Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Understanding Kindness

March 9, 2016

Understanding Kindness

I had a conversation with my partner and colleague Robyn Velik

Klein this morning over breakfast. This was what emerged:

  1. What is kindness? Kindness has two elements..
  • Kindness = the kind person (individual kindness) + the kind culture (Collective kindness) . We could use the word ‘organisation’ instead but we find the word culture is more generic and universally applicable.
  • We should not seek to define the kind person more specifically. Every body knows what this is and if we try to do this we will divert ourselves into long and basically pointless conversations around which disagreements can arise. Not good at the beginning of any conference.
  1. However what we do need to say is that kindness is made up of more than an absence of its opposite namely cruelty (or callousness? I prefer cruelty), just as prosperity is more than an absence of poverty, wellness is more than an absence of illness, democracy is more than an absence of autocracy, and peace is more than an absence of war.
  2. We also need to understand what kindness in action and what cruelty in action is.
  • Kindness in action or kind behaviour can have many manifestations including caring + protecting + nurturing +?
  • Cruelty is action or cruel behaviour can have many manifestations including bullying + intimidation + threatening +? .
  1. A kind culture on the other hand could have many descriptors.
  • However what we suggest is to try to keep it as simple as possible.
  • Therefore a kind culture = kind behaviour (individual kindness) + the golden rule.
  1. We can have kind people in cruel cultures and cruel people in kind cultures. The strength and resilience of the dominant culture, kind or cruel, will determine whether the minority culture survives, grows and       thrives , or dies .
  2. Kindness is the first step for initiating trust in all relationships. Trust in turn requires that we answer yes to three questions
  • Is the other honest?
  • Is the other reliable?
  • Is the other competent?

Trust is basic to creating long-term interdependence which is in turn based on mutuality and the seeking of win/win not win/loss outcomes in relationships.

  1. What should be in our strategy to :
  • transform cruel cultures into kind cultures?
  • maintain and strengthen kind cultures once they have developed?.
  • facilitate continuous innovation so that kindness continues to be uplifted through continuously creating emerging exemplary kind cultures?.


Peter Ellyard

1 March 2016


Blog No 19. Creating A Liveable Society in the 21st Century

August 20, 2014

Today Melbourne my home city became the world most liveable city for the fourth year in a row. I am really interested in using liveability as an organising framework for planning the future.

Here is a chapter on liveability that I wrote that is included in that in a book ‘Melbourne Subjective’ that was launched on 14 August.

Marvellous/Liveable Melbourne, 2050

Peter Ellyard

 Today is 13 April 2050. Melbourne is still the world’s most liveable city. We are celebrating because we have now held this ranking for 39 years.

Melbourne first won this award in 2011. We were very surprised for we certainly didn’t aspire to be this. Who thought then about liveability? An idea, however, came to some of us. Could we consciously turn this into a long-term advantage? Could we build our future around liveability?

Yes, in 2011 we lived in a clean and basically safe and harmonious city of friendly and hospitable people. We had quite good schools and hospitals: okay but not the best. We did have the magnificent Botanical Gardens and some lovely parks in the inner city, and a way-ahead-of its-time sewage treatment facility at Werribee. This was the legacy left to us by public-spirited visionaries in the late 19th century when Melbourne was the world’s wealthiest city.

Regrettably, after World War One this bold, visionary culture vanished. In the space of a half-century, we shrank from being Marvellous Melbourne to Mediocre Melbourne. We were ‘led’ by timid managers who thought within-the-square and of business-as-usual. They only considered changing direction if supported by public opinion polling and cost-benefit analysis, and when they tried to be bold (which was rare), were stupid and short-sighted. We had to, for instance, fight very hard to resist their determined efforts to remove trams from our streets to make way for more cars.

In the 1980s things begin to improve somewhat. Existing sporting and cultural precincts were significantly improved by Victorian governments in the eighties, nineties and noughties; and we discovered Melbourne’s previously neglected laneways and put effort into making them attractive and convivial places. We built some fine bicycle paths. We upgraded our regional rail network and created a marvellous Southern Cross Station, and we made some modest extensions to our light-rail system.

However, major investments to improve both our urban heavy and light rail systems remained on the never-never. Cars stayed part of our transport problem rather than part of the solution. In the first two decades of this century we continued with some misguided motor vehicle tollways. We sought to build them east-west when the big transport challenges were north-south, like the mess that was Punt Road between 1980 and 2015. We were evolving in the wrong direction. Melbourne kept expanding across the rural landscape with many low-density suburbs: becoming, despite an investment boom in high-rise apartment blocks in the noughties, ever more car dependent as it did so.

We did, however, do two visionary things. Although many condemned these, in the first years of this century we built a desalination plant and a north-south pipeline. We did this during a ten-year drought. Two big droughts later we are glad we showed this foresight even though our financial planning should have been more creative and less financially stressful.

   With hindsight, in 2011 we needed more self-belief. We were surprised that others saw Melbourne as being so liveable. And what we did then was almost unAustralian. We decided to consciously transform our home into the world’s exemplar liveable city. We asked what ‘liveability heaven’ would look like. We imagined Melbourne in 2050 as a seven-star icon of liveability and set out to build it. In doing so, we were inspired not just by the idea of creating a better place for ourselves but by the thought that liveability could be used as an organising principle to help us shape the future of all cities and towns and realise a liveable planet.

This concept of liveability broadened our focus away from the physical structure of Melbourne. Liveability is about a safe and healthy Melbourne, a convivial Melbourne, a Melbourne replete with fulfilled lives, an harmonious Melbourne, a Melbourne of fruitful relationships, an emotionally supportive Melbourne, an inclusive Melbourne, a Melbourne of opportunity and a sustainable Melbourne. The concept of liveability encouraged us to concentrate on the interaction between the human Melbourne and the physical Melbourne. And, of course, we needed to create a prosperous Melbourne so we could afford to achieve all these things.

What is liveability? We deduced it had six key ingredients: prosperity, sustainability, harmony, wellness, inclusion and security. All of these could be objectively assessed and improved. We also recognised that liveability was destroyed by the presence of their opposites: being poor; living in unsustainable, uncomfortable and toxic environments; being excluded or treated badly by others because of one’s poverty, disability, gender, culture or race; being acutely or chronically ill with no route back to wellness; and being fearful or anxious because of perceived or real threats.

All these negatives killed liveability. But simply lessening a negative—unliveable Melbourne—does not mean one has created a positive: liveable Melbourne. There are also subjective and aesthetic elements in the concept of liveability. A conversation about a liveable Melbourne must also consider these perspectives.

So our first action was to establish Liveable Melbourne Inc as a not-for-profit organization in 2016. We weren’t going to lobby governments. We were going to do this ourselves by creating a bandwagon so joyfully loud and robust that even the most retarded government would be embarrassed not to jump on board. Liveable Melbourne (LM) was established to be a futures-shaping organisation, a think tank to develop and implement visions and strategies to realize an exemplary liveable Melbourne. It became a public advocate of, an investor in, and an innovation broker for, liveability. By 2018 LM was already funded by three philanthropies.

In the same year we established Designers, Innovators, Planners and Educators for a Liveable Melbourne (DIPELM). All the design-based professions were invited to join—engineers, architects, designers and planners of every kind. Those who accepted committed to ensuring their professional practice would progress the arrival of a truly Liveable Melbourne. They also took part in the liveability workshops that commenced in 2018. As a result, we formed alliances with key professional organizations. These included social and physical planners; design professionals such as architects, engineers and precinct and indoor designers; social and community planners; recreation planners and operators; urban foresters and urban ecologists; and organizations and individuals dedicated to building harmonious relationships and resolving conflict. Because of this, users of the outdoors like recreation specialists, personal trainers and sporting associations, and cultural professionals such as art gallery owners, music venue managers, museum managers and artists of all kinds also bought into our dream. All these people, each in their own way, began to embed liveability into their work.

We also started a public education program in our schools in 2019 to raise public awareness of what we were doing and promote liveability. Our Year 9 initiation programs emphasised liveability as a focus for showing our young how to live fruitful, considerate and happy lives.

On our website we listed the tasks we wanted accomplished; anybody in the world could propose the means to accomplish them. Many of these suggestions subsequently led to the establishment of new commercial ventures for producing liveability products and services, first for our own city and then for export.

In 2017 LM conducted a community wide program to imagine and describe Melbourne as liveability heaven in terms of its six key elements. We then developed a strategic plan to realize our aspirations using the six futures-shaping tools: leadership, management, planning, design, innovation and learning. We collected our ideas into what we call a future history, an historic narrative written in the past tense, from the perspective of 2050, and published it the same year. This imagined the events, the actors and the actions that constituted our program of transformation. We described each strategic action in terms of its what, why, who, when, where and how. And we committed ourselves to lifting liveability across its six key elements. Imagination is the primary route to the future just as memory is our primary route to the past. From 2017, we consciously promoted imagination in all its forms. We wanted more outside-the-square thinking. We reminded everyone that today’s ratbag is tomorrow’s prophet.

Liveability as a concept enabled us to envision new industrial panoramas. It appealed to many would-be entrepreneurs. We knew the market for liveability innovations was potentially huge. If we could construct liveability heaven in Melbourne then we could also build an industrial future for ourselves around this. We imagined, developed and marketed hundreds of liveability-enhancing innovations: liveability ways and wares. Liveability ways are the social innovations, behavioural changes, and changes to what we do to create a more liveable future. Liveability wares are the physical innovations, goods and services, infrastructures, and changes to what we use to create a more liveable future. We determined from the outset that Melbourne would become a laboratory for the creation of liveability ways and wares.

By 2020 we were also being supported by government grants and investments by the many new entrepreneurs and businesses constituting the budding liveability industry. These formed what could be called an emerging liveability alliance. We helped each other become better practitioners in liveability.

We built a shared vision and strong and purposeful relationships amongst those who were part of our liveability alliance. By 2020 there was no stopping us. Dozens of new liveability companies were established to form an emerging liveability industry and many existing companies added a liveability focus to their existing business. Two of our universities established liveability programs. The liveability theme began to permeate our whole culture. Talented entrepreneurs and creative people came to live here because they wanted to be part of creating liveability heaven. Many were tall-poppy knowledge workers and entrepreneurs who wanted to live in a place that nourished them and did not pull them down.

When the automotive industry began to turn sour in Melbourne and Adelaide early this century we established a number of robotics design and manufacturing companies in the old motor vehicle premises, which gave work to many retrenched motor vehicle workers. We began to grow an industrial base in robotics and artificial intelligence.

