.

Get a job and work hard!

If we did our bit. Government and business would do the thinking for us.

We could be small people in our small worlds and we could feel safe.

Just keep your head down and stay out of trouble! Or else…

At first the effects aren’t noticed but then they accrue over time, bodily and psychologically. We begin to suffer the consequences individually and collectively.

The visions of political parties steal our imaginations and creative powers.

Living lives which are inward and strict makes us myopic and rigid.

Government acting on our behalf atrophies our muscles and our brains.

Now we cannot see beyond our walls. Or dream something different. Or act upon the world.

This is a world that was literally ‘brought’ into existence. A world of systems, behaviours and beliefs in which we regress and devolve.

We have become small humans.

If we are begining to go ape it is of no surprise.

Refocusing on our shared horizon

We created that. We built everything you see out there. We dreamt that world into existence. We did it all.

Every thought and every action in every object.

Every feeling and every sense in every art.

That’s us. That’s who we can be.

We can be fully human if we want.

There’s nothing small about us. There never was.

First World Problems

One of those might be our role in the development of other countries.

But I think quite less often would be the development of our own country or even of ourselves and our organisations.

For some reason we’ve got it into our heads that we’re done, complete, finished and perfected.

We can look sneeringly across to the Third World and draw the conclusion that they’re not complete like us, they’re unfinished, they’re a work requiring our superior understanding and kindly help.

Or we look at another person on the side of the street and we think that if only they’d done as we did, made an effort and toed the line, theirs would be a different story.

That they are somehow incomplete or imperfect and at fault.

I think it’s a symptom of how we think.

It’s transactional and mechanic (and the rest!) and it’s from a bygone age.

It’s an illusion of course. It is created by the story we are being told which informs the story we then think through. It is reality making.

It’s a dangerous trap into which we have fallen.

For some reason First World countries think they’re done, like all they had to do was support their previous colonies and suddenly their own journey of development was over.

The First World could rest on it’s laurels and tell others what to do like some overpaid Colonel Blimp on the back of a poor man’s cyclo.

We’d created an economic system (the Great System as I’ve described it elsewhere) that just rolled on forwards and our own development was simply attached to it.

We’d built everything we needed — health, education, a democracy and judicial system.

All it required was a few tweaks now and then.

All it needed was for people to keep pedalling to keep it upright.

It was job done and so we slept.

I’m not blaming anyone of course. It’s the system.

Into the education system at one end and plonked out the other — done.

Onto the ladder of work and family then death — a life fulfilled.

But it doesn’t work anymore.

Our lives just aren’t like that. They cannot be. Our society isn’t the same.

The world is a different place.

But we’re still stuck in the same system and it’s out of control. It’s breaking down and it’s a poor fit for the world we find ourselves in.

All because everything in the First World was finished.

It was the pinnacle and the ideal. It was perfected. It was complete.

It was a done deal.

Job done.

A New Story of Development

It’s a story of a different kind of development which is a better fit for a world in which we all matter equally.

All of us can take part; individuals, workers, companies, civil society organisations, and the state.

It’s a different form of development activity that is connected to a wider story. Whereas before we were disconnected, now we are not.

It’s a world where nothing is truly finished or complete and everything has the potential to develop further and contribute towards greater wellbeing and prosperity.

It requires us to think just a bit further than we do today. Not further out internationally but much closer to home. It is something much more locally rooted.

Today we start a company or organisation and once it can perform its function — job done.

But if we look at companies and organisations developmentally then what we find is that there are a myriad of ways in which they could develop and benefit society in some way.

They can develop the capacities and wellbeing of their staff. They can act in harmony with the environment. They can help their local community. They can develop better practices, products and services.

These do not need to be considered isolated actions, they can be part of an organisations overall story of development and help to form it’s identity, life and soul.

We as individuals tend to complete our education and that’s it — we’re done.

But if we look at all of the ways in which we could be better as people. As thinking, loving, caring, empathetic human beings. As parents, lovers, friends or citizens. Then yet again, the potential and opportunities for our development are limitless.

This type of developmental potential exists all around us. It is readily available in our communities if we learn how to identify it and engage with it intelligently at a deeper level.

Our current system doesn’t work like this.

An example would be volunteering and employee supported volunteering.

As a rule we do this quite transactionally. You provide free labour, the good cause furthers their work, in return you can feel that you have made a difference.

If we looked at this relationally and developmentally we may find instead that an entire staff development programme could be reoriented around actual needs that exist in the local community.

Or we may find that there are opportunities to develop into more rounded characters, further our careers or better our relationships, by connecting our ambitions and unique personal qualities with flexible educational opportunities and community need.

I’m not going to be prescriptive and propose how this would actually work in practice, there are already good examples out there that can guide us.

It is important though to understand that this potential exists in the world and in our communities. It exists in us and in our organisations.

The first step in realising this potential is to bring all of these things together into a new story. The development of people, community, education, civil society, and business.

Once these are connected we create a platform for others to build on top of.

This is what I believe Socially Enterprising can do.

It can provide the foundation, the connectivity, and the platform for new things and ways of doing to come into being.

Funded by civil society, the state and business and free for the people.

A door to the future

But this can’t be a world in which we make people feel like less. What we create shouldn’t be an industry or become a cultural expectation. We need to be careful what we bring to it and allow to settle.

What it should be is a fresh possibility for all and an open invitation. A door that is left open to a place of our becoming.

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.