Steel Pulse: “Only One World (Wicked Problems)”

The legendary reggae band Steel Pulse (one of Bob Marley’s favorites) raises its voice to challenges the world to come together – “movements of movements” – to save the Earth:

The song is a collaboration between Steel Pulse and The Wicked7 Project.

Special thanks to Jessica Lieng from the W7 Working Group for putting together the video. Maximum respect to Steel Pulse and David Hinds in particular!

Webinar: “Population & Migration”

Join us for the latest webinar from the Wicked7 Project >>

Join Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar as we discuss the final wicked problem of the Wicked7 Project. With us for the webinar – a group of dynamic personalities from Palermo, Sicily:

Leoluca Orlando. As Mayor of Palermo, Orlando’s extraordinary vision and courage has changed our understanding of immigration, tolerance, and the fight against corruption.

Claudio Arestivo. A co-founder of Moltivolti – a unique regenerative business – which serves as an example for the future.

Melania Memory Mutanuka. An immigrant from Zambia, she is an emerging leader with a purpose.

Carmelo Pollichino. A passionate leader and the head of the non-profit Libera Palermo contro le mafie

Francesco Bellina. An award-winning photographer and artist whose brilliant work on the problems of migration and exploitation are featured in leading newspapers such as the Financial Times and The Guardian.

Thinkers50: Conversation with Philip Kotler

It was my great honor to interview the “Father of modern Marketing” on his lifetime of achievements in marketing.

Professor Philip Kotler received the Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award for his work over the past 50 years. I am deeply grateful for his friendship and mentorship – and everything he has done to demonstrate how marketing must be a force for good.

Webinar: “Health & Livelihood”

Join us as we welcome:

  • Stuart Hart – a leading authority on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy. Hart is the Founder and President of  Enterprise for a Sustainable World
  • Bob Freling – Executive Director at Solar Electric Light Fund, Freling developed the “solar village development model” – a wholistic community-based approach to development.
  • Hennie Botes – CEO and founder of moladi Construction Systems, Botes is an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. The designer of a multi-award winning affordable housing technology, Botes has over 30 years of experience in the building industry. 

Paul Polak: 12 Social Entrepreneurial Principles for Solving Poverty

Sometimes I wonder why we have forgotten these principles from the late Paul Polak. When I chatted with him about the $300 House, he wanted me to reconsider and make it a $100 House. His point was simple: affordability drives design.

Now, as part of the research agenda of the Regenerative Marketing Institute, I’m thinking about how these BoP principles and Stuart Hart‘s BoP protocol apply to the developed world — to communities trying to find a way back from the COVID-crash.

Here are Polak’s principles:

1) Go to where the action is. You can’t solve poverty from a World Bank office.
2) Talk to the people and listen to what they have to say.
3) Learn everything about the context of the problem and the people.
4) Think and act big. No reason to be modest. Small solutions applied thousands of thousands of times.
5) Think like a child to find the obvious solution people have missed in the past. (Irony of thinking big and like a child)
6) See and do the obvious. Emersing yourself in the problem helps.
7) If someone has invented it–you don’t have to. Find existing solutions
8} Make sure your approach can be scaled up.
9) Design for the poor. Affordability rules the design process with poor customers.
10) Follow practical 3 year plans. Must transform into effective work plan for 3 years.
11) Continue to learn from your customers. (Interviewed more than 3000 farm families, $12 solar lantern)
12) Don’t be distracted by what other people say (Almost every project I’ve done has had sceptics)

Let’s add another principle for impact innovation:

13) Design for justice. (The design schools don’t)

Regenerative Marketing

Can marketing be regenerative? And what would that look like?

Our definition >>

Regenerative marketing is defined as marketing practices which nurture communities and build local prosperity over the long term.  The outcomes of regenerative marketing include value creation for customers, employees, and local communities. Regenerative marketing practices must – by definition – build community wealth.