   A major project was Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Liveability (RAIL). Our liveability robots reduced drudgery and inconvenience in our lives. We manufactured robotic pets for the young, very old and infirm, robots for children’s learning and games, and robots for exercise and fitness. Intelligent machines now add to our comfort and happiness and assist us to improve our skills through practice in virtual environments. These days, our cars, trams and trains are actually intelligent robots: they can all be self-guiding and managing. Our water is conserved, restored, reused and delivered by intelligent machines. The result is that we all have more reflective time and less stress.

Another major project was stopping the further sprawl of Melbourne. We minimised Melbourne’s population growth by assisting towns and cities in Regional Victoria within two hours of Melbourne to also become more liveable. While not totally successful, since 2020 we have persuaded one million people to live outside Melbourne in Geelong/Bellarine, Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Daylesford, Ballan, Wonthaggi and Warragul.

We designated some areas near railway stations medium/high density zones with height limits subject to local approval. We reminded those who wanted to keep everything at low density that in the old days the most liveable parts of Melbourne were actually medium-density precincts like South Yarra and Carlton. Liveability is more a design-related than a density-related issue. We froze all land sales in these zones for five years, sold the land on behalf of the owners, and kept some for ourselves, so that the increasing rise in land values accrued into a public fund rather than being siphoned off by land speculators and developers. This fund paid for new community infrastructure and development.

As we stabilised the urban fringe, we redesigned it to be beautiful and welcoming. Cities tend to have their most ugly precincts on their fringes. We changed this. Three welcoming gates greet and farewell people entering and leaving Melbourne. The countryside outside the gate is an attractive intensive permaculture, horticulture and aquaculture precinct producing food for the world. The nearby rural communities to the northwest, northeast, east and south are magnets for ‘tree-change’ and ‘sea-change’ people.

Making work more mobile has also helped our cause. Because we have enjoyed free wi-fi across the whole city since 2021 many Melbournians now use cafés as offices. Many people don’t have designated work areas at all. Their work travels with them, and when they do go to work they have ‘hot desks’, enabling office space to be used more efficiently. Office buildings are also more flexible and convivial places. There is barely an office anywhere that does not have a café and multi-purpose wellness facilities for activities such as exercise, yoga and meditation. So although our population has increased by 50% since 2015, our office space has barely increased at all. Hospitality is a thriving industry and a mainstay of Liveable Melbourne. The CBD’s famous laneways have been emulated throughout the metropolitan area, and they are genial and funky places indeed.

   Liveable Melbourne without comfortable, regular and reliable public transport was unthinkable. Our trains and trams have both superb connectivity and hot desks. Many also offer quiet places where phone calls and conversations are banned and study and meditation is supported. We also have many long double-decker trains with long platforms to accommodate them. There are more buses, all of them electrically driven through either the use of overhead wiring or using solar-electric or solar-hydrogen driven hybrid vehicles.

It took until 2020 to raise the necessary community and political support for major investment in public transport, but it was worth the struggle. We now have trains to Tullamarine and Avalon airports. The Melbourne Metro was finally built between 2018-2023. Car expressways will never again be built through the inner city and the CBD. We learned that lesson after we finally abandoned a very controversial east–west road link in 2016.

We abolished peak hours. We did this by encouraging different workplaces to have different working hours and stage their employees’ times at work. So journeys to work are staggered. Peak hours disappeared just as, for the same reason, the six o’clock swill vanished in the 1960s.

The old planning zones separating work and residential living have vanished. After all, we used to separate them because work was once dirty and polluting. Sustainable practice involves doing things in ways that avoids net collateral damage to others. All our workplaces are exemplars of this principle. Our air, already pretty clean, and our water supply, always good, are now better than ever. You would never know that most new buildings have cutting-edge waterless toilets and two or three separate grey water systems. Our water savings have been immense.

We designated community conviviality zones (CCZ) in both Melbourne and in regional cities: places for convivial living, restaurants, cafes, pubs, theatres, cinemas and small shops. These are never highrise because keeping them human scale is important. We stopped at four floors in CCZs.

Our late night drinking spots are no longer threatening places. We put an end to alcohol-fuelled violence not by more police and bouncers, but by more and different education. Our youth are thankfully now less destructive, both to themselves and to each other. We used the middle years of secondary school to introduce initiation programs that, like all initiation throughout the centuries, prepared our children for successful and responsible adulthood. Year 9 used to be nightmare for teachers, and a few years later their former students created mayhem in the small hours. Now we don’t have violent, drunken boys staggering around in men’s bodies. Our youth have even more fun today, but not at the cost of their own or others’ health and safety.

The 21st century bioinspiration movement had a large influence on us. We have embedded in our planning culture two major subsets of bioinspiration: biophilic design— designing with nature; and biomimicry—innovating by learning from nature. Our traffic flows are designed using algorithms based on how ants move in heavy traffic and deal with clogged pathways. We have robots that collaborate to construct whole buildings mimicking how termites build their homes. We don’t clean windows as much because since 2020 our new windows are self-cleaning: using a technology developed from noticing how lotus flowers stay clean when surrounded by mud. All our buildings and public spaces are intelligent in how they manage energy use, temperature, water and light. They are programmed—tuned—to maximize all the parameters required for human comfort, with the quietness needed for conversation in some places, and music in others. Chairs and tables are always adjustable and chairs can provide massages on demand.

Liveable Melbourne is a convivial, event-packed Melbourne. In these events we celebrate and focus on the things we care about and want to promote. We have events awards at Moomba that reward event excellence! Most parts of Melbourne conduct an event every month. Our fantastic White Night occurs in four places as well as in the CBD. To our grand sporting galas—the AFL Grand Final, Boxing Day Test, Melbourne Cup and the Australian Open—we have added countless celebratory events. Our cultural and sporting precincts have significantly expanded in size and in options offered, and Federation Square hosts a huge number of our events.

Thirty percent of our population is now of Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Japanese and Korean origin. They have connected us with some of the most booming markets in the world. Our economic prosperity has come because we culturally customised our liveability ways and wares, indeed all our innovations, for them to export to their home countries.

We set a goal of becoming a solar city by 2050. Now all our electrical energy is sun powered, directly or indirectly, from solar electric, wind, solar thermal, terrestrial hydro-power and marine hydro-power. Many of our homes and buildings are energy autonomous and no longer on the grid. We started using solar-driven marine currents in the Bass Strait as a source of electricity by doing deals with Tasmania. We also acted on a promise to deliver lunar hydro-tidal and wave power, commencing with the tides entering and leaving Port Philip daily. Motor transport is also 80% solar, and carbon-emitting vehicles have been unregisterable since 2027.

To ensure Melbourne is a liveable place for all, we needed to become more inclusive. Among the initiatives we took was to appoint a Commissioner for Inclusion. Her job was to ensure that people who are excluded because of disadvantage or disability can nonetheless plan and walk their life and career path equally. Nobody is denied the opportunity to become the best person they can be.

There is shopping we like to do and shopping we have to do. In Liveable Melbourne we do the former and have alternatives for the latter. Shops have learned that if they want customers to visit and buy from them, they must make shopping enjoyable. Supermarkets are not so dominant in our lives now because most of their sales are remotely ordered and home delivered by solar electric vehicles. In large part, we now only do chores we dislike when necessary for personal or professional development.

We had to deal with the issue of global warming in two key areas, urban heat and sea rise. Urban nightmares are caused by a combination of pollution and extreme temperature: either dirty hot or dirty cold air. Our air was clean but we needed to deal with the evolving problem of longer and more severe summer heat waves and urban heat islands. Heat islands are avoidable: they are caused by dark roofs, roads and pavements, and loss of vegetation. In summer we were increasingly being baked because of bad urban design and heat waves caused big spikes in cardiac arrests.

We consciously sought to create a Melbourne cooler in summer and warmer in winter. We created a Melbourne full of cool, green water-wise streets and precincts. To achieve this we needed to increase the albedo—the reflectivity—of our roads and streets, and massively reduce the amount of solar energy absorbed by the dark surfaces that dominated our streets and pavements and then fried us when it was later re-radiated. We also needed to reduce the heat entering and being retained in the urban canyons we built from the 1990s on.

In 2018 we decided on a new Cool Melbourne Code: we focused on urban colouring, shade, and on the spacing and setbacks of tall buildings. Our streets are now light coloured. A large amount of previously retained solar energy is now reflected back and not trapped in the city. Our streets used to be ten degrees warmer than our parklands but we have now eliminated this differential. Our urban rooftops, walls and open spaces generally are now light coloured as well and many have natural covers and plants and gardens on and in them. From the air Melbourne looks very different, with green and off-white being the predominating colours. We use only half the electricity for street lighting that we used before because our current streetscapes are much more reflective, and also brighter and safer. We live in an urban forest and many of our plants attract birds into the city (though to protect these we needed to get community agreement to control cats).

   We accompanied all this with another innovation. We created permeable pavements and streets so rain could directly nourish our trees and shrubs and be retained in underground tanks. These tanks enabled automatic irrigation in the summer and were used in the many new water features we built. We no longer need to manually water any of our trees except when we have droughts lasting more than five years. Consequently our urban stormwater runoff has been reduced by 50% and our Bay side precincts are benefitting. And all of this stormwater is clean because rubbish is trapped and then pyrolyzed or composted. Our gardens are mulched by compost and biochar produced from our organic waste. We have planted shade trees and built trellises with deciduous plants everywhere possible as part of our urban cooling and warming policies. Deciduous plants, grown as trees and trellised plants, shade us in summer and enable the sun to reach our streets and footpaths in winter. We have become a city of fountains and water features and much of our urban art cools and warms us as well as pleasing us. And we now export urban cooling ways and wares to an appreciative world.

   Global warming threatened to drown much of the city. For a considerable period there was resistance to doing anything significant about climate change. But we knew that unless we reduced the carbon dioxide levels in the global atmosphere to 350ppm by 2060 we were going to have to deal with a sea level rise. And along the shoreline in Port Philip there were many communities that would be endangered. We examined possible solutions such as constructing sea walls, lifting buildings, or relocating people inland, but these responses would have been both very expensive and socially and politically divisive.            

   One very controversial engineering solution was proposed in 2016: to build a barrier across the sea entrance to Port Phillip Bay, turning it into a lake. A Lake Phillip would become a managed environment like Lake Alexandrina at the Murray Mouth. This meant that all our bay side communities would be protected from sea level rise caused by climate change, but it also meant that the Ports of Melbourne and Geelong would have to be transferred to Westernport. It was also proposed to build a railway and road across the barrage and build a great Melbourne regional circular railway. We could then go by car or train from Geelong to Portsea and the eastern bay side suburbs in fifteen to thirty minutes. The private cost of protecting our shoreline would be reduced but the public cost to taxpayers would be immense.

