A journey of a thousand miles

Wednesday 6th February 2008, 2037
Sitting on the end of a small, rickety single bed in Priory Hall in Coventry

Wow. So, I’ve started my MA in Sustainable Enterprise and one of the things I wanted to do was write a blog of the experience and my personal journey through it. I’m now three days in and my head feels like it’s about to explode.

I’ve got so much to say, but I’m just not sure how to express it in a readable way! I guess starting from the start is a good way. So the MA is run through Coventry University’s Applied Research Centre for Human Security. What is human security I hear you ask? Good question – I won’t give an academic answer, but I guess it’s about an approach to global security that focusses on individuals rather than nation states. So instead of security being about maintaining your borders and repelling invaders, it’s about individuals’ sense of security and well-being. Freedom from fear, access to resources – the room to grow and develop as a human being.

The course itself is looking at the role of enterprise (any sort of organisation, be it business, charity, NGO or government) in human security and sustainability. It’s hard to summarise in a short sentence, and I’m eager to blurt out what’s rattling round my brain, I guess at it’s core is a question about the relative roles and responsibilities of government, business and civil society. It’s about understanding what sustainable enterprise is and what a sustainable enterprise economy looks like.

I think that’s enough of an intro, I apologise that it’s not particularly thorough and it’s not meant to be a comprehensive explanation, just a brief blurb off the top of my head. Anyways, so I’m here with some amazing people with really diverse backgrounds and approaches to life. It’s fantastic to be involved in this with these people. One of the things that Malcolm (McIntosh, who heads up ARCHS) and his team have adopted is a conversational learning approach, where we share in the co-creation of knowledge and understanding. In plain English – we talk about stuff and through it we learn and about each other and ourselves.

I’m here as part of my journey and general existential angst. I guess I’ve been interested in lots of this stuff for a while and the approach they’re adopting here, I guess 3 things in particular are unique to this course and perfect for me:

  • A transdisciplinary approach to issues of globalisation, sustainability and social justice
  • Complexity – seeing the world as a complex adaptive system
  • An approach of creating knowledge through letting things go, through non-directed, conversational learning. One could call it the Tao

It’s been phenomenal to be immersed in this world with such creative and diverse people and really get my teeth into so many of these issues. I’ve been waiting a long time for this and finally feel armed enough to really get stuck in.

So many thoughts and ideas, I can’t really do them justice here. I guess they’ll fall out of my head into this blog over time, but just to try and capture some.

What does it mean to be human? One of the core themes that keep re-appearing is that of “what it means to be human”. Instinctively this means connections and the desire to connect – with each other, with our environment and ourself. It’s also about the ability to choose. Between positive and negative. I’m really interested in exploring this question and in particular about the role of energy in what it means to be human.

Complexity and Buddhist economics Another thought was about seeing sustainable enterprise as being about the long-term future of an organisation, enabling it to continue what it does ad infinitum and then taking Schumacher’s buddhist economics and asking – what if the role of corporations is to provide meaningful work? And progress was about doing thing better but not necessarily bigger. What world the world look like if we all enjoyed work and were truly content with it? Wouldn’t that create productivity, creativity and innovation? So, what if we saw sustainable enterprise as:

  • creating work that people enjoy
  • within planetary limits
  • as a complex adaptive system that is organisationally closed, but energetically open?

The Black Gold Market We’ve just watched Black Gold, a fascinating documentary about the inequities and complexities of the global coffee market. One of the key points was about how low the coffee price was and how it is determined by New York traders. It got me thinking – why is the price so low? I’d be really interested to take my experience and knowledge of the emissions trading market and investigate coffee. What are the price fundamentals and what’s driving the low? How could farmers engage in the market (directly or indirectly) to influence it?

Action research as an instrument of change Coventry Uni is building a new climate change institute. ARCHS have tried to engage with them to get them to build it sustainably, using all the skills on offer at the Uni. They’ve not been able to convince the Uni to do so for a whole host of complex reasons – what are they? Are they perceived or real? How could they be overcome? What role do individuals and individual attitudes have to play in this? Could I achieve change by asking these research questions?

Thai synchronicity In another great example of synchronicity and serendipity – I’m off to Thailand (courtesy of my cousin Chris) to explore opportunities out there. Given their proximity to and relationship with Myanmar/Burma and the complexity of corporate citizenship in that context, it would be fascinating to look into that in more detail. What approach do supra-territorial corporations take to corporate citizenship in Thailand? What role do they have in terms of how Thailand engages with the Myanmar/Burma situation? What role do Thai businesses take in that? How does all of that relate to the inter-governmental relationship? A great opportunity to explore that and engage in a conversational grounded theory approach.

So you can see, my brain hurts. All these thoughts have been milling round in my head somewhere and now is suddenly the right time for them to bloom. I need to nurture and grow them until I can pick the right one and then work with it so that it can express its full self.