The Quiet Revolution

“The thing about the transforming power of networks, she [Pamela McLean] says, is how hard it is to make people see it unless they have experienced it first hand. In the Industrial Revolution, you could point to a steam engine; pointing to a laptop or the Twitter home page doesn’t convey an equivalent sense of the power and strangeness of the forces at work” – Dougald Hine

It is truth universally acknowledged that people have difficulty believing in things they can’t see. Our over-reliance on visual perception is a topic for another post, but suffice to say that we have long since passed the time where this was a relevant or acceptable way of ascertaining truth. Nowadays most science is conducted at a level of existence which is not visible to the naked eye, and most of the technology we use on a daily basis relies on invisible waves. Unfortunately our brains haven’t adjusted to this yet, and the majority of people generally still have a problem accepting things they can’t perceive with their eyes.

Over the course of the last year as I have delved more and more into all topics relating to the current paradigm shift (and I refer to it as such because it really does imply an overhaul of every aspect of human life), and become progressively more excitable, I have been asked countless times by curious friends to explain where this shift is happening, to provide a definition of it, and to cite concrete examples. Now anyone who knows me can tell you that I am terrible with facts. Everything around the facts gets stored, but figures, names, jargon and other details that are likely to be of use when attempting to communicate these ideas to others tend to get insufficient attention and are understandably irretrievable at the crucial moment in these discussions.

The upshot is that although my enthusiasm is palpable, the other party usually ends up leaving with only a very vague and untransferable understanding of what I was trying to explain; namely that although it’s not always easy to see in everyday life, there are innumerable marvellous initiatives and developments arising in every sector and across the world, which are intrinsically different to current standard models within their sectors. Many of these are facilitated by, or even dependent on, the internet. This wonderful tool is however so vast that much of what is out there we will never set eyes on…unless we look for it.

Synchronicity is a wonderful thing. I was just about to start writing this post when I found this video. It’s very general but mentions various ways in which things are changing significantly at the root level.

Many of these initiatives are fundamentally different from tried-and-tested norms because they have been developed by people who are thinking outside the box and therefore bring a fresh perspective. They tend to prioritise equitable practices, environmental responsibility, and global rather than individual profit. Local small business ventures are also booming despite the recession; these focus on building a community of loyal customers, value-based rather than profit-based practices and personal responsibility. This massive increase in entrepreneurship, and particularly social entrepreneurship, is radically changing the landscape of business and society and is going to continue to grow.

The other day I came across an interview by Scott London with Bill Drayton, the father of social entrepreneurship, who says: “The biggest problem we have is that people don’t yet see the change that’s going on. Once people understand that we are moving from a world of repetition to a world of change, then the role of the social entrepreneur becomes obvious. You cannot have the problems outrun the solutions when everyone is a changemaker. We become like smart white blood cells. We see a problem and move right to taking care of it. But right now we’re in the middle of a transition, and people don’t see it clearly.”

Here are a few examples of some awesome initiatives:

  • Acumen Fund – investing in social start-ups with the goal of maximizing social rather than financial returns
  • Peer to Peer Foundation – documenting peer-to-peer practices
  • Creative Commons – facilitating the sharing of creative, educational, research material
  • Collaborative Consumption – documenting the new and rediscovered ways of consuming
  • Kickstarter – crowd-sourced funding for independent projects
  • The Venus Project – investigates comprehensive sustainable solutions
  • Transition Town Totnes – the original transition town aiming to increase sustainable solutions
  • Skillshare – new ways of learning and teaching
  • Toms – for every pair of shoes or glasses you buy, one pair goes to a child in need
  • Urban Farming Guys – testing sustainable solutions for inner city life

There are thousands more I could list (the above is a random selection) but the purpose is not to give an exhaustive review but simply a glimpse of the new models of activity which are influencing individuals, industry and society. In case the message isn’t clear yet, this is We the People (the 99% to be specific ;)) beginning to take things into our own hands, making changes that benefit the greater good, that decrease separateness and increase community, and which prioritise values such as equality, collaboration, responsibility, sustainability, integrity, kindness.

Think of it as a wave. It’s still really far out and difficult to see, but it’s gathering momentum, and one day soon it will wash right over your feet.