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Talking Action: the Do Good Conferences

   /   Jul 6th, 2012Opinion

The number of conferences that I receive notices about these days is staggering. It seems that we’ve found a new pastime — talking action. It’s fashionable to dress up, look sharp and professional, and discuss the world’s greatest needs — be it environmental degradation, poverty, food security or global public health.

The plenary sessions are followed by workshops, which are followed by smaller workshops, which are followed by working dinners. And the chatter is endless. The schmoozing is at an all-time high. The exchange of cards, the empty cups of coffee, the cigarette breaks, the clatter of high heels.

All of us attend conferences at some point in our professional careers. And some of them are useful for our businesses, connecting us to others in our industry, linking like minds and hopefully, spurring business along.

Lately, I’ve seen a new kind of conference emerging — offshoots of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences. They are playgrounds for innovators, thinkers, writers, entrepreneurs, “do-gooders.” They’re symposiums, not conferences, meaning that they’re a platform to share ideas more so than business cards.

They’re fantastic for building your knowledge base, meeting inspiring and fascinating people and feeling as though you’re leaving a footprint on the world.

But sometimes, as I stand amid these great minds, innovators and thinkers, I wonder if we miss an opportunity. Why bring together so many brilliant minds without any plan of action? How many more ingenious solutions can we hear about? Should we not be trying some of them?

We’re a creative country, brimming with ambition, compassion and innovation. Yet, the feedback that I hear most from young social entrepreneurs is we’re not collaborating enough. It’s not enough to bring together great minds, we must end these five-day sessions with tangible solutions.

If that means bringing in more public-sector representatives or private-sector participants, we must do so. So that the creativity is not just bred in a vacuum or simply the digital realm of YouTube videos, but in reality as well.

These symposiums can be new grounds for cross-sector interactions. To discuss global public health is easy. To remedy it is tiresome. To spur local entrepreneurship is a noble thought. But to do so requires tenacity. Thus, conferences or symposiums should consider different formats.

Why not assign different challenges to teams and encourage them to come up with solutions? Why not give them the tools to reach out to public officials, the business community and civil society to make it happen? Why not fund the ideas that are plausible? These are feasible, not just on a global stage, but also on a local one.

Global public leaders convene regularly for such conferences — be it the G-8, G-20, World Economic Forum, U.N. summits, etc. But, the public outcry is generally of frustration at what many describe as just a photo op.

So, how can we use TED-like platforms that are insightful and provoking to build more holistic events — ones that don’t just talk action. Silicon Valley has adopted these models, forcing young entrepreneurs to develop business models and launch them within 48 hours. The startup culture emphasizes performance. How about infusing some of that “just do it” attitude into other sectors?

One symposium participant said to me recently, “Think about all the money wasted on food, drink and paraphernalia here. What if we used those funds to jump-start our ideas? What if we voted on the most feasible ideas and injected that money into solutions, not just more chatter?”

I couldn’t agree more with her. Enough with the pens and free coffee mugs. Let’s start building dynamic symposiums that let us get to business, not just talk business.

This originally appeared in the Ventura County Star.


3 Responses

  1. Michael Dahl says:


    Couldn’t agree with you more. You present some great suggestions to make the action quite practical for “living” beyond the conference (e.g. “Why not give them the tools to reach out to public officials, the business community and civil society to make it happen?”).

    I’d like to aim just a little bit lower. I just wish that at every plenary attendees were encouraged to get out their phones and call an elected leader to tell them why the issue they are meeting about is important to address through public policy. Or, all the attendees could be asked to post something on their Facebook status or Twitter feed for all in their network to see. Just some mass action anytime a mass of people are gathered. Please.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Hugh Ching says:

    Financial crisis is the problem to be solved.

    Post-Science Economics (PSE)

    Based on Non-Violable Laws of Nature and Transition to Distributed Full Employment (DFE)

