A LIGHT-HEARTED AND DEADLY SERIOUS BOOK TO SPARK CONVERSATIONS AMONG GLOBAL CITIZENS.
An exploration of the world we wish to live in and leave behind.
SEATTLE, WA., (Jan 1, 2016) – In an era of political ineptitude that erodes trust, conflict that spawns refugees, corporate behavior that harms, consumption patterns that are unsustainable, technology that enables while displacing workers, policies that marginalize people and pretend as though the earth’s resources are infinite, and a host of other human follies — we need new thinking, fresh conversations, and bold actions. Frankly, we need a little hope. Escape the present and explore a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, is a dreamer’s handbook.
In this book, Olson shows us what is possible, sparking our imaginations. No doubt you’ll recognize some ideas as recurrent themes that dreamers have envisioned before. Some ideas will entertain you while others will inform you. The future is not divorced from the present or the past. Olson provides historical context and primers along the way to best prepare our minds. Entrepreneurs face technological hurdles. And, they have to overcome social, cultural, and political opponents who would prefer to keep things as they are. The impossipreneur is the courageous entrepreneur who pushes headlong against these forces. Things are only impossible until they are not.
In this hopeful journey through tomorrow Olson challenges each of us to think differently, spark our own conversations, and play a role in nudging the world forward to create a better future for all across most all of life’s categories including: Health & Beauty, Love & Relationships, Wealth & Economy, Transportation, Food & Comfort, Social, Environment, Politics & Crime, Family & Pets, the World of Work, and Compunications. What the world needs now is for good global citizens to rise up together, not in revolution and in more conflict, but in a culture of care, with informed engagement, to spark new thinking and new dialogue. It’s time we all had an honest conversation about the world we wish to live in a leave behind. This book is essential reading for global citizens concerned with a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.
Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. He founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. A lifelong learner, his formal education includes a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.
Ignoring Climate Change and Customer Experience can result in diminished human potential and destroyed companies, brands, property, and lives. The good news is that amid deniers of Climate Change or those that don’t think the Customer Experience matters, there are many people who do care and are actively engaging others to care, too.
10 ways in which Climate Change and Customer Experience are alike:
Detection Informs Design. For Climate Change and Customer Experience we can detect changes that can inform smarter design; smarter design of products, services, spaces, and organizations. We can design and deliver better Customer Experiences and we can design more thoughtful organizations, institutions, and policies to create a more sustainable and inclusive future for all. We can even design systems to protect people from the effects of Climate Change. Of course being informed is one thing; we still have to decide to actually do something differently if we expect to have different outcomes. Progress is pesky that way; we have to invest in it. Rarely does it advance on its own.
Pioneers Face Resistance. There are conferences and summits that deal directly with Climate Change and Customer Experience. People attend these conference and summits; gain ideas for improvements, then return to their daily lives to face resistance, opposition, and even misdirection. These pioneers of Customer Experience and of Climate Change push headlong against social, cultural, and political opponents who would rather keep things as they are. Some of these pioneers (entrepreneurs pursuing the seemingly impossible) persevere and we eventually come to know their innovations and perhaps even their names.
Little Things Together Have a Big Impact. Customer Experience and Climate Change involve many different factors that when working together make a big difference. With Customer Experience, all of the interactions across touchpoints over time in customers’ journeys work to ensure that a brand has staying power; those interactions can also spell disaster for a brand that cumulatively leaves a poor brand aftertaste in the minds of prospective and current customers. Similarly, recycling, industrial composting, production practices, and individual purchase and consumption habits, etc., don’t look like much in isolation. But, taken together they make a big impact on social, environmental, and economic systems. Things are more connected than we often realize.
Policy Must Connect With Humans. Climate Change and Customer Experience solutions require holistic solutions that benefit when top-down policy direction is informed by bottom-up data and actions. Returns processing, online purchase behavior, communications, etc., are all better solutions for customers when the top and bottom meet somewhere in the middle, at the customer’s reality. When it comes to climate change, proposed policies and agreements that factor in the real world experiences of displaced (or soon to be) climate refugees, are more humane, meaningful, and long-lasting.
