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Video: Breakthrough Capitalism – because small change just isn't enough

28 July 2012

All sectors struggle with finding transformational models from inside. That's becuase processes, systems, the core DNA of a company are all focused on doing more of what you do better, rather changing the rules of the game.

Justin Adams, former strategist, BP Alternative Energy

Creating a more sustainable economic order relies upon change at all levels of society and across all organisations. In the face of a powerful and deeply embedded set of incentives reinforcing the status quo, the challenge to breakthrough cannot be understated. The Volans-convened Breakthrough Capitalism conference set out to shine a spotlight on examples of system change. Video by Matt Black and Seb Hartzell. Words from Susie Braun. 

Across business, government, social enterprise and the third sector, people are talking about moving towards a new, more sustainable economic order. Achieving it is another matter.

Breakthrough Capitalism is the idea that making small, incremental changes to the way business works is not enough. ‘Change-as-usual’ initiatives – a little efficiency here, a little offsetting there - can lull businesses into a false, and dangerous, sense of security. In the face of financial, social and environmental breakdown, organisations can’t afford to stop short of long-term, innovative change.
On 29 May 2012, Volans convened 26 speakers and 222 participants at the Breakthrough Capitalism Forum to spotlight and catalyse efforts pushing towards this new order. With support from the Generation Foundation, the Tellus Mater Foundation, the Value Web/Innovation Arts, Autodesk and HP, the event focused on understanding the depth and breadth of the challenges we face, while examining live cases where Breakthrough initiatives are starting to achieve genuine change. 
These live cases ranged from smaller organisations changing the system from outside (see Tim Helweg-Larson giving a vision of a future of public ownership, where energy consumers own their own clean energy network) to unusual partnerships between these smaller organizations and incumbent businesses to increase impact (see Ian Yolles introducing Recyclebank technology, which measures how much people recycle and offers them rewards for doing so, creating significant and measurable behaviour change). 
The Forum also explored how multinational business can show Breakthrough ambition. Paul Ellingstad of HP described how starting with a problem which needed solving, rather than a solution which needed applying, enabled HP to change the outcome for children born with HIV in Kenya. It led them to using IT to bring government, pharmaceutical and communications partners together to transform the status quo screening system.
Alongside stories from the health, energy and environment sectors, the Forum also threw light on the context for Breakthrough in finance, food, culture and sport. All videos from the event are available on the Breakthrough Capitalism website.
Volans is now working on the next phase of their Breakthrough Capitalism programme, including a report on Breakthrough innovation and bringing together smaller groups of influencers in action-focused ‘labs’.
If you have examples of systems innovation you’d like to share, please contact
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