Join Philip Kotler and myself as we kickoff this project to “save humanity from itself.”
WEBINAR >> April 1, 2021 >> 4 pm EASTERN / 10 PM EU
REPLAY available here >>
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.
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 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 problem isn’t Trump. Philip Kotler and I explain in this article for The Institute of Art and Ideas >>
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?
According to PlainSite, Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network. Its official metrics–many of which it has stopped reporting quarterly–are self-contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.
Fake accounts affect Facebook at its core in numerous ways:
- Its customers purchase advertising on Facebook based on the fact that it can supposedly target advertisements at more than 2 billion real human beings. To the extent that users aren’t real, companies are throwing their money down the drain.
- Fake accounts click on advertising at random, or “like” pages, to throw off anti-fraud algorithms. Fake accounts look real if they do not follow a clear pattern. This kind of activity defrauds advertisers, but rewards Facebook with revenue.
- Fake accounts often defraud other users on Facebook, through scams, fake news, extortion, and other forms of deception. Often, they can involve governments.
Recently, my dear friend and mentor – Professor Philip Kotler (yes, that Kotler!) got entangled in a squabble between Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, and Rahul Gandhi, the dynastic leader of the Congress party.
The fun began when Professor Kotler presented the Prime Minister with the inaugural Philip Kotler Presidential Award, an award that recognizes Shri Narendra Modi’s leadership qualities on the global stage.
Because his physician had advised him not to travel, Professor Kotler chose his friend Professor Jagdish Sheth, an eminent marketer in his own right, to present the award on his behalf.
The award was presented by a delegation led by Professor Sheth on January 14, 2019. Also part of the delegation were representatives of the World Marketing Summit which had held a conference in Delhi in December of 2018.
The next day, this tweet from Rahul Gandhi poked fun at the award, seeking to undermine not just the PM, but, more importantly for me, the integrity of Professor Kotler as well:
I want to congratulate our PM, on winning the world famous “Kotler Presidential Award”!
In fact it’s so famous it has no jury, has never been given out before & is backed by an unheard of Aligarh company.
Event Partners: Patanjali & Republic TV 🙂https://t.co/449Vk9Ybmz
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 15, 2019
Almost immediately, the comments inspired by the post fell into two categories – insults and praise; insults from Rahul Gandhi followers and praise from PM Modi supporters. The tone of these comments was shrill, with many attacking Professor Kotler directly.
Professor Kotler and I were shocked. The article questioning the award was written by a leftist outlet which casts doubt on the award:
The government’s press release makes no mention of jury members, nor the exact organisation behind the new award.
The media pounced on the story and added to the controversy:
Tonight at 9: is the Kotler award legit ? pic.twitter.com/FyaF1Uu2gi
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) January 16, 2019
Even one of my literary heroes – Shashi Tharoor – piled on, going so far as to call the award a fake.
Questions & Answers
As questions were raised, I decided to collect and answer them:
Is the award real? (“…little information has been shared about the provenance of the latest award, or the organisation presenting it.”)
Yes, it is real. And why would people like Tharoor assume it was fake? The “journalists” in Rahul Gandhi’s tweet did not follow the first rule of journalism which is – check your facts with the source. How easy it would have been to Google Philip Kotler and contact him through his Northwestern faculty page.
Who is Philip Kotler? What qualifies him to give this award?
Along with Peter Drucker, Professor Philip Kotler is considered to be one of our greatest management thinkers. Who is the leading business scientist in history? According to the Hirsch-Index its Philip Kotler with an h-index of 163, followed by Michael Porter with 159.
Ask any MBA student anywhere in the world, and you will find that they have studied Professor Kotler’s books. He has received 22 honorary degrees from around the world, and published over 70 books. His 50+ years of work with the Kellogg School of Management has resulted in building the #1 Marketing department in the world.
Professor Kotler is a man with great integrity and openness. He is also one of the smartest thinkers to grace the planet. He is in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame (2013), and is featured as a “guru” in the Economist.