Meaningful Metrics Needed. Customer Experience and Climate Change both suffer at the hands of operators who internalize profits while externalizing costs to customers, society, and sometimes to workers. Landfills are filled with junk products that are designed to be profitable so long as customers accept the notion they are buying disposable, nonrenewable, non-repairable, and many times nonreturnable products. People that may be marginalized in the process are invisible to most consumers. Save for the consumer that looks for Cradle to Cradle certification, Fair Trade certification, Organic, or other inherently sustainable labels, most consumers are in the dark; They serve as unwitting pawns that contribute to harming the earth and its inhabitants while the puppet masters that exploit the seemingly limitless earth’s resources and marginalize people do extremely well for themselves and their allies. Metrics that go beyond profits and include social and environmental factors are increasingly important to global citizens that share a common planet.
Leadership Must Adapt. Both Customer Experience and Climate Change create victims while at the same time producing those who do extremely well under the “old system,” at least until the day they don’t. Imagine building your empire based on vast fossil fuel reserves or a particular product or technology only to find that over time it has become irrelevant as the world moved on. I wouldn’t want to be manufacturing typewriters, selling palm oil that contributes to deforestation, or base my entire country’s economy on fossil fuel production. It’s important to pay attention to and respond to the changing mood of people. Organizations and governments would do well to build more responsive organizations that balance the needs of many stakeholders. Use The Promise Delivery System of Chapter 8 in The Experience Design Blueprint to build a more responsive organization. Any organization can operationalize a promise delivery system using whatever technology and personnel it has at its disposal.
Myriad Factors Are Involved. Customer service is to Customer Experience as habitat protection is to Climate Change. Either one is but one factor in a compilation of interrelated issues – necessary, but insufficient. As described in The Experience Design Blueprint, an experience is a contextual interaction between people, objects, services, and spaces. Customer service is only a small, albeit important, component of the overall Customer Experience. Likewise, there are many factors involved in Climate Change including the water cycle, the natural environment and built environment, agricultural practices, trade policy, economic empowerment, production practices, individual consumption patterns, etc. Not every factor can be controlled by any individual or organization. But, that doesn’t absolve any individual or organization from its own inaction.
Opponents Think It Too Expensive. Opponents may say investing in progress whether it is Customer Experience or Climate Change is too expensive. It’s true that short-term indulgent thinking might satisfy our immediate hunger, but it’s a satisfaction like junk food satisfies. It is filling for the moment, but it lacks nutritional value and substance. And in the long run, it doesn’t work for your waistline or your health. The VW Emission Cheating Scandal may have looked like a good idea in the short run but in the long run, it’s harmful to the environment, owners of vehicles, owners of the company stock, and ultimately to the affected brands. Gimmicks to prop up earnings in the short run are too often heralded while long-term investments in employee training, organizational performance, and customer empowerment are deemed to be unwarranted expenditures.
Lack of Systems Thinking. Customer Experience or Climate Change? That is somebody else’s problem to solve (or the worry of another agency or department). There is a lack of systems thinking, holistic solutions are lacking, and conversations are too small. We confuse causation with correlation. Our biases, ideologies, and patterns of behavior get in the way; so do our means of livelihood. “My tailpipe emission didn’t cause that. Leaving the light on doesn’t matter, my extra trip, extra purchase, my upgrade, my tossing that compostable product in the trash. What difference does it really make?” Often times, in organizations, we face back office and top office decisions that undermine the remarkable actions of front-line personnel that actually strive to do the right thing for customers and the organization.
What do you think? I’m sure you have ideas on how Climate Change and Customer Experience are alike, face the same challenges, are improving, etc. I’ve closed comments on this post but please do share your ideas with me and others on social media.
Things Are Connected
Things are more connected than they first appear to be. Delivering great Customer Experiences and having sustainable production and consumption patterns that don’t contribute to anthropogenic (human-caused) Climate Change are both issues that require we confront our common reality, engage in new thinking, new conversations, and that collectively we invest in progress. Good global citizens are increasingly paying attention to matters of Customer Experience and Climate Change. Brands (including governments) that embrace great customer experiences and that live up to their changing duties as the climate continues to wreak havoc on people and property, will do better in the future than deniers or bad actors that stick to outdated modes of thinking.
