As a 16 year old leaving school I found myself in a quandary stuck between what I saw as legacy education which wasn’t able to provide practical experience at the time and the unfolding, exciting and rapidly changing world through which I could reshape immediately through technology. The Prince’s Trust provided funding for my first venture, upon which I have established my career and to whom I am extremely grateful. This post about ‘Terra Carta’ is designed to inform, but includes my personal slant of opinion. These are my initial opening thoughts rather than a fully-well rounded perspective but I hope there are indicators here that help to ‘wedge open the door’ into new rooms where we can explore how to use Terra Carta for the benefit of all.
Terra Carta, is a charter consisting of 8 statements of intent, 5 sections spanning the need to ‘Reimagine The Future’ through to ‘Reinvigorating Innovation’ and includes 10 articles which enhance, illustrate and conjure questions that form the basis for endeavors into possible solutions. It serves as the guiding mandate for the HRH The Prince of Wales’s Sustainable Markets Initiative whilst uniting leaders to address a common cause at a crucial point in the world's social and economic redevelopment post pandemic.
The aims of Terra Carta will be met by broadly achieving or exceeding the ambitions set by various science backed initiatives formed by the United Nations, designed to ignite the fire of ingenuity and act as a catalyst for transition and investment of resources, capital and philanthropic means. Whilst we have seen several initiatives from leaders to influence and guide efforts from a top down perspective, Terra Carta, signals a strong intent from a post-pandemic perspective to redouble efforts that shape a new reality for sustainable and prosperous economic development.
What’s more, the charter recognises that not one individual or group of individuals has the ability to transform and reshape the world social and economic climates to address the systemic challenges that prevent progress, but that it is a collective effort that requires the cultural, infrastructural and systemic shifts at all levels of society on a global scale. Recognising that this is both a ‘fundamental right and liberty’ designed to provide tangible, lasting impacts.
But what Terra Carta really stands for is legacy.
As I discovered on my tour meeting over 100 leaders around the world, have written about and shared on stage alongside the likes of Schroders, ABN Amro, Heineken and Audiencia; Legacy is the clarity of focus and direction that enables us to form a ‘North Star’ that informs our journey through the world. Whilst there are many mountains (challenges), valleys (failures), basecamps (goals and targets) along the route, which, at times, causes changes of direction as we weave through the landscape, it’s the ‘North Star’ of legacy which inspires us and inspires others to join us to reach not a destination but to strive for the infinite pursuit of leading a legacy.
Today, we stand, once again, at a new set of crossroads. This isn’t the first time that we have stood in a position to take the path for sustainable action and I suspect it won’t be the last, this is where charter’s such as Terra Carta won’t themselves move us to take the right path but will influence us to see why we must take the correct path and tackle the obstacles ahead.
What intrigues me the most is that our traditional, authoritarian leadership, recognises that influential leadership has greater power to move the wheels of progress versus independent regulation and top-down pressure. An essential proponent to modern leadership is the ability to recognise that a multiplicity of actions across a broad spectrum of society creates ‘offshoots’ of innovation that can blossom into fully formed modes for delivering change or signpost future developments which can, both be equally valued. This is where the innovation centers, moonshot and design thinking from disruptors, scientists, engineers, young people, artists, designers and thought leaders have, as Terra Carta explains, the leverage to expand the view and extrapolate what is possible and what it takes to get there. Recognising that it is a diverse society in skills and experiences, in gender and race and beyond that takes the initial seed sown by Terra Carta and transforms the charter into actions.
The journey of transition that we’ve been on has moved far too slowly, highlighted most notably by the alarming science, but I feel worse still, the public sentiment which has created a vacuum for organisations and individuals to incite powerful but not necessarily proactive speeches and demonstrations. On the other hand, increasing regulatory pressure is applying a firm but too often biased attitude towards incrementalism, especially within the bounds of what is financially competitive in global markets that are not necessarily designed in alignment with the same pressures, vision for the future or requirement to project the risk of slow transition within their risk models. Having attended forums, spoken at summits and delivered my own initiatives aimed to push progress, the resulting impact is too little, too slowly.
As Section 1, Article 2, of Terra Carta explains Nature’s capital is the responsibility of everyone, especially those in positions of ‘power’ which I translate to mean ‘influence’, and so, that extends to us all. But it is also our duty to communicate and steer the conversation towards achieving action which moves us in the right direction towards the ‘North Star’ of our legacy. This places each and every one of us personally responsible for ensuring that what we do, whilst it may not always be as effective an agent for transformation as we hope, to align to that legacy, predicated on our values and beliefs. This means that even as consumers, we must make conscious decisions that continue to align with our legacy - again, this is our responsibility but also the responsibility of the organisations around us to take this post pandemic opportunity seriously. If consumer behaviour aligns to the pathways presented in a sustainable future, even by the smallest fractions, many of the organisations deeply affected by the pandemic will suffer worse still by these continual shifts. It therefore presides with us all to recognise that sustainability isn’t a trend, but a lasting and fulfilling legacy and we need to both signal important information upstream that better informs traditional leadership and power to steer the ship in the right direction to complement what efforts we make through our actions every single day.
