Societal Learning and Management Arrangements

Following the realisation that behaviour - and therefore competence - is primarily determined by the way people think about society and their place in it, Prof. Raven’s research moved on to study the effectiveness of the arrangements which are currently in place for societal learning and management.

Two of the most striking findings were:

  1. That the spending of about 75% of GDP is, in some sense, under government control: we live in managed, not market economies.
  2. That our current societal learning and management arrangements not only do not work very well they are actively heading us towards the extermination of the species - indeed the destruction of the planet - at an ever increasing rate. There are numerous indices of these exponential changes and their currently inevitable consequences, but most striking is that it would require 5 back-up planets engaged in nothing but agriculture to enable everyone in the world to live as we do in the West: yet billions in China and Asia are hell bent on doing so. Hardin's "tragedy of the commons" is endemic and pervasive.

The society we need if our species and the planet as we know it are to survive must be as different from ours as agricultural society was from hunter-gatherer society.

Yet no-one knows, or can know, what such a society would look like.

Pervasive innovation in every nook and cranny of society is required.

Most important is study of, and invention of ways of intervening in, the hidden sociological systems processes which deflect even well-intentioned public reforms (as in education) from their goals and lead us all to do things which we know to be wrong.

What then are the public management arrangements required to move forward?

These have been spelt out in The New Wealth of Nations: A New Enquiry into the Nature and Origins of the Wealth of Nations and the Societal Learning Arrangements required for a Sustainable Society.

Chief among them are new institutional arrangements for public management: new forms of bureaucracy and democracy.

An essential pre-requisite to doing this is wider recognition of the crucial role of the public servant.

The main tasks of the public servant are:

If we are to get them to do these things it will be necessary to develop new job descriptions, new staff appraisal procedures and new means of supervising their work.

Evolution of new means of supervising their work requires wider recognition that the function of democracy is, in Mill's words, "Not to govern, a task for which it is eminently unsuited, but to make visible to everyone who did everything". Thus flat, non-hierarchical, structures are required to supervise the work of the public service (and others).

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