Fortunately, concern about sea level rise grew. Many people in port and seaside cities around the world joined the movement for climate-change abatement. The cheapest option by far was to keep a price on carbon sufficient to drive down the level of carbon dioxide to 350 ppm by 2060. A global agreement was finally made in 2021 and the world committed itself to this course. Now twenty-nine years later we are just about there. We were able to keep the ports where they were and save our bay side communities as well. However, we thought that the circular railway and roadway such a good idea that we went ahead and built these. So in 2032 we opened the Melbourne Gateway Bridge, a high level bridge spanning the entrance to Port Philip that ships pass under when they enter and leave our port.

We have ‘bicyclized’ Melbourne. Bicycle paths interlink the whole metropolitan region. Bicycles are either pedal powered or renewable electricity powered. Eighty percent are still pedal powered because as part of our liveability program we have a big project promoting fitness and wellness in all its forms. Just as sustainable behaviour is acting with zero net collateral damage to others, healthy behaviour is acting with zero net collateral damage to self. Wellness is a major building block of our Liveable Melbourne. Sport is still a primary passion. Our liveability health agenda mandated creating environments that promote healthy behaviours, that avoid collateral damage to ourselves or others and that do not deeply disturb or endanger us. We have done this well.

We also sought to maximize wellness and minimize illness. We now have a buoyant wellness industry contributing to a liveable Melbourne. Wellness has two elements: wellbeing, which is being and remaining well; and wellbecoming, which is healing and becoming well. Wellbecoming is now a major focus of our medical research. Wellbecoming is being guided by a combination of medical and biosciences such as proteomics, neuroscience and immunology, and many allied sciences; and health is being supported by practices which include Tai Chi Chuan, yoga, shiatsu and pilates. We instituted programs promoting and supporting these, and now there are very few people who are not regular practitioners of at least one of them. Tai Chi Chuan practitioners are everywhere in our public spaces during the day, particularly near the fountains and other water features that are part of our cooler Melbourne program. We have twenty community choirs who convivially sing their way to wellness. We have community dancing in our cool precincts so that we can dance our way to wellness. And we have several festival events in both singing and dancing including at Moomba. We have made Melbourne into a healing city, and we won our first global wellness award in 2026.

In the eighties, nineties and noughties, too much of our big development was shaped by developers who thought it natural to prosper by creating barely liveable communities. They built a sterile Docklands that only became really liveable in the second decade of this century. We almost let the developers repeat this at Fisherman’s Bend as well. But Liveable Melbourne generated public support to put liveability at the forefront of their planning, rather than as an afterthought. We already had all the designers and planners on side. And of course we knew the developers would eventually learn that setting out to consciously create liveable communities by design increases their return on investment. They now naturally want to do economically well by doing social, cultural and ecological good—a 45 year change in consciousness between 1980 and 2025.

From 2017, we made more efforts to fulfil our long-held aspiration to bring the city to fully embrace the Yarra River. The railway tracks east of Flinders Street Station are now covered all the way to the MCG. The river is connected to the city via a host of new spaces. Some are high-density developments but one-third of the riverine environs is beautiful cool open space. Two new footbridges cross the river east of Princes Bridge. They have made the Domain and the Botanic Gardens more accessible to those north of the river.

We have also changed how we govern ourselves. Having finally moved from monarchy to republic two years after Queen Elizabeth’s long reign ended, Australia has a President. The states were abolished in 2027 and we now have just two tiers of government. Around the nation we have 30 regions, our model for regional governance being the ACT.

Melbourne’s four regions occupy the central-southern, eastern, western and northern parts of the urban area, with each urban region including the adjacent rural areas. There is a greater metropolitan planning system covering the whole of Melbourne and all our major services are managed and developed by organisations that service the whole of Melbourne. The Chief Ministers of the four metropolitan regions take turns to head our Melbourne Planning Organization (MPO). Liveability is now a major assessment mechanism to evaluate outcomes of all planning and development decisions across the nation. If a decision impoverishes us culturally, socially or ecologically, if liveability is lessened, it simply will not be permitted.

That is a part of what we wrote in 2017 and then realised in the years since then. We became disciples of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said Do not follow where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. In 2050 we can look back with pride on two generations of conscious transformative change. We are now a truly 21st century city. We live in an exemplary Marvellous Melbourne.






Blog No.18. Destination 2050: Tribalization , the Arab Spring and the future of the Middle East

February 19, 2013

By Peter Ellyard. 


All over the world people are watching the ever-changing dynamics of the Arab Spring. While global public opinion overwhelmingly approves of the wave of democratization under way in the Middle East, many are concerned that it does not seem to be tracking towards the democratic destination envisaged by most of them.  There are concerns that there will be a hijacking by Islamists of a democratic movement initiated by democratic secularists. Is the Arab Spring taking us forwards or backwards? And what is the prognosis?

         Some enlightened comments recently came from Shlomo Ben-Ami, Vice-President of the Toledo International Centre for Peace and Security, and a former

Israeli Foreign Minister. The major thrust of his argument was that the Arab Spring is actually a second stage of decolonisation where people, as they become emancipated from collective oppression by autocratic leadership, seek to deconstruct their nation states in the form left to them by European colonialism and to establish new entities based on their culture and religion. Among several examples he gave are the Kurds who are currently split between four nations, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran , and who aspire to live in a single Kurdish state of their own,  and Libya which is an artificial colonial construct of three tribal states who each wish either for more autonomy in a new Libya or full independence. The changes in the Middle East began with the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in Iraq. It is now far from certain that Iraq will survive as a single entity. Most Sunni, Shite and Kurdish Iraqis would really prefer to live in their own ethnic /religious entities provided arrangements to share the revenue of Iraq’s oil could be agreed upon. Ben-Ami therefore sees the current confusion as a natural stage of sorting out of the political and cultural political mess left by European colonialists. I agree with his analysis but I also want to add my own contribution to this narrative and, because I am a futurist, to consider the political future of the Middle East.

         What is happening in the Middle East is a part of a long-term transformation under way all over the world, so to understand what is happening and will happen in the Middle East we must look for more generic global patterns of change.  In my three 3 books Destination 2050, Designing 2050 and Ideas for the New Millennium, written over the last 14 years, I described the reshaping of our world by three major drivers of change.

  • The first driver of change is globalization: it embodies two stages.  Its first stage is the creation of a single global market for ideas, products, services and investment in which everyone can participate, and the construction of processes and institutions, including the establishment of the WTO, and the reorganisation of financial services, to facilitate such universal free global trade.  Its second stage involves the development of supra-communities such as the EU, ASEAN and NAFTA, the undertaking of new duties by already existing entities such as the UN Security Council and the IMF and World Bank, and the establishment of new global institutions, such as the G20, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), in order  to facilitate more effective global governance.
  • The second driver of change is tribalisation . This involves the breakup of old empires and autocracies into smaller mostly democratic entities based on culture and religion. More on this anon.
  • The third driver of change is improving technological interconnectivity together with the digitisation of information and knowledge, and of human creativity generally, to permit its rapid dissemination in real time. This in turn facilitates and energizes both globalization and tribalization. This technological interconnectedness is also creating the globalisation of media with new arrivals such as Al Jazeera and an increasing global penetration by  organizations such as the BBC and CNN


 I will not discuss globalisation per se because most people understand the process, other than to express the belief that it is pretty much unstoppable, and this is even recognized by former anti-globalisation activists who recognize, as King Canute once did, that some things are unstoppable.  These activists more realistically now want to ensure that globalisation delivers justice for all and that here is a universalisation of win/win rather than win/loss outcomes.  

         These three listed drivers of change are creating a global transformation that began about 1970 and in which we are currently at about the mid point, and with an anticipated completion date around 2050. Though it began as an expression of European Enlightened thinking, modernism was exported around world in an exploitative form through colonialism and imperialism, by economic domination by powerful nations and corporations, and by win/lose trade and commerce. Much earlier, between 500 and 1500, globalisation was shaped by the Chinese and the Arabs and was much more collaborative and mutually beneficial. Since 1970 globalisation has been modified in the post-modern era into a much less exploitative model for global trade and investment with an emergence of new more collaborative and interdependent models similar to those practiced before 1500. The post modernisation of enlightened thinking brought into the mainstream values not practiced in previous eras of globalisation, such as democracy and respect for difference.

         In the 21st century this is now giving way to the emergence of a global paradigm I called planetism. Just as tribalism involves first allegiance to tribe, and nationalism first allegiance to nation, planetism involves first allegiance to planet. Planetism embodies nine values held by most educated middle class people, and will grow with the further growth of the educated middle class.  Planetism represents a 21st century version of enlightenment values. The global educated middle class is growing by the population of New York City every three months and will reach 3.2 billion in the Asia Pacific and over 4.5 billion globally by 2030. This new globalisation, unlike European driven globalisation prior to 1970, supports trade and commerce based on mutual benefit or win/win.

          This growing educated middle class is transforming the world, and is also transforming many Middle Eastern counties and is a major driver of the Arab Spring. Democracy is also globalising , for one of the nine values I describe for planetism is democracy . The middle class is now significantly transforming the politics of the Middle East. A secular democracy-seeking educated middle class has twice risen up against the theocratic government of Iran and was both times repressed by the military and the police. This repression will achieve little more than buy time for the oppressors, perhaps another decade at the most. The Arab Spring has generated similar middle class uprisings against autocratic governments, in most Middle Eastern nations, including in Morocco Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria and is now beginning to generate numerous tipping points that will dramatically change the Middle East in the next decade.

         These changes follow a pattern of middle class driven changes against autocracy elsewhere – a global Democratic Spring if you like. This includes democratic revolutions such as 1986 EDSA Revolution in the Philippines, the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia 2003, the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. The Arab Spring was initiated by Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution .

          By 2005 therefore democracy was already in demand in the Middle East.   We can predict further the values that are driving change because all the nine values of planetism are all globalizing as the educated middle class grows in size. 

         The 2012 revolution in Egypt was initiated by the educated middle class Muslims and by educated minorities including Copt Christians. These now oppose a possible hijacking of their revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafist supporters. This middle class movement in Egypt is sufficiently numerous and financially and politically powerful to contest any attempts to restore an Islamic autocratic regime on Iranian lines. A further increase in the size of the middle class in Middle East will mean that autocratic rule by Islamic groups, or indeed anyone else, will be difficult to maintain, for these middle class people have the support of the educated middle class everywhere.


