Friday, April 30, 2010

Small-scale Innovations

Also on the increase are localized micro-finances whereby communities are issuing their own specific local currencies as a means of promoting local business growth. This is a Depression-era idea and helps to tie-in local consumers with their neighbourhood suppliers. It works by local businesses printing money and then consumers exchanging national currencies for the locally issued one and redeeming them in participating stores. Communities throughout Europe, North America, and Asia are buying food and fuel with such currencies as the ‘Detroit Cheers’ and the Bia Kut Chum. Exchange and credit/barter systems have also been running successfully as in the ‘Local Exchange Trading Systems’ (LETS) that are local, exchange networks that trade goods and services without using a currency. Instead, a credit system is in operation whereby individuals can earn credits by performing services which can then be swapped for gaining the services of others. At present it is estimated that over 400 such schemes operate in the UK alone, with others in France, Australia, and Switzerland.

Such schemes also encourage the interaction and sense of proximity between people and neighbourhoods. We are seeing a shift that utilizes small-scale innovations to replace broader top-heavy dependencies. As elitist Henry Kissinger once famously remarked: ‘Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people’. Such monopolies of control belong to the old paradigm and will find no welcome as people collectively shift towards self-determination. It is predicted that these ‘agents of self-determination’ will emerge as a new social generation of disruptive innovators. A recent UK Report has described this ‘new wave of environmental pioneers’ as bringing in new and unexpected forms of ‘disruptive innovation’. Disruptive innovation is that which is unexpected and arrives, usually from the periphery or bottom-up, to provide services that have previously been monopolised. Such disruptions are highly threatening to the hierarchical status quo, yet often empowering to civil society. The UK Report states that: ‘In short, we need disruptive forms of innovation – cheaper, easier-to-use alternatives to existing products or services often produced by non-traditional players’. It further notes that this is not only a question of ‘new technologies’ but of ‘wider forms of innovation’. There is much disruptive innovation taking place around the world, with many ‘tinkerers’ searching for solutions beneficial for people rather than for profit. And this shall be the new paradigm, the new civic order: a re-organising of the social sphere away from consumerist dependency and exploitation, and towards self-empowerment and community sustainability. People shall be motivated for their families and for other people rather than for profit and those binary digits in a virtual bank somewhere. The fallacy of the old world with its delusional constraints will become transparent and will anger a lot of people. The veil will begin to fall, the curtain pulled back, and Dorothy will see the Wizard as the small grey-bearded man and not as the powerful Maestro. We have been fooled for far too long, and it is time to wake up, to engage with the program of evolutionary change, and to move on. As Doris Lessing wrote:

There is no epoch in history that seems to us as it must have to the people who lived through it. What we live through, in any age, is the effect on us of mass emotions and of social conditions from which it is almost impossible to detach ourselves. Often the mass emotions are those which seem the noblest, best and most beautiful. And yet, inside a year, five years, a decade, five decades, people will be asking, “How could they have believed that?
The time is ripe for a new kind of emergent innovation; one that comes from high energies of experimentation and enthusiasm. Whatever the disastrous social consequences that the world may be forced to live through in the early 21st century, the regeneration will be worth it. Evolution is moving up a spiral and needs to shed some dirty, unclean energies. In short, it needs to get its house in order for the move. And so do we - for we shall be moving too.

A revolution can exist at many levels. It can manifest in physical, emotional, and spiritual change. When that change arrives it is important to accept the uncertain, the unknown. Many people may be forced into action, even if this seems distasteful and unwanted at first. People are often initially afraid of change; afraid of leaving secure territory. Yet we need to change. And when many things are not understandable, the worth of a person will be found not through their wasted thought but through their constructive actions. The next, and final, chapter will discuss some of these evolutionary and potentially radical changes for humankind.

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