Who chose the award? Why is there no jury?
Professor Philip Kotler made the final decision after a committee for the World Marketing Summit came up with a list of possible candidates.
Professor Kotler explains via a letter published on his blog:
Why is Kotler’s twitter account not verified?
Because Twitter has stopped verifying accounts, and Prof. Kotler never thought to ask. I messaged Jack Dorsey to ask him if he could make an exception for Professor Kotler.
Why was there no mention of the award on the Kotler website?
Professor Kotler’s site is not updated often. When the Indian press started questioning the authenticity of the Award, Professor Kotler tweeted about it:
I congratulate PM @narendramodi for being conferred the first ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award. He has been selected for his outstanding leadership & selfless service towards India, combined with his tireless energy. (1/2)
— Philip Kotler (@kotl) January 15, 2019
Why was the Indian site for the World Marketing Summit taken down?
After an event is over, often times the microsite that’s used to describe the event and/or register participants is usually taken down. The global site for the World Marketing Summit, Kotler Impact and Kotler Awards are still running.
What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about India?
Professor Kotler is not just the “father of modern marketing.” He is an economist and studied with some the greatest Economics teachers on the planet. His involvement with India began in 1955, when he spent a year working on his PhD thesis in India. If the journalists bothered to read My Adventures in Marketing, they might have known that. Since then he has visited India often to teach and speak.
What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about democracy?
Professor Kotler has published books and written numerous articles on capitalism and democracy. See: Democracy in Decline and Confronting Capitalism.
How to Argue
Bottom line, I’m disgusted with the trash-talking that I see from the left-leaning Indian journalists and social media participants.
Too many of our disagreements fall in the bottom two layers of Paul Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement:
If someone wants to question PM Modi’s track record, they would do far better through Refutation rather than Ad Hominem and Name-Calling. Let that be a lesson for you, young Rahul, and for all who would seek to look childish: focus on the substance instead.
Professor Kotler, please excuse the mess caused by this controversy.
DISCLOSURE: I have worked and continue to work with Professor Philip Kotler on several projects, including The Marketing Journal, ActivistBrands.com, and FIXCapitalism. We’ve written a book together titled Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action (the print version is forthcoming). No one asked me or paid me (in India, as elsewhere, paid-journalism is a thing) to write this. I simply felt compelled to stand up for a learned man of great integrity.
Professor Philip Kotler – the “father of modern marketing” – and I have co-authored a book: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action.
Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It’s what a good citizen does.
available in the following countries
The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator – for customers, for employees, and for society at large. We also examine the role of the CEO.
Here’s a look at the table of contents:
The book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.
The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:
- Scott Galloway
- John Elkington
- Raj Sisodia
- John Ehrenreich
- Christopher Davis
- Stephen M. R. Covey
- Hennie Botes
- Stuart L. Hart
- David “Dread” Hinds
- Clark Fox
Finally, we’ve launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more – www.activistbrands.com. We hope you find it useful.
The Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporate personhood, or Citizen’s United.
In fact, I wonder what they’d think about capitalism as an enemy of democracy and a grave threat to the very survival of life on Earth.
Is democracy doomed?
What must we do to save capitalism from itself?
Enter Phil Kotler. The legendary marketing guru is marketing a new sort of product these days. He is trying to fix Capitalism, a system he believes has helped create more wealth for more people than any other economic model.
Says the esteemed Professor Kotler (he’s taught at Northwestern for 50 years!) >>
“Capitalism must evolve to serve the needs of all citizens, not just the very affluent. Our goal is to discuss the 14 Shortcomings of Capitalism and systematically analyze the problems and potential solutions. We want to gather opinions and recommendations from everyone – and begin the process of saving capitalism from itself.”
It’s great to see one of the greatest capitalist minds working on reforming capitalism with a capital C.
