Monday, May 10, 2010

Book ... Small Change, Why Business Won't Save the World by Michael Edwards

Dear Colleagues

Michael Edwards has written a very good short book "Small Change, Why Business Won't Save the World" which is very well worth reading. Unlike some books about the problems of socio-economic change, this one respects the idea that change is complex, and especially in a global context. Michael Edwards has enough experience … Oxfam, Save the Children, World Bank and Ford Foundation … to understand the issues and he says a lot in relatively few pages.

The arguments made in the book are well thought through ... and I very much like the simple conclusion that the single silver bullet solution for global social transformation does not exist. I like the arguments that "philathrocapitalism" is not going to "change everything", that market mechanisms do not always get things right, that government may not be super efficient but it is still an important part of the equation, that civil society could be a lot more efficient but does useful things ... and so forth.

But in one respect I am left hanging ... the book is very helpful in better articulating the problem, and the situation that exists ... even what will not really work. But there is not enough vision about what might work and how to stimulate the changes that are needed.

Maybe I should be pleased about this ... there is no chapter about socio-economic metrics that are central to my own interest ... no reference to something like Community Analytics (CA). Maybe there is now an opportunity to write that chapter and for me take credit for it. But actually it is a real shame that this book does not include the issue of metrics.

When the predominant metrics are only about corporate profit, capital market prices and GDP growth, then it is going to be normal for all the management attention to get focused on those matters to the exclusion of important socio-economic metrics. Civil society in all its forms has not yet embraced the idea that management metrics are important ... nor has anyone faced up to the problem that high levels of corporate profit are often generated by organizations that are doing a large amount of socio-economic value destruction. Nobody cares about this ... because profits are reported on, and socio-economic value destruction goes unmeasured and unreported!

Read the book ... Small Change, Why Business Won't Save the World ... and imagine what would happen if all the ideas in the book were being subject to metrics of profit and value. With better metrics, my guess is that the world would soon be a better place!

Peter Burgess

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