The Future is Better than the Past
To escape the present and explore a brighter future where we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans read L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.
about the author
Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. This book challenges each of us to think differently, spark our own conversations, and play a role in nudging the world forward to create a better future for all. Find it at Amazon, CreateSpace e-Store,Barnes & Noble, Bokus, or order it from your local bookstore.
Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:
Chapter 6: Remarkable, Unbroken and Generous Design
Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
Chapter 13: Taking Flight
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.
Wells Fargo Joins Seemingly Endless List of Companies with Chief Executives Involved in Scandal
[September 29, 2016 update – Add Wells Fargo and its chief executive, John Stumph, to the seemingly endless list of scandals that could have been prevented. Read on to learn how to prevent the next scandal.]
Preventing the Next Scandal
German prosecutors raided the offices of Volkswagen AG to secure evidence for the investigation of the company in the emission-cheating scandal. Volkswagen stock has plummeted and the CEO has resigned, maintaining the story that he had no involvement in any wrongdoing. Also, the head of Volkswagen’s U.S. business answered questions from a congressional panel. But, somewhere, deep within the organization, is a person or people who knew exactly the genesis of the software cheat. They also likely know how the cheat has been able to persist through the delivery of 11 millions cars to the marketplace. So, where was the whistleblower?
And the Whistleblower is …
The whistleblower is nonexistent. There isn’t one. And, it really isn’t any surprise. Traditionally, there hasn’t been a safety net for would-be whistleblowers. Their lives are often wrecked by the people in governments, agencies, and corporations whose practices they expose. History reveals it is easier to systematically wreck the lives of the whistleblower and demonize them, than it is to make changes to a system that has run amok to the advantage of some. The list of wrongdoers, both people and organizations is long. View “list of whistleblowers” on Wikipedia and you’ll have days of entertainment, albeit in a dreaded, “watching the aftermath of a train crash”, sort of way. You’ll recognize some high-profile companies and organizations, but you may not know the back stories that led up to the moment the whistle blew. The lead up is the most important and often untold story.
Imagine all of the resources, human and technological, inside and outside VW, that are focused on the emission cheating scandal. Now add to that, the resources involved in the multitude of other scandals and investigations happening. And to that, imagine further adding the resources yet to be consumed for future scandals that will sadly unfold. It’s abhorrent. Surely we can better make use of those resources, not the least of which would be to spend more time with family and friends and in strengthening our communities. It’s time we stop trashing the human race and the environment in the short run and pretending as though there will be no long-term consequences for generations to come. There always are long term consequences. Short term indulgent thinking is like junk food. It might satisfy our immediate hunger, filling us for the moment. But, it lacks nutritional value and substance. And in the long run, it doesn’t work for your waistline or your health.
Short term indulgent thinking is like junk food. It might satisfy our immediate hunger, filling us for the moment. But, it lacks nutritional value and substance.
You wouldn’t have blown the whistle either
Ask yourself, if you were an employee inside Volkswagen and knew about the emission cheating software, would you have said anything? To whom would you tell? How? When? You probably would not have said anything. Who has the courage to do say or do anything differently than toe the line? After all, if you’re livelihood is dependent upon continued ruinous behavior, whether it is emissions cheating or other nefarious activity, you’re not very motivated to change. Especially if you want to continue eating, paying your bills, and getting about in your life. Why disrupt it, especially for abstract things like other people you don’t know, the climate, or the environment. It’s even easier to justify bad behavior when the results of your actions are “at a distance” or you don’t see the immediate impact in the near term.
The time for change is NOW
As a society, we need a rethink, a re-frame. It’s time we pivot our behavior toward human progress, not away from it. Some of our past behaviors have not been stabilizing for any democracy on earth and they have retarded human progress and harmed the environment. Here are three things we can do to prevent the next Volkswagen emission cheating scandal or Enron debacle or Peanut Corporation of America poisoning or [fill in the blank here].
