What is the Good Society?
The COVID19 pandemic has afflicted the entire planet. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. Millions more have lost their incomes. Businesses have gone bust. Education has been disrupted.
The shockwaves have not spread equally. The elderly and vulnerable are most at risk from the virus. Many do not have jobs that can be done remotely and hence find themselves unemployed. Domestic violence has increased. Physical isolation is impossible in cramped and inadequate housing. Children without access to the internet cannot participate in online schooling.
The crisis has exposed the limitations of our existing economic systems. The focus on efficiencies, cost reductions and just-in-time supply chains has removed incentives for government investment in resilience in terms of stockpiles, sustainable food chains, innovation and expertise. Wealth creation has been concentrated at the top, with tax avoidance hindering redistribution. The pandemic has sharply displayed the inequalities in societies – and increased them.
But it has also brought out a spirit of service and sacrifice, from health workers on the front lines to those who deliver supplies and stack shelves, putting their own lives at risk to help others. Many have rediscovered the joy of performing random acts of kindness, putting their skills to use for the benefit of others, looking after their neighbours, caring for their elderly parents and being present with their children. Modern technology has enabled us to stay connected even when physically separate.
Our air has become less polluted due to the dramatic drop in carbon emissions from halted industrial output and declining energy demands. People have also discovered that many meetings can be held virtually without plane travel. The sweeping policy responses to COVID19 have revealed that governments could tackle climate change if they could muster the same focus and zeal they brought to bear on the coronavirus crisis.
As our governments compete for medical supplies and miracle cures, and as leaders point fingers at each other and spin up blame-game conspiracies, the virus itself has reminded us that we need to increase cooperation, to share scientific knowledge and coordinate global responses to global challenges.
The world we want to live in
This is the first global pandemic in our lifetimes. We have had to make trade-offs between lives and livelihoods, between security and freedom. It has forced us to reflect on what is important to us and how we might re-configure the world in the future, away from individuals maximizing income, towards a collective commitment to building a better society.
The core tenets of the good society are:
Safety. To feel safe in our homes and protected in our communities.
Freedom. To choose how to live our lives. To have the opportunity to discover purpose and meaning.
Prosperity. To earn the necessary income to meet our basic needs.
Solidarity. To belong to a community and to ensure there are safety nets for the most vulnerable members of society.
Participation. To express our voice, to be heard, to have a stake in decisions affecting our lives. To contribute our time, resources and skills to the flourishing of our neighbourhoods and communities.
Equality. To be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of background.
Wellbeing. To experience physical and mental health and wellbeing to realise our full potential.
Sustainability. To care for our environment and protect natural resources for future generations
Good Society Forum
The Good Society Forum was launched in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, to digitally connect change-makers around the world, engage them on ideas, and inspire action to create a better world.
Government, business, and civil society all play a role in ensuring that we have the means to be economically secure, safe, and free to lead fulfilling lives. Both state and society must be strong for freedom to flourish and for human dignity to be upheld. A capable state is needed to ensure security, adjudicate disputes and enforce laws, and deliver public services. An active and mobilized society is needed to monitor the state and prevent it from being abusive, to hold elites to account, to take collective action. State and society have to cooperate to enable the private sector to thrive and create jobs, to ensure social cohesion, and to address the needs of the most isolated and vulnerable.
Join us in not only imagining the good society, but in actively striving to create it wherever we live.