Read the article in The Marketing Journal >>

It’s time for a Movement of Movements

It’s time to put aside our toys – our ideologies and guns – and look at this time in history as our final exam. This is a test, as Buckminster Fuller said, to see if we, the human species, deserve to carry on. COVID has shown us that we cannot find consensus on how to deal with the virus. 

Time’s running out. Philip Kotler, Karthiga Ratnam, and I think it’s time for a movement of movements.

Learn more on the Wicked7 Project site >>

The Wicked7 Project Meets the #ForkintheRoad

What are we going to do now?  The #forkintheroad which Buckminster Fuller warned us about is here now >> “Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment… Humanity is in a final exam as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe.” 

What will it take to leap across the chasm and undo the destruction we’ve caused? Why can’t the UN fix it?

We’re hurtling into a state of climate emergency whilst we simultaneously face the convergence of the Wicked7.

What are the Wicked7? The world’s most urgent problems.

We’ve distilled over 200 problems into the Wicked7:

  • The Death of Nature
  • Inequality
  • Hate & Conflict
  • Power & Corruption
  • Work and Technology
  • Health and Livelihood
  • Population & Migration

You can’t solve wicked problems. That’s what we’ve been led to believe. And for years, we haven’t. Solve them, that is.

Well, if not now, then when?

Wicked problems must have virtuous solutions. If any lesson has emerged from this COVID-19 pandemic, it is this: we must address the urgent problems of the world now, or perish. Why? Because COVID-19 is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg… the ecosystem of wicked problems will not wait.

After working on this idea for over a year, Philip Kotler and I kicked off the Wicked7 Challenge on April Fool’s Day, 2021.

Our first challenge? The Death of Nature.

Join us >>

P.S. – Bucky Fuller was wrong. Thanks to Sonmoy, one of our W7 advisors, we now see that there’s a triple fork in the road, and utopia is simply no longer an option. What we must fight for is survival.

Leverage Points: Where to Intervene in an Ecosystem

Once again, it is useful to study the past to learn what applies here to our ecosystematic journeys. Of particular interest is the work of Donella Meadows, who taught us how to focus on having the most impact on a system (Bill Gates, listen up!) >>

Where to intervene:

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.

Read all about it >>

17 Rules for Building Community (via Wendell Berry)

Those of us who have been building digital communities know that we were simply trying to re-interpret and re-create the rules of real, living, communities. Wendell Berry had something say about this many years ago which applies to the “ecosystem builders” of today.

These “rules” or steps are not optional – you can’t pick or chose. All or nothing. Our survival as a species may depend on understanding this.

These are also the rules for sustainable development. Gandhian all the way.

Supposing that the members of a local community wanted their community to cohere, to flourish, and to last, they would:

1. Ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?

2. Include local nature — the land, the water, the air, the native creatures — within the membership of the community.

3. Ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities, and then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products in order not to become merely a colony of the national or the global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm or forest economy.

8. Strive to produce as much of their own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community, and decrease expenditures outside the community.

10. Circulate money within the local economy for as long as possible before paying it out.

11. Invest in the community to maintain its properties, keep it clean (without dirtying some other place), care for its old people, and teach its children.

12. Arrange for the old and the young to take care of one another, eliminating institutionalized ‘child care’ and ‘homes for the aged.’ The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school; the community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs that are now conventionally hidden or ‘externalized.’ Whenever possible they must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Be aware of the economic value of neighborliness — as help, insurance, and so on. They must realize that in our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.

16. Be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. Cultivate urban consumers loyal to local products to build a sustainable rural economy, which will always be more cooperative than competitive.

From a speech delivered November 11, 1994 at the 23rd annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

PS – It’s worth noting that Berry was a Jefferson Lecturer in 2012. Walker Percy was the lecturer in 1989 (scrap book and publication).

The 11th Type of Innovation

I still think of Larry Keeley‘s 10 types of innovation – and think about how the model can be applied to social innovation – to meet the “unmet needs” of society.