Create a safety net for would-be whistleblowers
As I’ve written about previously, we need a culture of care from the board room to the dining room. We also need a safety net for people that can sound the alarm when they see an innovation culture gone awry, whether it is involved in financial engineering, food production, emission scandals, government abuse, healthcare fraud, military wrongdoing, or some other area of society. We need a safety net for the people who have the courage to stand up and declare a system breakdown. But, we know most people won’t tell stories or reveal that bad things are happening unless they feel safe. So, let’s create a safety net for people to tell us when bad things are happening. If a whistleblower advances an accusation and then subsequently gets fired as a result of it, instead of having to crowdfund their way back to financial health they can draw against the safety net aka Whistleblower Insurance Fund. Fund the safety net through fees paid by the perpetrators of past egregious behaviors. In that sense, it is an insurance policy organizations pay into, triggered by their past bad behavior. It could be corrective in that people will feel safer to sound the alarm early, possibly preventing later disastrous and more costly circumstances. So, who would fund such an insurance scheme today? For starters, the banks that engaged in financial engineering that brought about the global financial crisis, automotive makers who delayed recalls that knowingly killed unwitting vehicle occupants, oil companies that have ruined ecosystems, etc.
Create an Early Warning System. Probably the best innovation for policymakers in government and industry would be to collaborate on a system that prevents the need for whistleblowers in the first place. Alongside the notion of “ideas can come from anywhere” organizations also need to instill the notion of warning flags and that anybody can invoke them. As in automotive racing, a black flag means disqualification and a return to the pits. Nobody shoots the messenger, the flagger is safe to be the flagger in future racing events. We need to revere the person that waves the proverbial “unsportsmanlike-conduct” flag. When a rogue engineer, or accountant, or marketer, or whomever, does something that doesn’t appear to advance an agenda that favors humans and the environment or worse outright harms it and subsequently the organization, then we need to make this visible. And, we need this to be made visible long before the train is off the track and things cannot be easily corrected. 11 million cars is the current tally for VW cars affected, along with a 40% slide in stock price, a six billion dollar set aside for fixes (and climbing), halted sales, diminished resale values, and a tarnished brand. An early warning flagging system would be much less expensive.
Declare a Stop. As a species, we originally create industries to do useful things for humanity. It makes us unique from other animals on the planet. And, when industries and institutions stop doing useful things for humanity we need to unwind them, divert them, correct them, check them, and even revoke corporate charters. I’m not suggesting that Volkswagen should go away; I don’t think they should. I think there are many good and innovative people that can do tremendous good for themselves, their country, and for a global community. But, when their culture or leadership prevents them from doing this or their harm exceeds their good, then they need to be stopped.
It is important that preventative measures be taken ahead of more ruin to humans and the environment. Government regulation is necessary but insufficient. We need a more holistic and inclusive system that isn’t reserved for trial lawyers and the judicial system to work on behalf of things already dead or harmed. A free market without any oversight is like the pudgy little kid at mom’s party that takes more cookies when guests are not looking. Pretty soon the cookies are gone and mom’s friend Marge never got one. It’s not immediately obvious why. Thankfully, in our increasingly global community, people are looking. You should be, too.
This article is a call to leadership in all industries, government, and academia to consider that as a human species we ought to be sunsetting wasteful, deceptive, and harmful practices that manufacture financial crises, harm people and the environment, waste human potential, and then remedy it later through courts. Let’s put that nonsense in a museum. But, this article is also a call to action for every member of civil society to engage leadership in that conversation and hold them to a higher account. We can and must do better.
Rather than attack whistleblowers, let’s create a safer environment where we can learn from them, confront our collective reality, correct our behaviors going forward, and move on to creating a better world with more nutritious cookies for mom, Marge, and all. These are conversations worth having inside your organization, with elected officials, among elected officials, and at your dinner table. Or, we can continue to talk about the next scandal over our collective spilled milk.
about the author
Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. In Chapter 8: Social of the book Gregory provides historical perspective around whistleblowers as well as promotes ideas that would help make society more civil with respect for truth, increased accountability, and transparency. This is good for nations and good for investors in companies who get caught up in scandal.
Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Chapter 8: Promise Delivery System in The Experience Design Blueprint especially pertains to this article. The promise delivery system is a mental model for making and keeping promises to an organization’s various stakeholders. It is technology agnostic. Any organization can operationalize a promise delivery system using whatever technology and personnel it has at its disposal.
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.
The nature of politics is polarizing, it has been and will be. With various stakeholders involved in internal and external affairs, governing a body politic will necessarily create tensions between opposing points of view.
Conflict itself is not the problem; discourse is healthy. In a civilized society, we debate, hold forums, investigate, tweet, post, blog, and otherwise share, opine, and converse. We no longer duel to the death, resort to fisticuffs, or otherwise inflict bodily harm on those who disagree with us.
The problem is when facts become assaulted or when politicians and wannabe politicians conveniently create new “facts” when existing facts don’t fit their ideology. It is a dangerous and destructive path when facts no longer represent reality. Because, by definition, they have to.
Expunging the facts and resorting instead to some ideology is akin to mythology. It might make for good lore among followers but doesn’t have a credible place in governing. If we want to make real human progress we’ll have to begin a journey of becoming reacquainted with reality and the healthy conversations that accompany it.
The assault on facts goes beyond political circles. At work, in your home, and in your community, you are either a witness to, defender of, or perpetrator of this assault on facts. The same is true in the board room. When society disregards facts, we open the doors to more scandalous corporate and political behavior. I think we’ve all had a long enough go at war, strife, and manufactured economic crises.
“Don’t get so set on your goal that you lose your humanity.” Cicero
As John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.” Let’s begin our investment in human progress by accepting and confronting our collective reality. When politicians and corporate leaders don’t, then let’s reject them and their blinding ideology relegating them to history books containing other mythological creatures and beliefs.
about the author
Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossipreneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. It’s a dreamer’s handbook with “impossible” ideas including the Truth Sculpture, Data Observatory, Propaganda for Good Network, Truth Machine Intelligence Service, Truth Ticker, Empathy Builder, Make Meaning Department, and more.
Greg is a business and marketing consultant who founded strategy and design firm, Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers success will follow. He also believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.
A Culture of Care Begins With YOU!
When I first began writing this post I was targeting leadership, but then I realized many people with titles of leadership have adopted belief filters that will render this message inert. They’ll never see it and if they did, many will think their circumstances so unique the message doesn’t apply to them. But, you are smarter than this, so read on.
This week, 3 noteworthy things happened:
The CEO of Volkswagen resigned amid the discovery of emission cheating vehicle software and the subsequent battering of the company stock
Turing Pharmaceuticals bowed to public pressure and agreed to reverse an abrupt 5000 percent price hike of the life saving drug Daraprim
The former owner of the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that killed 9 people and sickened hundreds
Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress
Amid these negative developments Pope Francis addressed members of the U.S. Congress.
I want to focus on a few words that Pope Francis shared, namely “culture of care”. Here they are in context.
“In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.”
Think about the possibilities for those words, “A Culture of Care”.
Reasonable Investor Test
I want to share a personal story. In 1998, I started a software company. As the founding CEO, it didn’t take long to realize I had two jobs, raising capital and building the organization’s operations. We hired an outside CEO to help and I took the reigns as the Chief Operating Officer. As the company grew I couldn’t be party to every decision, nor could I attend every meeting, though employees continued to seek my approval. I invented a test they could employ on their own, without me in the room. I called it the Reasonable Investor Test.
I explained it to them like this. Imagine yourself presenting your decision to a collection of 16 reasonable investors that politely assembled to hear your story.They are sitting across from you at a large table looking you directly in the eye. You are about to explain to them the decision you plan to make or the action you will take. If you can look them in the eye and justify the decision or expenditure, then it passes the test. If you would not be willing to do this then you probably should not make the decision or take the action you are considering.
I concocted this test after our CEO and VP of Sales decided to prematurely celebrate a customer win by indulging in a lavish and expensive meal for themselves. I begrudgingly approved the expense, but I didn’t think reasonable investors would have appreciated their invested money being spent this way. We never did win that customer and the CEO and VP of Sales never understood or embraced the Reasonable Investor Test. But, again you’re smarter than this, so read on.