         Shalom Ben-Ami did not use the word tribalization to describe these massive changes in the Middle East.  He makes the point, that with a couple of exceptions in Egypt and Morocco, most other Middle East nations are colonial constructs which are defined on colonial boundaries and were glued together by repression of different ethnic and religious groups by autocratic governments.

       The tribalization now under way in the Middle East is similar to the tribalization that shaped Eastern Europe in the late 20th century. In 1989 the Soviet Union, which was in essence an autocratic Russian empire, broke up. As it broke up one entity split into fifteen entities. Likewise when Yugoslavia, really a Serbian empire, broke up one entity split into seven entities. Indonesia, a functional Javanese Empire, could face a similar fate. Indonesia has already lost Timor Leste and could lose other entities such as Aceh and West Papua as well. Indonesia is currently promoting the irreconcilable combination of democratic politics and autocratic military repression. This cannot last. The Han dominated state of China will in future face tribalization pressures unless the Han voluntarily give much more autonomy to its many minority cultures and religions, such as the Tibetans and the Uyghurs.  China is progressing slowly towards democracy and it is growing a booming democracy-seeking educated middle class that will be reach 1.2 billion by 2030. It is inconceivable that a billion educated middle class people will tolerate current levels autocracy and repression of difference and dissidence. It will have to develop into a fully-fledged democracy well before then. In the Middle East tribalisation will occur through secession and struggle unless a more mature common sense approach prevails such as occurred with the ‘velvet divorce’ between the Czech and Slovak peoples. Unfortunately this is pretty unlikely

         So tribalisation through secession from centralized autocratic leadership will continue to strengthen. Global interdependence has now reached the stage that global disapproval of autocratic and repressive leadership can be punished through the institution of trade bans, customer boycotts, capital strikes and the freezing of bank accounts. At this writing Iran is suffering from such a global embargo and is only surviving because Russia and China continue to provide short-term support to its theocratic Government. This support is unlikely to continue long term. Continued Iranian belligerence will result in North Korea-like global isolation. Tribalisation is now well under way in the Middle East. In this first stage the shift involves people seeking an end to autocratic dependence and a move to democratic independence. The aspiration to form new independent democratic cultural and religious entities is relentlessly undermining the political arrangements inherited from the autocratic and colonial past.

Globalisation,  part 2

 This tribalisation of the Middle East will take at least a decade. However it will be followed by the transformation I described above as the second stage of globalisation.  This involves a democratic and voluntary re-amalgamation to ensure success in a 21st century globalizing world. This second stage is well under way under way and already nearing completion in Europe. It involves voluntarily moving from their recently achieved and hard won individual independent status into amalgamated interdependent entities, such as the EU and its more slowly evolving equivalents such as ASEAN ,CAFTA, Merocsur and the African Union. This is work-in-progress is almost complete in Europe but will probably take two decades more to be completed globally.

          In Europe after their separation the Czechs and Slovaks both joined the EU as did the Poles, Lithuanians and many other former Soviet States in Eastern Europe. These former Soviet States went from dependence on Russia in 1989 through a short period of enjoying their independence in the late 20th century and entering into interdependent union in the EU in the early 21st century.  Natural  communitarian cultures such as the French and the Germans  are strong supporters of this processes and natural individualistic cultures like the English are more sceptical about participation. To this day the English are very ambivalent about being part of Europe. Time will tell whether asserting English Exceptionalism in the 21st century will be a wise way for the English to behave in the long term.

         However those who commit themselves to join such interdependence unions can have their cake and eat it too : they can celebrate their cultural uniqueness as an independent people without repression, and then voluntarily  move on to an interdependent EU based on  collaboration, win/win outcomes and enjoying the benefits from participating in the emerging global infrastructure of interdependent trade and commerce. In Europe further tribalisation is probable.  The Scots, Catalan, Tyrolean and Basque peoples are all likely to seek  independence in the next decade, followed by their subsequent joining the EU as inderdependent entities.

         This is also part of a continuing and unstoppable development of a 21st century global interdependent society that will be completed by 2050. That does not mean that there won’t be many problems on the way, for this has not been done before and there are no roadmaps. The road must be built. And sometimes the world will construct the wrong road to the wrong place. The current ailments of Europeans provide us with plenty of examples of how not to do things.  These ailments are mostly caused by self-indulgent individual nations, such as Greece, and greedy banks such as the HSBC and Barclays, who continue seeking win/loss outcomes at the cost of the community. They are perceived to be self-serving in a world that is becoming much less tolerant to such behaviour. And they are deservingly becoming planetary pariahs. New arrangements to encourage increased global interdependence are still evolving. These will reward collaboration and win/win outcomes while also permitting and rewarding individual endeavour and entrepreneurship.  There will be no command economy models here. We are evolving something that has never happened before, a communitarian interdependent world that is democratic and which supports individual enterprise and freedom. I have described this process in detail elsewhere.

Global change in the 21st century

It will take a while but the Middle East and the rest of the world will follow the patterns I have described in Europe. The first signs that the process are already unfolding not only in the Middle East and Central Asia, but also in Africa such as the Pan African collaboration with NATO nations to support Mali and Somalia in their struggle against Islamic extremism.

         We have no other choice, now we are recognising that all humanity lives in a shared home and has a shared future, and we will make pariahs of those to those who are not team players and who endanger our increasingly interdependent future that simultaneously brings the promise of increased prosperity and opportunity but also increased collective vulnerability.  We know we have no other choice than to collaborate to deal with those who seek to make our shared home unsafe, to abate climate change, to create a fair global trading and investment system, and to ensure that conflict of all kinds does not cause collateral damage to others. The only option in the 21st century is to insist that that all outcomes, except perhaps on the sporting field and in competitive businesses, must be win/win. And even businesses are learning that seeking interdependence and mutual benefit with customers and suppliers is the best way forward, and that win/win can be more profitable than win/lose.

The future of the Middle East.

         The introduction of this European change process into the Middle East might seem unlikely right now.  However in 1985 the collapse of the Soviet Union four years later, and the subsequent remaking of Europe, seemed unlikely. Few foresaw this tipping point. The tension in Iran between the oppressive Islamic leadership and the secular educated middle class still increases and this could trigger a quick and surprising collapse of the theocratic leadership in Iran.  It is currently being undermined by trade bans on its oil and other products, by investment strikes, the freezing of external bank accounts, customer boycotts and by covert operations by western intelligence. A collapse of both Iran and Syria is on the cards and this will produce in the Middle East a change process of the proportions of that which occurred in Eastern Europe post 1989. This is because both of these nations are both major powers in the Middle East and have already become planetary pariahs in the eyes of the global educated middle class and the governments dominated by their thinking and values. The tribalisation portrayed by Ben-Ami, the first stage of change and currently under way in the Middle East will be followed by this second stage; preparing them for really joining the global interdependent society. Within a decade at the latest there will be a Middle Eastern equivalent to the EU and ASEAN and their descendents. It is likely to come in the form of the Arab League becoming a political union.

Islamic influences on the Middle East’s future          

         A critical difference between the situations in Europe and the Middle East is the presence in the Middle East of fundamentalist Islam. This in turn has counter-generated a fundamentalist Judaism within Israel.  Will this drive the Middle East on a different course to Europe? 

         It is important to remember that we shouldn’t compare the current situation in the Middle East to Europe as it is now but to Europe as it was prior to 1989. Islam was not nearly as influential in the Middle East 30 years ago as it is today. For the most part Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Government of Iran when it overthrew the Shah, were initially social-justice driven. All were supported by the most disadvantaged sectors in their respective societies. They were militant because they were opposed to the autocratic governments that repressed them.

         However we can still learn from Europe as we consider the future of the Middle East, despite the present of militant Islam there.  Iran today sees itself as an exporter of revolution in the same vein as the Soviet Union in the 1970 and 1980s.  Prior to 1989 many who these current Islamists would have been Marxists. Marxists after all were autocratic pursuers of social justice. Prior to 1989 even some Middle East autocratic leaders were Marxists as well. Gamel Abdel Nasser in Egypt for example was an autocratic modernist and socialist who overthrew a monarchy to gain power. He was very much in the Russian revolutionary mould and had broad based support unlike his successors who showed little aspiration uplift the poor and promote his socialist modernist ideals. They faced increased opposition because of they largely abandoned social justice except for keeping a few policies in place such as subsidising food. The Ba’arthist Party under the leadership of  both Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Assad Family in Syria was also founded on autocratic socialist and modernist ideals.

         With the collapse of Marxism in 1989 those who promoted a continuance of a revolutionary modernist ideology needed a new home. Both Marxism and Islamic groups sought social justice and equity in what they perceive to be very unfair and repressive world.  These would-be Middle Eastern revolutionaries chose the mosque as their new home, for in many of these countries the mosque was the only place that permitted a degree of free speech.

With the move into the mosques, religious leaders increasingly doubled as political leaders and Fridays, after prayers, became their day for revolution: secular revolutionaries became religious revolutionaries. Like Marxists these Islamists they blamed the liberal western capitalism and democracy, because they had not sufficiently uplifted the poor and they tolerated high levels of corruption. Even in northern Malaysia former Marxist revolutionaries became Islamists.          However the designation of Islam as the engine of revolutionary change has produced its own problems.  The Arab Spring launched as a vehicle of bringing greater Enlightenment to the Arab world is being endangered by counter-enlightenment forces of fundamentalist Islam such as the Salafism and Wahhabism, attacking as they do more enlightened branches of Islam such as Sufism. Moreover more the old autocratic order fights resists change, the higher the opportunity for these counter-enlightenment forces to increase their influence, for this is forcing short -term collaborations of convenience to overthrow autocracy between the forces of Secular enlightenment and Islamic counter–enlightenment.

         The biggest force to ensure the success of the Arab Spring will be the effectiveness of the educated middle classes. The bigger this proportion is of the total population the more likely will be the long –term success of the Arab Spring. A sizeable and politically effective middle class is needed if these nation are to fully participate in the global system of trade and commerce. Over time some middle class members of he old ruling class will join this movement as is already happening with defections of much of the military, academic and business leadership in Syria.  The other critical element is the middle class expatriate populations who are already also involved. These of course are playing a major role in gaining world-wide support for the democratic transformation of Arab nations.

         Islam is already cohabiting successfully with democracy in Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and India. People worried by the thought that Islam might hijack democracy should examine these models. This should reassure fearful secularists that there are ways to build common purpose and shared power with enlightened Islam. The future government of Iran is likely to be very much like the current government of Turkey.