According to Kotler, the current state of capitalism is falling short because it:
1. Proposes little or no solution to persistent poverty
2. Generates a growing level of income inequality
3. Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers
4. Doesn’t create enough human jobs in the face of growing automation
5. Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities
6. Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation
7. Creates business cycles and economic instability
8. Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons
9. Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy
10. Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens
11. Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning
12. Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anti-competitive behavior
13. Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth
14. Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.
So that’s my latest project – helping Kotler and friends get the word out and make a difference.
Like the $300 House Project, I’m helping build an “ecosystem of concerned folks” to face the challenge.
We began by enlisting the Huffington Post as our media partner.
We now have a FIXCapitalism channel; we’re slowly beginning to get some attention with these articles:
The future is too important to leave in the hands of the corporations and their paid stooges – the politricksters in D.C.!
Can you help? Connect us to others who are interested – who may have a point of view they want to share – and can help move the conversation forward. Join us!
Help spread the word!
In McKinsey‘s latest survey on business technology, few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT’s ability to support growth and other business goals is waning. Furthermore, “executives’ current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative.”
This sort of criticism of IT is not new.
In fact, it goes all the way back to Nick Carr‘s 2003 IT Doesn’t Matter article in Harvard Business Review. At the time, Carr managed to infuriate the CEOs of numerous IT companies, including Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO, along with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.
“My point, however, is that it (IT) is no longer a source of advantage at the firm level – it doesn’t enable individual companies to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. Essential to competitiveness but inconsequential to strategic advantage: that’s why IT is best viewed (and managed) as a commodity.”
– Nicholas Carr
At the time, there were numerous rebuttals to Carr’s view, but none more powerful than the one from John Hagel and John Seely Brown. They argued:
- Extracting business value from IT requires innovations in business practices. In many respects, we believe Carr attacks a red herring – few people would argue that IT alone provides any significant business value or strategic advantage.
- The economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations, rather than “big bang” initiatives. A process of rapid incrementalism enhances learning potential and creates opportunities for further innovations.
- The strategic impact of IT investment comes from the cumulative effect of sustained initiatives to innovate business practices in the near-term. The strategic differentiation emerges over time, based less on any one specific innovation in business practice and much more on the capability to continuously innovate around the evolving capabilities of IT.
According to JH3 and JSB: far from believing that the potential for strategic differentiation through IT is diminishing, we would maintain that the potential is increasing, given the growing gap between IT potential and realized business value.
So how does IT become more strategic?
The Wall Street Journal‘s Rachael King recommends:
CIOs also need to bring some transparency to their operations by sitting down with business leaders and going over the budget and setting priorities together. The CIO needs to also actively market how the IT department is driving value in terms that business can understand. For example, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson recently published an annual IT report where she detailed how her department implemented advanced data analytics that helped drive $351 million in revenue for the company.
The ability for Ms. Stevenson to demonstrate the value of her organization’s work in dollars and cents is changing how IT is perceived in the company. It changes the relationship from that of a service provider, a department that helps people set up servers or configure PCs, to one that uses technology to solve business problems.
CIOs must demonstrate and quantify the business value of IT.
What does this mean for the sales people of IT company’s trying to sell to CIOs? It means that the role of the CIO is often supplanted by business executives. (In my discussions with our clients, I often emphasize this point.)
IT is so strategic, one could argue, that it is no longer left to IT. Often it is CMOs and other non-IT business executives who are actively pursuing the mobile, social, and analytics strategies that are creating the organizational pull for new approaches to rapid application development, and as a by-product, the cloud services offerings needed to enable those strategies.
The new generation of IT will support new business strategies. This means that any vendor selling IT solutions will have to speak the language of business strategy. And most importantly, the vendor will have to show the client how to achieve the “promised” benefits of IT.
So here’s the takeaway: CIOs must work on getting a place at the strategy table. When they do, they are viewed as effective business partners. What must the CIO do to be viewed as a strategic partner?
– Does your company have a clear view of how advances in IT (Big Data, AI, IoT, Cloud Computing) is likely to reshape your relevant markets over the next five years?
– What areas of business growth can IT contribute to?
