New power and new pathways forward in 2020


Co-author of New Power and CEO of Purpose Jeremy Heimans consistently returns to one key question throughout his work: what does power look like, and how can it be harnessed?

Speaking at the virtual 2020 Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific, the region’s preeminent purpose-led business event, Heimans once again explored this question – under the theme The Climate for Change.

Against a global backdrop of widespread socio-economic hardship and inequality, his keynote reflected on the role that ‘new’, participatory power can play in our recovery from recent crises.

“This is a framework to think about how the world is changing, and to think a little bit more about how each of us can apply a new method and a new mindset in our own work,” he said.

Exploring how different methodologies of power operate, Heimans explained new power to the Summit’s global audience of more than 500 business leaders as a ‘current’, rather than a ‘currency’ – a force which gets stronger with collaboration and participation. He likened ‘new power’ to the popular video game Minecraft: “Everything in Minecraft is built from the bottom-up. It’s a whole world that is created by its users… and the way that you make things in Minecraft is that you collaborate, you build things with other users, and you’re not really constrained by rules.”

Heimans exercised some caution around new power however, warning that it can be dangerous and difficult to tame. Emphasising the need for moderation, he suggested that getting the most out of power structures is “about building a repertoire where you know how to balance and use both old and new power”,

He underlined that it is less important to adopt new power right away than it is to harness its key ideas, like transparency and authenticity. In the current climate of social unrest and change, these notions are more important than ever as businesses find themselves answerable to more and more stakeholders.

“In a new power world, whether you like it or not, that transparency is likely to arrive at your doorstep. So, the work is to figure out how to occupy yourself before you’re occupied.

“For big companies and institutions, don’t wait until the Black Lives Matter movement forces a moment of accountability, and asks you, ‘Have you lived up to your rhetoric and your values?’ Do the work and adopt a posture of transparency in advance.”

Ultimately Heimans’ take-away message was one about participation and mobilisation, suggesting that, “the future is really a battle for mobilisation [which will favour] those companies and those organisations who can mobilise best around their values.”

When asked about shared value as a strategy for COVID-19 recovery, Heimans responded with infectious optimism. “There’s going to be a lot of creation coming out of this [year] in every sector of the economy, so this is an opportunity to build new models.”