         Extreme Islamists, such as Wahabists in Saudi Arabia, and Salafists more generally, are still unabashed autocratic industrial modernists. They are only dominate because either they have formed collaborations of convenience with the ruling autocrats such as in Saudi Arabia, or because the middle class is not sufficient large to generate a tipping point into a stable democracy. With the growing size and spread of the educated middle classes forms of counter-enlightenment Islam will recede and yield to more Turkish-style democracies that respect difference including in places such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Their time is going and they will only survive for a short term where that are able to close schools and oppress women and difference. However they can’t maintain this long term for the undermining this now out-of-date order is similar to that which occurred in the Soviet Union. World interconnectivity is undermining their control over the world if ideas and even of power. The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi once described the Internet as a  ‘Trojan horse carrying enemy soldiers in its belly’.  Despite its theocratic government Iran is changing rapidly. It is currently producing world-class films largely produced and directed by women. These are much appreciated by the global middle class . Sixty five percent of university entrants are women. Recent clumsy attempts by the government to limit access of women to professions will almost certainly fail .The days of theocratic Iran are numbered.        

         Islamic autocratic leaders promote a one-size-fits-all opposition to the celebration of difference of class, race and religion just as Marxists leaders  did before them . This is not all that different to a Saddam or a Nasser, or to China today. Extreme Islam combines industrial modernity with often archaic patriarchal social structures, and promotes views of the role of both education and women in society that are totally unacceptable to 21st century educated middle class people everywhere.

         Islamic leaders who do not support tribalist secession or even respect for cultural difference . They are so out of synch with all the key long-term global trends that this will increasingly become a vulnerability.  The post-modern celebration of, and respect for, cultural difference in a integrated global society is a corner-stone ethic of 21st century globalisation. A good example of this is the evolution of World Music as a genre: this simultaneously celebrates and treasures cultural diversity and human unity. Recently Islamic extremists were banning music in Mali where music is at the very centre of their culture. It is hard to believe that such stupidity was a serious attempt to win Malian hearts and minds. They are repeating the mistakes of Early Christian missionaries who did this all over the world but who now know how stupid and self-defeating this approach is.  Autocrats, both Marxist and Islamic, oppose any form of pluralism. Pluralism requires democracy. Their hegemony will eventually be undermined because globalisation can only work long term if it promotes intercultural and interreligious tolerance and harmony.  

         Soviet repression was undermined by post-modern tribalist aspirations for the expression of , and respect for, cultural difference . Chinese Marxist modernism that supports autocracy and the repression of difference cannot hope to prosper long-term in a globalising world while it is generating a booming middle class within its borders.  Likewise militant Islam will not survive while it continues to repress those who favour democracy and who believe that those who are different to them should be respected.

         In recent times Turkey has become a hero of the West because of its assistance to the Sunni rebellion against Assad and his Alawite/Shite rule. However the Turks are at the same time trying to contain a Kurdish

Spring. As this is being written, there are rumors that secret talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdish leadership are underway that will deliver more autonomy to Kurdish people in Turkey. The Kurds will, if needed, use their military, the Kurdish Peshmerga Army, which is armed by the US to advance their aspirations for a Kurdish homeland. The Turks are also armed by the US so it is unlikely that open conflict between the two would be blessed by the US, and its supporters. It will not be possible for Turkey to repress the Kurds in Turkey while at the same time it is supporting Kurdish self determination against autocracy in Syria.  The Kurds, like the Czechs and Slovaks, need to abolish the old before they can create the new.

              Divorce Czech –Slovak style is the future model for voluntary democratic tribalisation. In 20 years all tribalisation will occur this way, for the world will not tolerate blood being spilled to allow entities to secede from one another. In a generation all tribalisation will be democratic, for any repression of minorities will bring planetary pariahood on the repressors accompanied by trade bans, investment strikes, consumer boycotts and the freezing of bank accounts. The world is now so interdependent that this form of ganging up on planetary pariahs up by the rest of the world is beginning to work and it will become even more powerful in future as global interdependence increases. In the interim however much blood is likely to be spilled, and it is more likely to be like the tribalization that occurred in the Balkans with the splitting of Yugoslavia.

              With the projected collapse of Iran and Syria, the Middle East will be remade. Hezbollah and Hamas will have to adapt or disappear and Israel will be able to liberate itself from the siege mentality that has dominated its thinking and actions for decades. If Israel is smart it will begin to shift its consciousness now, and those who a placing priority on military strikes against Iran and extending Israel further into the West Bank should be contained, for they will undermine progress of any kind  while uniting the Arab world and indeed the rest of the world against them. The isolation of Israel would follow. In the January 2013 election Israel became even more polarized with extremist Jewish political parties seeking agendas to press on with covering the West Bank with Jewish settlements and implementing military attacks on Iran. Many Israelis and their supporters of Israel might not appreciate being compared with the unloved hermit state that is North Korea, but some Israelis with influence are sabre-rattling like the leadership of North Korea and are as unwilling to listen to those who wish to counsel them to change their behavior. The way to a peaceful pluralistic Middle East requires that world keeps its nerve and pressure on the corrupt Government of Iran and the already collapsing of Syrian administration and await a 1989-style political collapse. It will come. Iran is trying to divert Iranians eyes to look at conflicts beyond its border in order to take their eyes off the slowly souring situation at home. Anybody who wishes for Middle East peace should not be acting in ways that encourages Iranians to look at potential threats from outside their borders and take their eyes and minds off real threats that come from within their borders.      

        The Middle East is close to a tipping point similar to 1989 in Europe, Soon the remaking of the Middle East can begin and it will affect everyone including remaining autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the already middle class dominated countries in the Gulf. They will not be able to avoid change even if they don’t want it. Egypt ‘s new administration likewise will have to respect all difference or it will become a planetary pariah, which will send it backwards. We can look forward to 2030 when there will be very few autocracies that repress difference remaining on our planet, including in the Middle East. If they persist they will be treated as planetary pariahs as North Korea is today.




Blog No. 17. Destination 2050: Destinies, Destinations and Derivations for creating 21st Century success.

January 8, 2013

By Peter Ellyard


Most of the job categories present in a generation’s time have yet to be invented. For most people the lifetime job has gone forever. In future we will have many career shifts in a working life. The processes we used in the 20th century to make us work ready will no longer work in the 21st century.  From now on we will need to be life-long, learner-driven and just-in-time learners. We will also need more wisdom in our foresight as we look forward to shape our life and career paths. And to gain wisdom in foresight we must first use insight before foresight: we need to use insight to understand ourselves better so we can become more effective in our use of foresight to shape our life and career paths.  

         Henry Ford said the secret to a successful life is to understand what is one’s destiny to do and to do it.

We all have destinies, but most of have not sought to deliberately set out to understand what our destiny might be. This is something we should all do. In the 20th century, except for a few entrepreneurs, destiny was irrelevant to the world of work. In the 21st century these should inform each other. In a world of increasingly possibilities in terms of life and career paths, knowledge of one’s destiny will assist us to make more informed choices about future possibilities and options. Destiny is made up of two components; what one is good at (aptitude) and what one loves to do (passion). Destiny = aptitude + passion. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we could all match our job with our destiny. Well in the 21st century it this is the pathway we should all follow if we want to have both a fulfilled life and best secure our economic future.  

         When I work with people who are at a point of exploring what they might do in the future I introduce them to my 3 Sights process : insight ( to examine one’s destiny) + foresight (to examine future possible destinations)+ hindsight (to examine one’s derivation)

         Following your destiny defines your work – that which you do to give meaning to your life.  Then each of us should seek to turn our work into our employment– thereby generating income from doing one’s work.

         Since the industrial revolution we have sought jobs-what we do to earn income. There were a few job makers and many job takers. In the 21st century we all can become our own job-makers and our own career path-makers as well.  In the job-taking past we often held jobs we neither liked nor which gave much meaning to our lives. We worked because we had to not because we wanted to. Professional people often enjoyed their work. The rest of us did whatever we could earn income so we could enjoy our life outside of work.  In the 21st century we can all make jobs for ourselves that we love to do.  Our whole education system is still largely trapped into this old job-taking paradigm. But this culture could be disastrous in the unfolding 21st century when the capability to be a job-maker will be much more important than being a job-taker. This is a huge cultural shift and each of us should develop our own toolkits for shaping our work future, and not just rely on occupying into a job niche created by another.

Here are the 3 Sights :

1.Destiny dialogue.

This process requires insight. When young people consult me about what course they should take at university, or what kinds of jobs will be available when they are mid-career, I reply that it doesn’t matter what they study. For most people it will bear little relationship to what they will be doing when they are mid-career, for jobs will have changed unrecognizably. So the most effective way to develop your career path is first to look inside yourself and discover your destiny, and then seek to build your career around it.

We can use insight and destiny dialogues to:

1. Understand what one’s special gifts are and one’s calling is

2. Facilitate career-path and life-path planning.

         List those things you are good and bad at doing, and those things you love and hate doing. An examination of these four lists will assist you to decide on your destiny, something you can review on a regular basis over time. It is best to conduct this destiny dialogue in the company of those who love you and who know you well. They will often have insights about you that you yourself do not see. Then take the next step and try to define your destiny using just two words, an adjective plus a noun: for example: social entrepreneur, innovations broker, intercultural conciliator, security guardian, relationships facilitator, habitat designer, wellness practitioner. When you describe yourself to others in this way when they ask what do you do, you will stimulate curiosity and kindle energetic and often enlightening conversations. When you frame your destiny thus it is amazing how creative your mind can become as you imagine and create career path substance around this two-word descriptor of your career path future. Following your destiny defines your work, which is doing what gives meaning to your life. Success goes to those who turn their work into an activity they earn income from. This process can apply equally to charter the future of individuals, organizations, nations, communities and regions.

2. Destination dialogue.

This process requires foresight, in order to decide your next job destination and beyond that the career path you wish to build for yourself and walk down. The most critical issue we should explore is what are the already emerging career opportunities,  or even an imagined career future that does not yet exist, that best fits my destiny? The emerging global planetist marketplace will provide many new opportunities. From our understanding of planetist values, as described in Designing 2050 and Destination 2050, we can predict the emerging products, services and technologies that will be both sought and developed in the next two generations. We can then design career paths that could be built around the creation of these emerging products, services and technologies.

3. Derivation dialogue.

This process requires hindsight and involves treasuring and learning from your experiences. There are two elements you bring with you from your past that really matter and are relevant for creating future success:

Heritage: the priceless aspects of one’s past which should be kept, treasured and nurtured, to ensure that making changes doesn’t result in throwing out babies with bathwater; and

Baggage: bad habits and negative attitudes and perceptions accumulated from one’s past experiences which, if they are not recognized and eliminated, will undermine one’s capability to be successful in the future.