– Does your company have an equally clear view of the implications for the changes you will need to make to continue to create value?
– Are these views shared effectively among your senior managers across the organization?
– Does senior management recognize the risks and uncertainties as part of the decision-making process?
– Has your company been sufficiently aggressive in using IT to improve strategic areas of your operations?
– Are there opportunities to use IT to improve operations around existing products and services?
– Are their opportunities to use IT to significantly reduce costs and cycle time in existing work processes?
– What are the data sources? How will you monitor them? How do you trigger events based on the intelligence gathered from the data? Is there a profit or cost-savings optimization opportunity?
Why CIOs should be business-strategy partners Feb 2015, McKinsey
Most CIOs are Not Seen as Influencing Corporate Strategy: Report, Feb 2015, Wall Street Journal
Public Cloud a first choice for minority of projects: Gartner CIO survey, March 2015, ARN
How does innovation happen? Most company’s struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today’s tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:
- new ways of thinking,
- new business models,
- new processes,
- new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
- and new products (offerings including services)
- Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
- Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
- Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
- Wandering minds are more creative.
- Studying a field “too much” doesn’t limit creativity — it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
- The “accept everything” mantra of brainstorming doesn’t work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
- ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you’re drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
- Even with teams, it’s better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
Surely Richard Scarry would approve!
There’s plenty of advice out there for UK-based TESCO’ s new CEO Dave Lewis as pledges to return to the core of Tesco’s business, “in price, availability and service.”
For me, there’s a critical question: what one change will deliver an 80% difference in results?
I think I know. I spent 6 months visiting TESCO at least twice a week when I was in Hertford, and all I can say is “wow.” If you just view TESCO with the eyes of a typical US customer, it’s obvious what that 80% difference is.
There really aren’t as many difficult calls as it seems.
So, what’s the one thing TESCO has to focus on? Restocking shelves to meet demand during and after peak traffic.
Every evening, right after after-work traffic died down, here’s what the TESCO produce section would look like:
And that’s not all, their soft drinks are not replenished either. So if you go buy a Dr. Pepper in the morning, and then come in the next day – guess what? No availability.
This was a problem all over England.
Dave Lewis, just fix it. Whatever it is they do here in the US to keep stocks replenished, copy it.
That’s it. The one thing that will save TESCO.
Here’s an interesting classification or segmentation of change makers (from Deloitte) along with some advice on how to make a difference via collaboration >>
Steady Supplier: Combine your contextual knowledge with the Public Value Innovators to create new value
Multirational Multinational: Engage with Citizen Changemakers to gain local insights and ideas
Investors: Connect Wavemakers to amplify impact
Public Value Innovator: Leverage the reach of the Multinationals to reach more communities
Citizen Changemaker: provide feedback to all in order to get to root issues
This is going to be a central theme in business going forward: what is our purpose?
Here’s William Cohen talking about Peter Drucker‘s perspective:
“…until Drucker came along most everyone believed the basic “fact” that the purpose of a business was to make money. That is, to make a profit. This belief leads to a corollary, another myth, believed by all–that is, that the goal of any business is profit maximization. In other words, whatever your business, your goal should be to make as much profit as possible. If you accept making a profit as a business’s purpose, the second part just follows naturally. This might even seem worthy to many. To quote Michael Douglas’s famous (or infamous) statement in his role as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movieWall Street: “Greed is good.” Even today many “know” greed, or profit maximization to be the correct prescription for business success, even if it is amoral or shouldn’t be “good” from a moral perspective. Not so fast, Gordon. As Drucker so often said, whatever everyone knows is usually wrong, Hollywood films not excepted. Drucker told us first that profit is not the purpose of business and that the concept of profit maximization is not only meaningless, but dangerous.”
Now Ratan Tata and gang (myself included) have a similar message:
The problem with industrial capitalism today is not the profit motive; the problem is how the profit motive is usually framed. There is a persistent myth in the contemporary business world that the ultimate purpose of a business is to maximize profit for the company’s investors. However, the maximization of profit is not a purpose; instead, it is an outcome. We argue that the best way to maximize profits over the long term is to not make them the primary goal.
