As we look around our world we see a plethora of outcries, protest and revolutions demanding change. On the surface they seem to be very different groups with different agendas, from vastly different cultures, different races and even different generations. The remarkable thing however, is that this phenomena is happening almost everywhere, in the same timeframe and at a volume unlike anything we have seen in the history of humankind. This should cause us to ask some very important, fundamental questions:
- On a deep level, could there be some common yearnings in people that connect all of these cries for change?
In the mist of the chaos and confusion of our time we tend to be too blinded by our "day to day" struggles and parochial focus, to see what might be unfolding on a macro bases. When I step back and listen to what people are saying -- fundamentally, I hear the same cry for change. The "Arab Spring" revolutionaries in the Middle East; the "Occupy Wall Street" protestors in cities across in the world; the anti-globalization protesters at the G-20 Summit, all seem to be demanding the right be free to pursue their hopes and dreams.
While the messages of these revolts and protest speak to specific conditions: ending oppressive dictatorships, ending the income inequality, the fear of the growing marriage between corporations and governments, I believe the core message is fundamentally the same -- PEOPLE FIRST! People around the world have evolved to the place where they are claiming their unalienable rights.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The essence of this profound statement from the United States Declaration of Independence is shared by a rapidly growing number of people around the world, and impassioned US citizens are finding the courage to claim their Rights.
Since the beginning of the "civilized" world, people have been serving governments, businesses, institutions and the economic systems that support them. Under this model the world has seen continuous war and conflict, poverty, pain and the degradation of our planet. I believe the most devastating affect of putting people last, has been the damage to our individual and collective self-esteem, which has dampened the human spirit.
People are changing! People are now demanding an authentic shift in power from governments, institutions and systems to PEOPLE FIRST. We may be on the cusp of actualizing the social model most people have dreamed about and countries have fought for -- a model that is -- "of the people, by the people, for the people". This radical change is evidenced by the proliferation of social media technology. Massive numbers of people and organizations are creating the technological tools to enable people all over the world to connect to one another, in real-time, unencumbered by governments, institutions, media, geography and cultures. Even language barriers are diminishing, thanks to Google translate.
The social media revolution is a phenomena created by people, for people. This revolution has dramatically enabled people to communicate with one another igniting what I call a "PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE movement. This movement is growing at an exponential pace. The Arab Spring spread across the Middle East in a matter of months. The Occupy Wall Street movement, started in September of this year in New York City and San Francisco -- today the Occupy Together Meetup website reports there are 2,683 Occupy communities throughout the world, including 95 countries around the world -- all this momentum in just two and a half months.
In the early stages of these movements people were perplexed, critical and many were dismissive about their validity. Today many people believe they have the potential to go viral. It is not just the protesters we see in the streets crying for change -- listen to your neighbors, the conversations at your local restaurants and bars and the conversations around the dinner tables -- the silent majority's frustration levels are nearing a breaking point.
It is impossible to calibrate the impact all of these movements and technological developments will have on governments and civil societies around the world in 1-3 years -- I believe it will be enormous. The People-To-People movement is eliminating the barriers and boundaries that separate us. This is a historical game changer never before realized in the history of humankind. This movement is messy, unpredictable, and wrought with ambiguity. The old forms of social control are not working and this is creating fear, and confusion. At the same time, something far more profound is happening. On a very deep level people are beginning to understand that we all have far more in common than we differ. We are discovering common values and aspirations that transcend nations, cultures, race, ages and circumstances. We are learning that what people value most is fundamentally the same: Everyone shares the need:
- To connect with others
- To participate - be included, be heard
- To contribute our talents and gifts towards something that matters to us
- To learn and grow
- To be recognized
- To have a sense of belonging
- Ultimately, to be loved
I strongly believe these universally shared-values resonate with all of us. Growing up, I was raised a GI Brat living in many places around the world. Over the last 25 years I have traveled 50-80% every year working in cities on every continent except Antarctica. I have worked in and with corporations, governments, and nonprofit organizations. I worked in a halfway house for adult female inmates and a prison for adult male felony offenders. In my diverse journey I have yet to find anyone who did not want to be included, to be heard, to be valued, recognized and to be loved.
