Catalyzing the Connection Economy
By Gregory Wendt, CFP, March 2013
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” – Anonymous
This is so self-evident, and obvious to me, that I find it surprising that we have to say it at all. Yet this is the world we live in right now. I have the quote on my email signature for its relevance to the evolution of economic theory and business management – the world in which I dance. And the inspiration to create a better economics and more effective business models is at the heart of that quote for me.
Simply spoken, in economics 101 we all learned that everything around a business other than what is termed “business as usual” are referred to as “externalities” – “external” to the business, and the economy. The model of endless growth for its own sake without regard to the effects of the growth is a symptom of blindness to such “externalities.” Our prevailing economic growth-based model is not working to serve the needs of all humanity. If you don’t agree with me, ask the roughly 2 billion people who are living on less than a dollar a day. Yet you may simply believe that their welfare is separate from yours, and you needn’t concern yourself with their plight.
Somewhere along the line our culture lost contact with the recognition of oneness of all life, the connectedness to each other and the rhythm of the mysteries. Our institutions – government, economy, religion are all built on a false premise of separation.
Our current capitalist model of economics was crystalized in the 18th and 19th centuries where two prevailing worldviews dominated our culture. The scientific temperament with reason guiding all, in a paradigm of rationalist reductionism of objective certainty was counterbalanced by the enchanted worldview informed by authentic human experience of transcendent dimensions of art, beauty, consciousness and nature, nuanced by an ever ambiguous reality only informed by experience. Many authors and thought leaders point out this schism in our culture – the two major worldviews. Enchanted vs. disenchanted – Richard Tarnas, partnership vs dominator – Riane Eisler, empire vs earth community – David Korten, etc. The core insight upon recognizing this cognitive schism is that we are in the need of a fundamental shift in our paradigm, our system. In other words, we have not only have a crisis of economics, politics and spirituality but a more fundamental crisis in that the very way that we perceive reality is proving inept at addressing the complex issues of our civilization.
In “Passions of the Western Mind” Richard Tarnas states, “The faith-reason division of the medieval era and the religion-science division of the modern era had become one of subject object, inner-outer, man-world, humanities-science. A new form of the double-truth universe was now established.”
This dichotomy between reason and faith was the context from which our economics was born. Economics, became a bit lopsided toward the rationalist movement, and efforts to make economics a “hard science” combined with the social Darwinism of the time .
Our economic mindset is deeply influenced by the philosophical delusion that the economy is separate from society, and society is separate from nature. Through simple observation one becomes aware that society rests within the womb of nature, and that the economy rests within the fertile soil of society.
In order to meet our own generation’s needs, without compromising the needs of future generations, it is incumbent on us evolve a new enterprise model based on this very straightforward recognition of interlocking complex systems.
Some say this is impossible. And it may very well be so, within the lopsided worldview. Yet, the opportunity is clear to shift the paradigm, evolve a new economic vision to include components of connection, natural systems, passion, ethics, beauty and trust which have been left on the conceptual shop floor.
A more resilient and robust ontological fabric is growing for the emerging “connection economy” through deeper interaction between disparate disciplines, groups and efforts. Such a foundation is essential for the broad influence and impact of visionary capital to underwrite a new civilization which works for 100% of humanity.
“World views create worlds.” – Richard Tarnas
When we recognize the opportunity to create a new world based on an integrated worldview the pathway is clear – develop businesses of based on the welfare of all stakeholders, and be inspired by an economic model, which takes into account all participants in the economy. My colleague, thought leader and responsible investing pioneer Terry Mollner has initiated a vision inspired by the making the well-being of the common good the highest aim of all economic activity. And based on this he is calling for a new movement in capital, common good investing. He states, “Common good investing calls on all enterprises to publicly declare that their highest priority is the common good of us all and profit or anything else is second in priority.”
Today, in our hyperconnected world, our culture is increasingly waking up to the interdependence of all the systems on the planet, finally, we’re beginning to see the synthesis emerging of the rational and the romantic into a worldview.
