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#TheRSA - The Power to Create

Today I became aware of this new report which describes the access to creative opportunity in the digital learning age:

"New technology is not a force of nature. Its impacts and who gets to share in its potential benefits are grounded in the choices we make as a society. This report poses the question: what are the right policy choices to enhance life opportunities for the greatest number as we experience widespread technological change?"

I was reminded of the position paper on People-Centered Economic Development which argued for an alternative to traditional capitalism. This passage in particular:

"The greatest initial social and economic risk of the Information Age is in creating two distinctly different classes of people: the technological haves and have-nots. Those who have access to information and information technology have a reasonable expectation to survive and prosper. Those with limited or no access will be left out. This holds true for individuals as well as nations. The key to the future is access to free flow of information. To the extent that the free flow of information is restricted or diminished, people will be left to endure diminished prospects of prosperity and even survival.

In order for economic development to take place in any given location, the very first thing required, before anything else can possibly happen, is information. This information includes first and foremost where to look for the necessary resources to do anything. If new businesses are needed, knowing they are needed and finding funding for them are two very different things. The first step is to locate possible capital resources in order to move forward, and this step is no more and no less than information. Once resources are located, the next step is what terms and conditions are involved in obtaining those resources -- more information. Once this is known, paperwork must be completed, business plans made, market research and due diligence conducted, and all of this compiled and forwarded to the appropriate parties. Again, nothing more than information. In fact, most of the work involved between identifying a need and solving the problem is information acquisition and management: getting and developing information.

As Alvin Toffler predicted in Power Shift, where once violence and then wealth were dominant forms of power, information is now becoming the dominant power. Those nations with the greatest freedom of information and means of transmitting it have now become the most powerful and influential, and the strongest economically. Toffler also predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union would come about due primarily to its authoritarian control and limiting of information. Unfortunately for Russian citizens, this old habit has continued for them beyond the collapse of the former Soviet Union and will at the least make an interesting case study on the survivability of a once strong nation which still remains committed to limiting and controlling information.

By going with the normal flow of free-market enterprise and the emerging replacement of monetary capital with intellectual capital as the dominant form of basic enterprise capitalization, it becomes easier to set up new companies primarily on the basis of invested intellectual capital. (See Post-Capitalist Society, by Peter Drucker). In plain English, socially responsible and forward-thinking companies can be set up quickly and cheaply--and these companies have indefinite potential for earnings and localized, targeted economic development. The initial objective is to develop model enterprises and communities, then implement successful strategies from those models into surrounding communities regionwide or nationwide, as needed."

The paper proposed a new form of business which operates for social purpose rather than profit maximisation, arguing that this was possible with the consent of directors and stockholders and declared in the corporate charter.  P-CED was introduced to the UK in 2004, with a business plan which warned on the risk of global uprisings. Again, it drew attention to the opportunity for empowerment:

"The emerging Information Age will provide an unprecedented opportunity for outreach and communication at local community levels by way of the Internet. Given the opportunity to communicate and research global resources, communities will become able to assess their own needs, identify resources to meet those needs, and procure those resources. In that sense, the information economy can work to the advantage of impoverished people in a way never before possible."

At some point I was invited to join the RSA based on what I'd described about P-CED's work in Russia in sourcing an experimental development project known as the Tomsk Regional Initiative. I engage from time to time on the RSA fellowship social network. I'm wondering now whether what I've been sharing has been understood at all 

The fundamental predicate of people-centered economics was the point that all lives matter:

"We are at the very beginning of a new type of society and civilization, the Information Age. Historically, this is only the third distinct age of civilization. We lived in an agricultural age for thousands of years, which gave way to the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age during the last three hundred years. The Industrial Age is now giving way to the Information Revolution, which is giving rise to the Information Age. Understanding this, it is appropriate to be concerned with the impact this transition is having and will continue to have on the lives of all of us. In that it is a fundamental predicate of "people-centered" economic development that no person is disposable, it follows that close attention be paid to those in the waning Industrial Age who are not equipped and prepared to take active and productive roles in an Information Age. Many, in fact, are scared, angry, and deeply resentful that they are being left out, ignored, effectively disenfranchised, discarded, thrown away as human flotsam in the name of human and social progress. We have only to ask ourselves individually whether or not this is the sort of progress we want, where we accept consciously and intentionally that human progress allows for disposing of other human beings."

In 2014 in the Great Business Debate initiated by the CBI Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster asks - Should business have a socially responsible purpose?

"My starting point is simple. It is the good of the human person. As a Catholic I have a fundamental belief, along with many others and indeed shared by very many people of no faith, that we must start from the conviction that people really matter "

We'd asked -

hat The RSA seem to have latched on to is the concept of "Doing Well by Doing Good" hence the promotion of Etsy and a discussion group on "Profit with Purpose".      

The Power of Microbusiness has been another RSA focus area in recent times. The major impact of the Tomsk Regional Initaitive had been the creation of around 10,000 microbusinesses. It was described in a 2004 interview with a Crimean diaspora leader.  

The exclusion of practitioner by academics is not a new experience. What we argued in the 'Marshall Plan for Ukraine' about business serving the interests of community would be regurgitated several years later under the banner of Creating Shared Value 

Social progress cannot, must not be based on excluding knowledge and  pushing each other out of the way and leaving people to die, as they have in Ukraine. The barriers that stand in the way could well include the RSA.