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  • Giles Sibbald

Could this be how a future world is created by the people for the people?

Why socialstructing and democratising work could re-invent the way we live

Social reward — connections, relationships, discovery, belonging, reputation, approval, recognition, new opportunities, being part of something meaningful and bigger than ourselves — is increasingly a currency that motivates us.

And with it, exciting micro-economies based on social contracts are evolving…..

I’ve been listening to some podcasts featuring Marina Gorbis of The Institute For The Future. I became intrigued by her term “Socialstructing”, which I’d never heard before.

Marina defines it as: “Creating value by aggregating micro contributions by large networks using social tools and technology…..doing seemingly impossible things with little money, staff or management”.

Or, it’s individuals empowered by technology and relational networks to create stuff that have been previously been dominated by large organisations.

Organisations without the bullshit.

So, could this be the future of a world created by its citizens for its citizens?

The power of human connection

It seems to me that socialstructing is about the power of human connection in building economic and social life, projects and communities that are based on mutuality.

Each individual action, no matter how small, is aligned and contributes to the shared goal.

For us as individuals, this is where our human capital matters. Empathy. Networks. Relationships. Understanding. Curiosity. Resilience. Collaboration. Shared vision and purpose.

Socialstructers (I’m hoping that that’s the word for someone who socialstructs!) work to make systems that are more democratic, more agile and more resilient. And they can make those systems work at a lower cost and in a way that is inclusive and not for the few.

And in practice?

BioCurious (I love this name!), founded by 6 entrepreneurs in 2010, is underpinned by the belief that biology should be open to anyone. They built a community biotech lab (in co-founder and social entrepreneur Eri Gentry’s garage!) for amateurs, students, entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to experiment with friends.

Today, it operates in a larger space (well, the physical space is temporarily closed due to Covid) and the interesting aspect is how it is pioneering a new model of scientific learning that slaps ageism across the cheeks – cross generational kids practically working and learning side by side with adults.

I love this.

Socialstructing is disruptive and I’ve described the positive aspects of it. Clearly, there are ways that socialstructing can be – and has been – used in ways that are damaging.

Which leads me onto governance. It’s accepted broadly that a governance structure is required for business and for government.

But here is where it’s get really interesting.

Today’s political, governmental and business institutions and frameworks have failed to adapt to the reality of life today. They do not work. There’s a legitimacy deficit. Basically, when labour, the planet and capital gains are placed in the same pot, labour and the planet lose.

Every time.

In May 2020, a movement called Democratizing Work was set up by academics Julie Battilana, Isabelle Ferreras and Dominique Méda. Their op-ed has been signed by more than 6,000 academics (representing sociology, philosophy, management, economics, and political science) and organisations (I’m proud to say that Hey Sunday has signed!).

The idea behind #democratizingwork is that rebuilding post-COVID-19 requires new ways of working and organizing that will set the world on a path to a more democratic future, one that is ultimately more sustainable and based on equality. At its heart, it demands workers’ participation in corporate strategic decision making. The natural extension is that the same premis is followed in government.

After all, in the darkest moments of a truly devastating pandemic, who have been the saviours of humanity – the hedge fund managers or those who work in public services?

The future is social

Can #democratizingwork and #socialstructing come together to create meaningful change and, in the process, help us the people create our own meaningful change?

Let’s put together our best experimental mindsets and, in the meantime, I’ll sign off with this from Julie…..

“Change requires that we, as citizens, change our habits, that companies change their practices and that governments change their laws. Such changes require collective movements. We hope the op-ed serves as a catalyst for collective action.”

Julie Battilana, Harvard Gazette, 19 May 2020


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