Approaches not Solutions
The solutions to society’s challenges, or the progress of knowledge sharing and understanding, or improvement to the quality of life (to take three examples) are not simply a matter of pursuing ‘applied’ research. In cases involving human agency there are no easy solutions, only temporary fixes. Dealing with societal challenges requires a judicious and sensitive balance of conceptual researchers, applied researchers and practitioners, each of whom understands the particular agenda and their position within it. We strive to provide this balance in our work.
‘Solutions’ imply clearly understood and definable problems. This may be so in some situations, but more commonly societal problems are intractable and form an embedded part of yet more complex structures and social commitments. Moreover there is always some disagreement about the nature of the problem and its ‘solution’. The work of the Centre will focus on developing approaches rather than solutions. Any approach must acknowledge that problems often evolve, often need to be addressed by more than one approach, involve initiatives taken over an extended period, and may require contributions from a variety of agents and partnerships. Moreover, approaches need to be sustainable, and their effectiveness and relevance needs to be constantly assessed as societal tensions and attendant problems evolve.
Towards a global and holistic perspective
Limits of corporate social responsibility
Incorporated enterprises have both rights and responsibilities. The notion of CSR (and of sustainability or sustainable development) has been important in helping progress the debate about responsibility. However, we need to move forward from seeing corporate entities as uniquely responsible (directly and indirectly) for most of the social and environmental ills of society, and that they alone have the capacity to overcome these challenges. Incorporated entities are one stakeholder or constituency of a community, and of society speaking more broadly.
Global responsibility: challenges and opportunities
We need to acknowledge that all stakeholders or constituents of society share a responsibility for its development: companies, government (all levels), multilateral organisations, educational institutions, societies and clubs, groups and individuals. Global responsibility is multi-dimensional:
Inclusive and expansive: includes all dimensions of the manifest world: space (human and physical environment; near and far), time (present and future, appreciates difference.
Interconnectedness of issues: Improved human welfare and social equity are necessary to motivate biospheric respect, and enhanced welfare and biospheric respect are needed to facilitate social equity.
Achieving equity: of access to resources and property rights, within and across generations. As a minimum, human activities should not shift costs onto, or appropriate the property or resource rights of, other sentient beings, today or tomorrow, without proper compensation.
Unintended consequences: be prepared for surprises, act with precaution and caution, prudence, and reversible actions.
Constraints: Important to take the long view, and seek to maintain: stock of critical natural capital; health of social system and ecosystem; the capacity to self-organise (maintenance, renewal, transformation); human freedoms (participation, reciprocity, accountability, transparency).