Blog: Rebalancing Society

Consolidation for Reformation

7 March 2020

“We will either find a way or make one.” (Hannibal)

The blog on January 1st introduced The Declaration of our Interdependence, for the restoration of balance across the three sectors of society—public governments, private enterprises, and plural communities. But how to get from words on a screen to rebalancing of societies? The blog that followed, on February 1st, outlined the first step—the taking of individual and collective actions (shown in a table of of 32 possibilities). This blog discusses how to consolidate such actions into a movement for grounded reformation.

“We will either find a way or make one.” (Hannibal)

The blog on January 1st introduced The Declaration of our Interdependence, for the restoration of balance across the three sectors of society—public governments, private enterprises, and plural communities. But how to get from words on a screen to rebalancing of societies? The blog that followed, on February 1st, outlined the first step—the taking of individual and collective actions (shown in a table of of 32 possibilities). This blog discusses how to consolidate such actions into a movement for grounded reformation.

The Message of the 16th Century Reformation


What is known as the Reformation began with words on a door in Germany and ended with a realignment of power in Europe. In 1517, with widespread outrage over corruption in the dominating religion, an obscure monk named Martin Luther challenged its prevailing authority by nailing a list of 95 theses (really grievances) to the door of one of its churches. His words spread within weeks, carried by the new social medium of the time, the printing press. A groundswell followed, as angry people in communities confronted the corruption. Eventually, new institutions formed and some existing ones reformed. Much of the world changed.

Can our world so change? That was Europe five centuries ago, concerning the corruption of one institution. Today we face corruption in many institutions, worldwide. Is reformation on a global scale impossible? Well, the devastating effects of climate change are not only possible but existent. Income disparities are on the rise. And another great war is possible—and would be the last—with several loose cannons elected by people fed up with these income disparities. When disaster looms, the impossible can become possible, indeed necessary.

Starting on the ground, not at the “top”


Where, then, to begin? At the top? The Reformation did not begin at any top, yet today that is where the  preferred solutions focus: the established authorities are supposed to fix the establishment. Elect heroic leaders. Hold lofty conferences. Make 30-year plans. Pretend to fix capitalism. All to no avail.

The record of heroic leadership is hardly stellar. Much of it has proved to be impotent when not autocratic. Have we not had enough of the leadership fix?

The lofty conferences on global warming seem to generate more of it, thanks to all the travel, let alone the talk (not to mention the swarms of private jets that descend on Davos every year to bemoan the warming). At home, politicians with four-year mandates proclaim 30-year plans. Why do we tolerate such nonsense?

Then there are the adjectival capitalism fixes—Progressive Capitalism, Caring Capitalism, Inclusive Capitalism, Sustainable Capitalism, even Democratic Capitalism (democracy being the adjective). Capitalism certainly needs fixing, but that will not fix societies broken by its own power. It is these societies that need fixing, by restoring balance across their sectors.

The change we require will have to begin on the ground, as it did in the Reformation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt caught the spirit of this when he was asked by an activist to champion a particular change. He replied: “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it.” The message is clear: reforming established institutions may be the last step in reformation. The first ones have to be taken on the ground.

Pathway to Reformation


Consider these steps to reformation:


Declaration of common cause => Reframing beliefs => Reversing wrongs and Renewing rights => Consolidating this activity => Reforming institutions

The path to reformation is opened by a compelling statement of common cause that reframes what we believe, or have been made to believe, so that we can understand what is wrong and take action to make it right. If we believe that change must come from the top, then most of us will sit around waiting for it to happen. If we believe that the wealth of globalization trickles down to everyone, then we will take what we get. If we believe that democracy is about swinging between left and right, then we will not see the plural sector for the role it must play in buttressing the power of the public and private sectors. It is the reframing of beliefs that galvanizes action.

Consolidating Activities

The last blog presented a table outlining a variety of actions that can be taken to address our problems. We are, in fact, getting a great deal of it, more than ever before. One book estimated the number of social initiatives for such activities to exceed one million, on a wide variety of fronts: for social justice, sustainable environment, world peace, reformed education, and much more.

That book was published in 2007, yet consider what has been happening to the imbalance ever since. The more constructive activity we get, the worse the imbalance becomes. That is because, while the efforts for reformative change are scattered, the forces that exacerbate the imbalance work in concert, for self-interest—as when they promote conspicuous consumption. These efforts will have to consolidate, around a common cause, which I believe will have to be the restoration of balance. A clear focus of attention (such The Declaration of our Interdependence) is required to fuse a myriad of activities into a movement for regeneration. But this consolidation cannot center on any institution or plan; it has to happen as a groundswell of community activity, as in the Reformation, but this time networked worldwide.

