As mentioned yesterday, the Global Ideas Book is published this week, packed with ideas, projects and social inventions to change our world. And all at a bargain price. As I also mentioned yesterday, Charles Handy, the social philosopher, has written the foreword, so I thought I'd post it up here:
THE GLOBAL IDEAS BOOK
"Once again the Institute has produced a great cornucopia of social inventions in this its Global Ideas Book. I read it for personal pleasure, delighted to find something that, for a change, talks of possibilities rather than problems. I read it also as a nudge to get me thinking of ways in which I could perhaps make a difference to the world immediately around me, because most of the ideas here do not require legislation or government approval, just a bit of local energy and initiative. We have tended to become a very passive society, waiting for some unseen ‘they’ to take action in response to our muttered and often muted grouses.
So it is with some delight that I see that many of the most interesting ideas in this year’s book are not just ideas but actual projects, examples of people who don’t wait for the slow wheels of democratic government to churn out some bureaucratic response to an urgent need but who have gone ahead and done it themselves. The Wireless Internet project in Nepal is a nice example of this, a way of connecting remote yak farms in rural areas, started by a local teacher, Mahabir Pun, who saw the need and did something about it. Back in France a homelessness charity, Emmaus, has been using the new technology to do much the same sort of thing, connecting isolated people, in this case helping the homeless to set up web sites and providing them with free email accounts to allow them to search for jobs or just keep in contact with friends.
In Australia it is a bank that has taken the initiative to bring help to rural areas, where the branches of the big banks have been closed leaving the inhabitants economically deprived as people go to the bigger towns to bank and shop Bendigo has enrolled the local communities as franchisees, requiring them to put in some capital, hire the staff and manage the day-to-day running while Bendigo performs all the technical banking functions, provides training and support and distributes any profits as dividends and grants to the communities. It is a nice example of corporate responsibility which helps to give real meaning to that rather tarnished concept.
Central to these and other ideas is technology. Without the internet and the Web these ideas would not work. It is exciting to see how this technology is releasing energy in the smaller globules of the world, allowing individuals to make a difference to communities as well as taking more control over their own lives. Perhaps this is the real meaning of democracy which originally meant ‘people’s power’ rather than ‘people’s votes’. We have a lot to thank Tim Berners-Lee for, he who invented the World Wide Web only a dozen years ago, and then decided to give it to the world for free. That was a Global Idea if ever there was one, and its multiplier effect is evident for all to see in so many of the projects and possibilities listed in this book."