One of the most common reactions I get at dinner parties, when I talk about my line of work, is that wicked problems like climate change and social inequality are so complex, involve so many actors, and are at such a grand scale, that it doesn't matter what we each do as individuals – it will never be enough. Ironically, as experts have pointed out, we already have all the technology, capital and talent we need to create a new kind of growth that is fit for the future. I'd therefore argue it's the lack of agency – in other words, the feeling of not being able to do anything about the world's most pressing challenges – that is one of the core hurdles we face today. And I get it. It's easy to jump to the conclusion 'I can't do this' – 'I don't have enough time to play with the kids, let alone save the world!'. Or 'I don't wear a pin-striped suit or a white lab jacket, so I don't have the knowledge or skills to contribute'! The reality is that each of us has agency.
By combining forces, each of us has the ability to leave this planet in a better state than how we found it. As my mentor and boss, Dr Osvald Bjelland (founder and CEO of Xynteo), explains it, a century ago among the fjords in western Norway, if one farmer had carrots, another had fish and yet another had potatoes, by exchanging their produce they'd have three great meals. In a simple way, this is what we're trying to achieve at the Xynteo Exchange. By providing a platform for combining what already exists – in the best ideas, impactful capital and exceptional talent – we hope to generate collaborative projects that demonstrate a new growth model is not only desirable, but possible.
If you're coming to Oslo for the Exchange on 28-29 November, get ready to be inspired in the Marketplace. It will be a showcase of 50 initiatives from across the world that have the potential to reinvent growth, including a platform from Ethiopia that is connecting rural farms with consumers (GebeyaNet), a Norwegian start-up developing technology to overcome social isolation and loneliness (No Isolation), and a platform in Sweden ensuring less funding leakage on aid and sustainable development projects (AidHedge). These initiatives started with simple ideas from ordinary people, just like you and me. And even now, you have the ability to help realise their dreams – we'll be launching a voting process in the coming days, with the best project in the Marketplace winning a cash grant of €50,000 to help scale their potential.
Watch out for the link on our website!
Back to the dinner party. Chairman Mao Zedong once said, "a revolution is not a dinner party". But I'd argue a revolution can easily start there. We each have a part to play, no matter what our backgrounds or circumstances are. It's the act of coming together, in new combinations, that can be revolutionary.
This is the third and final in a series of blogs by Chester Cunningham, Director of the Xynteo Exchange/Norway, to be held on Oslo on 28-29 November 2018.