Friday, 24 March 2017

The Organisation is dead! Welcome to the gig and gadfly economy

The organization is dead and this is why 

Competition in the same field will inevitably lead to organizational death for some

I sat at a conference recently listening to representatives from organisations trying to work out how to work together to save the planet and it's endangered species. It was painful, a bit like listening to dinosaurs trying to work out how to avoid extinction. The future of conservation organisations is dire. This is also reflected in the future of many other large institutions. 

The organisation is dead! you heard it here first. 

The point that they seem to have missed is that people are no longer joiners. They no longer want to be part of the grey horde that subscribes to, or works for some archaic behemoth. If you look at social media behaviour people are predominantly gadflies. Yes, the demographic that currently supports environmental organisations might well join them. But the generations following behind them flit from one issue or campaign to the next in the click of a mouse button. What those organisations need to ask is how should we work together within the emergent gig economy to capture the wave of clicktivism? They need to harness the enthusiasm of social movements, they need to be lean and agile in other words adaptable, they need to go where the action is. The modern workforce will abandoned the traditional organisation. More than a third of Americans are already freelance and loving it. They move happily from gig to gig, they do not spend a lifetime devoted to a one trick pony job. If you extrapolate this idea for the modern charity or trust, people do not choose one and stay with it for life. 

Do this now!

When I was a humble undergraduate I joined the green movement at University of Plymouth. It contained and was courted by many of the popular charities and trusts eager to harness the enthusiasm and idealism of youth. To their credit, what came to be known as 'Green Umbrella' took them all onboard, allied itself to none of them and instead campaigned on a new issue each month. Each organisation could put forward a topic, members of the umbrella would vote on which to take forward that month. Serious campaigns followed with a great deal of energy for the month. Students loved it, the variety and currency of issues keep the group fresh and excited.

Is this a way forward for the big organisations?

Maybe but I think they need to drop some old adversarial practices, stop competing and think about how they will work together. I think the big single issue organisations will die, just like Kodak was defeated by digital photography. In many respects this will be a good thing. Diversity is after all what many of them are campaigning for. Lets focus on the problems, prioritise them and then put all of our energy in to a month of serious campaign effort. Could this happen? I suspect not because at present they can't even agree who should be in the room, let alone the issues. RIP organisations, you're too stale, too big and faced with decisions you choose inertia. Stricken by fear of offending the current member demographic and obsessed with staying part of the establishment.

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