Response to The RSA’s New Mission — ‘Design for Life: To regenerate people, place and planet’

Wes Hinckes
10 min readNov 25, 2022

A few months ago The RSA (the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) were looking for responses to their new mission ‘Design for Life: To regenerate people, place and planet’.

I submitted a response which connected elements of my work (the Socially Enterprising platform and strategy) with the 10 lessons for complex connected systems.

  1. Unlocking innovation and creativity.
  2. Investing in entrepreneurship and experimentation
  3. Shifting systems by design
  4. Forging simplicity in the face of complexity
  5. Growing coalitions across institutions
  6. Committing to lifelong learning
  7. Starting from glocal
  8. Cross-sectoral systemic change
  9. Working at the intersection between disciplines
  10. Embracing adaptive interventions

You can find full explanation of these 10 lessons in Section 3 page 27 of the ‘Design for Life’ paper.

I’m posting my response here mainly because it may help potential partners, stakeholders and investors by providing a top-level strategic understanding of many of the posts of mine that you will find posted here on Medium.

My writing can otherwise seem like an unrelated collection, but in fact much of it is closely interrelated and forms a multi-level cross-sector network strategy for social, economic and environmental transition.

I had only a few hours to respond so I just had to pool things together.

Of course my work appears complex. So is the world and so are the answers.

Responding to RSA/Design for Life with Socially Enterprising

What is Socially Enterprising?

Socially Enterprising is a platform and strategy that brings communities, civil society, the state and business together around the shared purpose of; making a difference to people’s lives and communities; and accelerating social, environmental and economic transition.

How does the platform relate to the work of The RSA and Design for Life?

The correct answer is… complex.

What I have attempted to do below is connect; the platform, strategy and it’s potential and possibilities to the 10 lessons on Complex Systems contained within the Design for Life Report.

1. Unlocking innovation and creativity.

Socially Enterprising identified early on (2015) that the key to creating a platform and strategy that could meet the challenges of the 21st century was to provide a way in which current society and economy sized needs could resolve themselves through their connection with and interaction through the platform’s context and activities.

The future educational, training and workplace skills and competences identified by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and others pointed towards 21st century skills.

These future skills centre around the modern needs of business and the economy with a specific focus on; creativity, innovation and collaboration as requisites for creating and unlocking future economic value.

At Socially Enterprising we define the term ‘socially enterprising’ as a new category of ‘social action and organisation’. It is people, organisations and businesses being; creative, social and resourceful in such a way that it benefits people and the planet.

It is here that our connection to creativity and innovation is made implicit.

The term ‘socially enterprising’ allows us to reach across silos and divides as well as between organisations, networks and movements.

  • It is citizens participating in community development.
  • It is makers designing prosthetics for disabled children.
  • It is businesses implementing changes around diversity and inclusion.
  • It is public services with humans at the centre.
  • It is social prescribing and socially engaged arts.
  • It is social action, social innovation and social entrepreneurship.
  • It is design thinking and innovation.
  • It is the SDG’s.

It is the type of society and economy that people and organisations are already bringing into being but that today lacks the connectivity between its many parts.

Our platform provides that connectivity.

It is the flexibility of the term and its ability to connect across silos, society and the entire economy which is the most important function.

It allows a society and economy sized ecosystem to be formed and interconnected.

This would be an ecosystem connected by and actively demonstrating the potential that exists across society and the economy for the application of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship towards creating a socially and environmentally just version of the world in which we live.

2. Investing in entrepreneurship and experimentation

I’m not going to respond directly to this point as I feel the section above should suffice.

Instead, I will include links to my thoughts on how these things can overlap with the right design of platform and strategy.

Quite simply we need to reinvent the whole of society and the economy again. It requires mass-participation and involvement but there are ways to incentivise participation so that everyone including society and the economy gains.

3. Shifting systems by design

The section above begins to outline the biggest opportunity ever presented to humanity. To rebuild pretty much everything that currently exists in society and the economy.

Switching from problem to opportunity is what we are able to achieve through our framing.

We flip the script by presenting current social, environmental and economic problems as developmental opportunities. This creates a shift in perspective that can result in changes in; mindset, attitudes and behaviours.

The actual work of systems shifting isn’t performed by Socially Enterprising. Instead, we as a platform are able to knit and weave existing networks, movements and organisations into a single collaborative ecosystem.

Think of it as a general-purpose networking infrastructure. The underlying ecosystem allows the separation of more specific ecosystems and the main platform allows the creation of more specific platforms. All of which are interconnected and interoperable with each other.

Currently much systems shifting work is happening in a new generation of ‘siloed platforms’. We can resolve this problem early on by rationalising and standardising around a common platform infrastructure.

Into this common platform we can then bring the systems shifters such as the national innovation agencies, social change organisations and other networks such as Climate-KIC or Forum for the Future.

If you refer to the above sections again, you’ll see a normalisation of innovation and change taking place across the whole of society and the economy.

4. Forging simplicity in the face of complexity

I feel that ‘socially enterprising’ i.e. being creative, social and resourceful can act as a fully realisable alternative to Ayn Randian and Neo-Liberal thinking and policy. It can be a deliberate move away from the transactional and individual and towards the relational and social.

