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  • Writer's pictureStuart Williams

What Really is Behind the Sustainable Future Curtain? What is Hiding in Plain Sight?

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

For decades, the 1%, businesses and their leaders, and those residing at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid have been demonized as being major problems in the goal to eradicate poverty, and or as choke points in the journey to build a sustainable future. However, it is time to take a hard look at reality and to stop blaming those trying to help.

Ask yourself a question. Do you know any family of ultra-wealth that does not donate copious amounts of time, money, passion, and purpose to initiatives they care about? Needless to say, and based upon our personal values and virtues, we can disagree with the causes each one of us supports, however, there appears to be no doubt that families of wealth truly do help with their time and capital. Now ask yourself a second question. Why is the poverty problem getting worse, when over the past 60 years, trillions of dollars have been donated, gifted, granted etc., to millions of people purposed to eradicate poverty? Finally, ask yourself whether the people at the “bottom” are capable of innovating their own solutions for many of the problems we have caused and that they face? If you believe they can’t, you have not spent enough time in marginalized communities and are thus unaware that those who face the problems often have the best solutions. Are there some bad actors at the top and at the bottom, for sure, but they are in the minority.

Having conducted almost 30-years of research into this subject, we at In Place Impact created a new model of inclusion, and at what stage of the process each community stakeholder is embedded in the model. The information below might surprise you as in many ways we have turned the old process/model on its head, but we have tested it, and proven that it works. To put it as bluntly as possible, many people in the changemaker space believe that they are the most important people in the sustainable future room, and they cannot handle the truth which is that the most important people in the room are 1. The creation (where necessary) and redesign of the intersection between each and all of the community segments, stakeholders, and sections mentioned below. Why: Because it is at and within the intersections between community stakeholders that most of the choke points blocking progress are to be found. 2. The People Living the Problems – especially those in underserved, marginalized and or disenfranchised communities. Why? Because when you work in those community segments you quickly realize that the people living there have remarkable solutions to the problems they face, they have just never received the kind of information, structure, frameworks, capital etc., required to bring them to life. To date, (at least in the US), some money has been funneled into these community segments through welfare, charity, or trickle-down-economics, however, the problems still persist, and in many instances are worse. It is time to place a major focus on providing the people that have the solutions with the information, tools, contacts, context, and yes appropriate capital, to build their own solution focused companies, within their own community segments. 2 Tied. Modern Business Leaders Why? While work is being done to create the frameworks required in the community segments mentioned above, the modern business leaders are also the most important people in the room, because as a cohort they touch virtually every family, every community, and every environment in the world. In America alone there are 16,000,000 active companies employing over 130,000,000 people in almost every community you can think of. Extrapolate that globally and the impact of adopting leadership and management through the lens of profit for purpose becomes palpable. Narrow it down to “In Place” and if nothing else, the pandemic alone has shown the importance of supporting local businesses, and the decisions the local business leaders make. 3. Academic Institutions & Students Why? Because the schools, colleges and universities can become hubs for Impact Innovation (student and community classes on Impact Entrepreneurship) that use consequential learning to help develop the future leaders we need. 4. Impact Entrepreneurs & Investors Why? Every community should start creating vibrant place-based hubs of Impact for the good of the community 5. Local Governments Why? Because whether we like it or not, local governments are important stakeholders in our communities, local politicians are the most important we have as they are the closest to us, and every local government should be focused on budling a community that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable for all residents. 6. All Community Segments, Sectors, and Stakeholders Why: Because in today’s world win/lose is actually lose/lose and hence we must create placed-based economies that are 100% inclusive, that increase economic vibrancy throughout all community segments, and in a manner that ensures it is not left to luck that if one benefits, all benefits. 7. NGOs Why: Because the goal over time is to eradicate the majority of them, i.e., solve the problems they have been focused on. Poverty and marginalization, etc., are economic models, and thus, for the past 70-years we have been fighting economics with charity and that is like taking a knife to a gunfight. The results of this strategy to date have been self-evident. The current structure of humanity is often referred to as a socioeconomic pyramid. In most countries, pyramid schemes are illegal, but not only do we call our current structure a pyramid, its status quo is the greatest pyramid scheme in history, and we only need to take a deep dive inside it to understand why the truth hurts. It is plain to see that there is no "direct line of sight" between the "Top" and the "Bottom" of the pyramid and that the current conduits channeling capital from one to the other have way too many choke points. Without a direct line of sight, people hold on to narratives that are not based upon fact. A narrative that has been socialized throughout the "Bottom" is that the people in the "Top" do not care and they do nothing to help. This could not be further from the truth. A narrative that has been socialized throughout the "Top", is that the people in the "Bottom" are there because they want to be, because they are lazy, and because they want handouts. This again could not be further from the truth. Given the above narratives are incorrect, it might be time to understand why they keep being perpetuated. One way to do that is to look at who or what benefits from the perpetuation and we only need look into segments of the middle of the pyramid to find that out.

Segments of the middle of the pyramid are occupied by the majority of government departments, and NGOs. “Residents” of these sections can easily go to the bottom of the pyramid and agree with the narrative that those at the top do not care, hoard their money, and don’t want to help. At the same time, they can offer themselves as a solution by promising to go to their “contacts” at the top to convince them to release money to help. They can also just as easily go to the top, agree with the narrative that those at the bottom want those at the top to support them. At the same time, they can offer themselves as a solution because groups at the bottom have “retained” them to change the paradigm, but they need some capital to do so. What those in the middle fail to tell the residents at both the top and bottom is that in many instances, less than 10% of what is released at the top will find its way to the bottom, and hence the narratives can continue to be perpetuated. This is a huge choke point that is hiding in plain sight. It is a fact there are numerous NFP’s and Foundations that do incredible work and must be supported. It is also a fact that there are way too many of them and that makes a large part of their “industry” inefficient and ineffective. It is time to face the truth, that as “changemakers” we are not the most important people in the room, we are not other people’s “saviors”, we are not all right, we are not all brilliant, all of our ideas are not incredible, and not all of our solutions work. In fact, as a cohort, we are one of the biggest choke points in achieving the very goals we promote. For the past 70-years we have not only failed to solve many of the problems we focus on, but we have also not even put a dent in them, and many of them are worse. The truth hurts at times, and as such, it is time we all stopped point the finger at externalities outside of our “industry” and started looking at where the choke points are within our industry. In time, those at the top and bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid will get together to change the shape of the structure of humanity to something where every segment will have a direct line of sight to each other. When that happens, the middle will be moved outward as the shape becomes more circular, and then the truth will become evident to all.

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