There are many people in the business world who are waking up to find that the concept that the economy is system separate from the rest of the world to be an illusion. An entire whole movement has emerged in the last 40 years in finance, business and economics responding to the need to express, quantify and model the impact of our businesses and the influence that they have on the world in which we live. The sunrise of a new guiding paradigm in economics is upon us.
If you’re not aware of this – just observe to the topic of hyperconnectivity being discussed in Davos right now: http://bit.ly/WG5E72, or the ranges of issues being addressed http://www.weforum.org/issues or review the myriad advancements in business school curricula across the planet incorporating sustainability into business http://bit.ly/TDxJNQ
It’s not just dollars and cents, balance sheets, money supply, unemployment, GDP and inflation anymore….
The annual Social Capital Markets Bay Area conference is the annual incubator for this movement to pollinate and inspire new ways to make money matter. The nexus of nearly 2,000 professionals is a hotbed of connective tissue where key innovators in philanthropy, impact investing, entrepreneurship, non-profit, technology and social enterprise mind-meld to build the new economy. This event is not unlike the ancient sea where new life explodes in the primordial soup of the emerging economy in the ecosystem of interconnection.
In this space, all the traditional silos begin to blur, everyone is working on multiple aspects of the dynamic social capital economy, and the dots further connect, conversation by conversation. The integral vision of this community is clearly embodied in choice of presentations and speakers.
For example, the track of sessions “The Power of Unlikely Alliances: Impact and Connection in the Digital Age” covered a broad range of interdisciplinary issues, amongst them were “the next generation of social finance innovators,” “new models of social innovation incorporating hybrid models,” “storytelling in the digital age,” “silicon valley VC’s collaborate to lift all stakeholders.” Most provocative was a session called “Dreaming the Future: Creativity, Impact and Collaborative Leadership” where a leading expert in dreams and cultural transformation guided participants in reflecting on questions of how “shared intuition” and “integrated thinking can help redefine a new era of collaborative leadership and economic democracy.”
Session curator, Jeff Leifer, shared with me his inspiration to create the conference track, “In our natural systems, biodiversity is a measure of health but we’ve failed to incorporate this fundamental truth into human-designed systems. By bringing distinct groups together and integrating multiple perspectives, we increase the likelihood of building successful initiatives.”
In sum, these thought leaders gather together annually because they recognize there’s much to be gained by “connecting the dots” and to build a new economy which ties meaning to money, wellbeing to wealth and cultural evolution to capital.
Similarly on the other coast, the latest effort of visionary futurist Hazel Henderson and her contemporaries gather annually for the “SRI Leaders Retreat” which created the latest statement for the “Transforming Finance” initiative which she leads.
The Statement – “Transforming Economics Into True Wealth” is born a recognition of an interconnected world begins: “We undersigned investment professionals recognize our human responsibility for the many breakdowns in our societies and enfolding ecosystems resulting from our limited consciousness: climate change, hunger, poverty, conflicts, financial crises and ecological destruction. These systemic breakdowns are accelerating due to global interconnectedness and now driving the breakthroughs worldwide occurring below the radar of the mainstream mass media.”
The statement further calls upon the entire industry to lead the new integrated worldview of capital.
“We celebrate the growth and success of our industry, but the time for a narrow focus on competitively developing the market for our own products, brands and services is past. We honor and acknowledge those of us already engaged in system change. Let us challenge ourselves to go further and exercise ethical leadership by engaging our energy and resources in collaborative networking to manifest the integrated system change we all believe will lead to a more positive future for all life on this planet.”
It’s imperative for all of us in the social capital movement to connect the dots and embody a new world view and create the next economy to serve all life. If you consider yourself part of the new economy and impact investing movement, you are a crucial catalyst for a new paradigm for our civilization. The living reality of the connection economy is a sprouted seed in your heart.
Learn more about what is on Greg’s mind at www.sustainablewealth.blogspot.com