June 20, 2024

Chapter 8 – thoughts about structures for a sustainable future

End of November 2022

second draft



The world, as I see it currently, is in a state of transition between “late capitalism” with its oligopolies, massive concentrations of power and influence in few hands and increasing divergence of incomes accompanied by increasing instability towards something new. The transition itself will be by no means smooth and easy and will also take some years to reach the recognisable beginning of the next era. What will this new era be? Well I don’t think that anyone knows for sure but I think we can be sure that a number of central ways of doing things in this new era will be different. For the sake of argument I would like to call it “the pre-sustainable era” or “pre-sustainablism”.

I am fairly sure that we will see a shift towards regionalisation and away from unconditional globalisation with its high ecological costs which were not always sufficiently represented. Companies who wish to attract new employees will have to adapt to more attractive modes of working.

One observation that has been occupying me recently is the tug-of-war between forces pushing towards centralisation and those that are pushing towards decentralisation. These can be observed in institutions and in business structures as well as in many other areas such as social media where we have seen the rise and slow descent of essentially centralised structures such as facebook and more recently twitter. Decentralised structures exist in areas where such structures are useful, such as small businesses, start-ups or, to use the social media example again, in the case of mastodon and the fediverse. Both structures have their benefits and drawbacks, their respective strengths and weaknesses. Below are some illustrations and videos explaining the differences.

Media links below

These examples are by no means exhaustive and are intended more to show what has been done and developed and to give some idea how far reaching changes might be. They will challenge our long-established concepts of ownership and the issue of centralisation and decentralisation appears again in the context of structures of companies. Another interesting aspect is the issue of authority and how this is reflected in structure as well as the the sometimes difficult issue of trust in decentralised work-groups and their decision-making.

There are also many interesting ideas concerning changes in organisational structures (examples below) as well as the potential benefits of new and fundamentally different ownership structures (examples also below).

In the last subsection I have collected some links to videos concerning issues of sustainability in production and consumption which will probably be the defining aim of the coming era.

Centralisation and Decentralisation (or both)

Here are two videos describing the basic differences between centralised and decentralised structures.

Centralised and Decentralised Structures

Centralization and Decentralization of Authority in Organizations

“The future of internet regulation”, a European Parliament meeting organised by the greens, on 2019-11-19
with Aral Balkan explaining the advantages if not necessities of decentralised internet structures:

Reinventing Organisations

I have collected some links to websites and videos here which are intended to show what has been happening in the transformation of organisations. These are certainly not exhaustive and are mainly intended to whet the appetite rather than to serve up a full meal!

Presenting the ideas of Reinventing Organizations to His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Frederic Laloux on Soulful Organisations

Frederic Laloux’s website with links to further information:

Here are two links to the Augenhöhe project films which are very good and give much food for thought but are unfortunately (as far as I can tell) only available in German at the moment:

Augenhöhe Film (German)

Augenhöhe Film on Vimeo

Ownership Structures

I had previously collected some links to information about purpose economy or steward-ownership and explanatory videos on this page:

The issue of ownership is deeply embedded in our thought. Here is an interesting brief article on Wikipedia with an overview of various different types of ownership. Purpose ownership is an example of an expansion and development of the concept of ownership.

Programme by German TV company (with English undertitles) about purpose-orientated economics

Aaron Hurst on the Purpose Economy | Big Think

Sustainability in Industry

TEDxBigApple – Patrick Govang – Manufacturing a Sustainable World

What’s the future of food? from The Economist


The texts and links below concerning the project “Economy for the Common Good” (ECG) and Doughnut Economics are not intended to be seen as “the” solution to the ills of the planet but more as one possible way of doing things differently which could have considerable positive benefits for our future.

“The Doughnut consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation, to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth’s life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive.” – Doughnut Economics Action Lab

A safe and just space for humanity – pdf Oxfam


TED Talk: A healthy economy should be designed to thrive, not grow | Kate Raworth

One of the central ideas behind “economy for the common good” is the idea of valuation of products or services beyond simple monetary costs but to also include aspects of resource usage, fair treatment of workers and many other factors. Companies can be ECG certified which gives a good idea of how they perform in the ECG matrix.

Common Good Matrix 5.0


We, as in human society, are currently at the beginning of a transition between late capitalism and a new era which I have chosen to call the pre-sustainable era. Almost all of our structures whether physical, productive or economical will need to adapt. As part of the necessary changes, I see the need to re-evaluate and rethink the balance between centralised and decentralised structures and to consider how organisations can become more flexible and adaptable in the face of transition. There are many different and well-thought ideas and concepts out there which need to be shared and discussed so that we can then find a path into a sustainable future for our children and our children’s children.

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2wheels, adventure, ecology, dad and husband, green, news, tech-fan, trauma- and orthopod, engineer and human. https://mstdn.social/@MarkDW

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