We shall have to recognize that imbalance in society is a root cause of the major problems we face—the social injustices, income disparities, decline of democracy, even much of climate change. How, for example, are we to reverse climate change as long as private power drives so much conspicuous consumption? In other words, if you are concerned about the climate, you had better put the rebalancing of society front and center.

The corruption of established institutions is far more widespread than at the time of Luther, and the dangers we face are far more alarming. We have glorified greed and excess long enough; it is time to value balance and benevolence. Our choice comes down to this: grounded reformation or global devastation. We can continue to plunder this planet, and each other, or we can make our way to reformation.

© Henry Mintzberg 2020, adapted from a note on “Next Steps” on The Declaration of our Interdependence.   

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Next step: What can we do now?

1 February 2020

The Declaration of our Interdependence was posted here on January 1, for 2020 vision: to rebalance our societies across government, business, and community. What’s next? Action.

Since I published Rebalancing Society in 2015, one question has kept coming up:  “What can I do?” The answers are, in fact, all over the place, ranging from confronting outrageous behaviors to adopting B Corp status. So I began to make a list of them, adding a few that don’t exist but should, and now I have organized all this into a single table, as you can see below.

The Declaration of our Interdependence was posted here on January 1, for 2020 vision: to rebalance our societies across government, business, and community. What’s next? Action.

Since I published Rebalancing Society in 2015, one question has kept coming up:  “What can I do?” The answers are, in fact, all over the place, ranging from confronting outrageous behaviors to adopting B Corp status. So I began to make a list of them, adding a few that don’t exist but should, and now I have organized all this into a single table, as you can see below.

Beyond what I can do to restore balance is what we can do, in our communities, associations, businesses, governments, and all of these together. The answers are grouped in the table in this order, under three main forms of involvement: reframing our beliefs, in order to reverse what is wrong, and renew what can be made right.

Concerning our beliefs, for example if we believe that change must come from “the top”, then those of us not there will sit around waiting for it to happen. If we believe that the wealth of globalization will trickle down to everyone, then we will take what we get. If we believe that democracy is about swinging between the public controls of government on the  left and the private forces of markets on the right, then we will not see the role that communities in the plural sector must play in buttressing the power of the other two sectors. With beliefs like these reframed, we can see our way to constructive action, ranging from creating social enterprises not tethered to the stock market all the way to establishing a Peace Council to renew global government.

You can click on any dot in the table to see some of the possibilities, bearing in mind the following:

  • These answers focus on rebalancing society, with the ones I consider most important in bold face type. We must address climate change urgently, but my belief is that real headway on this will be made only when we bring our societies back toward balance. The disproportionate power of private sector interests is not only driving climate change—with its imperative of more production for more consumption with more waste and more warming—but also impeding efforts by ourselves and our governments to deal with it.
  • This table is not complete: it is a work-in-progress, meant to suggest possibilities for action. Accordingly, please think beyond what you find in these boxes. It is not spectacular creativity that changes the world so much as ordinary creativity, of which we are all capable. (Thus, please share your ideas here or on #ourinterdependence.)
  • All of the entries in the table are brief, and some may seem rather general. Bear with me: I just wanted to get down what I could, as a starting point. Many of the entries are linked to sites that explain them (a number in my earlier blogs).

Action is only the first step. We are getting more of it while the problems of imbalance get steadily worse. We can no longer afford to have action all over the place; it must be consolidated into a movement for global reformation. In other words, we shall have to get our collective act together. This will be the subject of the next blog.

Here is the table, to use and augment. Click on any dot to see these possibilities. You may have to expand the table to do so, and close one entry when you wish to see another.


© Henry Mintzberg 2020, adapted from Next Steps on The Declaration of our Interdependence.

 

The Declaration of our Interdependence

1 January 2020

How to restore balance in this lopsided world?

Encouraging is that so many concerned people are engaged in so many constructive activities—whether to restore social justice, reverse the change in climate and the decline in democracy, or build the social economy—and that so many more people are ready to go.

Missing, however, has been a guiding vision, a statement of purpose as a way forward—toward a consolidated movement for global reformation.

This is why a group of us developed this Declaration of our Interdependence. Please read it, and if you agree with it, sign it, and share it widely.

Let this be a happy new year—for 2020 vision.

The Declaration of our Interdependence

How to restore balance in this lopsided world?

Encouraging is that so many concerned people are engaged in so many constructive activities—whether to restore social justice, reverse the change in climate and the decline in democracy, or build the social economy—and that so many more people are ready to go.

Missing, however, has been a guiding vision, a statement of purpose as a way forward—toward a consolidated movement for global reformation.

This is why a group of us developed this Declaration of our Interdependence. Please read it, and if you agree with it, sign it, and share it widely.

Let this be a happy new year—for 2020 vision.

The Declaration of our Interdependence