Life beyond the spreadsheet or whim
A culture of care, like life, is a bit more complicated than what might initially appear favorable on a spreadsheet or what one might feel like doing at the moment. I’m guessing the former CEO of the Peanut Butter Corporation might today consider more stakeholders. I’m also guessing that the former CEO of Volkswagen might employ some sort of Reasonable Stakeholder Test for employees to use in guiding their own work or that of colleagues. Investors are not the only stakeholders just like spreadsheets are not the only tool. There are many other stakeholders to be considered, customers, employees, the environment. And closer to home, stakeholders might include neighbors, the community and even members of your household.
Freed from the shackles of inaction
Pope Francis shared great words with Congress. I hope members not only listened, but that they heard him. Imagine if Congress freed themselves of their own proverbial mental shackles and focused forward, to a new era, a “people-first” era that confronts reality, embraces science, respects natural resources, and advances prosperity for all households, even the people who don’t currently have one. Imagine possibilities where members act cooperatively, embracing a culture of care, leading the way the for the nation.
But, even if they don’t, a culture of care can begin with each of us. At home, in school, in our communities, at work, even in the online community. So what about you? How will you create a culture of care, in your home, in your work, in your community? You’ll likely need a test to go with it. What will be your equivalent Reasonable Investor Test? We really can all do better as individuals, organizations, and the world community. I hope you’ll do your part. Onward.
Greg also authored, The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The models in the Experience Design BLUEPRINT are equally relevant to organizations of all types and sizes including start-up entrepreneurs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government.
Subscribing and Connecting to Delightability Musings
Greetings Global Citizens,
I recently changed the blog subscription service for the Delightability blog from feedburner to Jetpack. That is a bunch of blah blah for most of you. You don’t really need the details but, what this does mean is that if you previously subscribed, you’ll need to
re-subscribe. I apologize for the inconvenience foisted upon me by the gods of technology.
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about Gregory Olson
Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His upcoming book is l’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.
Greg also authored, The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The models in the Experience Design BLUEPRINT are equally relevant to organizations of all types and sizes including start-up entrepreneurs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government.
Food for Thought and For Neighbors and the Friends You Will Meet
So, you’re fresh off that Labor Day get together and don’t know what to do with all of the leftover food. There’s an app for that, and a platform, and a city, and it turns out, an entire movement. The sharing economy isn’t just for rides and rooms. More and more,
it includes food.
A Smartphone App to Share Leftovers
Whether you have leftovers to share or you are seeking some, LeftoverSwap provides a smartphone app to help facilitate the match. View leftovers near you, select and then arrange for pickup or delivery. Or, snap a picture of what you have to share and then make it available for others. The smartphone application is available for Google play or the App Store. Learn more.
A Platform to Source, Share, and Sell Food
In Adelaide, South Australia, RipeNear.Me, provides a platform for people to connect directly with growers or find food on public land. The site has the promise of eliminating waste at the source and even encourages more locally grown sustainable food in backyards, front yards, balconies, rooftops, vacant blocks, and other empty urban spaces. It provides a platform for growers to give away excess food or even establish a profitable ecosystem or micro farm. Join registered users in cities in 16 countries on 5 continents. Learn more.
A City that Embraces Food Sharing
In the city of Galdakao, in the Basque town in Northern Spain, the Association of Volunteers of Galdakao, under leadership from Alvaro Saiz established the Solidarity Fridge. The communal refrigerator sits on a city sidewalk with a fence around it. Anybody in the town of 30,000, can deposit food or help themselves to what’s inside. Simply stop by and grab what you need. Mayor Ibon Uribe, upon hearing the idea, immediately supported it with a small budget to get it started and to sustain its operation. A physical refrigerator in plain view is especially valuable for those without internet access or smartphones. The group wants to build a network of communal refrigerators and invites others to join. Learn more.
This isn’t the only Solidarity fridge. A similar movement in the Saudi Arabian city, Ha’il with 10 times the population, 356,876, was sparked by one man who installed a “charity fridge” outside his house. He felt that this did some good but spared the needy the shame of asking for food. Imagine other refrigerators similarly placed in public places. Learn more.