So what is to be done?
What is your company doing to create purpose beyond profits? The future of our planet depends on your answer.
The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>
The 2008 video version is here >>
I know what some of you are thinking – “Well, did America have a soul to begin with?” I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is “We, the people…”
Furthermore, I’m quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)
But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan’s Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?
BUY now >>
- How can companies take better care of their employees–and thrive?
- Why don’t they see the opportunities in creating social value?
- Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
- What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
- How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
- How can public education prepare all students for the future?
- How can better health care be made available without doctors?
- How can communities do something about global warming?
- How can you make a difference?
- Why should you care?
Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people–starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.
The very idea of the “United” States is based on the principles of inclusivity–all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.
What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other – finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.
The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.
This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won’t have one without the other.
The book includes the following sections:
- What Is INCLUSIVITY?
- Inclusive World
- Inclusive Entrepreneur
- Inclusive Economy
- Inclusive Cities
- Inclusive Education
- Inclusive Health
- Inclusive Leadership
- Inclusive Future
Let us know what you think!
P.S. – We don’t want this, do we?
Michael Gordon‘s book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers – the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world.
The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:
1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?
2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?
The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…
Are you a changemaker? Go find out >>
P.S. – you can download the PDF version here >>
No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. That’s the power of ecosystem disruption. The power of the Voice of the Planet (VoP).
I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart – who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years. They ought to compare notes!
What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview. He was clearly in distress – the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time – as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him.
The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!
I first met Bob Freling at a board meeting of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in San Francisco several years ago. At the time, I felt that here was an NGO doing innovative things but not getting enough visibility for their work. They were solar way before solar was cool.
What struck me is how informal and close the board members were. One of the board members – Larry Hagman (good ol’ J.R. Ewing) – did a brilliant set of solar commercials which I think says a lot about his character and wanting to make the world a better place (quite the opposite of his TV character!). But I digress.
The story here is that SELF pioneered the use of solar power to fight “energy poverty” across a spectrum of applications with their “solar integrated development model” – from clean water, to drip irrigation to improve food security, to electricity for health clinics, schools, and micro-enterprise.
In his blog post about the $300 House Energy Challenge, Bob explains:
“It’s simple really. First, solar energy powers pumps and filters for clean water. This also enables drip irrigation for critical crops. Once people have those necessities, the solar energy is used to power health care facilities which can power equipment and refrigerate vaccines, for example. This increasingly healthy population can then open schools which are powered by solar to provide computer and Internet-based learning. Finally, these well-fed, well-cared for, well-educated villagers can begin community and entrepreneurial activities to grow their economy.”
Bob’s optimism is tempered with reality. The Millennium Development Goals won’t be achieved without energy access, he explains in another blog post. In case you forgot what the MDGs are (as I often do) they’re listed as:
1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
2) achieving universal primary education;
3) promoting gender equality and empowering women;
4) reducing child mortality;
5) improving maternal health;
6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and
8) building a global partnership for development.
Note that they are interrelated, ecosystemic problems – and that from Bob’s perspective, energy is the key factor which makes all of them feasible.
With the $300 House project, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the approaches for dealing with the poor are often not very constructive, and sometimes end up doing more damage than good. That’s what $300 House adviser Stuart L. Hart is talking about when he says we need to create smaller problems. It is also a concern of our critics on the $300 House. When I spoke to Matias Echanove recently, he was concerned that mass produced housing could in fact disrupt the local economy – the small businesses that are based in informal slums around the country. I hear him.
Our $300 House project is exploring ways to integrate services and jobs into the ecosystem as well, and we’re reaching out to talk to the leaders in the communities that are interested in this approach. In India, we’ve just completed a survey – with the help of THL – that covers 15 villages in three of the poorest states in India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. I’ll go into more detail in a later post.
