I think we are on the verge or the tipping point. There is increasing awareness that other approaches are needed. What is holding us back is our current systems and preferences for working with the familiar. Yet, more and more people are seeing the need for strong social capital (trust and relationships) to resolve our wicket problems. Just recently the Victorian Council of Social Services, the peak body for welfare organisations in Victoria, called for community, business and government leaders to collaborate and develop a comprehensive workforce participation plan to combat rising youth unemployment. Many regions can benefit from this collaborative approach.
There are several things we need to move on from so we can solve complex social problems:
- We need to move out of our comfort zone and start working with what we don’t know rather than what we know. This requires learning from others to expand our knowledge and worldview, so we need to raise our collective consciousness.
- Research for last month’s Society News found that trust has reduced resulting in a less connected society and therefore a lesser ability to solve social issues. We need to increase relational trust and look at joint leadership.
- We need to move on from a top down approach and a helper /victim mentality. This requires the realisation and appreciation that communities can solve their own problems if they are given the tools to do so.
- Our system is set up to work by sectors and these sectors have interaction only on their own terms. This means each group works within their respective responsibility and largely in silos. For example:
- Many businesses and leaders support social causes as members of boards and with fundraising activities. Many do this as a tax deduction, or where narcissistic worldviews come into play to increase status and power.
- Social services are the responsibility of the volunteer and social services sector and those interested outside the sector wanting to help are considered intruders or competition.
- Economic, social and environmental stewardship is a local government or designated regional body’s responsibility. Community consultation feeds into individual strategic plans with no coordination between these bodies.
- And civic functioning or national policy development is up to our political, union, organisational or association representatives and not individual people.
We can counteract these silos by establishing collaborative round tables that invite and facilitate discussion among stakeholders from the different sectors and include the people affected by the problem. There needs to be clear long term commitment to get to the bottom of the issues and develop a common agenda. And there needs to be long term commitment for implementation, resource sharing and accountability for outcomes.