Dr Chris Edmond
IN THE nine months I have been writing this column I have often focused on how it will take us all, working together, to solve the big issues of our time.
The challenges of climate change, healthcare, housing, the future economy and food security will not be solved by anyone in isolation.
I have suggested forms of participatory democracy and co-production to return power to citizens and service users. I have discussed the need to collaborate across traditional boundaries – bringing together the best ideas from the private, public and charitable sectors.
I have talked of humble government and of Demos Helsinki, who say ‘our collective future depends on the ability of governments to re-imagine problem-solving and facilitate its success through a humble approach and with the requisite urgency.’
I have written of the benefits both to commerce and to politics of people from different backgrounds and experiences working together to bring a diversity of thought and ideas.
And, overall, I am pleased with the progress we are making in Jersey.
This newspaper has itself encouraged active debate and the sharing of all points of view, on occasion opening the editor up to criticism to which he responded admirably and thoughtfully.
Our political representatives are more openly sharing their views and joining the debate, via social media and other public forums.
Last week, the government even published a consultation on the new Policy Inclusion Framework which aims to ‘improve how government engages with Islanders on policy matters, ensuring that decisions are more sensitive and responsive to their concerns’.
And innovation, imagination and collaboration are increasingly recognised as essential.
Despite the progress, however, we still lack a central place to bring all of these concepts together in Jersey. You might argue we have plenty of organisations that already do similar work, such as the Institute of Directors, the Jersey Policy Forum and the government and its arms-length bodies. However, I am not sure yet that we have a dedicated space to do the thinking, the experimentation, the collaboration and the funding together needed to design and build the future.
In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, I have been giving some thought to a few solutions we could borrow from elsewhere.
Firstly, consider again the possibility of a University for Jersey – usually an idea discussed in terms of the financial benefit it could bring, while retaining local talent in the Island. However, universities are so much more than just a place of education. They also provide a chance for people of all backgrounds, with differing opinions, to come together to discuss, debate and to solve complex challenges. On an island with a relatively segregated education system, such integration and collaboration post-18 would surely bring benefits. And a university would be a platform for innovation, working in partnership with the private sector and government.
If not a full university, then perhaps we could look at a social impact hub – an independent place for education, for debate, for the incubation of new ideas and for social impact businesses across all sectors and industries to be designed, developed and to grow together.
Or we could piggy-back onto existing institutions. Take, for example, the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, of which I recently became a fellow. Founded in 1754, the RSA is ‘a global network of more than 30,000 entrepreneurs, educators and innovators working together for the advancement of society, the economy and the environment’.
As an example of their philosophy, the RSA mission paper, Design for Life, asks three questions:
All children, from their early years, were given chances to nurture their creativity and build a greater connection to the natural world?
All entrepreneurs were given the support and connections they needed for their innovations to flourish and shape better futures?
All business leaders were supported to transform their organisations to do more good?
These questions certainly resonate with my personal hope for the future in Jersey, and RSA Fellows from around the world are actively trying to work out the answers – not alone but together. I would certainly encourage Islanders with a passion for change and innovation to join me as an RSA Fellow.
So whether it’s through a university for Jersey, a social impact hub, an RSA branch, or some other structure, I believe we need to find a way to come together, across all parts of Jersey society, to debate, to collaborate, to innovate, and to create the future we want to see. We cannot leave it all to our politicians, our business leaders or our charities separately. We are all society. We are all democracy. We are all citizens. We all have the power to build a better future. Who wants to join me?
Dr Edmond is the founder and medical director of WorkHealth (CI) Ltd, a dedicated Jersey-based occupational health provider. He is also a director at Jersey Sport and Jersey Recovery College, and adviser to the Jersey Community Foundation. He writes in a personal capacity.