For me the question is quite simple – we see an explosion of interest in developing integrated townships for the middle class in India, but why is there nothing comparable for the poor? To borrow a phrase from the US, why can’t we build “master-planned communities” for the poor?
Is it too much to ask that governments, NGOs and development institutions, and businesses work together with the communities involved to build integrated solutions?
Unfortunately, there are far too few examples of collaborative development. This is something we all need to look at urgently. There is also a problem of ownership. The development community, NGOs, and most governments think they “own” the problem. Unfortunately, without a business mindset to make solutions scale, their is so little real progress.
The poor remain poor.
And that’s why the work Paul Polak is doing is so important. He’s looking at making small changes at the bottom of the pyramid; small changes that make a big difference in the earnings of the poor. This is also the approach advocated by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee in Poor Economics.
At a much larger scale, we see an example in the Gates Foundation‘s approach – which is all about examining the ecosystems of poverty. A common criticism of the Gates Foundation goes along these lines: “How can people like Gates, living in a different universe, help people at the bottom of the pyramid?” This is a false and damaging argument, but answered quite well by Sam Dryden:
“Some people may ask how my team and I–working at the world’s largest foundation located in a prosperous corner of a rich nation–can relate to a subsistence farming family in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. This is a very reasonable question to ask. The farmer has a direct connection to the land and we are considerably removed, both by distance and culture. We begin by realizing these differences and humbly listening to farmers and their families, learning and respecting their cultures, ways of living, and knowledge of place and home. The solutions we seek are those appropriate and welcomed in this context, not those imposed by distant values or interests.”
And finally, perhaps there is an alternative to the giant top-down programs, and incremental bottom-up “Let the Poor Do It Themselves” approaches we’ve encountered.
With the $300 House, we’re thinking micro-development – is it possible to build integrated micro-solutions at the village level? And in cities, at the neighborhood level?
When I first started working on classifying online ecosystems, I had no idea that my thinking there would influence my thoughts on the $300 House. But now it seems like the systems approach to understanding wicked problems is pretty much the only way to go. None of this is new, of course, but I’m still impressed at the power of ecosystem thinking.
Here’s how Nobel prize laureate Gunnar Myrdal was thinking about the problems of race and poverty:
The “vicious circle” has not yet made its way into our political thinking though, if we judge the policy makers of today’s Congress. Heck, they can’t even bring themselves to accept the effects of global warming – in no small part thanks to our lobbyist friends.
The idea of poverty as the outcome of a dysfunctional ecosystem is explained here as well:
Note that this applies to poverty in the US as well, not just the emerging world.
So, part of tackling the issue of affordable housing for the poor is to try to understand the interconnected nature of these problems. I tried to draw causal arrows between the various problems, but gave up. In essence, we have a problem of insecurity, in which all of these factors must be addressed simultaneously if we are to change the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, and suffering. Here’s what I ended up with:
The poor live in an insecure, unbalanced universe.
I’m calling it the “ecosystems of poverty.”
Next we’ll look at the idea of integrated development (another old idea) which fell out of favor, but must be re-evaluated in today’s light if we are serious about poverty alleviation.
Despite all the whining about the decline of the USA, and charts showing the downsizing of the American dream, today’s a good day to reflect on why we still hold the promise of Abraham Lincoln’s words in 1862: “the last best hope of earth.”
A few thoughts:
1. The individual can still make a difference: Check out Paul Farmer, Paul Polak, Michael Moore and, yes, Barack Obama. Give me an example of any other country in the world where someone like Obama could even remotely hope to be elected president. See what I mean? Of course, the flip side of this is that you have corporate puppets like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, but I’ll take the voice of the individual any day. What’s the alternative? China. Enough said.
2. The rich aren’t all money-grubbing pirates. More than any other country on earth, our rich turn to philanthropy to leave a legacy. Check out the Gates Foundation or the Clinton Global Initiative. Where else do we see this kind of private philanthropy at the individual level – from both rich and poor? Have you seen what happens in Bangladesh? Note: I know, we do have folks like the Koch brothers who are busy strangling democracy while they protect their “freedom.” What about India? Nope.
