wise elephant, making it happen

The Great Devolution and the Emergent Force of Free Radicals

By Jason Moriber • Jul 20th, 2010 • Category: Freshness

(this post was originally published on July 18  at the blog http://sundayed.com)

We’re amidst an economic “Devolution.” It’s not an easy era to define, to find solutions for, or to provide the path towards positive progress. The answers are here. They are burgeoning. Some are obvious within the movements of companies; others are simmering at the grass roots. History could look upon the next decade as a “greatest generation” putting us within the pantheon of our wartime heroes. Or they could see it, as economist Umair Haque believes, as “a lost decade.” I say let’s go for greatness!

I’m talking about a Devolution, yeah, you know…
The recession has aggressively splintered  “our national economy” into multitudes of micro-economies. Within this Devolution we are each our own economy. Like ships torn from their moorings by a hurricane and floating adrift in the harbor, the ties that bind us are frayed and need replacing. The umbrella corporate economy, which had been the mainstay and the glue of sustained economic prosperity, is badly damaged and slow to find remedy. The markets are desperately mercurial and the employment horizon is reminiscent of the dust-bowl era. Is this the rebound? The experts disagree on where to pinpoint the indicators, and the media is so confused by all the facets they have chosen to simplify the polygon of these issues by tossing us gossip and tragedy. Let us eat cake!

Mayor James M. Baker of Wilmington, Delaware, a small city in major duress, calls our current era, “A Great Reset.” Dov Seiman of FastComany argues it’s a “Rethink.” It’s like we’re going to try the past 10 years all over again! This time, these employees and job-candidates are throwing out the idea of the corporation (or job) as their safe-keeper. They’re all on our own, gathered loosely within fluid confederations to get tasks completed and to bring home the bacon. A nation of freelancers stands at the ready to get to work, but what will this work be?

Maybe the Devolution has put us even farther back? The stories I hear, read and witness are closer in tone to the time at the end of the great depression. Livelihoods were insecure while everything was seemingly up for grabs. You had to make your own way, sink or swim, and take what you could get while eyeing the next step up. Reset, rethink, re-do.

Free Radicals!
This Great Devolution is giving birth to a new type of worker and trailblazer. I call them the Free Radicals. The Free Radicals are represented within all strata of economics and culture. They are working with their hands and smarts, laboring to pull the economy up by its bootstraps. The Free Radicals are seeking the path forward without subsidies, without pension security, and operate outside the corporate economic culture. It’s not because they’ve shunned these footholds, it’s because these levers and lifts are no longer available.

Julie Meyers, CEO of Ariadne Capital, is witnessing this Devolution and the rise of Free Radicals at the investment level:

“I don’t know a single person under 30 [years old] who feels they work for anyone, anymore. And I include the people who work for me at Ariadne Capital who are under 30, they don’t really believe that they work for me…I think the under-30s really view themselves as their own P-n-L, as their own brand…this trend has arisen from what I call an Individual Capitalism…The recession has created many individual capitalists in the form of freelance consultants, solo deal makers and some by design others by chance.”

The Devolution is influencing the C-Level to act as Free Radicals, too. GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt is shifting their core away from “old-school” and possibly dried-up profit centers. They’re moving on from TV/Cable (selling NBC/Universal) and Finance (selling units or divesting from GE Capital) and investing $20Billion over the next two years in R&D to invent NEW products for a NEW economy. They’re banking their future on risk-taking.

The Free Radicals are all over the grass roots. How much longer will large-scale agri-businesses be able to keep the status quo while research keeps pointing to the unhealthy and uncompetitive model of their arena? We all know the economy of subsidized corn syrup can’t be the only way to feed our nation. There is a burgeoning food trend to grow and buy local and organic foods.  Whole Foods has recently announced they will be growing produce in shared-space community gardens! There is a heroic wave of small-scale agriculturalists that are grabbing the tiller and making it happen; growing new economies that support us all. Show them some love!

Who, What, When
I can point to cities and investments in light rail, urban cores, and small/local business. I can point to business accelerators such as start-up spaces and co-work spaces. I can point to dozens of folks working hard to figure it out under enormous pressures: out of work, in debt, and without support networks. It’s heartbreakingly awful. I personally can’t stand it.

The Recession caused the Devolution. The Devolution is birthing Free Radicals. Support the Free Radicals! Seek them out within your communities and see how you can amplify their efforts. Maybe it’s through buying their products, maybe it’s through micro or angel investments. We need to boost their efforts and harness their energies. They are leading us out of the Recession. Find them, empower them, and show them some love.


Related Links:

Umair Haque’s “Lost Decade”

Political Devolution definition:

Wilmington DE

Dov Seidman’s Great Rethink

Unemployment extension fails:

The Pendulum Will Swing Back

Economic Contraction?

Julie Meyer, Individual Capitalism

Immelt Stakes GE’s Growth on Higher R&D Spending

Urban Farming

Slow Food

Whole Foods to Grow Own Produce

Why are we propping up corn production, again?

“Green Shoots”

“James Drain” Hits Cleveland

List of Light Rail Systems by Rider-ship:

Coworking Definition:

Explosion of Seed Funds:

Jason Moriber is a veteran product/project/marketing manager, underground artist/musician, and online community developer, Jason expertly builds/produces/manages clients' projects, programs, and campaigns. Follow me on twitter http://twitter.com/jelefant
Email this author | All posts by Jason Moriber

Leave a Reply