         Imagine the following people undertaking

Destiny Dialogues:

• Prisoners as they prepare themselves for a post-prison

life-paths and careers-paths..

• Refugees when they are planning a new start in a new homeland.

• Retirees seeking new post-work life-pathways.

• People who are contemplating a career change or who are facing retrenchment.

• Young people when they are planning their careers and their personal development pathways.

• All people facing new circumstances when old pathways have closed off because of accident, trauma, or severe or

chronic illness.

         This is my toolkit for job-making and successful career-path planning in 21st century society. It is also the toolkit for fulfilled life-path making. 


Blog No.16. and Destination 2050: 350 by 2050

January 6, 2013

By Peter Ellyard

6 January 2013


Yesterday I joined, founded by author Bill McKibben in Vermont USA. This organisation is promoting the goal of reducing the carbon concentration in the planet’s atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm) and then stabilize it there. This is the pre-industrial level, the level needed to create a climate-safe planet. It is just below 400ppm now and it is still growing. However I want suggest an addition to this goal. We should give this aspiration a time line.             In May 1961 John Kennedy set the USA for Americans to go to the Moon and return by the end of that decade. At the time nobody had a clue about how this might be achieved. The Apollo program became a heroic journey that inspired Americans to accomplish what had previously seemed impossible. History has many similar examples where a grand vision is realized because it inspires people to stretch themselves. The extraordinary success of the Apollo program was largely due to the fact that Kennedy transformed this static vision into a dynamic narrative by giving it a designated time frame, thereby generating a near complete buy-in by an excited American people. This would not have been the case without such a time line. This is the essence of ‘utopian realism’ – defining stretching almost utopian destinations, but also establishing totally realistic processes and timelines to accomplish these destinations. Getting a similar buy-in by the world’s peoples could be generated by nominating the year 2050 for the year for realization of the 350 goal. It would also assist creating a buy-in by the world’s diverse peoples irrespective of what their governments might think. This global 350 goal might seem more daunting that the Apollo Program. However the tools we have to realize this aspiration are also much greater. And these include building global consensus and a movement for its realization through the Internet, such as via It is now possible to have Internet global equivalents of mass demonstrations. And creating a goal with a time line will stimulate innovation everywhere to realize this goal particularly when we have universal price on carbon. Imagine that, in the year 2025, after years of Internet driven pressure, the world finally agrees to a binding treaty to work together to create such an outcome by the year 2050.

          If we define the mission in terms of reducing emissions rather than reducing global atmospheric concentrations we set ourselves a more difficult task to accomplish. It is important that we define the goal in a way that best empowers our collective endeavor. Imagine a bath with a running tap and an open plughole. The level of water in the bath will depend in the relative water flow entering from the tap and leaving via the plughole respectively. In terms of atmosphere carbon reduction too many people concentrate on turning carbon emissions the tap off.  This is important but we can also make the carbon removal plughole much bigger.

            If we concentrate on turning off the tap – lowering emissions – we run full frontal  into the vested interests of big coal and big oil.  It is noteworthy that many climate change sceptic think tanks are funded by big oil. However we can also work on enlarging the plughole – removing carbon from the sky or ‘mining the sky’. And there are no vested interests opposing this endeavour. The technical challenge might be larger but the political challenge is a lot easier. And I think we can invent technology much faster than we can shift political environments particularly when we are fighting powerful self-interested opponents. When we put a price on carbon-which in Australia is currently $23.00 per tonne- we can earn income by directly removing carbon from the sky by both natural and industrial methods, many of these yet to be invented. In my own work I am working on new approaches in both of these, utilising both natural systems based on photosynthesis or by artificial industrial technologies  that include artificial photosynthesis. This is ‘mining the sky’ and even mining companies might be interested in gaining income from removing carbon from the sky. I am already working with several groups who are seeking to develop new innovations and businesses to remove atmospheric carbon. In my view ‘mining the sky’ while promoting  renewable energy by placing a price on carbon will do the trick, and this will make this aspiration a very realizable  goal for 2050.

         Achieving a 350 ppm atmospheric carbon level is a worthy ambition- worthy of our best selves, but it should also be a part of an even larger and more holistic aspiration –Destination 2050 as I describe it in my books, Designing 2050 and Destination 2050. Destination 2050 is a global society that is universally prosperous, sustainable, secure, just and harmonious (just five key words) by the year 2050. We cannot create a future we do not first imagine. But to realize any future  we also need a realistic strategy that includes a timeline. A lot of my work focuses on the year 2050. Achieving 350 by 2050 would add to this aspirational mix for the year 2050, which is already developing into a year of both focus and of reckoning.

         So congratulations to for articulating a goal of realizing a 350 ppm carbon concentration in the atmosphere. However let us turn this static vision into a dynamic narrative by giving it a time lime. Let us seek to realize this by the year 2050. 


Blog No. 15. Destination 2050: future maker and future taker. Toolkits for shaping the future part1

December 24, 2012

By Peter Ellyard.

One of the things all of us do all the time is we seek to shape the future.  Some of us are good at doing it and some of us are not.  And most of those who do this well are successful in charting and constructing their life and career paths. As well many of those who do this well are also the major shapers of our collective future, for great leadership is impossible without this. Those who do this badly are often left behind, and so the issue of growing humanity’s capability to shape the future is very important for realizing a more just future.

            We shape the future by two means. First we respond to changing circumstances and trends and position ourselves to gain advantage or avoid being disadvantaged. This is the future- taker part of us–the manager in each of us.  Second we envision a future, aspire to realize it and set about accomplishing this through strategic action. This is the future-maker art of us – the leader in each of us.  This critical difference between future-taker and future-maker was beautifully expressed by the serpent in G.B Shaw’s play ‘Back to Methuselah’ : You see things and say why. I see things that never were and say, why not?’ Our future shaping actions may be large of small and they might focus an hour ahead, a month ahead, a year ahead or a decade ahead. Gary Hamel says success goes to those who get to the future first, and to do that we need to become marvellous future-makers. Think about the number of times every day and every year you seek to shape the future, how you do it, and how often you act respectively as future-taker or future–maker. If you think your organization, community or nation is over-managed and under-led, and most people I meet think this is the case, this means we have too much future-taking and not enough future-making in our lives and organizations. Moreover the manager and leader in each of us is only two sixths of our toolkit for shaping the future.  More of this in a moment.

            Most of the time when we shape the future we don’t do so alone. We do so with either the active or implicit support of others. So our capacity to be an effective shaper of futures depends a great deal on of our ability to initiate, nurture and amicably end relationships, and our ability not to damage these relationships and even strengthen them, while we are collaborating to shape the future.

            Given that future shaping capabilities are so essential for creating successful lives, careers, organizations and communities, and that we differ so much in this capability, it is extraordinarily that so few of us are ever given the opportunity to improve our future shaping capabilities. Most of us battle on with our inherited skills and by learning from our experiences, particularly the negative ones. We can and should do a lot better than that.  We should and can become the best possible shaper of the future we can possibly be, and be as capable as we can be at initiating , nurturing  and amicably ending relationships.  In terms of ensuring our future success I would even consider these capabilities as important for success in life as are literacy and numeracy. Most of us go though our whole lives including all of our years formal education, without dedicating time or resources to learning to become more effective shapers of the future.

            In my last two books Destination 2050: a concepts bank and toolkit for future-makers (2012) and Designing 2050 : Pathways to sustainable prosperity on Spaceship Earth (2008),  I describe in detail my concepts bank and toolkit for shaping the future.

            In Destination 2050 I outline six major means we use to shape the future. These are:  

1 Leadership: being a purposeful future-maker.

2 Management: being a resilient future-taker.

3 Planning: applying planning skills such as those used in all the planning professions (which include land use, urban, community, transport, social, financial, industrial and economic planning).

4. Design: using designing skills such as those embedded in design based professions such as engineering, architecture, and of course all

forms of design (industrial, systems, fashion and graphic design)ESTINATION2050T U R E – M A K E RS

5. Innovation: developing new means (through what I call ways and wares) to do old and current things better, and new things first.

6. Learning : increasing our knowledge and capabilities, changing our mindsets and belief systems in order to become more future effective, and expanding our capability to seek and take new options and new pathways to the future.

            All of these future-shaping capabilities are so fundamental for our ultimate success in life they should be taught and learned in our schools from the first years of schooling. Some of these are formally taught in professional development courses at the tertiary education level but this is much too late, and this ensures that they remain an elite skill set not a universal one.  A top priority in our education systems should involve devising curricula and learning experiences that enable all of us learn these six tool kits for shaping the future in the primary school and from our parents. Knowledge learned in school is often forgotten but capability learned in school coupled with continuing experiential use will stay with us and grow throughout our lives as we tread our chosen life and career paths. The bottom line is that in  the 21st century our education should concentrate on developing capability rather than growing knowledge. Through the digital revolution and the rapid spread of mobile communications  devices even into poorer communities and nations we can acquire knowledge through learner –driven modes of learning and just- in-time for when we need it.  Capability however needs lots of practice and structured experiences. This is what schools do well. Probably 70% of all the job categories in a generation’s time have yet to be invented. It is therefore better to focus on growing capability rather than knowledge in our school systems and continue to grow and customize capability development for emerging opportunities in our workplaces and communities throughout our lives.

            In this blog I want to focus on the first two of these tools: management and leadership. I will devote other blogs to the remainder of these tools. 

The effective manager is the resilient future-taker in each of us, while the effective leader in each of us is the purposeful future-maker. Social justice should demand that we do not just learn leadership and management in business schools and professional development programs. We must make this curriculum and these capability-building experiences universal.  What is really behind this extraordinary failure to recognize that these capabilities should be universally accessible is the belief that management and leadership are elite programs for a minority rather than a birthright for the majority. We see management and leadership in particular as something we use to shape the future of others and that it is not a skill set we need to shape our own futures.  Behind all of my work is the idea that first of all we should learn to become both a manager-of-self and leader-of- self.  Indeed until we become good managers-of-self and leaders- of-self we should not be given the opportunity to become managers-of-others or leaders-of-others. Most of us have had the dreadful experience of being led or managed by somebody who is a poor manger-of–self or leader-of-self.  I’d go further and say that we must universalize effective the capabilities needed for design, planning, innovation and learning as well.  Only the last of these is currently regarded as a universal skill set for ensuring future success and here we are usually learning knowledge too much and capability not enough.   Most professional disciplines are built around only one or two or these shaping the future tools. These six tools are often seen as a skill sets relating to a particular profession or group of professions. However most planners are not highly skilled in leadership, innovation or design, engineers are similarly placed in planning or, and most educators know insufficient about management, planning or innovation and so on. My own learning has been to recognize that all of these six of these tools are actually parts of our collective toolkits for shaping the future and that all of us should develop at least some capability in all six of these early in life. It is time all six tools were taught and learned as a coherent whole set.