    Post-science extends the concept of non-violable laws of nature in science, such as gravitation, from science to social science to form a new post-science economics. The two most important examples of non-violable laws in economics are (1) The Quantity Theory of Money PQ = VM (Price x Quantity = Velocity of Circulation of Money x Money Supply) and (2) The solution of value (Quantitative Supply and Demand Model Based on the Infinite Spreadsheet). These laws are more stringent than man-made laws.
    The equation PQ = VM describes how to stabilize the economy (roughly represented by PQ) by changing V and/or M. The equation is also known as the Fisher Identity, indicating that it could be considered an identity and, thus, is a non-violable law of nature. The solution of value is based on the problem posed by Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu in Debreu’s book Theory of Value and produces a quantitative solution of the price, replacing the qualitative utility. The Infinite Spreadsheet establishes a rigorous mathematical relationship between the price and the rate of return in a time space extending to infinity. The Infinite Spreadsheet is accepted based on mathematical rigor. Post-science economics is beyond science and is based on mathematical rigor, not just empirical verification, which is the rigor of science and is no longer possible when the calculation is taken to infinity in time, such as for the price.
    Full employment should be one of the major goals of the economy because full employment will increase both V and M and money is more valuable in the hands of the poor than that of the rich. The incorrectly generated Q with P will not only create inflation, but also cause financial crises, such as S&L Crisis and the Subprime Woe, both of which are caused by the overproduction Q and the overvaluation P of real estates. The correct allocation of resources must be determined by the solution of value.
    The most important sector of resource allocation is that of the available jobs. As technology progresses, machines gradually take over human labors or employment. Post-science economics proposes a policy of distributing available work to achieve full employment, as the available work for people decreases. The available employment depends on the amount of Q, where P satisfies justifiable rate of return. With 21th century technology, most advanced nations should be able to provide the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and health care for all their citizens. Providing the basic needs for all the citizens can be achieved by a Distributed Full Employment, which is achieved through the orderly distribution of the available employment among all the citizens. Full employment can be created by shortening the weekly working hours of employees by regions and sectors, but not the working days. This full-employment policy will reduce economic inequality and eliminate excessive greed.
    From a long-term point of view, the reduction of working hour is inevitable when machines gradually take over human labors. Today, most people are working on jobs which will someday be done by robots. As leisure time increases, innovation time will also increase. The Distributed Full Employment might lower the average earning of employees, but will encourage people to be innovators rather than be innovators’ employees. The net result of switching to the Distributed Full Employment will be an increase in innovations and in the wealth of the whole nation because there will be more innovators, who will produce more new jobs. Market Rate of Return for Q: Real Estate: 10% +/-5%; Small Business: 40% +/-10%; Real Estate Development: 100% +/-50%; Stocks: 10% +/-5% Mars Exploration: 0% +/-10%.

    Post-Science Employment Policy: Distributed Full Employment (DFE)

    (Distributing available employment to achieve full employment)

    Post-science has conceived the solution of complete automation based on the concept of Self-Manufactured General Purpose Robot which will be programmed by completely automated Self-generating Software System. Complete automation will greatly reduce available employment for humans. Today, with just partial automation, a great deal of human labors is replaced by machines.
    There should be a brand new way of looking at human employment. The contributions or benefits of productivity should be newly evaluated from the point of view of post-science. Automation enhances productivity. Complete automation will be the ultimate goal in increasing productivity. Productivity means the replacement of human labor with machines. Thus, productivity has the tendency of reducing available employment for humans.
    Also, financial crises are often due to overproduction, such as the Savings and Loan Crisis and the Subprime Woe, both of which are due to the overvaluation leading to the overproduction of real estates. Production and productivity enhancement should be guided by the economic equilibrium of supply and demand or, putting it simply, by the price. The solution of price is conceived by post-science. The most advanced description of the problem of price is given by Gerard Debreu in his book Theory of Value. But, Kenneth Arrow points out that the temporal solution of price based on discounted cash flow model on page 34 of the book is wrong. Post-science solves the temporal solution with the Infinite Spreadsheet in the patent by the founder of post-science Hugh Ching “Quantitative Supply and Demand Model Based on Infinite Spreadsheet” (Pat. No. 6,078.901), which has predicted both crises.
    There should be an orderly transition to full employment, as machines take over human labors. The Distributed Full Employment (DFE) is a publicly agreed policy (for the benefit of all the people), which will distribute the available work to achieve full employment. The total available work will be distributed among all the people seeking employment. The amount of pay will be reduced because of the reduced total hours of work, but the working days per week can remain the same, so that the amount of available work will not decrease. Each business sector for each region will work out its own distribution of working hours. The Labor Department should provide the statistics for the distribution.
    The working days per week for each individual employee will decrease, say, from 5 to 4 days, with the working days per week for the community remaining at 5 days. Conceptually, post-science would consider that the individual will work 4 days as a “robot” and 3 days as a “human.” Even today, most job descriptions sound like they are seeking obedient robots rather than creative humans, as indicated by the requirement of certifications on company products. However, working as a robot to produce the basic needs of humans should be considered a necessary civic duty of every citizen. The amount of available work will be increased by business owners and entrepreneurs, who are “full-time humans” and whose decisions of what to produce should be guided by the price of their products determined by the solution of value. Furthermore, today’s education is mostly for producing robots. Research should be separated from education and be anti-establishment. In sum, human life should be a gift in that human leisure time is for the persuasion of happiness and creative activities, and someday when productivity is high enough for producing all the basic needs of humans, this post-science vision will become a reality.