I am, by nature, an optimist. Over the years in this blog, I have always been able to be positive, in spite of some dramatic world events. Today, I am less sure.
It is not so much the events of Greek economic peril (which may swiftly be followed by Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain – before last week’s “haircut” Greek debt was over £250,000 per person!) Or the prospect of a pre-emptive attack on Iran to hinder their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Or the news that global carbon emissions grew more in 2010 than at any previous time, and beyond the worst case scenarios.
What worries me is the collective inability of our elected leaders to do anything about it or to come up with solutions more imaginative than bombing.
I am a firm believer in leadership, in the power of team work and the vitality of expert followership. However what we see from so many political and business leaders is still the old fashioned idea of hierarchy – where somehow, magically, the person who has ascended to the top of the tree has become endowed with mystical powers to know and control. This is self-evident nonsense.
To some extent hierarchy worked in the past, when communication was harder, required expertise, was narrower and people were less aware. In todays hyper-connected, always-on twitterverse, we are connected, aware, and the breadth of things that needs to be understood to lead a small business, let alone a country, simply doesn’t fit inside a single human brain, therefore the days of hierarchy are numbered.
Everything needs to be done by teams: teams of brilliance, teams of leaders, teams of followers. The idea that one person should hold the key to anything bigger than their house is anachronistic and creates a scary bottleneck on effectiveness.
In some of my workshops we play a game of football (I have written about this before, so forgive the repetition if you have read it before). It is played in three halves, the first with no teams, the second with two teams, two managers and no initiative allowed from the players and the third with just teams.
In the second half with the managers – the managers become a bottleneck, even with a team of three players. They simply cannot communicate or process the information fast enough. The great thing about teams (in the third half) is that communications shifts from “top down” to “people to people”- this is parallel processing. Things can happen simultaneously instead of sequentially.
Culturally we need to move beyond the whole idea of hierarchy. It is vested in a past where only the few were educated or controlled the levers of power. Those times are gone, our whole system is in peril and we need to move to a new system more capable of dealing with the challenges we face than an ancient model of democracy – we need a new model of democracy, born of C21 and using C21 tools.
Crowdsourcing is poised to become the democratizing tool of choice. It has already democratized and improved encyclopedia production and it is about to do the same for funding. Imagine a world where projects could get funding just because they matter to enough people and compare that to today, where so many worthy projects have to go cap in hand to some higher power to beg for their indulgence. (Think of the way that Solar energy in the UK has boomed under patronage and will now shrink as that patronage is withdrawn. Cycling – close to my heart – is booming in the UK, but what happens when “they” decide to focus their money on their next fancy?). This is the world of Crowdfunding.
Kickstarter in the US (scion of micro financier Kiva) has raised over £15 million for projects that people believe in, in 2 years.
Crowdsourcing means power to the people. Financially at first, but later who knows, why not politically as well?
Rhythm of Change, ROC for short, is an example of a new breed of Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), that gains its mandate through crowd funding. The logic is simple for any kind of organisation; tell the story and if enough people support you – you exist. If not – try something different. In ROC’s case, it is a belief that creativity can provide a focal point for young people’s lives in some of the world’s most deprived areas and help them avoid more negative choices with their lives.
If you believe the conspiracy theorists (and I have moved from “absolutely not” to “who knows) the whole financial system is controlled by a tiny number of people. They manipulate the money supply in the ultimate insider trading ring and have done for centuries – you can see a video all about it here. There is something about creating a lie so huge and so absurd that nobody notices.
Money still equals power and global governments are disproportionately influenced by special interest lobbies (like the financial sector) and consequently unrepresentative of the people who elected them.
It is time that we crowd-source power away from the few and towards the many. One step in doing that is the Civilised Money project that aims to do everything a bank does without being a bank and while being owned by the people – and potentially you.
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