This article is the first part of series describing a transplantable economic and impact development framework called the Impact Phenomenon (c)(tm). It was co-designed prior to, but first publicly presented by, a group of transatlantic entrepreneurs at the global technology summit, Nerve, Cambridge UK, 2013. Post conference, I sat in a coffee shop opposite Kings College Cambridge and designed The Impact Phenomenon.
The Impact Phenomenon brings together two global phenomena, IoT and Impact Investing. Combining these two phenomena within the Impact Phenomenon, a unique innovation framework, levering local/national/international partnerships in a “best in class” entrepreneurial eco-system framework, outputs impact, sustainable and purposeful business propositions that address social, climate and economic challenges facing organizations and populations – locally, nationally, internationally.
This first part of the four part series provides the backdrop of y(our) competition, and briefly outlines the first of two global phenomena – Internet of Things (IoT). The second part will discuss the second phenomenon – Impact Investing – inviting a global shift of business investment into purpose and impact. The third part will outline the rise of the global “entrepreneurial” phenomenon, the top level design for the Impact Phenomenon and a template to use for organizations with both a local and international footprint. The final part will outline use cases and example scenarios where the Impact Phenomenon could deliver on its promise of local and transplantable impact and economic transformation.
To be clear, the Impact Phenomenon is only one part of a very complicated jigsaw puzzle, it does not claim to save the world, but it could start to make an important dent as we all start fighting back against (y)our competition.
Impact Phenomenon – Part 1
What is its purpose?
Simple. Localities, nations and the world face some serious challenges (competition) which have to be addressed. Competition is hunger, energy poverty, climate change, education, sustainable economic and business growth, transport congestion, disease, breaking healthcare systems, dwindling precious planetary resources, energy/food/water security, environmental pollution and disasters – to name but a few. Switching the movie lens to identify what the competition really is, tends to bring out the best in collaborative partnerships, which is at the heart of the Impact Phenomenon.
IoT and Impact Investing can have a play to a lesser and greater extent to most of the competition outline above. In some cases, Impact Investing will play a greater role, other times, IoT will but in most cases it should be a balance. I fully appreciate that other technologies, models, frameworks and partnerships will be needed to beat the likes of energy poverty and hunger. There is no simple answer to these “wicked” problems – (term used by author Ken Wilbur).
Collaboration and cross-pollination of solutions is a fundamental principle of the Impact Phenomenon. Solving a problem within a locality, allows transplantation into other territories facing the same competition. Or visa versa, ingesting a solution into a locality to address a particular problem that has been resolved in another territory. This is why the Impact Phenomenon interconnects its different instances to enable inter-territory collaboration and co-generation of impact.
As you will see in parts 3 and 4, the Impact Phenomenon can be used by any organization or group of organizations to meet particular local, national or international competition remits.
You probably get it already, but to emphasize the competition we all face, lets look at one of our competitors – Climate Change.
If you take a look at the research from NCAR, EPA, NASA, McKinsey and many other reputable organizations the facts are overwhelming that Climate Change is a significant threat facing the very essence of our global society. These links from the EPA and McKinsey start telling the story and this Climate Change presentation provides an easy guide.
“CO2 is the exhaling breath of our civilization, literally” – Al Gore
Climate Change will continually effect every aspect of our society, in particular food and water security. The main threats from Climate Change will be severe drought and flooding events. Here are some thoughts:-
- National Competition – Food Security. Important territories serving the US Agriculture economy are suffering. AgriLife reported that severe drought in 2011 resulted in Texas losing $7.6 Billion USD of crops.
- Global Competition – Water and Food Security. The Guardian newspaper reported that fresh water shortage will become a global crisis. About 3 Trillion Cubic liters of potable water is used by our global population of 7.6 Billion. 70% of potable water is used in Agriculture. By 2050, with 9 Billion people, the requirement for potable water will exceed 10 Trillion cubic liters and food output has to increase by a whooping 70% to feed everyone!
- Local Competition – Extreme Disasters. In Q3 2013, Colorado had a flood disaster that devastated numerous communities and townships across its front range. The Denver Post reported that to date lives are still effected and the damage totaled a staggering $2.9 Billion USD
I am sure that you can identify similar problems in your locality and nation.
Here is a picture from NCAR about changing rainfall patterns. If you are in a red or purple zone, then potable water and thus food production will be under severe threat over the next decades. (Desalination is probably a placebo – energy is required to execute the process of creating potable water and then the water has to be distributed across an entire nation, requiring huge investments in infrastructure and logistics (increasing carbon emissions!) and enormous demands of energy).
“Water is the driving force of all nature” – Leonardo da Vinci
You get the picture, Climate Change is an enormous competitor facing us all and effects every aspect of our lives and I plan to propose an IoT Climate Change Framework in the near future, keep your eyes peeled!
As the world seeks to take positive action and reduce its Co2 emissions, I wanted to mention this other competitor – Energy Poverty. The World Bank stated this in a recent report, “Access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is vital to driving economic growth and ending extreme poverty. Around 1.1 billion people worldwide still live without access to electricity. Another 2.9 billion rely on wood or other biomass for cooking and heating, resulting in indoor and outdoor air pollution attributable for 4.3 million deaths each year. Modern energy can help improve the quality of life for millions around the world and underpin progress in all areas of development“.
I hope that you start to get the picture. The list is long of the “wicked” problems facing communities and nations in our global society. In fact it is deeply troubling. Can anything be done? Are there positive phenomena that if combined might start to address these problems? Lets take a look.
