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Repurposing our Institutions…?

Alison Kilduff
Client Director

A recent and powerful tweet from Sandi Toksvig about the ‘glacial’ pace of change in the Anglican church around the blessing of gay marriage stayed with me beyond the usual ‘blink’ of social media impact. Yes, it was an impassioned plea. Yes, it was a subject close to my own heart. But the ‘afterlife’ of the tweet I realised sometime afterwards was the dissonance at the heart of the matter- an institution created to include and encompass everyone, literally to love everyone equally, patently excludes, in the name of preserving the institution and its doctrine…

This tapped into a wider unease about a drift from purpose in our wider commercial institutions. Fuel and gas companies set up to provide communities and countries with affordable fuel, hiking prices, to the point that people are choosing whether to eat or heat their homes. The police service there to protect the whole community consistently failing to screen out or deal with racists and misogynists within its ranks. New businesses lauded for innovation, descending into scandal, e.g. Theranos, raising $700m on the entirely false premise of the ability to run a series of blood tests from a single drop of blood. Brewdog, celebrated for reenergising the brewing industry, then forced to apologise to a series of former employees for creating a culture of fear.

Our institutions are hugely important. They drive growth and stability across our communities. However, where increasingly they wield more power than national governments, we need to re-engage in their prime purpose, not just in our commercial concerns, but also those of our social, cultural and environmental health. The architect of competitive strategy, Michael Porter, latterly called for ecosystems of shared value, “treating societal challenges as business opportunities, is the most important new dimension of corporate strategy and the most powerful path to social progress” (HBR Link)

It would be great to know that boardrooms, federations and synods up and down the country are consistently asking themselves:

  1. What is our core purpose?
  2. Are we truly living it and how do we know?
  3. What more could we do to augment or correct it?
  4. Are we committed to ecosytems of shared value?