3. The United States
is the world’s largest source of humanitarian aid. Yes, despite all the whining, our government is still the largest donor by far. We can do better, but hey, you don’t see anyone else even close in real dollars. This type of comparison is a statistical game.
4. We’re far less sexist than Europe. Seriously, that’s a fact.
6. Customer Service. If you think customer service is bad in the US, you should see the rest of the world. Speaking from plenty of experience, we are in another league.
7. Independent thinking. Not so widely seen on Fox, but still here. The sheep to thinker ratio is far healthier in the US.
8. Tolerance. We are a tolerant nation. It’s kind of funny when the most intolerant group we have is the atheists.
Keep on keeping on, America. And may tomorrow always be better than yesterday.
Bin Laden lost.
Here’s the money quote:
Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During
periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total
income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation
as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous
cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume
more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby
stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.
During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as
between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the
present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered
giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the
top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007
— the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.
We’re losing our competitiveness, as well as our ability to lead.
There’s a growing sense in the business community that we must find a way to work together again. To do this, we have to reject political terrorism – the political brinksmanship which prevents us from finding common ground or even beginning to look for honest solutions. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, recently created a stir when he suggested that it was time to halt all political donations. Warren Buffett did the same with his no-nonsense plea to raise his taxes.
Welcome to the third world, America! Looks like we’re headed on the fast-track back to serfdom. Brought to you in large part by the GOP and corporate Democrats.
The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.
Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?
Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course – VG, my partner in crime.
For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields – software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement – and here’s what I came up with at the end of the study. I’m interested in one metric – conversion to sales.
Conversion to Sales
Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.
See you later, FB and Twitter…
Writes Floyd Norris in the New York Times:
The Business Roundtable, a group comprising 200 of the largest companies in the United States, is out with a “study” that claims to show that the United States levies excessively high tax rates on companies. It actually shows nothing of the kind.
This is the sort of thing that makes business look E-V-I-L.
Surprise! They’re only the CEOs of the “most respected” companies in the US.
Have they no shame? No sense of decency?
The CEOs should be embarrassed, but instead they keep playing this absurd, deceptive game. We have come to expect this sort of behavior from the oil and coal lobby, but not you. To Bank of America, General Electric, Xerox, Wal-Mart, UPS, Target, SAP, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Procter and Gamble: Grow up, ladies and gentlemen. You are hurting both democracy and capitalism. Not to mention your brand.
Good on you, Google and Apple, for not being part of this institutional lying machine.
This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:
Then it hit me. This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities. If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.
I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang
when a “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly
what happened with corporate community managers – back in the heady days
of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain).
Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own.
That’s what I did with Double Loop Marketing. And it’s still the best professional decision I ever made.
Michael Hudson, U of Missouri, on how we in the US lost our way. If this is true, we really have destroyed ourselves:
Years ago, when I was a kid just out of college at my first job, I had an interesting chat with the legal counsel for the world’s largest engineering and construction company. We were talking about ethics and business. [All of this was before Enron and WorldCom, before Michael Moore’s Sicko or the BP oil spill.]
As I recall, he called it the “New York Times Test” – which went something like this: if your actions or behavior show up on the front page of the New York Times, could you still face your family without embarrassment?
The point he was making was that it wasn’t about being legal or adhering to the law. Ethics was about doing the right thing above and beyond the law, because you’re going to judged by the standards set by your family, not the courts.
Today, we might just call this the WikiLeaks Test.
In other words, if you’re engaged in private activities which will cause you public grief – stop. Pretend all your actions are transparent – open to the public. For all you know, they already are!
Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He’s talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:
When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.
Read all about it >>
The Solar Electric Light Fund‘s Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.
Here’s Bob waxing eloquent:
Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care,
educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House
completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and
their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and
Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>