The Sustainability Lab shaping brighter futures

The five ways of working: or ‘joining the dots’

Blogs, From the Director's Chair - Einir's Blog

by Dr. Einir Young

In a previous blog I wrote about the Well-being goals as they appear in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) 2015 Act, which became law on 1st April 2016. For 44 public bodies the pressure is on to understand what the Act means for them and how to report on their actions to meet the goals.

This time I’m going to draw your attention to the five ways of working together better as outlined in the Act. If we work together better we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and tackle long term challenges more effectively:

  1. Long term thinking. We need to be thinking about how to balance short term needs v our long term needs. Do we think long term or do we lurch from one crisis to the other and hope for the best? How long is long term? Have we given that any thought at all?
  2. Prevention is better than cure. Acting to prevent problems from occurring or getting worse is always a good idea in every sense. It’s particularly easy to understand in the context of health – taking action to be healthier and keep disease at bay is far more sensible than eating the wrong things and drinking and smoking excessively.
  3. Integration. Considering how our individual objectives might impact on each of the wellbeing goals and on other people. It’s so much easier to focus on one thing without thinking about the unintended consequences on other things and other people.
  4. Collaboration.  Working together with a common purpose – to meet the wellbeing goals is so critical and makes so much sense. Can we do it? Or are we too busy feathering our own nest and protecting our own little empires? Are we sufficiently outward looking, horizon scanning for opportunities to join forces with like-minded people?
  5. Involvement.  Whatever we do at work and at home, and whatever our business we should be thinking about engaging with people; so much the better if those people are also interested in understanding how best to achieve the wellbeing goals and applying the five ways of working in practical situations. There is such a diversity of humanity out there waiting to join in with their own unique contribution.

Unless we integrate and ‘join the dots’ we’re in danger of all doing our own thing in silos, or ‘collaborating’ in a silo rather than across disciplines and interests. Without collaboration and integration we might not be involving the right people.

One of my colleagues hates the expression of ‘interconnectedness of all things’ – well sorry – complexity, the web of intrigue, that’s what it is.

At Bangor University we are trying to work out what being ‘sustainable’ means and we are also trying to understand and apply the principles of the Well-being of future Generations Act. We are expanding the dialogue far and wide – across continents to Africa and China.

There is no blue print for getting it right but every culture and background brings its own contribution to the discussion. Is Confucius emerging as “the hottest new management guru”? According to an article I read today he certainly pondered over the balance between strength and benevolence and believed that smart leaders should be open to dissent and discussion.

To paraphrase Confucius:

If what a leader says is good and no one goes against him/her, good, but if what a leader says is not good and no one goes against him/her, then is this could lead to ruin”

And so we must discuss these things openly and ask ourselves some challenging questions:

  • ‘How can we change our behaviour so that the five ways of working to meet the seven goals become the norm?’ We may want to change but are we ready TO change?
  • ‘What are we inspired to do? Who will we invite to help us?’

These are some of the things we’ll be discussing at The Sustainability Lab’s session on 12th May from 10.00-12.00 during Bangor University’s Behaviour Change Festival.

Do join us.


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