Society today doesn’t deal well with complexity but I believe that there are some very good tools which enable complexity to be better understood.

I would propose that there are aspects of 21st century skills which allow for the world and existing systems to be questioned and understood for example Critical Thinking.

There are also practices such as Design Thinking and Systems Thinking.

I feel that communities also have key roles in resolving our crises especially when it comes to the localisation of certain aspects of the global economy.

Asset-Based Community Development and Mapping are also good way of understanding ecosystems and unrealised potential. So is Permaculture and its practices.

My suggestion is that there is a new type of curriculum — a collection of modern and absent literacies — which could be brought together to support the activities taking place across the entire platform ecosystem.

The role of the platform, supporting organisations and the curriculum are very implicitly not to tell people and organisations what to do. Their purpose is to give them the ability to reinterpret the world around them and then collaborate and take action locally in order to effect change.

5. Growing coalitions across institutions

It is possible for the Socially Enterprising ecosystem and platform infrastructure to provide the perfect home and conditions for a collaborative society and economy.

It is not to be a lobbying or political organisation but a ‘learning and development’ ecosystem consisting of ‘learning and development’ ecosystems, networks and organisations.

The Political in this world has no shortage of spaces and platforms at its avail.

It is imagination, intelligence, learning and solidarity where we run short.

I believe that a space which; knows it doesn’t have the answers, that is collaborative and action-oriented, and that is dedicated to ‘learning and development’ could be a type of ‘third space’ for meeting todays challenges head on and building the foundations for something new or at the very least an alternative structure.

6. Committing to lifelong learning

The links provided in the in ‘Investing in entrepreneurship and experimentation’ section overlap somewhat with this as I feel that in the 21st century lifelong-learning will no longer be an individual pursuit but an activity which every person, organisation and business participates in.

But educational reform is of great interest to me and I feel that creating a new type of lifelong-learning system that is oriented around modern challenges and can be embedded into place is a way of completely over stepping the current system and creating something entirely new.

Once you’ve built an alternative system the old system can either catch up, adopt or become obsolete.

7. Starting from glocal

glocal makes the connection between the local and the global but there is much missing as to how this picture can be interconnected in practice.

There are possibilities to connect together people and places so that a sufficiently diverse and thus resilient local and global ecosystem can be knitted together.

I also believe that with the right networking infrastructure in place it becomes possible to revisit how institutions and support organisations operate. Shifting them from a transactional and closed model to something that is more fully relational. i.e. glocal is not just about the international but is also useful in understanding the interaction of the local and non-local within a nation or region.

What does a learning and development society look like? What does a society sized learning and development ecosystem look and behave like? What do learning and development ecosystems at the place level look and behave like? How do the local and non-local institutions and organisations contribute, create value and learn bidirectionally (within flows) in these ecosystems?

8. Cross-sectoral systemic change

It has been recognised that cross-sector collaborations with communities and between civil society, the state and business are the key to tackling 21st century challenges and multiple other social, economic and environmental issues.

At the same time tens of thousands of; organisations, funders, businesses, charities and social enterprises all operate in the space but their efforts can be frustrated by poor communication and coordination between the many parts.

Attempts to solve these problems through the creation of new networks and platforms can be seen as an improvement until the need to work with other groups or sectors arises. The multiplicity of platforms then becomes yet another barrier to collaboration.

Problem Analysis

The situation outlined above identifies two immediate needs.

  1. to engage with communities and local populations around challenges.
  2. for a common collaborative infrastructure where; communities, civil society, businesses and the state can connect and work together.


Socially Enterprising is a platform and strategy that brings communities, civil society, the state and business together around the shared purpose of making a difference to people’s lives and local areas.

We provide two key functions.

We provide a community-facing platform for place ‘and’ a platform for cross-sector collaboration.

Through our unique platform and strategy, we;

  1. connect, engage and activate local communities.
  2. bring civil society, business and the state into a collaborative system.
  3. combine these two aspects into a single system so that communities become enabled and empowered, and so that place-based collaborations can engage with local communities.

Section Notes

How do you incentivise community and cross-sector collaboration?

How do you incentivise business involvement?

How do you shift business and organisational practices at the same time?

9. Working at the intersection between disciplines

I would hope the ecosystem, platform and activities I’m suggesting need no explanation on this point.

It is my belief that networks and platforms can allow us to create purposeful ecosystems and that ecosystems thinking can change the way in which value is understood.

In the old economy value was perceived to be generated ‘by the thing’ and this was the focus of our attention.

In ecosystems we can understand value as being generated from the relationships ‘between the things’. It is a switch from the objects themselves, to the space and conditions between them and any externalities.

This is just as true when we talk about interdisciplinarity, diversity and even local contexts. As we are probably acting to bring together ecosystems of knowledge, practice and resources, a similar understanding can be applied.

10. Embracing adaptive interventions

Our current economy is entirely artificial. It could be that by moving over to a more natural system (a healthy ecosystem and a learning and development society) we enable a different type of society and economy to continually form.

Finally, how do you ascertain and develop the Health and Wellbeing of an entire national ecosystem?



Wes Hinckes

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.