a word from the future

There’s nothing controversial to the statement that language is a living thing. Some languages die, some (though much more scarce in number) are being born. In all languages, all around the world, words change their meanings through a slow and somehow unnoticeable process. Some of them gain and some loose due to this fascinating transformation. Some of them regain their value after having fallen from grace…

I remember well a lecture back during my MA studies. The course was the East European Identity(ies). We were discussing Ketman, a chapter from Miłosz’s Captive Mind. I got violently involved in the conversation, to what at some point Prof. Kamiński said: “Child, I believe you are a radical.” I shrugged and quietly protested. I felt offended. Radical was wrong and I considered myslef nothing but a middle-of-the-road type of a character. Still though, this uneasy feeling that I might in fact be a radical stayed with me for years…

And so a few days ago I received an e-mail from a friend, whom I greatly respect, who suggested that being a radical social entrepreneur seemed like a path for me. This time, however, I considered it a compliment. Naturally, the context was different, but something else’s changed, too. I instantly recalled the writings Pierre Manent, a French liberal political philosopher, who argued that after the WWII we (somewhat uncosciously) fell into our own trap of mild and moderate, politically correct. And so the radical was one of the obvious victims. Time has passed and despite smelly connotations it still often has,  radical began to slowly rebuild its reputation.

Two notions in the development sector (and beyond) have become particularly helpful in diminishing radical’s odium of a destroyer:

1. (already mentioned) radical social entrepreneurship:

 Social entrepreneurs apply entrepreneurial initiative to solve social problems. Radical social entrepreneurs do the same — but at a deeper level. (…) They create ideas and projects to help evolve law, governance, community, education, and culture. They focus on changing the systems that lead to poverty, crime, and other social problems.

more i.e. here: http://www.radicalsocialentreps.org/

2. radical collaboration – the scheme of collaboration, which promotes cross-thematic/sectorial/genre approaches and teams. Here’s how one of the major propagators of radical collaboration, Stanford’s d.school describes the process:

Our teaching teams, too, combine contrasting view points and problem-solving approaches. All of our classes are team taught by a robust mix of faculty and industry leaders, combining disciplines like computer science with political science, and CEOs with elementary school policy-makers. We believe these dynamic and sometimes contrasting points of view encourage students to see the open-ended nature of innovation and to trust themselves to find their own way forward.

In both these examples radical seems to be a mixture of: truly, profoundly, wisely, openly, audaciously and in a systemic way.

This is the radical we should be open to.

This is the radical of our future.

dilbert cartoon



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