An Open Door for Capitalism’s Higher Angels

Why Burma Matters to Obama, Stiglitz, Ruggie and Me

Advertisements

Switch on that light, already!

If ever there was an inflection point for a step-change in the right direction for our species, it’s here now. All that’s needed is the leadership to shine a light on that new direction and make it accessible with some specific, viable options.

An immediate opportunity to do so presents itself in the emerging economic identity of Myanmar, the reborn Burma, which at this very moment is deciding its investment policies, its judicial tenets, its self-identity. But Myanmar won’t wait much longer for the beacon that trancends siloed interests to reveal a ‘better way for all stakeholders.’ After all, the status quo of global finance and commerce already take up a lot of room in that petri dish fraught with the genetic material of Burma’s corrupt past.

Recently, I witnessed some of the best minds in the field of macro economics, finance, human rights and foreign investment weigh in on this opportunity to elevate the practice of democratic capitalism. It’s published in my guest blog on CSRWire.

http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/619-myanmar-and-me-in-conversation-with-joseph-stiglitz

There’s a high-profile application waiting for that catalyst right now, but the competing factions in Myanmar won’t wait much longer for the beacon that trancends siloed interests to reveal a ‘better way for all stakeholders.’ After all, the status quo of global finance and commerce already take up a lot of room in that petri dish fraught with the genetic material of Burma’s corrupt past.

Sick With Longing

Certainly, the Western zeitgeist is sick to death with what’s not working and, some would say, is teetering on the brink of despair. At the very least, there’s consensus that institutions at the core of our collective identity are rotten. In sports to organized religion, revered childhood icons have been shattered — from Joe Paterno to the parish priest. Core institutions like banking and investments to whom they have entrusted their welfare and hard-earned futures, found to deceive them with legal Ponzi schemes that disposess them of their homes.

On the larger field of international commerce, they learn daily in the media — formal and social media — that the financial systems are manipulated by transnational machinery programmed to squeeze financial profits with total indifference at every opportunity, and that the checks and balances of human interest are frayed to the point of cracking apart. Entire nations in Europe flirt with bankruptcy and their citizens roil in the ensuing constraint on their welfare, not less their future.

Plethora of (Hidden) Antidotes

A dreary context to be sure. But wait, wait — don’t despair. Because at the same time, a plethora of solution directions are waiting in the wings, thriving in small pockets of skunkworks and regional laboratories around the world. Many of them even courageously assert what I posit is the only appropriate goal for out times: to shift from ‘wealth for the few’ to ‘well being for all life on Earth’.

Moreover, the fact that they even exist under the ponderous weight of the current system, shows the indomitable spirit of humanity. And remind us that our collective works miracles.

The immediate challenge is that these bright lights are hidden in discrete pockets. Their collective wattage has not yet been strung together in the mindspace of society.These apparent incidents just need to be conceived as the critical mass that it is. (Now that would be a worthy application of marketing communications, in my view.)

One way to get a bird’s eye view of this cauldron of commonweal creativity is to check out social media platforms — whose broad lens reveals hundreds of “groups” gathering around the options for evolved financial practices and systems, economic systems, even how to measure them — e.g. not in products manufactured but in measures of social and environmental well-being. Here’s a sample. (It reads like an updated, animated version of Paul Hawken’s book that catalogued the state of alternative development in 2007, Blessed Unrest http://www.blessedunrest.com.)

For example, today on LinkedIN: There are groups commenting on how design thinking can take on a conundrum and birth an elegant out of the box solution that includes well-being for all stakeholders, for example. There are groups who remind us that the private financial institutions are not the only vehicle for economic exchange — ‘Hey,’ they ask, ‘what about cooperatives? What about time exchanges?’ etc. There are groups building the capacity of management skills to include nurturing collaborative solutions, whether by encouraging values-led decsion making, or “feminine” leadership models. There are groups talking about the success models of ‘social entrepreneurship’ which puts the competitive, innovative impulses of our species to work for social good.

There are groups talking about ‘sustainable’ business management — (Tread carefully in this popular Big Tent. Its ambiguity has always been a dangerous problem from my point of view http://www.soulbranding.com/soulbranding-interview/ First, to ‘sustain’ the status quo is to keep business focused on the goal of “wealth creation” instead of “well-being creation”. Second, because the term is perverted to mean “sustainability” of the company that’s talking about it. Third, the ‘sustainabilty movement, like the ‘green movement’ has been co-opted by the Marketing Machine into a misleading meme that distracts and mollifies buyers from the fact that they are supporting the status quo or a superficially modified version of it.)

There are groups talking about the spiritual imperative of economic well-being. There are groups talking about the role of individuals in investing their retirement funds in socially responsible equities (SRI), or in Triple Bottom Line companies. There are groups giving awards for marketing practices that talk about ‘green’ behaviors. There are groups that talk about environmental imperatives.

Call for Cohering Vision and the Leadership to Shine a Light on It

In short, there is a cacophony of opinion and proven outcomes that challenge the status quo and go beyond that to propose specific solution directions for pieces of it. Where is the cohesive beacon that illuminates the meaningful, scalable initiatives? that magnetizes their shared vision toward a shared goal of tangible impact? Where is the leadership that identifies the irresistable will to make things better and magnetizes it into a cohesive critical mass that makes real change happen?

What do you think?