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In a Vacuum of Political Leadership: Can Business Step Up?

By Shlomo Maital

   The Guardian carries an interesting interview with Paul Polman, Dutch CEO of Unilever, global food giant that employs 170,000 and has a market value of some 90 billion pounds sterling.

     He makes a point we have often stressed in this blog: Multiplying global challenges demand global coordination and policies, yet countries increasingly are looking inward, “America First” from Trump is not the only example.    

“Actually, that is one of the key issues in the world right now – the lack of global governance in a world that has become far more interdependent,” he says.

“Some countries have played their role historically, but seem to be falling back to their home base; others have not been able to step up to the plate, claiming developing market status. But increasingly the issues that we are facing – climate change, unemployment, social cohesion, food security – these are issues of global proportions. We are often trapped in short-termism … or other things.

“Many of the institutions that were designed have served us very well, but they were designed in 1948 at the time of Bretton Woods [the conference held in 1944]. It is not surprising that you have now got an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other alternatives because the world has moved on.”

     I wish Polman would create a new “Bretton Woods” – a summit of top CEOs of the leading global companies. If politics is local, business is global. Why not then have global business rethink our policies and global infrastructure, and begin acting to implement them? These huge companies have enormous power, based on the electoral impact of their workers and the funds they donate to political parties.




Creativity: Can You Use What You Already Have?

By Shlomo Maital  

One of the most powerful tools for practical pragmatic feet-on-the-ground creativity is – to use what exists, to solve unmet needs and unsolved problems.   Joe Dickinson did this.

   The problem:   Lonely isolated older people, over 60 – soon there will be 2 billion of them in the world.

   The challenge:   Find a way to keep in close touch with them daily.

     The breakthrough question: Who sees people every day, or nearly every day, on a regular basis?   Answer? The postman.

       Joe Dickinson, a postal worker in Jersey, a lovely vacation island off the cost of France, had this simple powerful idea.   Use postal delivery people to check on elderly people. Call it: Call and Check.   See if they are OK. See if they need anything or need medical help. Here is a short description:

Call & Check provides a regular visit for people – daily, weekly or as agreed. Our staff will have brief conversation with the customer to ascertain how they are and if they need anything. Working with our customers’ designated contacts, we are then able to relay important messages or requests back to the relevant authority for action. The postal worker is in no way providing medical care or assistance to the customer, we are simply a regular, friendly face that frequently calls and checks, and can raise concerns with relevant third parties where necessary.

        Call and Check has already saved elderly lives.

           Innovator:   Can you use this approach? Can you define a social problem, and then solve it using what exists already?     Example:   India’s Lifeline Express – a medical train that uses India’s extensive system of rails to reach outlying villages and bring medical care to those who have no access to it.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
April 2017
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