In 1950 Detroit was an engineering hub: home of Ford Motorcars and the heart of the American auto industry. In 2013 the city filed for bankruptcy, in the largest such claim in US history.
Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, claims Detroit as the perfect illustration of standing still. He attributes the failure to survive to the failure to adapt, “The world up to now has been organised for efficiency and repetition, think assembly line, think law firm… and that has made sense […]But it doesn’t work anymore, it’s failing, really badly.”
Drayton claims that the rate of change in society is accelerating faster than ever before. The capacities and responsibilities of governments, employers, workers and individuals are changing at an alarming pace. “Two to three decades ago, Computer Aided Design eliminated 40 per cent of what architects do, soon 50 to 60 per cent of what doctors and nurses do is going to be automated – this is going to keep happening”, predicts Bill.
For Bill and Ashoka more broadly, the key to adapting to our environments and the wider challenges facing us as a society, lies in an unexpected place: empathy. Empathy lies at the core of activating citizens and societies and as a skill, is the greatest tool available to tackle problems on both an individual and societal level.