            Most of us don’t have a clear idea about the difference between management and leadership; we know that they are different but we seldom try to understand what the essential difference between management and leadership is. In my books and writings, I discuss at length the relationship and difference between management and leadership.  However central to this difference is this: management is dedicated to future-taking – and change-taking, while leadership is about future –making and change –making. Here is the bottom line:


  • Future-taker
  • Change –taker
  • Path-taker

Good Management involves being resilient in these three activities


  • Future-maker
  • Change-maker
  • Path- maker

Good leadership involves being purposeful in these three activities.

 Go to Destination 2050 and Designing 2050 to find a detailed discussion on management and leadership from a futures perspective. These books also describe the respective roles of planning, design, innovation and learning in shaping the future as well.

22 December 2012









Blog No 14. Destination 2050. Planetism: what is it?

December 21, 2012

By Peter Ellyard


A year ago I gave a talk at the Golden Plains Music Festival in a small town of Meredith, 100 kilometres west of Melbourne. It was attended by 10,000 Generation Ys,  almost all of them university undergraduates: three days of music with me standing on the stage on the Sunday morning of a long weekend giving a talk on the future.

         Among the things I said was:

  • Tribalism is first allegiance to tribe
  • Nationalism is first allegiance to nation
  • Planetism is first allegiance to planet

I then asked them to vote on which of these three words most approximated their viewpoint and raise their hand accordingly.  I was blown away by the result. Almost 10,000 hands were raised in support of planetism.  The other two alternatives received less than 10 votes each. Many of them told me afterwards that they had not heard the word before but they knew is expressed perfectly their world view. Many also said to me that it was nice to have a name to describe the way they looked at the world.

         I first used the word planetism in 1993.  A Chapter called ‘The Birth of Planetism’ was included in my 1998 book ‘Ideas for the New Millennium’  (Melbourne University Press) so I think I can claim some copyright for the word. This book is now out of print though copies – mostly of the 2001 second edition – are still available on the Internet. My subsequent books have drilled down more into the meaning of planetism which is now a set of values held by the booming tertiary educated middle class that will reach 4 million plus globally by 2030 and which is growing at the rate of the population of New York City every three months.

         Now others are using the term as well including some who are clearly followers of James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. I have no problems with others using this word but I want to ensure that those who are interested in the word know about the meaning I give to it. If they want to access this discussion they might want to read one of my more recent books – Designing 2050: pathways to sustainable prosperity on Spaceship Earth (2008) and Destination 2050 : a concepts bank and toolkit for future-makers (2012)

         For me Planetism is the result of a convergence of two sets of paradigm shifts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: 

  • From Modernism to Postmodernism to Planetism , and
  • From Tribalism to Nationalism to Planetism

My books describe these shifts in detail.

These transformations involve shifts in 10 core values as shown in the following table:









The Cowboy Culture/Modernism (1960)

The Spaceship Culture /Planetism (2020)

Priority to nation/tribe

Priority to planet





Humanity against nature

Humanity part of nature

Unsustainable production, consumption,

development, lifestyles

Sustainable production ,


development, lifestyles


Gender equality

Intercultural – interreligious intolerance/hostility

Intercultural -interreligious tolerance/harmony

Conflict resolution through confrontation/combat

Conflict resolution through cooperation/negotiation

Safekeeping through defence

Safekeeping through security


The terms ‘cowboy economy’ and ‘spaceship economy’ were first coined by Kenneth Boulding in his essay The Economics of the coming Spaceship Earth (1966) when he was influenced by the Apollo Project, as was Buckminster Fuller with his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969). Much of my work follows on from both of their significant contributions. I describe modernism as the paradigm of the cowboy, and planetism as the paradigm of the cosmonaut.

       I thought it appropriate for those who google the word planetism were introduced to my work as well as the work of others who use this term. As a futurist I coined this term because I believe will be used a great deal more in the future, to describe emerging values and  ethics. Planetism will also inform emerging global markets and shape the global economy in the 21st century.


21 December 2012

peter@preferredfutures .org



Blog No. 13. Destination 2050: Newtown Connecticut : this is actually part of an even bigger issue.

December 20, 2012

By Peter Ellyard


 The major political consequence of the massacre of children and teachers in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut this week has been the increased recognition, even by the pro gun lobby, that this is a consequence of permitting unlimited individual ownership of what are actually weapons of war.  Most people recognize that unlimited individual rights to own guns means that communities all over the USA will be much less safe. In the US the right to own guns is embedded in the 2nd Amendment to the US constitution.  At the time of that Amendment ‘guns’ meant ‘muzzle loaded muskets’. Guns have become more lethal than the writers of this amendment could have ever imagined, but unfortunately the attitudes of many gun owners to gun ownership are still stuck back in the late eighteenth century.  

            If a person went into a café in the USA or indeed most other parts of the world and lit a cigarette he/she would be justifiably treated as a pariah and asked to either stop smoking or leave the café. We recognize that that person’s smoking would cause collateral damage -harm – to others and most of us no longer tolerate such behaviour when we are threatened by it. The rights of the individual smoker in these circumstances must give way to the rights of the community. The US is as intolerant of smokers in cafes as is anybody in most parts of the world. This issue of finding the most appropriate balance between the rights of individuals and communities is central to the gun ownership debate in the USA, and smoking in cafes everywhere, and generically speaking it is perhaps the most important issue our emerging global community faces.

            Individualism implies that if there is a conflict between individual and community rights, individual rights must prevail, Communitarianism on the other hand says in such circumstances community rights must prevail. Getting the right balance between the rights of individuals and communities is actually the elephant in the global room as we face many global dilemmas of this kind.  Issues like climate change, dealing with the consequences of greedy bank behaviour, protecting the European community from destructive actions from some of its members, eliminating weapons of mass destruction from the Earth, creating peace in the Middle East, modifying the global trading system so that it is fair for all ,are just a few examples of this fundamental generic dilemma. Our global society is now so interdependent and interconnected that an action by one person, organisation or nation can threaten all of us.

            The USA is currently communitarian in terms of smokers rights but individualistic in terms of gun ownership. This inconsistency is unusual as the level of, and balance between, individualism and communitarianism , tends to be consistent across all major issues in most cultures.  If we extend our consideration of smoking in cafes to the whole planet we recognize that the ethics are When I have worked with coal and oil producers on shaping their future in emerging 21st century I discuss the smoker in the café. By 2030 zero industrial carbon emissions will be demanded all over the planet and those who dump industrial carbon into our atmosphere will receive the same opprobrium as a smoker in a café receives today.            Garrett Hardin in his famous essay ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ said the only way to ensure that individual and community rights are balanced in our emerging global society is the ask and answer the question’ what kinds of mutual coercion can we mutually agree upon?’ The bottom line is that all our solutions from now on must be crafted to result in win/win outcomes or otherwise there will be no agreement. Win/lose is no longer an option in our emerging interdependent planetary society. Indeed the issues the people of the USA must face both in deciding what to do in terms of gun control or avoiding the fiscal cliff for that matter, is to recognize that over time the whole world is becoming more communitarian. We have no choice but to recognized that humanity shares a common home and has a shared future and we must adapt accordingly or face the consequences of our failure to find agreement. Our warming global climate is the perfect illustration of this 21st century reality and of the consequences of our failure to reach agreement.

            John Donne said 400 years ago that ‘no man is an island’ and that ‘we are all involved in mankind’. Global realities today are forcing all of us to be ‘involved in mankind’ whether we like it or not.

            However becoming more communitarian does not mean that only alternative is to be less individualistic. It means that we must be differently individualistic. My definition of ‘sustainability’ is doing things and taking actions that produce zero net collateral damage to others. A sustainable lifestyle is one that enables us to enjoy our individuality in ways that does not threaten or harm others. Here the environment is our shared planetary home which we should not defile or endanger. By contrast a healthy lifestyle is enjoying our individuality in ways that do not cause collateral damage- harm – to self.  Some of this involves becoming smarter, creating innovations that enable us to achieve both of these.  In my books Destination 2050 and Designing 2050, I have a lot to say about innovating our way to global prosperity, harmony, sustainability, health, justice and security by the year 2050. Developing and marketing the innovations to achieve this a major component of the  emerging 21st century global economy. In my books and elsewhere I discuss the innovations not yet created that will do all the things we will need to achieve these outcomes over the next 38 years to the year 2050

            As the US wrestles with its gun ownership dilemma, it needs to recognize the generic aspects of this national conversation. This kind of conversation is needed more and more as we find ways to balance individual behaviour with responsibility to respect community rights. There is no bigger conversation we will need to have over the next 20 years than this one. But if we do it well we will create the innovations to help our emerging planetary society find new means to ensure that individual needs and community needs can simultaneously be met for the benefit of both .


19 December 2012

peter@preferredfutures .org



Blog No.12. Destination 2050: the 21st century needs Utopian Realism

December 18, 2012

By Peter Ellyard


When we seek to shape the future we first imagine and choose a goal and second we develop and implement a strategy to realize it. In the 19th and 20th  centuries two competing philosophical approaches significantly informed how we might best shape the future: utopianism and realism. Historian and realist C.F. Carr described the difference between utopianism and realism respectively as between those who regard politics as a function of ethics and those who regard ethics as a function of politics. Traditionally utopians tended to inhabit the world dominated by the primacy of ideas and realists the world dominated by the primacy of power.

