Paul Massey
President, Powell Tate
Mar 31

The Global Wealth Imbalance

Recently, for example, the Fast Company newsletter featured the contributed article “The End Of Capitalism Is Already Starting–If You Know Where To Look.” The piece, written by an anthropologist at the London School of Economics and a co-founder of the activism platform The Rules, is intended to be provocative, but touches on a larger trend of conversation around the role of capitalism in a world of widening inequalities and significant societal and environmental challenges.

This conversation was front page news in January during the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), the yearly gathering of global political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland. At WEF, the nongovernmental organization Oxfam released a new report “An Economy for the 99%” on the state of the global wealth imbalance that estimated that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. A striking statistic to say the least.

The Oxfam report left many asking: how relevant and influential are global gatherings such as WEF at a time when populist anti-establishment sentiment is growing around the world and it’s clear that the promise of globalization to benefit everyone has not materialized?

A Time of Uncertainty and Change

The world is in a state of powerful and uncertain change. The systemsbe they political, economic or socialthat we have relied on for geopolitical stability for the past 70 years have been upended due to a series of shocks.

It’s difficult to map the causes and effects of the critical events of recent decadesfrom the rise of terrorism in a post-9/11 world, to the global financial crisis of 2008, to the accelerating refugee and economic migrant crisis, to the rise of populist and nativist governments around the world, to angst about climate change and the limits of natural resources. But it is clear that there is unprecedented pressure on government, NGO and business leaders to ease the fear people feel in the face of large-scale, systemic and entrenched problems.

While we’ve made great progress in fighting extreme poverty in recent decades, there is more work to be done. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have put focus and clarity on the problems to be addressed and show us that there is incredible opportunityfor both social progress and financial returnin addressing the SDG agenda and driving innovations that solve critical challenges and improve people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.

Our new Inclusive Global Economies report looks at how many vanguard organizations across sectors are reframing “the economy” in a broader context to consider the true costs and impacts capitalism has on people and the planet. It’s our contribution to dialogue about how to catalyze and sustain enduring progress against poverty, inequality, disease and climate change. Our view is that the answers will be born from unprecedented collaboration among policymakers, business leaders, social sector organizations and everyday citizens within a new economic constructan inclusive global economy.

The Inclusive Economies Roadmap

One of the primary motivations for developing our Innovation Trends Report series is to explore key trends that we see at the center of social impact communicationsto understand and apply them to our work, and to be a strategic resource for purpose-driven brands and organizations.

At the center of each of our reports are roadmaps for action that equip people with a way forward, a path to moving from insights on a topic to action and implementation.

If you’re interested in applying an inclusive economic lens to your work, here’s a roadmap for getting started, with a particular focus on the role of communications:

  1. Assess your organization’s positive and negative impacts on the economy, on people and on the planet
  2. Identify your organization’s ‘north star’ purpose or theory of change to make a positive impact on people and planet
  3. Reframe your organization’s operating model to align with your purpose in a financially sustainable way
  4. Create a narrative and set of messages that articulate your organization’s unique contribution to the inclusive economy
  5. Deploy messengers and storytellers to share your perspective and help others align to the inclusive economy model
  6. Report on progress, lessons learned and the partnerships that are advancing solutions to global poverty

For more information, including insights on reframing the refugee crisis, recruiting new champions for climate change, overcoming the wealth imbalance in Africa, understanding how impact investing is recalibrating the risk/return trade-off, how to use creativity to engage on difficult issues, and recommended resources to learn more on the topic, I invite you to read our Inclusive Global Economies report and to share your impressions, questions and ideas with us.