Great social (and economic) expectations

By Mark Jones, CEO ImpactInstitute

Do we really need crises and catastrophes to jolt us into restarting our national and personal agendas?  

 Hugh Mackay, writing in his book The Kindness Revolution, asks a great question. We’re living in a pivotal time in the history of our young nation, I believe, and it’s forcing us to think about our individual and shared identity.  

 Mackay, a respected social researcher with 60 years’ experience under his well-travelled belt, is more than qualified to offer wise counsel. Speaking at our inaugural Social Impact Summit, 3-4 July, Mackay will challenge us to become a more loving, kind, and caring nation, not just a lucky one.  

 The cynical among us might think it’s a long shot. Gen Z kids, for example, are growing up with blue screens fixed centimetres from their face. They’re the new Me Generation taking after Boomers a few generations ahead of them. 

 But I don’t share this pessimism. We’re a clever lot and change is always possible. Australia is also overflowing with tireless activists, charities, and social impact leaders.  

 The macro signals also matter. Our Federal Government and Treasury have for the first time publicly signalled in recent years we’re heading in a new direction – the wellbeing economy.  

 In Hugh’s words, our nation is moving to “frame its economic policies to serve clearly articulated social goals.”  

 Dr Katherine Trebeck is a political economist and founder of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance also speaking at Social Impact Summit. She calls GDP and economic growth at “pseudo satisfiers,” and in an interview with ABC TV said, “GDP takes the good, the bad, the ugly and calls it all good.” 

 That is, GDP doesn’t tell the full story and the economy itself isn’t satisfactory as the end goal – it must serve people, communities and the planet (particularly when living costs are rising). 


Energising vision 

 We’re setting great expectations for the future. In the words of author Stephen Covey, we’re beginning with the end in mind. We’re looking to countries like Scotland and New Zealand that are striving to create vibrant economies that enhance wellbeing.    

 It’s an energising vision that creates space for creative thinking and problem solving. There will naturally be challenges and unexpected surprises along the way. Perhaps we’ll fall short of a few expectations? 

 But some careful scenario planning is always a good idea. Risk managers love contingency planning, and it’s a great discipline.  

 The real challenge is staying strong. If we believe in a wellbeing economy – a national mindset that values our collective health – are we prepared to tolerate the inevitable bumps, criticism, and heated debates with good grace?  


Kindness is catching  

I’d say yes, it’s possible. Biologically, Mackay argues we’re all connected in a “shimmering web of interconnectedness.” We’re social beings inevitably driven to resolve conflicts and make life better for the next generation.    

 For our part, we’re giving away Hugh’s book, The Kindness Revolution, to Social Impact Summit attendees. We dare to believe like-minded leaders from corporate, government and social sectors will steal a page or two on the journey towards kindness and an impact-driven economy. 

 Are you in? Join us in July – we have great expectations.