Do We Need A Manifesto for Social Change?

A really odd thing happened to me recently.
I agreed with something George Osborne was saying.

OK. I was on holiday and had experienced a bit too much sun. Probably a bit too much alcohol as well.

But something he said resonated with me.

Osborne had stated Europe was falling behind the continents in the south and east – including in innovation. The European share of world patent applications has nearly halved in the last decade.

Back in Vietnam – everything I saw around me confirmed this. The drive. The energy. The agility.

I’m lucky enough to have visited South East Asia three times in the past couple of years. The dynamic mix of optimism, work ethic and community spirit is intoxicating.

It’s connected too. WiFi is genuinely regarded as a utility. Pretty much every residence , every bar , every business is online. Kids with no access at home sit outside stores in pop-up community hubs.  The web coupled with a boom in cheap smartphones and tablets is fuelling a vibrant connected culture.

Certainly there’s a lot of tech innovation in Asia – each country wants its own version of Silicon Valley. But the future is about more than just Flappy Bird 

What’s compelling about Asia is the community driven innovation. There’s a level of grass roots problem solving that I just can’t see in the UK.

And let’s face it. We have a few problems that need solving.

1.8 million on the waiting list for a home in an unloved sector not known for its innovation and creativity

A funding gap of 30 billion for the NHS – the fifth biggest employer in the world

An adult social care system faced with an ageing population that could lead to a shortfall of a quarter of a million carers.

Nearly 1 million unemployed young people – and teenage educational performance lagging behind that of many Asian countries

It’s going to take more than an app to solve this one.

In fact we need social innovation on a scale that we’ve never seen before.

And I mean BIG innovation that can challenge established delivery. After all – it’s no use complaining about the likes of A4e or Atos when we’ve failed to come up with a viable alternative.

One of the problems – of course – is our legacy systems. In Asia they can easily make a 21st Job Centre because they never had the 20th Century model.

In the time we have upgraded they will be onto Job Centre Version 10.2. Probably with robots in it.

By comparison most of our organisations are still running on Internet Explorer 6.

Is there any chance for us?

Yes. But it needs disruptive innovation that transforms sectors , not incremental change that will take 10-15 years. We simply don’t have the time.

What can we do?

  • Walls need to come down between sectors. It would be a failure if we are still debating the same issues at our sector specific conferences in two years time.
  • We need to accelerate the formation of ideas into delivery and fail fast. If our organisations think like they have for the past ten years we will be out of business in five.
  • We need to remove those with vested interests who create barriers and ask for another report before committing to action.
  • We need every organisation to publish a statement of how they are promoting disruptive innovation.

We need a new operating system.

We need a Manifesto for Disruptive Social Change.

Do you agree or disagree?

Note: The Manifesto for Social Change was created at Housing Goes Digital during a crowdsourcing session with delegates. Thanks to Thom Bartley for the great slide deck.

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