Would the mayor or city manager in your city have the courage to add a solidarity fridge? How about leadership at your church or mosque?
An Entire Movement to Drastically Reduce Food Waste and Loss
Solidarity Fridge was inspired by a larger initiative that began in Germany, namely, Foodsharing.de. Using the website, individuals who have food that is still good but cannot use it, can connect to people who need food. But, it isn’t only individuals. Supermarkets and bakers are participating in over 240 German cities along with 41,000 people. In the first year of operation the website received over 1 million visitors. People don’t have the stigma of registering with a food bank and then subsequently waiting in line. It is more dignified. Volunteers known as Foodsavers are happy to do their part in picking up food from bakers, etc., saving food from waste, and making the world a little better place. Learn more.
Reduced Food Waste is Sorely Needed
It’s a great thing the sharing economy includes food with more and more thoughtful people and organizations participating. According to projections by the World Resources Institute, by 2050 we’ll need to feed 9.6 billion people. And, according to estimates by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one-third of all food produced worldwide, every year, goes to loss and waste. Food produced and not eaten is a huge cost, not just to producers but to society. Factor in the natural resources used for growing, processing, packing, transporting, and marketing and the cost of wasted and lost food increases dramatically.
So, before you dump those extra ribs or rice or whatever leftovers you might have this Labor Day or any day, think about sharing with another human before you share with the compost bin. Your neighbors will thank you. The stranger about town will appreciate your gesture. And, who knows, you might just make a new friend in the process.
His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book to spark conversations among global citizens. In a brighter future, we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Visit Press-Kit to learn more.
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.
Glimmer of Hope in Your City
This blog post is an extension of a recent talk I gave to my colleagues at the Olympic Club, a forward-thinking group that has been meeting at The Rainier Club, since 1942. Special thanks to Councilmember Nick Licatta who accepted my guest invitation and joined us for lunch and stimulating conversation.
Our headlines are filled with negativity.
Most of the news networks serve to inflame us, rather than inform us. It feels as though we never make any progress and the problems are never-ending. But, this isn’t really the case. There is progress, but it rarely makes it to the front page or carries headlines.
Glimmer of Hope
So, today I’m going to depart from the negative headlines and share a glimmer of hope. There is something that has been subtly brewing in the background that has gone largely unreported. I’m reporting on it now.
This glimmer of hope started 26 years ago in a land far, far away, actually South America, in a city about twice the size of Seattle. That glimmer of hope delivered on its promise and then spread to surrounding Latin American cities before it moved on to cities throughout Europe. Finally, in 2009, this glimmer of hope began reaching cities in the U.S., first in Chicago, then in Boston, then New York City, and more recently Vallejo, CA among others. Earlier this year it got a little toehold in our very own Seattle. Councilmember Nick Licata was the ambassador to bring this idea to Seattle.
What is the “glimmer of hope” I’m referring to?
I’m referring to participatory budgeting or PB for short. It sounds pretty boring on the surface but it holds great promise. Have you have heard of this term? I suspect not, given the limited media exposure and small communications budgets of city governments. After all, public services from governments, no matter how beneficial and important, rarely show and shout as much as for-profit enterprises do. Think of Apple, AT&T, Comcast, etc. Most likely you can perfectly recall commercials from all of them. Think of all of the media coverage the Apple Watch received while at the same time most people are wholly ignorant of participatory budgeting.
So what exactly is participatory budgeting or PB?
Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Here is roughly how it works:
Residents brainstorm ideas
Then proposals are developed from those ideas
Then residents vote on proposals
The ones with the most votes win funding
It is a bit like using Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform but you work directly with your neighbors and instead of using your credit card you use public money.
So what’s the big deal? Why does PB matter?
Well, in an era with so much wealth and power concentration, participatory budgeting is important:
It can restore trust and increase government transparency
It gets youth involved in the workings of government and the democratic process
It increases civic participation for youth and adults alike
It can reduce voter apathy
But, it goes beyond that.
