Working across timescales: the future may never get here

Last week I read a cool tweet by @SimonLongstaff at the St. James Ethics Centre which read:

“A proposal: that every regulation automatically lapse after a limited, fixed period – only being renewed if deemed essential”

I thought this was a cool idea to change the default from what is most often permanent legislation, to a default to make it limited or temporary and to have it renewed only if it proves itself. I also wondered if this should be the default for organisations or companies. Perhaps new companies or social services should also have a limited shelf-life (or business registration) that would only be renewed if it was deemed essential, effective and impactful. I wonder whether that would change our thinking around the strategies that we adopt, and the overriding purposes of our organisations.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should only think in short timescales. As a futurist, I am a big champion for extending the horizons in which we think, create and work. I mostly think in strategic cycles of 12-15 years within a longer vision of 50-100 years. I celebrate those organisations and communities which have the foresight to extend this further. The Queensland Folk Read more

The ethical alignment of mission, strategy and investment

I had an interesting conversation the other day with Nick Moraitis about the ethics and alignment of mission, strategy and investment in social change. Very often social entrepreneurs will possess incredibly ambitious goals about what they want to achieve. This may include eliminating poverty, stopping global warming, or reducing unemployment amongst a certain part of the population.

As Nick pointed out to me, there can often be massive gaps between the mission that is pursued, activities that are taken to achieve that and the budgets that exist to fulfill that mission. Is it ethical to set a goal that is grossly unachievable and selling that unattainable mission to beneficiaries, funders or supporters?

This lack of alignment between mission, strategy and investment is very common, and not necessarily because of any deliberate intent to mislead. In my experience there are a number of factors that contribute to this including a culture of inflating possibility, lack of skills in business planning, poor design processes and a lack of external reference checks around mission.

In terms of skill gaps there is a general lack of understanding of what it actually costs to achieve change. For me I was raised in the school of doing things on the cheap. I have become adept at finding free or low cost ways of achieving change at a local level, and have been involved in a bunch of initiatives that have done just that. I have less experience in working on complex global problems that require heavy financial investment and multidimensional strategies to achieve the mission. If I was to pursue the solving of a complex global problem, I personally would need a lot of external input in the design of an appropriate strategy and Read more