Amazing sometimes how articles appearing on the same day in the media can set off thoughts and ideas in your own head. In the same way that the best innovations are often new combinations of existing ideas, so reading one article and then another can cause a greater effect than either on their own.
That's how I felt on my journey in this morning reading first that Sweden plans to be world's first oil-free economy. How marvellous, I thought, what a great forward-thinking attitude....only to turn the page to read that BP profits of £11bn disappoint the City. That's right, £11bn profits were disappointing; does anyone at the stock exchange read that and appreciate how absurd it is?
What stuck out to me in the article about Sweden was that their Minister for Sustainable Development (an innovation in itself) said that "A Sweden free of fossil fuels would give us enormous advantages"...by which she meant business advantages, because the country would be free from fluctuating oil prices and any future energy crises.
Obviously, the Global Ideas Bank has been a keen campaigner for progress being measured in terms of wellbeing, life satisfaction and happiness (see here)...but the fact is that there is a hugely powerful purely economic case for taking the lead from the Swedes. Even George Bush seems to be waking up to the fact that relying on oil from a region that is, in large areas, an antagonistically anti-American zone, is perhaps not a great long-term policy. So why are the governments dragging their heels? The UK is already behind schedule to reach 10% of renewable energy by 2012...and yet they continue not to address these issues. Businesses themselves are starting to lead government on such matters, in the knowledge that they will not be able to dodge the climate change bullet.
And these issues seem to connect like a Buzan mind-map for me across areas of social innovation: our short-termist political system leads to short-term thinking (and an underestimation, as Geoff Mulgan put it in a policy seminar, of what they can achieve in the long-term), so social innovations are needed to reform politics accordingly; the power of big business and corporations needs to be addressed; environmental innovations need to be given the chance to flourish and replicate; and the money:progress ratio needs to be broken, with a greater focus on life satisfaction and wellbeing....and so on and so forth.
The problems are out there; but so are the solutions. I'm optimistic, given the human capacity to imagine how things might otherwise be, that is to innovate and adapt, that we can overcome the obstacles that face us. But I might have to stop reading the paper to stay that way....