The Next Chapter

Last week I had the privilege of participating in a circle of events in New York City that the DOEN Foundation, the company I work for, is involved with: the Cradle to Cradle Symposium and a round table discussion on New Economic Models by the Guardian Sustainable Business. It was a delight to be surrounded by all these smart, innovative people and organizations, working hard to rebuild, rethink and reshape the world into a clean and safe environment for everyone. Core values that the DOEN Foundation, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, shares.

Daring thinkers and entrepreneurs that break new ground and show that things really can be done differently. With initiatives that show that we can learn from nature, such as Biomimicry. That we can design and manufacture our products in 'good' ways: ways that are healthy for people and nature, such as Cradle 2 Cradle. Innovative thinkers introducing other ways of working together and different approaches to goods and services (giving, sharing), such as the Presencing Institute. Being together with all these like-minded people, after talking and sharing and celebrating good new thoughts and careful implementation, one question constantly came to mind. A question that needed to be asked. Fortunately Jo Confino from the Huffington Post presented this, redemptive question to a panel of thought leaders on new economic systems:

"What's the Next Chapter?"

Surprisingly, the answers represented a colourful wave in differences. Let me reframe what happened.

Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd professor of sociology and co-chair of The Committee on Global Thought from Colombia University, simply said:

"I don't know."

I could agree with her, but that would have been too easy and quite unsatisfying.

Vincent Stanley, director of philosophy at Patagonia, said:

"The main economic story since 1945 is fading now. We have to frame a new story."

True, but the question "What's the Next Chapter" already indicates that we need to frame a new story. So what will this story be about?

Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, said:

"The Next Chapter is called: 'How We Began to Win'. The story we are all living today is crumbling and humanity begins to realize this. It's our job to roll these crumbs over. For that matter, the Next Chapter could also be called: 'Extraordinary Courage by Ordinary People'."

Wow, this is really a statement: Hunter predicts a Deus Ex Machina by ordinary people. I really wish she is going to be right, but in my opinion it will take a long time first for us to finish our current chapter, that in my opinion, is called 'We Are Really Trying But Don't Know Where To Begin To Get It All Into Practice'.

Finally Ann Herpel, general coordinator of the Park Slope Food Coop, said something that made sense:

"It could get a lot worse before it gets better. But I am encouraged by my inbox: I receive questions from all over the world, so there are a lot of stories out there for a next chapter. So we need to keep on encouraging those flames. Although it gets darker, localists know where the lights are now."

I couldn't agree more. This is something I witness every day, both in my personal live as in my work: thriving green community activities in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam, vast growing sympathy for social initiatives on my Facebook timeline, innovative sustainable products or ideas from start-ups reaching the consumer fast through apps and online media.

At the DOEN Foundation we receive almost 2.000 applications each year from people all over the world who want to work towards a green, socially-inclusive and creative society. A strong, positive vibration from the crowd, carrying the same core values as all these thought leaders mentioned above. Although higher powers are working against this, the will to do the right thing, not only for ourselves but also for the future generation, is strong.

Therefor I embrace Ann Herpel's Next Chapter, even though that means it could get a lot worse in the beginning. Because I know for a fact that the DOEN Foundation embraces Ann's inbox too and tries to help by funding many wonderful initiatives and connecting them. This thought will get me through the darker times.