The 11th type of innovation is purpose – to what ends are your capabilities and talents being deployed? Are you inclusive or is your company supporting new forms of apartheid? That is what Brand Activism, and by extension – the Wicked7 Project – are about.

Multi-stakeholder Jobs to be Done

One of the points of the Wicked7 Project is to demonstrate how we have a shared responsibility — business, government, and social institutions — to work together for the future of the planet.

By definition, solving society’s most urgent problems is a balancing act between the various requirements and needs of the different stakeholders across all sectors.  Our policy-making must be driven by this idea of balance if it is to create a sustainable and resilient society.


Read >> The Unmet Needs of Society: Introducing Multi-stakeholder Jobs to be Done by Christian Sarkar, Anthony Ulwick, and Philip Kotler.

Losing Our Democracy

Each morning I get up and check to see if we’re still living in a Democracy.

I’m only half joking. In the US, Trump was just a symptom of the larger rot. It is not an accident that all around the world countries are falling into the trap of authoritarianism.

The Democracy Report 2021

What can be done to stop the backsliding?

Maybe Bill Gates could start a PAC to get money out of politics. Maybe we could take to the streets to stop voter suppression.

Or maybe we could just keep being distracted by Harry and Megan.

Staying silent will kill us all. Nerds, unite.

A Warning from FDR

This letter spells out the duopoly which is now in full force in US politics. The last remaining chance for Democracy to survive in the US is for us to heed this warning >>

A Letter to the Democratic Convention from Franklin D. Roosevelt
July 18, 1940

Members of the Convention:

In the century in which we live, the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.

The party has failed consistently when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.

The Republican Party has made its nominations this year at the dictation of those who, we all know, always place money ahead of human progress.

The Democratic Convention, as appears clear from the events of today, is divided on this fundamental issue. Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.

It is without question that certain political influences pledged to reaction in domestic affairs and to appeasement in foreign affairs have been busily engaged behind the scenes in the promotion of discord since this Convention convened.

Under these circumstances, I cannot, in all honor, and will not, merely for political expediency, go along with the cheap bargaining and political maneuvering which have brought about party dissension in this convention.

It is best not to straddle ideals.

In these days of danger when democracy must be more than vigilant, there can be no connivance with the kind of politics which has internally weakened nations abroad before the enemy has struck from without.

It is best for America to have the fight out here and now.

I wish to give the Democratic Party the opportunity to make its historic decision clearly and without equivocation. The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.

By declining the honor of the nomination for the presidency, I can restore that opportunity to the convention. I so do.

Politicians and Decision-Making

We are now at that point in history where collapse seems inevitable: political, social, environmental, civilizational. The decisions our politicians make are killing us.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”Proverbs 29:18

In Texas, we can applaud our fearless Governor Greg Abbott and his Republican mafia for destroying any pretense of serving the public good (see exhibits A and B). Every decision made by leaders in the Republican Party is made based on ideology, not reason, science, or even common sense. Some argue we live in the Age of Social Murder. The Democrats, for their part, are slightly better — but certainly not equal to the task which lies ahead.

It’s time to depoliticize decision-making.

Either that, or our time is up.

The Pyramid of Love: can we escalate peace and justice?

The work of leadership has never been more clear: it is to bridge the gap — across all boundaries — and to create a way forward for the common good. The pyramid of love reminds us that it is possible to resolve conflicts and escalate peace.

Says David Hinds of Steel Pulse: “Where there is no love, there can be no justice; and where there is no justice, there will never be peace.”

That about sums it up.

The Pyramid of Hate: incitement and escalation — from bias to genocide

As the Senate holds its second impeachment trial of president Trump, they would be well advised to educate their members on how incitement and escalation of hate can indeed lead to violence and even genocide. Here’s a slightly modified version of the Pyramid of Hate developed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Echoes and Reflections, and the Holocaust Center for Humanity.

The pyramid reminds us that hatred can be used to dehumanize people by race/color, tribe, ideology, and faith. The misleader polarizes and radicalizes their followers, pushing them up the pyramid of hate.

