It is not difficult to identify some worrying trends in society today that take us towards harder values and a less inclusive world.
Social media seems to work as an echo chamber for the like-minded and a driver for attitude polarisation. Traditional media can no longer moderate and fact-check public discussion. Click-hungry new media generates endless disinformation cascades, as lies and fabrications spread like wildfire.
As a result, we seem to be entering a post-fact society where populism is the key to success in politics and civil discourse is routinely trumped by shock value.
The ongoing and accelerating transformation of work through digitalisation leads to a massive loss of jobs, but work is still in the core of our societies – to be a respected citizen you require a job. The change is happening so fast that our societies are failing to adapt to it. The failure to overcome seemingly paralysing challenges in experimenting with universal basic income, even while almost everyone seems to agree that it’d make a lot of sense, is a good example.
The rapid population shift from rural to urban areas reduces opportunities in the former, while making it prohibitively expensive to enter the latter to join the party. This results in many people feeling frustrated, hopeless and let down by society. As it increasingly has.
Considering all this, I strongly believe that companies need to take a more active role in society. Concentrating solely on growth and shareholder revenues is not a good long-term strategy, if your business relies on a healthy and increasingly wealthy society.
It’s not politics. It’s enlightened self-interest.
Companies can’t fix everything, but since the concept of work is very much in the eye of this trend storm, we can certainly make a difference.
NGOs and charity organisations are playing an increasingly important role in society. Not only the work they do, but as a channel for people to contribute to the common good and find meaning in their lives.
Companies should find new ways to aid and increase the impact non-profits have in the world. Donating money is not enough.
Companies should actively participate in the work NGOs do in fields such as human rights, sustainability, social inclusion and economic empowerment.
Companies should co-operate closer with educational institutions to improve the practical aspects of education and to better share their expertise with new generations. Supporting and funding academic research is also very important for our future.
Companies should boldly reinvent the work itself by challenging our old ways of working. How can we find more meaningful work for everyone, instead of piling it on the select few, while more and more people are left out?
We have a plan for how Futurice can contribute and we will go public with it at Slush at the end of November. Our planned approach might work for your company as well, so I recommend checking it out and talking to us.
Other companies have other ways to contribute and what works for us may not work for you. In any case, I urge all companies to do something, because if we all do, we will change the world for the better. Like the always awesome Severn Cullis-Suzuki states in this excellent track by Auditory Canvas:
Movements only really happen, when a whole bunch of people, in a whole diversity of ways, start moving in a certain direction and start affecting their own change.
This is not politics. This is common sense.