Era of coalitions

The Era of Coalitions

This is a shortened version of a longread ‘Why the ‘Transition 20s’ will be the Era of Coalitions’ by James Veenhoff

If you thought ‘lockdown’ was bad, let’s take a minute to think about the years ahead. We don’t need a crystal ball to predict the following: prosperity will fall, markets will be unstable, tough calls will be made that lead to widespread dissatisfaction. Still, it’s up to all of us to stay sane, kind and optimistic. Here’s three thoughts as we start to strategise ahead beyond the rebound.

I. React, Reimagine and Rebuild

Now we are starting to move cautiously out of ‘React to crisis’ mode, we need to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-imagine our industry – and our roles within them. What business do we want to be a part of? Which elements of the ‘old normal’ do we choose to take with us, post-corona, and what do we leave behind?

This process is distinctly different from the cold, hard crisis response work that has served us well in the past weeks. Leaders should think about who – which perspectives – they want to surround themselves with for this activity. And they should heed Bill Joy’s wisdom: ‘No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work somewhere else’.

II. Form Clever Coalitions for Impact

We live in an ever-more unstable and polarised world, with interdependent value chains and scarce resources. Broad mandates and clear gives-and-takes between individual companies and the collective, are essential. New alliances, public-private partnerships and previously-unheard-of coalitions of parties will be essential to protect priorities as well as make bold decisions to move society forward.

Intelligently formed coalitions can create new standards and level playing fields. They can develop business models around change, and give mandate to corporations: an opportunity to deserve the right to play in commercial arenas. Government’s role in these new alliances is to ensure transparency, fairness and mandate – and to incentivize bold measures. They should wield the carrot and the stick with wisdom, not just bail out companies indiscriminately.

III. Make Progress Easy to Buy

These days there’s a lot of talk about ‘leaders’. Leaders should do this, leaders should do that. But let’s be honest: it’s going to take all of us to get society back on track in a new-and-improved way. In fact, change will most likely only ‘happen’ if we literally ‘buy into it’. So this is our assignment for the period ahead: to make progress easy to buy.

Companies have long used ‘consumer demand’ as an excuse to sell bad products. The reality is that we have made it very complicated and unappealing for consumers to buy cleaner, greener, smarter and fairer products. We must step up; make ‘Better Options’ as appealing, affordable and easy to buy as possible. If we can generate and harness consumer demand for honestly-priced, responsibly-made options, we can really make the transition happen. Green energy. Clean mobility. Sustainable cotton. True-cost travel. Local food. Demand will come from consumers, but the offer must come from companies. 

Let’s reimagine what our business should do, give and take. Then create smart coalitions with shared purpose and clear rules-of-play. And then turn progress into products and services that are easy to buy.