So how much value are you currently adding to society or to your local community? So many of my dinner party conversations in the past have concentrated on career moves, the amount of money successfully invested, the sophistication of one’s annual or bi-annual holidays, or even the designer labels disported on clothes and bags.
But maybe things are changing. For instance, Harvard Business School’s Professor Michael Porter is talking about developing a more sustainable approach to capitalism. He talks of finding new ways in which business leaders can add meaningful value by taking account of the social and economic needs of their local communities, and of suppliers.
This makes sense when you consider the notion of the global village in this increasingly overcrowded world. The idea of “Six Degrees of Separation” refers to the idea that everyone is on average only six steps away from anyone else on the planet. And web based social networks serve to further shorten these connections to enable communication between peoples and ‘interest communities’ – sometimes at incredible speeds.
So why should the idea of ‘connectedness’ matter? Well, maybe there’s a shift in how we value our lives and add value to the lives of others. As someone on BBC Radio Four recently said, most of us have spent the last few years “spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t know”.
The conventional “Go-To-Men” of power are failing to make sense of the immense amount of economic and political failure the world has been experiencing over the past few years. Little wonder then that there is another perspective emerging: that of valuing our investments in relationships, in community, in sharing knowledge and expertise (not exclusively for remuneration), in achieving new skills and honing new abilities in say, the arts, or in learning to grow some of our own food.
These things can’t be valued like gold or petroleum, nor should they be. The conventional rules of supply and demand dictate that the greater the demand for gold, the tighter the immediate supply and the higher the price. But for each of us, investing in some of these non-commercial personal goals, or adding value to our communities only adds to societies’ overall wealth – there need be no shortage in altruism or in acts of kindness… precious but unlimited gold indeed!
 See Avaaz.org and their global campaign to highlight the unethical practices of News Corp.