The financial crisis and the resulting fiscal crises have put capitalism in the spotlight. In an era when public spending is being tightened, a question often asked is how can the private sector help alleviate social problems? So I thought this would be a good opportunity to turn people’s attention to the Future Quotient, FQ, a new idea from a Volans report I recently read, co-authored recently by Fellowship Councillor Charmian Love FRSA.
I think this collection of people and organisations that bring the interests of future generations into our decision-making today can inspire new ideas for businesses and social enterprises
‘Sustainability’, ‘social enterprise’ and ‘shared value’ are all useful ideas about what form a new 'responsible capitalism' might take. But Volans argues that one central variable involved is to bring the interests of future generations into our decision-making today. They call the extent to which people do this their Future Quotient.
To help define it Volans identifies 50 people, projects, organisations and states that have a strong Future Quotient. With nods to a diverse set of emerging business models – like biomimicry, collaborative consumption, open-source and freemium – it is an interesting collection. (If you think I’m in danger of buzzword overload, I urge you to familiarise yourself with the links.) I think this collection can inspire new ideas for businesses and social enterprises. And obviously we will look to support any ideas our Fellows have through our Catalyst programme – of which Charmian is a member of the working group that decides grants.
One of the organisations featured that everyone will have heard of is B&Q (and their parent company Kingfisher). They made it in because they actively seek input from the next generation to work out how their values compare to their business model. They do this by getting the children of employees to give their impressions of their parent’s work.
B&Q run DIY free classes… helping people mend and repair their homes at less cost to themselves and to the environment as well as improving B&Q’s trade
Another B&Q initiative has provided inspiration for the RSA’s work on what our CEO Matthew Taylor set out in his annual lecture as enlightened enterprise
for a different reason. They run free classes to give people DIY skills. This means people can mend and repair their homes at less cost to themselves and to the environment (fewer new products are bought). But it’s also in B&Q’s interest, since getting people interested in DIY means they are more likely to buy things at B&Q, though this might be some time in the future. You can read more about this in a sneak preview of the RSA’s forthcoming report into this activity in this BBC report
I also wanted to mention the way the report engages readers in its findings. Alongside The Future Quotient report, Volans, with the help of MindTime, invites readers to participate in a quick survey. This both engages the reader in the topic – giving me some questions to remind me what it meant to be future-minded – and provides them with more data – about the FQ of its stakeholders by age, sector etc.
This is relevant for us because, as Matthew Taylor states, “nearly all our major research and development projects are now designed to engage Fellows.” One example of how we do this already is the RSA Fellows' Profit with Purpose Network who are collaborating with our Enterprise programme.
For those readers interested in learning more about this area I would suggest John Elkington’s Guardian blog and the FT’s Capitalism in Crisis blog.
You can find out more about RSA Catalyst and apply for grants and support at www.thersa.org/catalyst
Alex Watson is Networks Manager responsible for RSA Catalyst – follow him @watsoalex