Whether capitalism is in crisis or in metamorphosis is a moot point. What is certain is that we cannot go on like this; that the ‘old’ normal is non-sustainable; and the ‘new normal’ will be citizen-led.
This is of course a recurring theme for both the authors and followers of Citizen Renaissance: traditional hierarchies continue to crumble; the power pyramid is increasingly inverted; and authority disperses as quickly as social/ digital penetration allows. Meanwhile, discontent rises and the planet burns, while governments in paralysis do little more than merely fiddle.
Recession or no, Capitalism itself is clearly not in recovery. The clamour for better corporate behaviour understandably continues to rise.
Both Richard Edelman and I have spoken recently on Business’ License to Lead, and the vision of a new paradigm that aligns Business Competence, Societal Competence and Engagement behaviours. We have looked at this through the prism of Trust; used Edelman goodpurpose data to support our arguments; and landed upon the concept of business’ opportunity to shift from its traditional License to Operate to a new – and more important – License to Lead.
While the gauntlet has been thrown down for business, there is no time to waste anyway. The requisite shift from Compliance Culture to Values Based Leadership will be initiated by ‘regular people’ if business fails to recognise the zeitgeist and groundswell. As I have written before, we are all Actionists and Activists now and a Tahrir Square moment is surely imminent for a Business or a Brand, somewhere in the world today.
Later this week, I will join the Reverend Giles Fraser (former Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral) and Occupy Activist Naomi Colvin at St Brides Church, Fleet Street in a discussion on the Future of Capitalism. My sense is that there will be much common ground between us. Giles Fraser’s belief that ‘global capitalism has not been working for the good of us all’ will find no contradiction from me. Indeed, the very notion of Shared Interests and Shared Values has been a central theme of Citizen Renaissance since 2008.
Likewise, Colvin has written of the need to build ‘a new, participatory politics’ and, as recently as last month, on the imperative of seeing consumers as citizens. I am fully aligned. The consumerisation of everything remains a vital flaw in capitalism’s societal role, while the urgent need to construct fairer forms of democratic representation, both nationally and globally, was voiced in the very first edition of Citizen Renaissance.
But tents on the streets and articles in The Guardian are just not enough. The sentiment is right, but the execution is off-beam. Bringing home the citizen revolution needs better organisation; heightened connections through social networks; and sharper and more focussed content. A bit more ‘push’ in a world of ‘pull’. Vitally, it can all start in the workplace – and not necessarily on the streets.
Employees can become the Be Do Activists of the future:
- Positive action from employees can spread wisdom across otherwise stultifying organisational silos, finding others of like minds and shared interests.
- Positive action from employees can take top-down, philanthropic initiatives and turn them into grassroots movements that can scale social success.
- Positive action from employees can demand both greater accountability from, and transparency within, the body corporate – web-based campaigning within organisations can replace the old-fashioned threat of the withdrawal of labour.
- Positive action from employees can find a political voice within a reformed participatory politics and an economic voice within better forms of business organisation.
- Positive action from employees can inform the process of renewal, rather than forever waiting for it to emerge, courtesy of those on top
- Positive action from employees can curb the wilder excesses of either corporate pay or environmental bad practice. In other words, we no longer have to wait on others – but should instead recognise that the power lies within.
- Positive actions from employees can add human values – real values – to the disembodied made-up values of corporate constructs
The smarter business leaders of today not only recognise this, but actively embrace it also.
Too often, people speak and write of ‘consumers’ and ‘protestors’ in the abstract – failing to recognise that they are in fact people, just like you and me. People in jobs; people with votes; people buying things in supermarkets. We, the people, need to find our voices, once again. The digital tools exist to find like-minded citizens with an appetite for action. Symbolic though they may be, we do not need to erect our tents in Wall Street or on the steps of St Paul’s. Instead, we can begin to metaphorically line them up in our workplaces and on the High Street. If we are to truly reform Capitalism, just as there is no time to waste , there is also no point waiting for ‘old normal’ authority figures to act. The threat is ours and the momentum should be now. We should find each other as a matter of urgency – within our networks – and commit to reformation and peaceful revolution. For me, this is our ‘integrity and courage’ – for which Giles Fraser himself has been rightly praised – with Purpose at its core. We can surely find it within us all to make it rightly so.