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Four For Friday | Oct 20, 2023
LF88 | Becoming Citizens, US retirement challenges, measuring complexity and lululemon on well-being
Welcome to a Looking Forward’s Four For Friday. Four things that have piqued my interest this week. Enjoy!
Are we Subjects, Consumers or Citizens?
The book Citizens poses that question. Its simple yet powerful thesis seems to address multiple problems with contemporary society. It says all powerful kings and dictators run their countries via force and subjugation - the Subject Model. That has largely been displaced (though there is some backsliding) by the Consumer model, where our requirement and civic duty is to buy stuff. The book advocates for a new model of ‘Citizen’ - where we are collectively trusted and empowered.
Covid saw the Subjects model and Consumer model come out in force, as governments took control of every aspects of our lives and also exhorted us to go out and spend money to save the country. It profiles Taiwan as an example of a country that engaged its citizens, co-created novel solutions to collective problems, and had one of the world’s lowest fatalities due to Covid with no lockdown, despite being right next to China.
America’s retirement system gets a C+
The US scores rather poorly in a new Retirement System survey by Mercer, that looks at the adequacy, sustainability and integrity of pensions around the world. The US came 22nd out of 47 countries, with the top spots being occupied by the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, Belgium and Australia.
What is unclear to me is whether it also included the impacts of the compulsory long-term insurance systems in countries like Japan and Germany (which don’t score that highly). In general, how to pay for our longer lives is a question that’s only going to get more urgent.
Can we measure impact in complexity?
I expect some of you share my geek-level interest in the intricacies of how to measure of “impact”, and as such the debate between Toby Lowe and Thomas Aston will be as rewarding as the Superbowl.
I referenced Toby’s article on the challenges of measuring impact in complex environments in LF62 and Thomas’ response here makes for a good counterpoint. It’s certainly more upbeat to think that we can actually measure at least some of what we do in complex environments.
lululemon and the paradox of well-being
lululemon produced their third annual well-being report, and the results are not inspiring. There is a ‘paradox of well-being’ where the concept is increasingly prioritised, yet it’s not improving.
Despite two thirds of people saying well-being is their top priority, 41% of say it’s impossible to achieve, with 51% saying cost gets in the way of improving their well-being.
70% of people say institutions are not doing enough and more than half prefer to support brands that improve social well-being.
That’s all for this week. As always, feedback welcome. Feel free to share insights or links of interest.