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Balancing Better Togetherness PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Sunday, 21 December 2014 14:56

It may now have become a standard requirement for recruitment into the upper echelons of our Civil Service, but I recall a job advert from the early 2000’s specifying that candidates should be able to demonstrate a ‘proven ability to handle ambiguity’.

The drama of the Scottish Referendum – and a brief consensual rejoicing in an overwhelmingly non-violent democratic debate – almost immediately gave way to concerns about the implications.  ‘No’, it seems, meant partly, ‘well a bit Yes if you want us to say No’.

Moreover the implicit ambiguity is enshrined in concurrent calls from major UK cities for their greater empowerment.   In all marriages there are variable degrees of togetherness.  Voting for economic efficiency and safety in numbers does not mean complete subjugation but the Scottish No vote (against independence) did recognise the value of interdependencies.

These ambiguities, these balances of togetherness, are played out at all levels in business, in communities, in regions and between countries.  The UK is undoubtedly Better Together in Europe but we still need to nurture our own local ways of managing our diverse needs.  Futurists, however, forecast that within the next decade between 20 to 25 countries will seek to merge with their neighbours in much the same way that businesses grow by agglomeration.  Deep-set tribal loyalties, even centuries of glorious history, can be accommodated if the common good is good enough.

Apart from natural geographic barriers – mighty oceans and mountains delineating separateness – our ability to find a balance of togetherness reflects a surge in our effective connectedness.  Digitally enabled economies know no bounds but, this time around, need not imply totalitarian control.

Interdependenceies 

transference of ideasConsider, for example the ‘ecosystem’ of a small business created to recycle consumer products.  Researchers at a university discover new techniques for recovery of rare earth minerals – and licence those techniques to an enterprise that is already in the recycling business.   Now that enterprise can raise its game by recycling more valuable products – not least the hard disk drives from computer kit that are all too often shredded and sent to landfill.  The market for recovered Neodymium is strong since China banned exports of this rare earth mineral used for powerful lightweight magnets in hard drives.   The enterprise then spots the obvious snag – their supply of redundant disk drives is constrained by wider market fears about data security.  Then along comes another enterprise with a new capability – guaranteed digital data destruction without recourse to physical product shredding – and both enterprises can interdependently work together.   The ‘ecosystem’ of many players is now made possible by their ability to interconnect ideas and systems to develop new sustainable businesses.

In the paper Unleashing Municipal Enterprise we considered how the conflicting calls for togetherness and independence could be better managed with a relaxation of centralised State controls and encouragement of innovative, locally managed, investment initiatives responding to local needs.   Whilst a few really big cities or City-Regions can make a case for ‘seizing their destiny’ the obvious dangers (so very apparent to citizens everywhere) are a fragmentation of highly regarded public sector services and an increasing complexity (and cost) of doing business. 

Allowing places and communities of any scale to develop their own local responses, without tearing apart the bigger unifying picture, requires fresh, less-polarised, less-dogmatic (and probably more-federal) approaches to politics and governance – something that national and regional governments would do well to practice within their current borders before considering calls for strategic realignments driven by the conveniences and joint prospects of greater connectivity.          

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Last Updated on Sunday, 28 December 2014 14:23
 

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