After a superb introduction by James Austin, Professor of Business Administration of the Harvard Business School about the Value Creation Spectrum, ending with a key research question: "How can collaboration most effectively co-create significant economic, social and environmental value for society, organizations and individuals" I felt the need to somehow try and start addressing this research question.
As was also illustrated by the contribution of Prof. Sandra Waddock of the Carrol School of Management at Boston College, the current tendencies of scientists is to present the perceived status quo as a given that cannot be changed but should be considered while strategizing our way forward. She entitled her contribution "Making a Difference in a World of Collapsing Boundaries". Although I agree with her analysis that many boundaries are collapsing or are being obscured, what I was missing was an evaluation of the underlying causes. This omission is mostly defended by stating that the world has become way to complex to analyse causality relationships. What you have to deal with is the reality. The relevance of history in strategizing our way forward was emphasized by Prof. Nigel Roome, Professor of Governance, Corporate Responsbility and Sustainable Development at the Vlerick School of Management and Chair of the Academic Board of the Academy of Business in Society (EABIS). He pointed to the conceptualization of people in teams and organizations in ecologies, a conceptualization that allows me to somehow try and point to some destructive forces in society, disrupting existing ecologies without replacing it with alternative living systems that provide the right environment for growth and development of biodiversity. Prof. Roome made explicit references to the likes of Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan in his reflections on meta problems and linked to the need for behavioral change. After the presentation of Prof. Waddock he rightly observed that his views would probably be a bit out of bounce with the audience, which he illustrated questionning the concept of democracy in reaching solutions.
The presentation by Prof. Waddock resembles to some extend the utopian phylosophy of Ayn Rand, as described in her influential novel 'Atlas Shrugged'. A phylosophy, which was embraced and perfected by Alan Greenspan causing the ill development and collapse of the financial markets (as well researched by a Dutch phylospopher Hans Achterberg in his recent book 'De Utopie van de Vrije Markt'). Also Mr. Achterberg realizes in his epilogue that the world is still heavily influenced by this ideology that has not sufficiently been exposed for its true merits and dangers for society. I would therefore urge ourselves to investigate whether, in a world where western states are failing to save markets and failing states embrace the natural resource market for their survival, to reconsider some of the principles our free market concept is build on. And secondly, to strategize a way out of the swamp we have helped ourselves into.
So far I have not heard a cry for help from the 'developed world' towards those that may have maintained some rigor in their societies and request some support in strategizing our way out. I have never heard of someone saving himself from a swampy spot without external support.
In this respect I belief the work done at the European Research Network EMES does provide some alternative models that may help in understanding current world dynamics and social forces at hand. Especially the paper written by Defourney and Pestoff in 2008 provides an excellent analysis of the function and value of the so called 'Third Sector'. I don't like this name, as it suggests it represents a clear-cut group of organizations that can be represented to some extend, which I think is not possible. It is by virtue of its non-representational character that the space it provides is maintained.
What could help in furtering this model for wider application and understanding of current world dynamics, is attributing dynamic properties to this static triangle. As many are witnessing today, the strength of the third sector, is determined by the balancing act in between governance, private sector and social forces. If one of them is too weak, it will allow the other two to converge. When two of the domains have too much overlap, a typical situation of instability will be the result. Such a situation can only be violent oppression as space for negotation has been reduced to a minimum.
I leave it to the scholars to reword this in a model that can be used for establishing the strength of civil society (represented by the surface of the remaining space), and see how this could be quantified. However, without quantifiable indicators it already helps me to see what the result is of failing governance structures.
What I do hope to illustrate however, is that the quality of governance is not only to be qualified in terms of the ability of public institutions to deliver services (whether or not using private capacities) but should also be evaluated against the space for governance granted to them by the other two domains (private and informal sectors).
Whether the nation-state should continue to play an important governance role or whether the responsibility for governance should gradually be transferred to more localised or centralised governing bodies is indifferent. What matters is the space provided for norm setting and standardization by clients and producers, also considering the need for healthy reproduction. If in the end it is just upto the individual to determine the space of others, you can imagine what society the next generation will inherit.
Strong nodes and strong connectors
So, let us get to a third generation of governance that ensures quality connections between producers and consumers, voters and politicians and public and private parties, and also re-establishes linkages with past and future generations in valuing history and proper trend watching. I hope that may help to replace some of the disfunctional traditional boundaries with new ones that continue to provide space for personal development and collective responsibility and well-being for all. This might involve a stronger role for governance as also diligently pointed to by the Chair of the session Prof. Andrew Crane after the presentation by Martin de la Beij (Director of Sustainable Economics at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). He pointed to the need for capacity development of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be able to carry out their responsibilities managing the newly formed public-private partnerships and achieve their ambitious targets that Mr. de la Bleij had just presented.