Big issues in 2014

I didn’t do much blogging in 2014 (resolution to do much more in 2015), but these are the the big issues I spent time thinking and learning about this year:

  • Combining profit and purpose — the creative tension at the heart of what we do at BGV is between good financial investment decisions and good social impact decisions. We think a lot about under what circumstances and using what instruments it’s ok to make money while addressing social problems. There was lots of wider discussion about this (particularly in the tech world) in 2014, which is good for everyone I hope.
  • Inequality — to be honest I only got a few chapters in to Piketty but I read a lot of the debate and watched him give a number of talks. The data shows what I see and feel anecdotally — we’re living in increasingly unequal times and something has to change.
  • Race against the machine — perhaps related to the inequality debate above is the growth of automation. I can’t help thinking that lots of jobs we take for granted today will have gone in five to ten years time. Perhaps that’s a good thing and the jobs that we create instead will be far more fulfilling and worthwhile, but it will cause upheaval along the way.
  • Tech addiction — I’ve watched lots of people teetering on the edge of addiction to their connected devices. I catch the tube a few times a week and can’t get over how many people are glued to their little screens.
  • MINT countries — I’ve always been fascinated by globalisation and the decisions that lead to countries becoming prosperous. At the beginning of the year, the talk was about Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. I visited Mexico and Turkey for the first time and could definitely see huge potential. The politics of all four countries are precarious though.
  • Europe — you can’t avoid the debate about Europe in the UK, UKIP have seen to that. I’m massively pro-European — it’s transformed my life for the better but I do see that the bureaucracy of the Commission and the Council is pretty awful.
  • Political parties’ decline — when I was at Demos I predicted that the main political parties would decline and that a party that didn’t then exist would win the election after next. 2015 is that election and I think I was wrong (my guess is that Labour or the Conservatives will pull through saved by first past the post system), but it could be close.
  • Transport — finally I realised that I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of transport this year. Whether it’s self driving cars, drones, the hyper loop, electric vehicle infrastructure — they’ve all got me thinking about a future that is very different to the present. Sadly it’s also been a year for rethinking aviation — while it’s still the safest way to travel, too many aircraft have been lost and resistance to new capacity is now so strong that I think it’s more likely that a new approach might succeed.

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