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BK Blog Post
Posted by David Cooperrider.
David L. Cooperrider, Ph.D. is professor and chair of the Program on Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University. In 1987 Dr. Cooperrider and Dr. Suresh Srivastva published the original, foundation theory of AI in an article that has reverberated and changed the field of organizational development.
Why walkable communities, sustainable economics, and multilateral
diplomacy are the future of American power.
Why Grand Strategy? Why Now?
This Foreign Policy article is the most important essay I’ve read in a very long time. How many of us believe that our country can align around a nationally unifying purpose that will reignite our economy, create long term security, and help lead the global transition to a sustainable global system?
This article is unequivocal: America can do it–once again. We’ve done it before. Yet it requires a new understanding of the discipline of grand strategy, not just as a concept but as a non-partisan way to think clearly and collectively about the future.
Drawing on the article, here is a summary of key points.
Grand strategy, as Patrick Doherty and Marine Col. “Puck” Mykleby describe it, is the plan by which each generation of Americans creates the global conditions necessary to live the Preamble to the Constitution. In practice, it integrates our economic engine, our governing institutions, and our foreign policy to meet the great global challenge of the era. The American way of grand strategy is to let our economy do the heavy lifting, an innovation that led us through in both World War II and the Cold War.
Sadly, the situation facing America is as dire as during those two 20th century strategic challenges:
Rapid, global economic inclusion is driving strategic levels resource competition among major economies;Ecosystem depletion is changing the climate and reducing the carrying capacity of the planet.A contained depression, or debt-cycle deleveraging, has trapped the US in an austerity spiral.A resilience deficit has left our systems, supply chains and infrastructure buffeted by shock and disruption.
Worse, as this article articulates, these four core challenges have fused into a “wicked problem;” to solve for any one of these challenges requires solving for the set. Fail, and as conditions degrade in across the nation, the American experiment in republican self-government will suffer extraordinary damage.
And yet, America’s opportunity for generating prosperity, security and sustainability are astonishing. We have enormous pools of pent up demand waiting to be tapped. We have great and rising levels of capital sitting on the sidelines waiting for reasonable returns over the medium and long term, and as we unwind and reprogram stranded hydrocarbon assets, we will see mainstream global capital and investment align with this global demand—and America’s strategic imperatives. This simple economic formula: “Demand + Capital – Stranded Assets” can transform American markets to become the foundation of a prosperous, secure and sustainable global economy.
But to navigate these treacherous waters requires a grand strategy designed for the 21st Century. It is not optional; grand strategy is our solemn responsibility as citizens committed to self-governance. America has done it before; our generation must once again answer the call.
It can be done. A Theory of Change
Societies undergo large-scale adaptation when leadership recognizes challenges and opportunities and resolves to build a compelling alternative path to a better future. In the 20th Century, hot and cold war provided the impetus for America’s grand strategic adaptation. Today’s strategic challenge, however, is not an evil empire, and is not likely to present itself as an analogous threat. There will not be a single defining shock or war providing the Executive branch the mandate for sweeping national change. Rather, the interconnected, interdependent world in which we live will produce shocks, crises and disruptions with an ever-increasing frequency and severity, further exacerbating anxiety, inequality, and the erosion of our social fabric.
In other words, submits Doherty, America is experiencing a version of the “boiled frog” syndrome; the incremental degradation of our national situation is insufficient to override politics-as-usual and engender a decisive national response. We believe we must find another way to create a political mandate for a new grand strategy that does not rely on the two-party system. In broadest terms, this means the formation of a politically and regionally diverse, outside-the-beltway coalition. That coalition must have the economic, moral, and grassroots power necessary to create the safe space for elected politicians to embrace both the narrative of how we got here and a grand strategy for moving us forward.
Instead of waiting for its Pearl Harbor, this coalition must leverage the perturbations and the opportunities in this era, the sticks and the carrots of our age, to inspire elected leaders to action while demonstrating to citizens and market participants that their prosperity and security is served best by a decisive strategic shift. We know that shocks and crises are already loaded into the system and will create the kinds of plastic moments needed to end our present inertia. We know that global economic inclusion and demographic change at home is the kind of wealth-creating opportunity not seen since the end of WWII. We must take advantage of these conditions. They will not last long.
A concerted effort to build top-down consensus and bottom-up support is therefore essential. What follows is the overview of how we can take the discrete steps today to launch that effort.
Grand Strategy Project: Major Phases to 2020
The Grand Strategy Project’s vision is for America to adopt and implement a grand strategy of sustainability by 2020. We cannot waste any more time. The Second World War grand strategy took two years for a super majority to adopt. The Cold War, seven. We’ve done it before and our Constitution has not changed so much that we cannot do it again.
To realize this vision a broad coalition of Americans must create the circumstances in which Congress, the Executive, and a durable super-majority of the American people are united in their desire to pursue a strategy in which our economic engine, governing institutions and foreign policy are delivering prosperity and security while staying within the planet’s material and ecosystem boundaries as well as our own values as a people and a nation.
The scale and ambition of this effort are extraordinary and any effort at planning a strategic transition will require a flexible, adaptive, and well-resourced campaign. A preliminary assessment of the likely phases, objectives, targets and activities follows, but will require significant iteration with a broader set of stakeholders and professional campaign staff.
To succeed, this project has to combine ideas, consensus, and action. Our iterative process involves the following loop: refine the grand strategy, extend the circle of consensus, spend political capital to enact strategic change, refine our implementation plan, and repeat. Our goal will be to establish a governing simple majority aligned with a grand strategy of sustainability; a majority that will then enact and execute the statutory, organizational, and administrative changes necessary for implementation, inspiring the durable super-majority consensus necessary to see the strategy through. This will only be possible if the American people believe the strategy offers a better way into the future, capable of delivering prosperity and security while remaining true to our founding values as a nation and purposes under the Constitution.
Read the entire article
Attend the October 15-17 Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit to meet the authors of this and to actively engage with them and others to design the path forward for this national initiative which will soon be in full motion. I will be joining them and we are exploring how the Case Western Reserve University large group planning methodology (the appreciative inquiry summit approach) might help provide a vehicle for bringing people together around this new national narrative.