We can use maps to better illustrate and share with others where the challenges along our route are and where we also have blind spots, areas which have yet to be discovered. These ‘roadmaps’ as they are referred to in Terra Carta are a functional tool for planning and making decisions, but perhaps more importantly, they are tools we can use for context that enables effective communication. In systemic design, the ability to create a shared language, forms a shared understanding and the ability to communicate effectively. Most of the practical inflexibility that prevents progress comes from an inability to communicate value and surface what connectors are best used to build bridges between the different layers required in order to facilitate a new project, investment, organisation or change of policy. The value of roadmaps and their translation into regulatory legislation should not necessarily be used to direct the flow of information, resources or investment but to direct the ‘dark matter’ which I borrowed from Dan Hill and the enigmatic world of theoretical physics, relating to the relationship between the organizations, culture and structure which binds them together. The links between what we can see, measure and quantify but that has no physical appearance, which is therefore an intangible, but requisite, value. If roadmaps formed upon the basis of Terra Carta help to shape the ‘dark matter’ then this practical application of the tool could help us to change the game and breach the barriers which currently prevent progress by exploring, encouraging and allowing for productive work that is both conducive to sustainable progress and economically viable.
This does of course require that investment of capital within our system is respectfully distributed towards efforts that are aligned with sustainable objectives. This is a dichotomy that has prevented meaningful progress on many functional, technical and practical achievements that exist today but have not managed to become mainstream due to the financial costs, market constraints or the displacement of traditional industry which, in of itself, is a backbone for societal stability through employment and redevelopment. As a result sustainable investment at a global scale has to walk the tightrope to favour bold and potentially risky opportunities versus steady, long-established enterprises that are often signaling progress but not at a rate of change that is required or is predicated on favourable statistics and actions that create ‘hot air’. Exercising the collaboration between investors, economic actors and the stalwarts of the current economy must require recognition that models that have long delivered economic value to shareholders will need to be replaced by new modes, some of which require the fair distribution of returns to a broader community that maintain an equitable society.
However, as the pandemic has shown there are no organisations too large or countries immune to the damage that a widely distributed, complex problem can reach, impact or disrupt. Whilst the health crisis continues and is likely to continue for some time, ineffective climate action is creating a storm that has significantly greater strength with the ability to decimate not just disrupt. Terra Carta explains in Section 3 Article 7 that ‘Nature’ is the ‘True Engine of Our Economy’, which is to suggest that without an appreciation of its power, influence and capabilities the underlying fabric of our society could be disrupted or would simply cease to exist. This is where we need to mobilize the greatest amount of effort, effectively, to correctly model, research and therefore, plan and design the systems that we need to put in place in order to leverage all of our collective resources to achieve a functional engine able to sustain an equitable and prosperous society. Whilst finance plays a role, effective leverage also requires that the right length, materials and position of the lever is used so that efforts are directed effectively. This is where I feel the role of the designer, the architect, has the skills to explore options and reconcile where it is required with the right audience and their resources to create an effective lever for transition. Ineffective levers create a paradoxical effect of progress, costing more environmentally in resources and efforts than the objects movement benefits. From energy production to farming, to common language - the underlying cornerstones of society will likely need to adopt new metrics and standards for progress. This requires a tactical, systemic-based approach which supports testing, validating and encourages actors without typical representation to have a voice so that the solutions become a part of many legacies, and therefore benefit from the stimulation of ‘Leading with Purpose’. We have to be careful to embed this into common metrics and standards of measurement without allowing for it to become a vehicle for ‘lip-service’ which justifies business as usual with a new facade.
At the forefront of this challenge are what we would typically call ‘disruptors’. Generally these are new businesses or organisations with a model that has the potential capacity to revolutionize an industry or to make other industry actors obsolete. Perhaps the greatest catalyst for effecting displacement of traditional industry is the competitive progress of new science, technology and Innovation. Terra Carta recognises that the pace of all three of these drivers can seriously affect channels for investment of time, effort and resources. We should remember that disruption isn’t always positive or effective. Social media platforms, for example, have their positive enablers but share the room with some serious flaws and issues. Disruption for the sake of disruption can manifest itself as progress long after the discovery of its drawbacks at which point the damage has already been done. The ambition of Terra Carta is to support, explore and advocate the effective modes of travel towards a sustainable future that enhances education, training, skills development, jobs and opportunities that create a sustainable future.
Looking ahead, Terra Carta, designed by Sir Jony Ive (the former chief design officer at Apple), has already been adopted by signatories from leading companies, banks and institutions. But I shall leave the last word to HRH The Prince of Wales who simply closes his forward with:
“To guarantee our future, we have no other choice but to make each day count – and it must start today.”