The growing People-To-People movement, enabled by the social media revolution is bringing us out of the dark ages. We are becoming aware of the fact that everyone and everything is related. We are inextricably connected and bonded by a powerful life force that compels us to grow, evolve and pursue our dreams.
This new consciousness is rippling and multiplying across our world almost as fast as the technology that carries it. Although the media focuses on the negative aspects of people connecting to people, if we look below the waterline we will see that people are breaking out of the patterns of cynicism, hopelessness and despair and discovering the individual and collective power we all have within us to change our reality. The rapidly evolving internet technology has become a powerful tool for social, environmental and political action -- and it is unstoppable!
A New Vision
What we need is a new story for the future of humankind. It is a new day; the past has relinquished its hold on the future. We need is vision that is inclusive and born out of our universally shared human values. A vision that inspires us to overcome our fears and compels us to recreate our governments, institutions, organizations and communities to be worthy of peoples commitment.
Imagine governments that authentically serve the will of the people -- participatory democracies that are inclusive and transparent.
Imagine leaders having the self-confidence, inner strength and wisdom to become what Robert Greenleaf called -- servant leaders. Leaders who see leadership as a function rather than a status.
Imagine corporations and consumers alike working together for the good of all. Corporations and business committed sustainable value -- doing well and doing good as a viable business model. And people, making the commitment and having the discipline to buy products from companies and patronize businesses whose products, decisions and actions are ethically, socially and environmentally responsible.
Simon Mainwaring's new book W First, proposes a compelling argument why we must alter the current free market capitalism from destructive capitalism to sustainable capitalism. He offers a new vision and specific ideas to "transform the entire private sector, corporations and consumers alike -- into a force for global renewal" Mainwaring believes that We First is neither anti-capitalist nor anti-wealth. It is pro-prosperity". He defines prosperity as -- "Well-being for all" and believes that in the long run serving everyone's interest also serves our own.
There are a growing number of companies and consumers that share Mainwaring's vision of prosperity.
- There are innovative mobile phone applications that enable consumers to become ethical shoppers. Barcoo, developed by a group of young Germans, is a free download application that allows customers to point their mobile phones at the barcode on products while shopping to cheek a company's performance on social and environmental responsibility. It even gives information on how a company treats its staff.
- Some Internet gaming developers and companies are beginning to use social gaming to solve real-world problems. Zynga, the worlds largest social gaming company is developing "Games for Good". According to NPD Group, a marketing research firm, the on-line gaming industry, has grown into a 15.7 billion dollar industry - 60 million Americans have played a game on-line. Imagine if the Apps for Good trend accelerates.
- A company out of Amsterdam, Oat Shoes, has developed sneakers that are attractive and environmentally friendly. When they wear out, bury them and they will blossom. OAT Shoes states on their website "The future of fashion lies in reconciliation between nature and industry. OAT Shoes strives to lead the way to that future".
People are becoming passionate about changing the world. The explosion of social networking through internet technology is a powerful example of people's hunger to connect with one another. People are not just demanding change -- they are making change happen.
Communities of like-minded people are redefining ways of being together; moving from hierarchical, exclusive, separate constructs, to inclusive communities that flourish on the flow of ideas around common interest. While the media focuses on the abuses and destructive groups on the internet, there are far more positive communities creating new thinking, new possibilities and generating new actions and movements for change. People are coming up with bold ideas to change our world, many of which do not require a lot of money. They are not asking for permission or forgiveness but rather putting their ideas to work. The number of social networking groups connecting, learning and working together to solve problems is amazing. This authentic shift of Power to people has the potential to impact everyone and every segment of our society.
The genie is out of the bottle! People are claiming their power. That energy cannot be forced, coerced, bribed or beaten back into that the old controlling structures, systems or mindsets. The People-To-People movement, enabled by the powerful social media revolution, leads me to believe that a massive global movement to transform society's unhealthy systems, structures and behaviors, to enable all life to flourish -- is possible.