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To act on global challenges, get intimate

If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that just when you thought things couldn’t get more complex and uncertain, you discover they can. As we confront crises on multiple fronts – in health, climate, the economy, social inequality – it is all too easy to treat each of them as distinct challenges and not see how they are deeply connected.

Those connections start in the environment, with humanity pressing further into natural habitats, disturbing ecosystems and increasing the likelihood of species-jumping zoonotic diseases. They continue with assumptions that separate ‘us and Other’, objectifying all forms of Other and treat them as tradeable commodities, not just in nature but with people too. A mindset that prizes only specific qualities – whether in products or in people – doesn’t see the value of the whole, the qualities and gifts unique to each individual and thus loses the resilience gained in diversity and the generative connection gained in inclusivity.

There is opportunity in these interconnecting crises to reset, to find a new way of engaging together in society and in organisations, to #BuildBackBetter. Talk of a ‘new normal’ sounds hollow.  Talk of a ‘next normal’, followed by another ‘next normal’, and then another rings truer. 
 
The good news is that what’s needed hasn’t changed, but how it might be come by has.  Organisations still need to develop both technical and adaptive capabilities so they can evolve to meet new opportunities and challenges.  They still need to foster the conversations and relationships that are the lifeblood of that evolution.  They still need to act into the existential threats they face lest they become, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, left on the scrap heap of the wrong side of history.

What’s harder right now is creating spaces for these deeper, more empathic, creative, conversations. Zoom and its cousins don’t readily lend themselves to creating heart-space for exploration. For that matter they barely create head-space – most of us seem to be leaping directly from one task-driven call to the next without time to eat let alone time to think.
 
But we think it’s time, as we move into the next normal of hybrid and ‘mixed economy’ working, with people working from home and in the office, to master the capacity to foster adaptive, intimate spaces in which to explore and act upon these global challenges: to (re)build organisations to promote human and natural flourishing, and to bring values of inclusion and empathy to the fore.

In this series of blogs we’ll be sharing learning and insights into what creates those intimate online environments and the value they bring – to the quality of thinking together, to strengthening of culture and, vitally, to developing more ambitious and purpose-led approaches that address the interconnected challenges we face.

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