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Abstract

Most people do not realize the full implications of the fact that we live now in an era marked more by networks than hierarchies. Nowadays, power is distributed across boundaries and borders, rather than concentrated in one place—be it a physical setting, demographic group, industrial sector, or professional discipline. Thanks to systems thinking and the ubiquity of digital tools and platforms, there are many more opportunities for lawmakers, policymakers, and economic institutions to collaborate with concerned citizens on critical public issues, thereby breaking the grip of lobbyists, third-party intermediaries, and the power elite. On top of that are recent breakthroughs in planning, a so-called context-based approach that integrates wider considerations (and metrics) in ways that honor thresholds, baselines, and limits. These breakthroughs were possible because we now recognize the stock and flow of different forms of capital—human, social, environmental, cultural, economic, built environment, even spiritual—are not permanent or infinite. These stock and flows need to be stewarded in ways that contribute to immediate desired outcomes, as well as long-term sustainable prosperity and justice. In addition to wise resource stewardship, a process of carefully designed and managed multi-party, multi-sector education and engagement can help reboot democracy and promote more accountability and inclusive representation. It does so by restoring civic voice and agency at a time when the vast majority of citizens feel left out and ignored, that the game is rigged in favor of a few. The purpose of this article is to help business leaders move beyond simplistic “output measures” of value creation and recognize the importance of constructive community participation in building equity—“equity-as-standing”—along with incorporating probable impacts on a wider context—“context-based sustainability”—to ensure long-term prosperity, peace, and justice. At its core, the model presented here relies on a never-ending process of learning, co-creation, critical reflection and monitoring, and adjustment that makes room for human foibles, errors, and passions and aims.

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