If in 2007 you were to tell someone that just 4 years later we would live in a world where banks are nationalised (to bailout a failed economic system), nature is privatised (to generate new wealth from ecosystem services) and the Middle East was the centre of the universe for democratic revolution (following the Arab Spring), at best you would have been laughed at.
A fast changing, complex world is nothing new. Think about the resurgence of the US after the first Great Depression with its call to business to help make it so, through to the more recent Sino-African trade arrangements that will help fuel the ongoing rise of the red dragon.
Such volatility means anyone interested in sustainable development – business, public sector or civil society alike – is challenged to ensure their organisation, community or network is resilient to such changes. That is, having the capability to understand the complex systems you live in and to make smart interventions accordingly. So when shocks occur – be it food riots or nuclear reactor meltdown threats – you are able to bounce back, learn and transform.
So what? This means any organisational development strategy of any particular value should now factor in the need for a new set of skills and management frameworks. Offices led by people who thrive in such complex systems. People who are adept at overcoming silos (through charm and through challenge), to work across disciplines and sectors to create shared value. Vice Presidents of CSR, Directors of Environmental Campaigns or Chief Information Officers at Toyota, Greenpeace or the State of California may all still be necessary, but no longer sufficient.
Arise the post of tomorrow – the Chief Resilience Officer: an executive who is as comfortable with strategising or community engagement as they are with a balance sheet or a scientific journal, leading an office whose responsibilities would relate to ensuring key leverage points in their organisation’s complex system, across a host of departments and disciplines, are fully utilised in support of its strategy.
Another 4 years down the line, and who knows, by 2015 the post of Chief Resilience Officer may just be lots of people’s dream job.
Writer, strategist and change manager in the fields of economic development and environmental sustainability.
Philip Monaghan is a writer and strategist in the fields of economic development and environmental sustainability. He is the acclaimed author of the books Hard to Make, Hard to Break (out February 2012) and Sustainability in Austerity (2010).
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