The Decolonization of the Corporation

The new normal is the old normal. How much has really changed since the days of the East India Company? We are accelerating backwards, back to a world run by a few, for the few.

The question we should ask now is: what does it mean to decolonize the corporation?

It means understanding that everything we do in business is built on the foundation of the brutal business model handed down to us by Robert Clive and friends.

Maybe I’ll talk about this in this week’s Thinkers50 Radar webinar — or maybe I’ll just stick to Brand Activism and the Wicked7 Project.

P.S. – did you know the East India Company came back to life in 2004?

Are you a #HappyMonkey?

What’s wrong with Elon Musk? And why do we—as a society— allow billionaires to play games with our future?

Maybe it’s because we think Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and/or Bill Gates will save us with their genius. Don’t count on it, children. The revenge of the nerds is nigh.

Here’s what Musk had to say: “You can’t see where the implant is and he’s a happy monkey. We have the nicest monkey facilities in the world. We want them to play mind-Pong with each other.”

The line between Trump and Musk is a fine line indeed.

Now check out Zuckerberg and his “monkey experiment” —

We are all “happy” monkeys now.

How high do we have to jump for that banana?

UPDATE: see also — the #happypig

What’s Next for Non-Profits?

Phil Kotler and I write about new approaches non-profits should consider as they plan their futures.  Here are seven recommendations we think can make a real difference:

  • Revisit your Mission.  
  • Organize as an Ecosystem. 
  • Look for Entrepreneurial Opportunities.  
  • Design for Justice. 
  • Embrace Brand Activism. 
  • Build/Join a Purpose Platform. 
  • Start/Join a Movement.  

Read the article at The Marketing Journal >>

“The Hill We Climb” – Amanda Gorman’s Call of Hope

Where can we find light, y’all?

Because, poetry:

The Hill We Climb
by Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

The Billionaire’s Dilemma

Billionaires are a prisoners of their own “success.” Someone once said that if you have to give back to society, then you took too much from it.

The lowest paid, full-time Amazon worker makes $31,200 a year. It would take them just 4.15 million years to earn as much as their boss. Really.

Did you know that billionaires saw their fortunes rise by 27% during the pandemic while the rest of us struggled to keep our jobs?

Did you know that since 2016, corporate and trade association PACs have given $170 million to lawmakers who voted to challenge the US presidential election?

What will it take for the wealthy to care about the common good? What would society be like if our politicians weren’t owned by the rich and powerful, but actually worked for the people?

In Do Billionaires Destroy Democracy and Capitalism? Phil Kotler and I look at the problem in some depth.

The question that remains is: should billionaires exist at all?

(RE)VISIONing

2021 has already shown us that the wickedness of 2020 was just the beginning. The “new normal” is that there is no “new normal.”

The job of leadership now is (re)visioning – rethinking what it means to live in an age of collapse.

We will explore this topic in an article we’re writing (Phil Kotler and I) on the leadership we need now. This is also part of the agenda for The Wicked7 Project.

From “The Ecosystem of Poverty” to “The Ecosystem of Wicked Problems”

In 2015, the late architect and teacher Abhijit De and I wrote an article for Thinkers called The Ecosystem of Poverty: Lessons Learned from the $300 House.

In it we popped in a chart that was constructed after days and months of debate with students, surveys and discussions with villagers in rural India, and the “experts”:

Soon after, we were working on the concept of a “smart village” – with the sobering realization that the problems of the poor are not going to be solved without solving other wicked problems. A few days before his untimely passing, we discussed expanding this chart.

Now, in 2020 – Philip Kotler and myself, along with a gracious cast of advisers, have embarked on this journey once more; this time we are looking to map the world’s most urgent wicked problems.

This ecosystem of wicked problems is not going to magically vanish. It needs our attention, now more than ever.

And that’s the point of The Wicked 7 Project.

Join us >>