The UK is a good place to be if you’re doing this kind of thing. There are plenty of socially motivated investors in the UK from UnLtd to Nesta, 4iP to the Young Foundation, backing early stage entrepreneurs and projects based on how much social benefit they could create rather than on whether they can sell them to a big tech firm in two years’ time.
“So the outlook for 2009 if you’re trying to change the world is pretty good. If you’re trying to get people to throw virtual sheep at each other, it’s going to be a lot tougher than 2008.”
It’s funny how, like me, people have to caveat finding things to be optimistic about in 2009 with phrases like “I’m not being Pollyanna-ish”.
Saying that the Great Disruption may bring good, or at least a lot of opportunities for good things to start, and somehow you feel it’s 1997 and you’re explaining to a roomful of disapproval that no you don’t feel the need to offer a floral tribute or stay in and watch Diana’s funeral procession.
Yet here’s a VC (Peter Rip) saying some sensible things about the downturn:
As the fire continues to rage in financial markets, it is hard to imagine when Opportunity will reappear. But the truth is when everyone sees Opportunity; they are only seeing the reflection. True Opportunity appears at the market bottom, not at the top. It’s times like these that test what you believe in, and I believe in the Business Cycle, Human Creativity, and the stimulative effect of massive Government spending. 2009 and 2010 will be great times to invest to reap the benefits in 2012-2014, for those who can judge both business risk and liquidity risk, and have the courage of their convictions.
Two posts in me feeds first thing today chime with my rant/ramble yesterday…
Mark Earls is feeling feisty about 2009 and the potential for massive postive disruptions as he makes plain in The year that everything changes:
Let’s test our ideas and practices against the simple measure: is this just the old map re-written? is it just “evolved”? Changed a little in form but not in substance?
Grow some cojones. Let me level with you. The world doesn’t need more music reviewers or opinion spouters. The world needs more people willing to ask tough questions.
Ask tough questions. Rip up the old rules. Grow some balls. Change everything.
So, yes, I shut down for a while.
Literally and virtually. I’ve had some time going with the flow with my family, for a while doing nothing but that. Wonderful.
Then, as Christmas passed, I switched on read-only mode. I read some literature in single sittings, a rare treat that only comes in holidays (The Road and On Chesil Beach – both wonderful and in their own way good at throwing even this grim present into cheerful relief, and making one do a Pollyanna blessings audit).
One other book – a personal favourite and major influence on my thinking – The Origin of Wealth pulled me back to its pages too. There was a chapter toward the end about the political and social consequences of the rise of Complexity Economics that made me shiver. It felt so absolutely aligned with the Us Now, Here Comes Everyone
Then, ever so gently, I eased myself back into the rushing river of RSS…
Now the lights are flickering back on. The only thing stopping me from writing is that there’s so much I want to write. So we’ll start with this, mainly because it is there and it’s making me smile – from a post called The Business Leader 2009: Chief Meaning Officer, by Tim Leberecht on design mind:
Consumption-driven wealth and status are being replaced by identity, belonging, and a strong desire to contribute and do something “meaningful” rather than just acquire things. Trust and reputation are no longer enablers for the exchange of goods, services, and information, they are replacing them. Values are the new value. Meaning is succeeding experience and customer satisfaction. “The job of leadership today is not just to make money. It’s to make meaning,” writes management consultant John Hagel. Out: Bottom-line-pragmatists and financial wizards. In: philosophers and ethicists.
It goes on to talk about “brands to transform themselves into arbiters of meaning” and
essence instead of luxury, free sharing instead of monetized scarcity, radical transparency instead of brand control, authenticity instead of image, empathy instead of focus groups, conversations instead of messaging, collaboration instead of dissemination.
Wonderful, although I admit I felt uncomfortable as I read the “arbiter” bit. Was this going too far? Were we drifting the wrong side of the Hicks-line that so torments many a marketing apparatchik’s conscience?
Well not really – everyone in the network’s an arbiter of meaning, to the extent that they choose to be. As long as we’re not getting lost and saying that brands are *the* arbiters of meaning, I think we’re OK.
A brand is like that thing we all started reminding ourselves of about “viral marketing”: an outcome, not a strategy. We’d be better off thinking about earning reputation than designing brands.
Anyway, now more than ever, revolution is in the air. Not the moneyed, dew-eyed hippy, let’s-all-get-along kind of revolution that 2004 – 2007 felt like. This is the real, tear-down-the-temples, raise-the-barricades, all-or-nothing stuff.
Umair Haque‘s ongoing commentary and provocations around the financial crisis continue to fuel a sense that now is the time to advance not to retreat. I feel almost a sense of duty, a moral imperative not to play safe, not to retreat and wait for the good old times to return.
They won’t and they shouldn’t.
We’ll continue to live with the severe consequences of the lies and venal mass delusions of this last boom through this year – but then comes reconstruction. And the planning and the genesis of that reconstruction start now, have started already.
It’s a time for boldness not for retreat.
I’m really looking forward to this year, even if it hurts. Good fortune to us all…
: : While looking for some images to break up the text of this ramble (think of it as a warm-up at the start of a cold year), I see that The Road is coming out as a movie this year.
The book, the text is so potent I left it lying on the kitchen table for a while like a smoking gun and just stared at it. It was so powerful it left me dazed…
The film’s starring Vigo Mortensen and is directed by John Hillcoat, so at least it’s got good pedigree and a chance of being as good as it can be. Make sure you read the book before you even see a trailer….