Organisations, businesses, grassroots campaigners, government agencies, leaders, aid workers, and normal citizens are all contributing to sustainable development, working to make our world a better place. Some have been doing this all their lives, some of them have just begun to participate. Some are doing this as part of their day jobs, some are doing this outside of paid work in their communities. Wherever they are, they are trying to help. This is wonderful. Amazing changes can and do come from unexpected places.
But not a day goes by without news of another human atrocity or signs of climate change. I am writing this blog post having just followed the unprecedented floods in Asia, hurricane Harvey’s impact in Houston, and then the brutal force of Hurricane Irma. We are also witnessing a continuous ‘war narrative’ projected between North Korea and the US, not to mention endless tragic news items about refugees. Although I would describe myself as an optimist, there are times when the optimist in me finds it hard to believe that we humans are actually capable of creating a better world together, a green and peaceful future.
However, I also see signs of hope, bothat community and national levels, as well as on a global scale. Just two years ago, global leaders took action and committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to inject the kind of transformational change that will help us create a truly sustainable world, one which prioritises both people and the environment.
We pledged to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet by 2030. We pledged to transform our world.
These global goals resulted from an inclusive process involving governments, business, civil society and citizens. It was a sign that people can come together to bring about transformation. I believe it’s not just a possible path — it’s the only way. The inclusive SDG process is a template we can follow: Ongoing active participation and dialogue, between and across sectors, at micro and macro levels and with a multi-disciplinary approach is the path forward.
I believe we will succeed with sustainable development when ‘unusual suspects’ get together and start exploring options in a sphere of trust, discussing alternative strategies, and creating robust solutions for the daunting wicked problems we are facing. Two elements are essential for this: ‘multi-disciplinary’ collaboration occurring ‘across traditional sectoral boundaries’.
Why multi-disciplinary?When working in a particular role, one tends to operate only from that certainfunctional perspective. Many enterprises are organised in this way but a collaborative project approach tries to cut through these functional silos. The growing trend of traditional businesses trying to uncover new solutions usingthese multi-disciplinary project teams is a good start. Moreover, many new organisations are now created with this multi-disciplinary set-up right from the get-go.
The second approach of bringing together unlikely partners to create transformational change involves working across traditional sectorial boundaries. This is very challenging. The Public-Private Partnerships are an example of this approach, giving us both success stories and failures to learn from. Its effectiveness is under debate. It is questionable whether people working within these partnerships were genuinely doing so with an open mind, thinking and acting beyond their familiar way of operating. Here, attitude plays a crucial role. In achieving a common goal, one needs to reach out, to connect with ‘the other’. That requires true openness, an attitude of vulnerability and leaving one’s ego behind. It can feel like ‘losing something’, which is naturally hard, but ultimately results in a gain.
Achieving a common goal is only possible in an atmosphere of trust, which is something we at Your Public Value strongly believe in. We think that with public value as the focus, one could encourage all of the stakeholders within any specific ecosystem to work together, that they could connect through the acknowledgement of their joint responsibility for public value, through active participation andinclusive dialogue.
Moving forward, we see many opportunities to create ‘moments of change’, to move further along the path of transformation and cross the traditional boundaries. We will (co-)create labs that focus on particular issues and where people take action on public value. We will organise panels that explore what next steps businesses can and should take. We will share information that makes people appreciate the importance of public value and explore actionable projects together with a diversity of actors. Co-creation is key. So is adopting a new way of thinking, with social good and public value at the centre, and cutting across boundaries to embrace a multi-disciplinary approach. We look forward to helping people use public value as a lever for global transformation.