Friday, January 13, 2012

Don Tapscott:keynote speaker at Liberal Party Convention in Ottawa

Don Tapscott is the invited "keynote" speaker to the Liberal Party's Ottawa convention this weekend. Don Tapscott is the co-author of the international bestseller Wikinomics and its even more ambitious successor, Macrowikinomics, as well as the generation-defining Grown Up Digital. He's an entrepreneur, an internationally sought consultant, the chairman of the innovation think tank Moxie Insight and an adjunct professor of Management at the University of Toronto's Joseph L. Rotman School of Management. On top of that, he's currently heading up four multi-million dollar research programs.
 Described by one pundit as mainly about "plumbing" this convention finds the party at a vortex, not merely a crossroads.
It is in crisis both in the failure to attract votes and the need for serious cash. It has been delivered what Tapscott calls the rejection of the millions who no longer place trust in institutions, prefering instead to "go around" those insitutitons by using social media.
The Chinese word for threat is the same as the word for opportunity and Liberals, led currently by the congenial and skillful, the insightful and somewhat "market-worn" Bob Rae who consistently utters the "up-beat" version of the treat-opportunity dichotomy, will naturally attempt to find the silver lining in their near-demise.
So, if we hear Tapscott correctly, in his interview with Evan Solomon on CBC's Power and Politics yesterday, political parties are, like the rest of society, in transition. Whether this transition proves to be their undoing or their next leap forward will have its initial steps in some of the decisions taken in Ottawa this weekend at least for the Canadian Liberals.
In individual human terms, immediately following a crisis, the majority of humans revert to their "wanderer" archetype, using the research of Carol Pearson in The Hero Within. In that stage, there is a protracted period of questioning, of some doubt, of some grief at the loss(es) and some quiet time to explore options. Most of this work, at the individual level, is done privately, perhaps with a shrink, or counsellor or coach.
Work that has not yet been faced and dealt with, in our inner lives, receives some of the attention it needs. For example, realizing how complex our lives are, including our current and lost relationships, our fragility, the limits to our capacity to control what happens in our lives, our mortality and our attitude and "world-and-life-views" both past and future are some of the issues that this period permits us to open, to face and to reflect upon.
In the case of a national political party, this kind of work has to be conducted, if at all, in the glare of kleig lights, under the scrutiny of the public media, and during and hopefully over the recriminations and blame for past failures.
Many of the interior failures of the Liberal Party of Canada have been laid bare before all Canadians:
  • the entitlement to govern this country
  • the only party that can and will keep the country together
  • the only and best party to manage the country's finances
  • the party of government of most of the country's history
  • the failure to keep strict accounts in national crises
  • the various economic interventions both good and bad that demonstrate "experience" and "competence" and a presumption of trust from the Canadian electorate
  • an addiction to the "white knight" charismatic leader (a Moses, or a Ghandi or a Mandela-model)
  • a presumption of insiders that they know best what the party must do with policy and funds
  • a presumption of members that the party will always or nearly always form government leading to a complacency at the grass roots level
  • a presumption of some insiders that government/public money was accessible depending on the people one knew, especially when a national crisis was on the immediate horizon
And, going forward, also in the public consciousness, are the Party's considerable strengths and assets:
  • decades of progressive and sometimes visionary pragmatism in policy and process
  • emminent leaders of both national cultures, often bridging the two cultures
  • a public service that has become one of the most professional in the world
  • a tradition of compromise, attention to the needs and dignity of the individual and achievements in political debate even and especially with competing ideologies
  • an admired standard of living supported by one of the best social nets in the world, linked to one of the most stable banking and financial service industries anywhere
  • a health care program that provides first class, accessible health care under a single payer model that is the envy of many countries
  • general respect and trust among the nations of the world for our bravery, our courage, our persistence and our collegiality 
  • an education system that, while struggling, continues to provide graduates at all levels who can take their rightful place on the world stage
  • the capacity to face reality through research, debate and compromised resolutions that bring the country along into the future with minimal turbulence, for the most part
  • a genuine commitment to rebuild, to revision and to reinvigorate both the party and the country, following the disaster years of the current neo-con government, without falling victim to the bogeymen of extreme ideology
These are not meagre accomplishments and they certainly trump the failures of the party. However, there is a confluence of new factors that must find expression in the new Liberal Party of Canada that will shake some of its traditions to their footings:
  • the demand for inclusivity from all demographics and that includes demonstrable influence over policy, and process, including the process of election of leaders, candidates and fundraising
  • the demand for new and innovative and interactive communications that include all the latest technologies and the potential to integate those still on the drawing boards of the university labs and the silicon valley boards rooms
  • the demand that action replace talk on so many files that have been left unattended for so long, Canadians have, for the most part, given up hope for authentic action
  • the demand for enhanced provisions inside and parallel to the national health care system
  • the demand for new and different ways of educating the citizen about both opportunities to serve and responsibilties to protect the country's values, institutions and laws, including the capacity to make appropriate changes wherever necessary
  • the demand for greater fairness and equality between and among Canadians where access to full opportunity is currently denied and where achievement is limited by conditions a rich ocuntry like our's can afford to mediate
  • the requirement to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in all public statements, even if that truth has to be parcelled out in small bytes, in order not to disturb the body politic
Let's hope those attending in Ottawa can and do listen to Mr. Tapscott's inspirations and challenges in a spirit of welcoming change, without denying the sins of both omission and of commission of the past, including both the recent and more distant past, and with the courage of their best and most creative and courageous leaders, on whose shoulders they are all walking, proudly.

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