Unlocking and Scaling Care

Unlocking and Scaling Care

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It was a strange life-changing moment.

In the middle of the desert, I found myself sprinting in the blistering heat chasing after a piece of litter that I didn’t drop. Those who know me well would understand that I am more known for my inaction rather than action. It is why I spend most of my time having coffee. 

Seeing me sprint is a rare event and yet this seemed like the appropriate place and moment to launch myself into the desert abyss in a very overheated pursuit of an offending stray item that could damage the natural environment.

There was something about the collective agreement at the desert festival Burning Man that got me to do something that if I was honest I probably would not have done at home. It was instinctive and not something I thought about much at the time. The philosophy of “Leave No Trace” is so part of the culture of that place that almost everyone goes over and above to work towards it.

It was only when I sat down and came to later reflect on what the experience meant did the memory of litter chasing come back to me.

Why would I care more in that place than I would at home?

What does it mean for the world that I can be two different people in two different places?

What does it mean for the world if everyone could care more?

How much smaller would the government (and tax) be if we call cared more?

How can care be unlocked and scaled?

I must have talked about this moment hundreds of times in coffee conversations in the years since. It is the single moment I’ve experienced that best articulates the path to transforming democracy from its current crisis. It is also the single moment that best articulates what my work in the small island state of Guernsey has been about over the years.

What does it take to get people to care more?

What starts to happen when people start to care more about themselves, their neighbours and where they live?

How do we design systems and organisations that get the best out of people?

What possibilities does unlocking the human capacity to care open up?

We are in the midst of a global crisis in care. A moment in time when the world hasn’t unlocked enough care to deal with the many challenges that it faces.

The bigger an organisation or institution gets the less able it is to get people to care. The machine can become more important than the humans it serves or contains. We’ve gone down the road of globalisation and economies of scale for all of the right reasons. We have put our old people in care homes and our kids in schools to deliver each of these components of our life in a more rational way.

And yet we have lost something in the process. The village or the tribe was inefficient so we have gone to doing things at scale in so many ways to create better outcomes. Our capacity for tolerance and care has been lost somewhat in the process. We’ve put fences up between our houses and we have become insular and focussed heavily on the individual nuclear family unit. Relationally we have suffered and the state of democracy in many places really demonstrates this. Our social fabric is disintegrating and the left-right yoyoing of our electoral systems is never really getting to the roots of the problem.

Care is an immeasurable quality. It isn’t something that professional managers and accountants can’t deal with that well. In a world of accelerating rationalisation and measuring outcomes, we are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. The infinite well of the collective human capacity to care in the right circumstances.

For those on the right that want to see a smaller state and government take less of a role in people’s lives developing a model of governance that gets people to care more is something to be pondered on. Cutting services without building community capacity gets people to care less and resent more. It is a false economy unless people care more.

For those on the left that want to see a more caring and compassionate society building a large state or lots of centralised institutions isn’t necessarily the best way that delivers on this desire given the decay of care with scale

You see the necessary transformation in global governance isn’t just about funding someone in a big state to pick up your litter. It is about understanding why we dropped it in the first place or why we didn’t pick it up ourselves when we saw it. It is then about creating a caring environment where people are part of the greater whole in some way in order for the litter to not be a problem anymore.

From a governance perspective, there isn’t enough attention going into this. The rarely discussed part of this transition is what kind of organisations, institutions, technology or even nations do we need to build to support the amount of care we need to unlock?

We need to build a world for up to 10 billion thriving humans that live within planetary boundaries. We have to move trillions in capital over the next 10 years to be able to do that. The quality of our lives and our civilisation depends on us being able to do that.

To governance at the scale of care.


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