Grabbing the opportunity to create a ‘caring economy’
Last month, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting saw the world’s top leaders gather together to collaborate and share innovations on how to best navigate the future, across global, regional and industry levels.
In the spirit of WEF, we brought together five thought leaders from across and beyond the Ashoka network to share their insights on how we can and must adapt to succeed in an age of unprecedented change and connectivity. They argued for an empowerment revolution that goes beyond technology, that challenges the most basic structures of our society to devolve power to ordinary people and create a world in which everyone can be a changemaker in their own communities.
In the current economic climate, we need to educate young people on how to adapt to and thrive in rapidly changing environments. Centuries-old approaches to education that are based upon “efficiency in repetition” and educating young people in a certain skill are failing to adequately prepare young people for the world today, argues Ashoka CEO and founder Bill Drayton. Rather than telling young people what they can and can’t do, we need to give them the power and freedom to learn through experimentation and problem-solving.
Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, calls for education systems that challenge young people to ask “what’s inside of me that I can contribute?”, or what he calls ‘reverse’ schools.
“We need to redesign education so that it supports young people to become full human beings and create the world they want to live in,” explains Yunus. “So a reverse school gives them practice building their own ideas for the future, helping their peers do the same, and then stepping back to see how it all fits together.”
Recognise the value of people
We need to recognise the value of people, specifically their ability to localise, customise, and specialise products and services according to their unique assets. Through collaboration and sharing, what Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase defines as ‘Peers Inc companies’, will be able to grow faster, learn faster and adapt faster. “The future of business is about empowering people instead of empowering companies,” says Chase.
Recognising the collective power of individuals also holds the key to efficient governments. For a government to run well, “it needs everyone” argues Ashoka Fellow and Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka. When providing services to users, governments should learn from companies like Uber and Lyft and use real-time customer data to help supply meet demand. As education systems are failing to equip young people with the skills they need in the 21st century, so too are governments failing to keep up with the rate of change. “In a world where you can summon a car with a tap of your phone, shouldn’t government technology be as good as what we use at home? Shouldn’t it show basic respect for the people who use it?” asks Pahlka.
Embedding values into our economy
The rise of new economies such as the collaborative economy and the sharing economy presents an opportunity to create a ‘caring economy’. We must incorporate new values and definitions of success into our economic frameworks.
“We shape our economy as much as it shapes us,” says Ai-jen Poo, Ashoka Fellow and founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We have an opportunity right now to make sure the digital revolution is supported by a long-overdue revolution in values — one that embeds empathy and equity more centrally in how we imagine progress and success.”
We as a society are at a turning point. The challenge now is to change everything, from how young people grow up, to how we lead businesses — to ‘do the reverse’, as Yunus calls it — in order to create an equal society, and where each individual is empowered to be a changemaker. It is then through the collective power of these individuals that we will be able to solve the current challenges facing our planet, from climate change to sustainability to poverty.
If you’re interested in Ashoka’s mission to create a world in which everyone is equipped and empowered to be a changemaker then sign up to our newsletter here. You can also follow our work on Facebook and Twitter.
This blog was first published here on Virgin.