It can actually take the guesswork out of governing
Innovation in government services and programs shouldn’t be top-down. They should be informed by the collective intelligence and participation of the communities they serve
PB also improves governance at the local level
In short, participatory budgeting helps to create more meaningful and inclusive democracies.
So you might be wondering how much traction does this little idea have?
Well, there are now over 1500 participatory budgeting processes in the world. Participatory budgeting has been used for cities, states, counties, public housing, schools, and community organizations. Funds have been set aside for capital projects as well as for services and programs.
PB is successful across the world.
In the city where it started Porto Alegre, Brazil, PB has been used continuously since 1989, 26 years now. Of the 1.3 million residents, about 50,000 have participated annually and each year decide on 20% of the budget or around $200 million.
Winning projects have been about urban infrastructure and upgrading the quality level of the population. They have doubled sanitation coverage, doubled the number of students in schools, and expanded bus service to neglected areas.
But PB represents much more than this. In Porto Alegre, today, the citizens know and decide on public issues, They are becoming agents of their own future and are actively participating in public affairs. More than70 other cities in Brazil are now using PB.
So what else have people decided to do with the public money that has been set aside?
It really depends upon the city. In Chicago, PB Chicago has now completed their third cycle with around 3500 residents around the city voting on how to spend $5 million in public funds.
Among the 26 winning projects in 2015, there are the usual suspects: street resurfacing, street lighting and sidewalk repairs, tree planting, bike lanes, and park improvements. But there were also some uncommon projects:
Murals to spruce up viaducts
Green roofs for commercial properties on Chicago Ave
A culinary Institute Job Training Program
A small business micro-lending program
That is pretty innovative and it all came directly from the community. Aside from the direct benefits of these projects, Chicago has also reported an increase in participation of minorities and low-income residents and an increase in voter turnout. This is really promising.
In Paris, France the results of the 2015 budgeting process are in. Parisians will spend 65 million euros on projects including:
urban renewal projects
co-working spaces for students and young entrepreneurs
improved waste sorting
In an effort to build a more collaborative city leadership plans to allocate 500 million euros between 2014 and 2020, making it the largest PB initiative to date.
Participatory budgeting isn’t limited to cities, or even adults, PB is being utilized by schools as a way for students to learn about the democratic process. In British Columbia, at a school in West Vancouver, students from kindergarten to seventh grade decide how to allocate $2,000 of the school’s budget to projects voted on through a PB process.
So, where are we at in our own little city of Seattle?
We’re just getting started. There have been a couple of public forums earlier this year to explore what PB could like in Seattle. Earlier in the week, Seattle City Councilmember Licata and Mayor Murray announced a PB project moving ahead in Seattle. Read the original announcement here or an article courtesy of The Stranger.
June 2016 Update: Results from First Seattle PB Initiative
In May 2016, more than 3,000 youth ages 11-25 voted on 19 project proposals deciding how to spend $700,000 of the City’s budget. See the winning projects.
PB is sorely needed in our city so that the interests of all residents are represented.
I see big possibilities for PB in Seattle. On August 11, Seattleites will participate in National Night Out. Imagine as part of the discussion, every person was made aware of PB and began putting forward ideas that mattered to them. Or, they got behind other people’s ideas. I’d love to hear what people are thinking, in my own region, as well as across Seattle. I’d love to share my own ideas.
I’ve seen much PB progress around the world once I started digging into this subject. This, in spite of the major news outlets being basically dark on the subject. I hope that the toe-hold we have here blossoms into something much larger and more meaningful. I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds next in Seattle and to participating in it directly. I hope you’ll join me. If you are not in Seattle, I hope you’ll start a similar conversation in your city. Learn more or download a toolkit from the Participatory Budgeting Project.
All of us have a role to play in advancing and supporting ideas that make cities better for those who live, work, recreate, or visit. These chapters especially pertain to this important and shared civic responsibility.
Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken and Generous Design
Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
Chapter 9 The Neighborhood
Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation
and Overcoming the Wall
Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Participatory budgeting appears in Chapter 5: Wealth & Economy.
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and international financial cooperative, Oikocredit International.