In this together: empowering collaboration

In this together: empowering collaboration
November 2020
People getting together to share and cross-pollinate ideas is key in building back better
Bronagh Loughlin

Bronagh Loughlin Author

Journalist and columnist

This article provides a summary of the ‘In this together – empowering collaboration to build back better’ panel discussion from the Responsible Innovation Summit, held on 20-21 October, 2020.

The moderator, Chris MM Gordon, CEO of Irish Social Enterprise Network and Managing Partner of Collaboration Ireland asked five experts to share their opinions and experiences in this field.

The session kicked off with an opening question that iterated through the whole discussion: Are we building back to the capitalist system that is based on GDP and economic growth?

Sophie Benoit, co-founder of the ‘What The Hack’ project, says, we should strive to look for options to explore other opportunities to make our economy work, such as circular economy, which provides many alternatives for companies to be profitable while considering environmental elements in their business.

Recently many businesses have discovered new models for making money and came up with innovative ways of engaging clients due to lockdowns and disruptions in supply chains.

Norman Thompson - Economic Development Researcher, Local Enterprise Office and Dublin City Council

Norman Thompson, Economic Development Researcher at the Local Enterprise Office and Dublin City Council, recommends that we approach from a different perspective.

“It is more difficult to get more people involved in a process. However, when we do take the extra time and effort to do that, it is much more likely to find solutions that benefit more stakeholders in a better way.”

“In our office, we are focused on economic development which is trying to encourage this more long-term, integrated, collaborated focus on economic development that is looking at the economy in a long-term perspective. Traditionally there is far too much focus on the short-term gains without looking at the long-term vision.”

CJ Palmer, founder and CEO of Sustainable mPact from Sweden, feels we should aim for conscious capitalism and redefine the purpose of business and other entities who contributes to economies.

He says, “I cannot help but keep asking the same question: why are we doing this? If you look at capitalism, what is the purpose anyway of making money? Why are we doing business?

Nicole Loeser, Board Director at the Institute of Art and Innovation in Berlin, joins the conversation with a personal view on patterns in our society.

“I belive it is really about understanding that the economic system will fail and collapse due to climate crisis and overconsumption of resources and therefore, I think it is not only about hope and trust and positive outcomes, it’s not just about purpose for me either, it is about value creation and sharing values.”

Nicole’s opinion is that interdisciplinary collaboration is key since we need systemic change instead of just putting a plaster on a wound and that requires knowledge sharing and the ability to learn from each other. Understanding all these different perspectives is the foundation of our societies.

Cailtin Hafer and Sophie Benoit - founders, What The Hack

There is huge opportunity for things to be transformative as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cailtin Hafer, the other co-founder of the ‘What The Hack’ project says, “I think there’s already been a transformation, because we have been forced to shakeup our norms.

In the last six months, we have pretty much proven that we can change and find ways to turn this situation into a mind-shifting experience that could lead to a better world as a result”.

Normal is normal because we accept and allow it to be normal, however, we have the ability to design a new normal.

The coronavirus is having a visible and life-changing impact on all of our lives. Although this is not the only ‘pandemic’ that we need to face as a result of how our economy has been working over the last few decades.

“I think it is so obvious by now that the economy does not work right.

Take the plastic issue as an example.

It is shocking to see the scale and impact of plastic pollution, which can be easily seen as the ‘plastic pandemic’ as it has a very direct impact on our lives on the long run.” adds Nicole Loeser.

She feels that we really have to understand that over the last 20 years or so the overconsumption and over exploitation of resources, has overruled some common sense in business – such as admitting that natural resources are not infinitive and we cannot externalise the cost of using nature to the detriment of it.

Nicole Loeser - Board Director, Institute of Art and Innovation, Berlin

Norman Thompson says, “I think in any crisis, as bad and as awful as the impact might be, it also presents an incredibly unique opportunity to change and innovate.”

CJ Palmer adds,

“Recently we have seen some of the great sides of humanity too: we still have the ability to be compassionate and to care about each other. It has been a wakeup call for all of humanity on the planet. This could be something to keep as the driving force for change.”

CJ Palmer - founder and CEO, Sustainable mPact, Sweden

He shares a thought from Nelson Mandela: ‘it almost seems impossible until it’s done’.

“We are on the journey heading towards a more sustainable world which is supported by a huge consumer demand to make the shift.”

Sophie Benoit says, “After every crisis in our history, communities got back together to create something new. People are looking to have an impact now too. But it can be difficult to know where to start and what to do. They need to be part of a group to make that work”.

There is huge value in people coming together if we see this as an investment for innovation and a way of creating our future.

Benoit adds, “With hackathons or any other forms of collaboration events, you just don’t know where the change is going to be. You could come up with an idea that is never going to be implemented but one person is going to inspire another person that will put that idea into action or use it to design something else. It does not mean that you have no impact”.

Time is the true enemy here and community intervention is key.

“I think when it comes to these community interventions or the interdisciplinary collaboration, what I find is key is inspiration and we should not forget that. You get the opportunity to meet truly wonderful people.

It’s not about separation any longer, it’s more like what can I contribute to the community and humanity in general”, says Loeser. We require social innovation and we need to change the entire economic system.

Norman Thompson adds,

“If we’re considering economic development, or entrepreneurship or innovation, all of these things thrive on social capital.

In order to build back better, we need key metrics such as social capital because what gets measured, gets done."

Take away thoughts from speakers:

Caitlin: If you’re going to make a change, decide and say it and you will find people and resources to share your ideas with – you have a voice, use it.

Sophie: Do small things that are sustainable – speak to people outside of your comfort zone and adopt actions you can sustain on the long-term – get diverse opinions.

Nicole: Sometimes it is not obvious who is around you. Some people around you, share your mission – expand a network of networks and get closer.

Norman: Effectuation. Get in touch, think who do you know right now who are interested in terms of initiating whatever you want to do – offer support.

CJ: Be the change you want to see, be inspiring, hope and collaborate – start small, get involved.

Bronagh Loughlin

Bronagh Loughlin Author

Journalist and columnist