By Eric Lowitt
This guest blog post is a pre-cursor to the upcoming debate on The Collaboration Economy scheduled for 16 October 2013 at 18.00 to take place in the EU Parliament Library in Brussels.
Worldwide we are engaged in a conflict that we must win. This conflict has three components: math, trust, and economic ideology. The math problem in front of us is seemingly insolvable; trust among the private, public, and civil sectors is at historic lows; and two economic ideologies are locked in a battle that will determine our future. This blog highlights these three conflicts and the EU Parliament’s role in enabling our collective success.
Our population is forecast to grow by at least thirty-three percent over the next three decades. Our infrastructure requires a collective $45 trillion USD investment between now and 2030 just to keep global trade alive. The divide between the “haves” and “have not’s” continues to widen as illustrated by the income disparity between the top ten percent of earners and the bottom ten percent of earners increases yearly. And climate change is rapidly evolving from science fiction to science fact; if we do not eliminate the vast majority of our annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2047, almost 5 billion people worldwide will live in a massively different climate reality than they do today. There are two frustrating truths of importance. First, while these numbers are exacerbated by the unrelenting march of time, the amount of land we will have to work with will stay constant. Second, these challenges are intertwining at a rapid rate. Who will orchestrate a united front that offers a holistic response to these and related math problems?
Said simply, citizens’ trust level in our governing bodies to act in our common best interest is at an historic low. The roadblock in Washington, D.C., will further erode trust in the public sector. As trust continues to erode, determination to affect sweeping change in our governance structures will increase. Without trust, employing collaborative efforts across the public, private, and civil sectors becomes a more distant dream. Transparency, honesty, and solidarity – virtues in shortage these days – are desperately needed from our governing bodies right now. Are we up to the challenge?
If the rest of the world consumed the way the U.S. does, we would need the equivalent output of 1.3 Earths annually to meet global demand. Our current economic model – use credit to buy more than you need, then send unwanted products and materials to landfill – is literally wasting economy resources and eliminating economic development opportunities. A competing economic model – the Collaboration Economy – is emerging. In the Collaboration Economy growth is aligned with environmental and social development. Consumers are empowered to share access to their owned goods, for a fee. Companies work with rivals to fortify sources of natural resources, while building goodwill among the local communities in which they operate. And entities in the private, public, and civil sectors collaborate to solve issues that are in the common good, such as fortifying the global energy, food, water, health, infrastructure, and related systems. Which economic ideology will win the day?
Agitated and motivated citizens are already leading the charge to a brighter future. These citizens are innovating new business models, ranging from their evolution into micro-energy producers to social impact entrepreneurs. A small but growing group of companies is forging new tools, new business models, and new services to enable these citizens to affect great change. As these business evolve, so too must the governing bodies entrusted to protect our common interests. Herein is but one role for the EU Parliament to play.
The above three fields of battle – math, trust, and economic ideology – also represent tools that we can collectively yield to solve our most vexing environmental, social, and economic challenges. We have within us the capability to imagine solutions, the financial resources to realize these solutions, and the intestinal fortitude to overcome roadblocks that prevent us from bringing these solutions to life.
The EU Parliament holds the key to our common future’s success. We need a visionary organization, one with influence and fierce determination, to marshal and orchestrate the best that our private, public, and civil sectors can muster. I believe the EU Parliament can be this organization. What do you believe?
Eric Lowitt is the author of The Collaboration Economy and the Managing Director of Nexus Global Advisors.
The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of the European Parliament or the Library of the European Parliament. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article lies entirely with the author(s).
Eric Lowitt is a globally recognized and sought after consultant, thought leader, and speaker in the fields of competitive strategy, growth, and sustainability. His hope is that one day every company will take action to restore the environment and support social equity and development.