It’s time we took control
You can read about it, see it and feel it. We are entering a period of insecurity. Our childhood certainties have fallen away: continuous economic growth, safe banks, inflation-proof pensions and stable governments. After a period of disappointment and angry tweets, online messages and occupations by social activists, all aimed at the parties responsible, we have come to realise that the only guarantee of a healthy future must come from ourselves.
The rise of self-sufficiency
As citizens, we are starting to realise that we must take matters into our own hands, become self-supporting, in order to protect our wealth and well-being.
In the future, people will exert more control over meeting their basic needs such as food, energy, healthcare and income, as is currently demonstrated by the keen interest in generating our own) energy—often locally—and tending urban vegetable gardens. In addition, various technologies, such as home automation and care robots from Japan, will enable us to remain independent and in control for a longer portion of our lives.
New forms of solidarity
But we are not in this alone. We know we will also need the assistance of others in order to be self-sufficient. Like in the old days, when a group of farmers would put money into a communal pot to help out a fellow farmer whose livelihood was destroyed by fire. This cooperative way of thinking – the idea that working together makes you stronger – will lead to new forms of solidarity.
A wonderful Dutch example of this is the Bread Fund; a collective of self-employed professionals who contribute a modest amount each month, to provide for one of its members in the event he or she should fall ill. In doing so, the members circumvent the existing, but expensive, insurance companies.
Businesses will start to help
In addition to these bottom-up activities, we can also expect help from businesses. Why? Because they will realise that they are a part of our society as well. But more importantly, because they too stand to benefit from a healthy society made up of prosperous clients.
With their passion and core competence, companies will contribute positively to making our world healthier, safer, cleaner, more tolerant and more beautiful. And they won’t do it by simply writing out a fat cheque.
Brands in search of their social purpose
Last year, for example, Unilever’s CEO stated that ‘every brand should have a social purpose’. This decision by brands is also partly the result of public demand, as research conducted by Letsheal.org has shown. Some 74% of respondents indicated that helping others gives their own lives added meaning. This means that ‘people are waiting for brands to help them help others’, according to Letsheal.org initiator Mark Woerde.
Companies no longer content to just sit back and watch
In the economically distressed United States, businesses can no longer afford to wait for the government to act. According to Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, the time has come for businesses to apply their time, expertise and creativity in order to strengthen society. In New York and LA, Starbucks cafes have started to support local welfare organisations. These cafes provide training, space and even a share of their profits to help new welfare organisations on their way. In short, businesses have finally started to invest in their societal value as well as their customer value.
This new period of bottom-up changes will inevitably lead to tense relations with the established order, and to chaos caused by trial and error involving innovation. But eventually, it will result in a better world as well – a world we will have created for ourselves.