Global Phenomenon 1 – The “Internet of Things” (IoT)
“IoT is the Third Wave of Global Innovation”
Put simply, the IoT (Internet of Things) is the third wave of global innovation, estimated by M.I.T. to create a new global economy of $$ Trillions USD. Intel refer to it as “the third wave of computing“.
The IoT serves multitudes of markets such as Smart Cities, Smart Energy, Smart Transport, Smart Agriculture plus many other markets. The term “Smart” gives it away, IoT is about making every market and aspect of our lives “smart”. This McKinsey document provides a useful overview on the IoT. (You might find this presentationuseful introducing the IoT and some guidance on how to build successful IoT business propositions).
In essence, the IoT is a range of technologies that when combined, make our lives smarter and less stressful, such as finding a parking space quickly. Nature has provided an excellent reference – the human body. You have billions of sensors on the surface of your body that measure data from your physical environment in real-time. This physical world data is sent over body networks to your brain or cloud computer. Here data is stored, brain applications convert the data into information from which you take intelligent action. For example, you may touch something sharp, you feel pain and move away from the object causing distress. You may smell some home cooked apple pie and suddenly you feel hungry and want to eat. Well just imagine if our planet operated on the same model!
Imagine if our planet had billions of sensors located in the physical world measuring data from their environment? Located in our homes, in our streets, across our cities, in our hospitals, in our offices, across our rural locations, covering vast swathes of our environment, covering all our energy and water supplies, all our agricultural land etc. Data from these sensors is “tweeted” in real-time over long range, low energy wireless networks (LPWANs) into the cloud, where data is securely stored, processed by Big Data applications, converted into information and action taken by computing intelligence – just like our brains! Just how efficient would our lives be!
Imagine if you are heading to a city and want to find that parking space in the ideal location, well IoT does that for you automatically! Simple. Or just imagine that the blood pressure or heartbeat of every American citizen is being measured in real-time? How would that change healthcare? How much saving could be made in preventing acute conditions before they set in? Would healthcare become prescriptive rather than reactive? Do some research on Wearable Computing, it is a tremendous innovation where technologies to make our life and health smarter and safer are naturally integrated into our clothes.
Or just imagine if watering of all our nation’s crops were fully automated ensuring minimal potable water was used, minimal chemicals were used for fertilization and protection and crop yields maximized? Sounds good? Makes life easier right? Makes sensible use of precious resources. Reduces amounts of chemicals placed into our environment. Fertilizer and chemicals are huge costs to the Agricultural industries and when they get washed away into our environment then problems can arise. We need to use as fewer quantities as possible in food production and IoT can help us achieve that.
What if we had vast swathes of “throw away priced” sensors located throughout our environment monitoring for build up of water or temperature increases? This would make detection of flooding and forest fires much earlier. Prescriptive rather than reactive action could be taken, making huge savings and protecting homes and lives. Does the business case matter? Or is this simply the “choiceless-choice”.
Or just imagine if real-time monitoring of energy usage was integrated into every aspect of our society, then energy production, distribution and consumption could be stewarded in an efficient and responsible manner. Cost savings to business and the consumer could be enormous. We would then know instantly the carbon output of every person and business, thus economically rewarding them for stewarding energy responsibly. Would we see a new form of real-time time Carbon Credit exchange? Imagine the positive impact on the environment as we move towards smarter, more efficient energy, reducing emissions and waste? It is no wonder that Smart Grid, Smart Energy has been identified as an enormous opportunity in IoT.
Imagine making vast swathes of the planet’s surface and its environment real-time digital. We would know instantly all kinds of information from any location, such as forest fires, potential flooding, free parking spaces, traffic congestion, air quality, outbreaks of disease, location of logistical transport, better climate information and models, how much to water our crops or your garden, energy consumption, when to empty your rubbish bin etc. Could this approach lead to a balanced and enjoyable coexistence between humans, planet eco-systems and its resources? Einstein invites us to “Imagine” and the famous writer George Bernard Shaw invites us to not ask “Why?” but ask “Why Not!”
I hope that you start to see that the IoT is huge, incredibly powerful and far broader than just making life efficient. It offers an opportunity to combat some of our competition head-on equipping us to tackle challenges – locally, nationally and globally.
There is so much more I can write about IoT, in fact I have started outlining a book. I am not claiming that IoT is the savior to resolve all our competition, that would be irresponsible – additional stakeholders, partnerships, complimentary phenomena and technologies are needed but I do believe that the IoT can make a positive dent in our competition.
More importantly the IoT is an invitation for all to participate and create a positive impact in every aspect of society – local, national and global. We must collaborate, embracing cultural differences, as territories join forces to tackle both unique and common challenges.
“IoT is about Purpose. IoT is about Impact”
(If you would like to know more about the IoT, then please get in touch. I offer IoT Master Classes which have been enjoyed by numerous international audiences, businesses and governments)
Impact Phenomenon – Part 2
The next part will be about Impact Investing, the rise of new forms of Alternate Finance and Social Capital to fund impactful propositions to tackle our competition. Here is a taster.
A study from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy projects that $36 trillion USD is expected to be passed down to heirs between 2007 and 2061.
Paul Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy stated in the report, “The estimates of wealth and philanthropy we highlight in the report are conservative and probably represent the floor rather than the ceiling of what is in store for philanthropic giving,”
What if just 1% of this money was solely focused on doing good in the world? Investing with purpose in order to create an impactful legacy. What if ROI was not the primary concern but creating a positive impact was? How would that change how we identify, create, build and fund businesses? If we combined this purpose driven funding with IoT, what positive impact in your locality, nation or even the world could be done combating our competition?