In the 20th century it was virtually impossible to consider shaping the future without being influenced by competing ideological perspectives: socialism versus capitalism, communism versus fascism, and democracy versus autocracy. Utopianism traditionally is regarded as the territory of the ideologically progressive – the political left. They envisioned preferred futures – what should be the future and committed themselves to what I call mission-directed strategic actions to realize their preferred future. Realists contended that utopians were too ambitious and bold in defining their goals, and noted that most utopians were often limited and impractical at devising effective means to fulfill their aspirations . Realists had a point as for the most part utopians only proposed two strategies for realizing their aspirations: either fomenting revolution that tears down the old with the aim of creating the new, or totally withdrawing from society and building the new from scratch outside it. In the 21st century where we recognize that humanity, like it or not, has a shared home and a shared future, withdrawing completely from society is less likely for the consequences of doing so means loss of opportunity to prosper through connection to global trade and investment. However whenever the old was torn down babies were usually thrown out with bathwater. Destruction was rampant  – the French and Russian Revolutions, Jonestown and the Year Zero of Pol Pot illustrate this fact. Democratic socialism was an attempt to combine somewhat more modest utopian goal setting with modest realistic strategic actions. However it still placed the government at the centre of change and regarded markets and capitalism generally as something they must live with and whose excesses should be tamed. By and large intervening in markets and capitalism to produce positive outcomes was not central to implementing their aspirations. In the 21st century democratic socialism began to shift towards ‘the Third Way’ where market economies and private investment are increasingly used to do more of the heavy lifting to create positive outcomes and lessen reliance on state investment characteristic of the USSR style ‘command economy’.

Realism on the other hand is the territory of the ideological conservative- the political right. Realism has been used to justify laissez faire approaches, the maintenance of the status quo, and minimalist action by government in shaping the future. In the main any action was aimed to consider probable futures – what will be the future- and to minimize harm or overcome problems rather than to create positive outcomes.  – this is what I call a problem-centred strategic action. If realism dominated all our thinking reform would be rare and always insufficient.

So utopianism fails mainly because the strategies designed to realize aspirations are ineffective or even worse, produce disaster, when action to realize them is initiated. And realism fails because its aspirations are mediocre , it aims to protect the status quo, and to institute change only when things go wrong.

In my last blog (No.11) I referred to Tony Giddens description of utopian realismthinking beyond the world we live in now, but with realistic ways of getting there. I also discussed the Apollo project which actually realized a previously thought to be impossible aspiration. I suggested that this was an example of utopian realism implemented before the term was invented.

In the polarized Modernist 20th century it would have been inconceivable to put these two words together into a single framework. They were conceived as two conflicting and opposing ways of shaping the future. Postmodernism however encourages us to appropriate from diverse ways of knowing and different cultural approaches- both old and new- and combine these to create new ways of doing things. In the modernist past we used to think that environment and development were incompatible yet we are now combining these into new conceptual frameworks. In my own work I have introduced the concept of sustainable prosperity, two words that were regarded as incompatible in modernist times, but to me are totally complementary in the postmodern present and the emerging planetist future.  Both realism and utopianism failed individually as effective shapers of the future. However we can now be very postmodern and combine the lofty envisioning characteristic of utopianism and the realistic strategic action making of realism: we can bring these together into a new 21st century relevant framework. In doing this we are combining the advantages of both utopianism and realism and eliminating  the disadvantages of both of these- a very postmodern approach. This is a win/win outcome. This way we can imagine and initiate major changes through uplifting and utopian visions and seek to use existing tools to realize them, by implementing proven strategies to realize these aspirations and with means that do not create unacceptable levels of collateral damage. Indeed my core definition of sustainably is doing things in ways that that produce zero net collateral damage to others and the environment. I have embraced the concept of utopian realism because it involves thinking and acting in ways I have done for decades.

            Destination 2050 :  realizing universal prosperity, sustainability, harmony, justice and security by the year 2050 is a utopian goal. However my strategic toolkit for realizing this future is built on my 20 years experience as a public sector CEO. It is described in my books and other writings. My very realistic six tools for shaping the future to realize this utopian Destination 2050 are known to all who have read my books or know my work.

Our young are already moving into the utopian realist space.  Generation Y does not look at the world through the ideological lenses that is embedded in the thinking of my generation. And they are not joining political parties who for the most part are still trapped in ideological modes of thinking.  However Generation Y is as committed to building a better future as I am. They recognize that the command economy is dead and the market economy can be driven into new positive directions through their own entrepreneurship and collaborative consumer action driven through social media and other means. They are beginning to deliver revolutionary levels change without the immense collateral damage characteristic the revolutionary change of yesteryear. And they are founding businesses to accomplish visionary aspirations. They want to economically prosper while doing ecological, social and cultural good. They believe in sustainable prosperity, they believe in utopian realism, and they are planetists – even if they do not recognize any of these terms.

I am a natural utopian realist but I don’t meet many like me in people closer to my own age. I meet many frustrated utopians who are still blaming the tools of change such as capitalism, technology, and globalization for all the ills of the world, without recognizing these same tools equally can equally be used to realize the aspirations they yearn for if the use of these tools is informed by planetist values. On the other hand I also meet many timid realists who go through their lives without imagining things that never were and saying why not? – to quote G.B Shaw. They focus on making minor change- mostly solving problems that impede ‘progress’, and protecting their own interests. In our emerging 21st century interconnected interdependent global society the acceptable way of constructing change is through crafting win/win outcomes, not win /loss so characteristic of both sides of the ideological divide in the 20th century.

Even though I have only embraced utopian realism after Destination 2050 went to press a month ago, I recognize that my books are actually manuals for would-be utopian realists – which is my pathway to purposeful future-making

In my own work I have been criticized by both realists who think that I am an impractical dreamer and utopians who tell me I have sold out to ‘the market’. So I must be doing something right. My utopian critics are mostly in the media and academia and watch things happen but rarely make things happen. On the other hand many of my former colleagues in bureaucracies are unrepentant realists who distrust the making of utopian aspirations, and who for the most part envision small and seek to only make changes at the margin.

The time is right for us embrace utopian realism as the best way forward for creating a 21st century global society we all yearn for and one that is worthy of our best selves. Both Destination 2050 and Designing 2050 stress that this aspiration is within reach by the year 2050 and offers the toolkit for the realistic realization of these utopian goals.


18 December 2012





Blog No.11. Destination 2050 : to realise it we need utopian realism but not pragmatic idealism.

December 14, 2012

Tony Giddens – Baron Giddens for he is a UK Labour peer-  is a distinguished English thinker and change maker/catalyst. He has been and still is a major contributor to the conceptual base of sociology over decades and was the initiator of ‘The Third Way’ implemented by the New Labour government of another Tony whom Giddens was close to, namely Tony Blair. I am a life-member of the Australian Labor Party , and I have  worked within the parliament of public policy with ministers, and I spent two decades as a CEO of public sector organisations, trying to both encourage visionary public policy and translate visionary public policy aspirations into realistic outcomes on the ground.  I also support non-ideological  ‘Third Way’ thinking myself. Therefore it is not surprising that I am sympathetic with much of his thinking.  


Giddens is now promoting what he calls utopian realism’.  I find this pair of words uplifting. His definition of utopian realism: thinking beyond the world we live in now, but with realistic ways of getting there . Tony Blair in 2000 at the WEF in Davos introduced the concept of pragmatic idealism. It might be thatGiddens had something to do with this word twin pair as well. Tony Blair said something else in that speech that matters.   He had the view that just as ideology shaped the 20th century, often with disastrous results, ideals should shape the 21st century. However he also said that these ideals should be pragmatic – realizable.  I interpret his doctrine as saying that we should prepared to downsize our idealistic vision if necessary when we can’t imagine the means, or find the resources, to realize our original aspirations.  


I do not resonate to pragmatic idealism as I do to utopian realism.  As I sought to compare these apparently similar concepts I was surprised to find while they appeal somewhat equally to my head they produce totally different responses in my heart. And in my heart utopian realism sings while pragmatic idealism does not.  As I drilled down to consider the reason for this responsive difference,  I thought about the Apollo Program and Mission- harking back to 1961 when Kennedy told the people of the US that he  wanted the US to go to the moon and back by the end of that decade. When Kennedy  gave that speech nobody had clue how it might be accomplished. But nobody sought to downsize that aspiration saying that perhaps we should take 20 years rather than less than a decade, or aim to just to put a person into orbit around the Earth without aspiring to go on to the moon. Because this project was a presidentially initiated and well funded program that was important for national prestige- the mission to the moon and back was first invented and then accomplished on time and somewhat over budget.  The Apollo program asked Americans people to stretch themselves, think more creatively, and innovate more purposefully to realise this clearly utopian destination. People around the world were inspired and uplifted by watching the project unfold over a decade. From the EarthRise photographs taken from Apollo 8 humanity saw our fragile and beautiful planetary home for the first time. This moment was a tipping point. Looking at these photographs humanity was forced for the first time to recognize that it had shared home and shared a future.  My conclusion was that the Apollo Program was an exemplar of utopian realism but was not an example of pragmatic idealism. To me the  difference between utopian realism and pragmatic idealism is stark. With the Apollo project I think utopian realism  would have  accomplished the mission  while pragmatic idealism  would have produced failure.


Utopian realism means that as we aspire to shape the future we should never downsize our aspirations because of the demands of realism. If we do our inspiration and purposefulness will also lessen . Seeking more pedestrian aspirations will certainly produce more pedestrian strategies to realise them. However while we must not let realism downsize our aspirations we should be prepared to let realism inform out outcomes. We should be prepared to accept receiving half-a-loaf even if we hoped to receive a full loaf: for we can accept that half-loaf and then rededicate ourselves to search for a means to obtain the other half-loaf.  The bottom line is that we must never downside our aspirations but we should be realistic about the outcomes.


Both my books Designing 2050 and Destination 2050  ask the reader to imagine a planetary society in the year 2050 that is universally prosperous, sustainable, harmonious, just and secure- just five key words. This fits Giddens’ criterion of looking a world beyond the world of today. In my own futures terminology this involves imaging leadership-driven, vision-generated preferred-future or possible- future prospects but not management-driven prophecy-generated probable -future or prospective-future prophecies . It involves imagining a future well beyond what is present now- a future that will never be realised if we just proceed with more of the same, business as usual.  It also involves crafting a strategy – creating a project – that enables humanity to achieve this on schedule and within budget.  Ralph Waldo Emerson describes this aspiration marvellously:  Do not follow where the path may lea d. Go instead whee there is no path and leave a trail.    


This difference is also invoked by the serpent in The George Bernard Shaw’s 5-play cycle Back to Methuselah, where the serpent said ;   You see things and say why. I see things that never were and say why not.  Yes we need a lot more utopian realism .


Some of us are utopian realists by nature- I am this way by nature- but if we need more utopian realism in our discourse and negotiations- and I share Giddens’ view that we do –  we need to create concepts banks and  toolkits that enable all who wish embed utopian realism in their mindsets to do so.   Much of my work is dedicated to doing just this.


I have known about pragmatic idealism from 12 years and did nothing with it. Interesting that!  Clearly it did not mean much to me but when I contrasted it with utopian realism I was writing this blog within 24 hours. Thank you Tony Giddens !


Peter Ellyard 12/12/2012