#37 SDG 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure and three elements of STRADDLE™

Image of UN goal 9
Image by United Nations

When I think about building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation I think of the whole ecosystem rather than just roads and buildings. The Sustainability Development Goal target 9 industry, innovation and infrastructure is very much about progress but ensuring that the kind of progress is sustainable. Another way of looking at this is through the lens of the fourth industrial revolution, which I refer to as the Enabling Paradigm (see Consequences Blog #35)

I have been enjoying my countdown of the Sustainability Development Goals (SDG’s) and considering how they impact at all levels particularly in the ‘Enabling Paradigm’. I have explored SDG target 9 through two key points and provide a brief summary below:

  1. Pace of change – like no paradigm before
  2. Predictive strategy – not as effective and time for emergent strategies

Pace of change

Firstly the kind of infrastructure required in this new paradigm is not the kind we have implemented before primarily due to the pace of change. For example creating more manufacturing plants that create commodities that pollute the environment is in no-ones best interest. Many of the worlds’ large conglomerates have recognized this need for best interest. Members of the Global Compact Network Australia (companies like Unilever) have actually gone out of their way to ensure that all parts of their infrastructure chain and local links within their global footprint are more akin to complimenting rather than extracting.

No predictive strategy

Secondly infrastructure requires a form of strategic approach that demands a differing style. The consumer input has become the new black (although I would argue it has always been important) and predictive strategies that cannot be agile enough to support this trend are futile. In addition doing things the way you have always done has become a warning sign that the infrastructure may not be fit for purpose. In the prevailing paradigm and previous industrial revolution it was the predictive strategy that saved the day and one of the easiest ways to understand this shift is to consider the difference between a map and a compass. Both will refer to a certain destination but in a changing paradigm (as we now have) to map a direct route is not going to be as successful as using a compass to assist with a flexible agile approach to achieving the required direction.

Particularly with SDG target 9 due to its desire to galvanize infrastructure without stifling innovation and in a sustainable way I draw on the findings of my research. In this I offer three elements that make up the concept of STRADDLE™.

The first element is balance. I am not suggesting that the way forward for infrastructure is to have everything in a single form of balance but what is important is to understand the principles of the opposing extremes. In my research I found that mobilizing changes that related to or were a result of an increasing pace (era of distraction) and by understanding the extremes were most effective. Conscious decisions whether to end or embrace the experience were what made the biggest impact. In other words adding structure or spontaneity in a varying mix was key to arriving at the right form of balance for that specific period of time – understanding that this moment too will change and a constant vigilance towards balance of this kind is how progress can be made. It is the fluidity of the Enabling Paradigm that many find tricky as the top-down linear approaches of the prevailing paradigm are at times the opposite to what is required. Being conscious of this and able to act in a non-linear way and knowing the difference is the key

The second element is foundation and the galvanizing of the local capacity within the global footprint such as the SDG’s is integral to making sure some of the aspirational goals like the SDGs are met. In return the world has the best opportunity for the best future it can possibly have. In some way such foundations have always had an important presence. The eradication of certain medical diseases such as small pox came about because at local level actions were taken that met a global need. The SDGs cover every need of society and although it is unfortunate that the issues are now of both domestic and international importance it also makes the need to consider both ends (or the micro and micro) much more heightened than ever before.

The third element is navigation and a great example of navigation particularly of extremes is a constant changing debate of Australia’s reform of Federation. This debate is well argued by Brown where he describes the navigation experience like unscrambling the federalism omelette: but will people buy the recipe? As with any omelette it is the mix of its variety that is in fact the plate of opportunity. This Consequences Blog #37 is not about the case ‘to federate or not to federate’ but more for making the point about navigation. Navigation and particularly navigating of complexity is an important ingredient for industry innovation and infrastructure movement. This movement is not just relevant for industry or one specific sector but for all. For example, in a joint report on efforts to improve Australia’s social purpose services and the importance of changing roles.

 “CSI quote – Efforts to improve outcomes for Australia’s social purpose services are often designed to address individual segments within the market, and often underestimate the changing roles of governments, the NFP sector, the for-pro t sector, and consumers. The opportunity exists to consider more transformative policy choices and reform directions that will yield the substantial productivity improvements Australia needs to be able to provide a sustainable level of social support to its citizens into the future” (PwC CSI Report April 2016).

In considering the topic of innovation I would totally agree with Rampersad who argued clearly that in Australia We know innovation is key – but there’s little agreement on exactly what it is. In this statement I go as far as suggesting innovation means many different things and to capture it or define it in a silo could actually become the adversary to innovation. Instead I suggest there needs to be many collated examples of what Australia means by innovation and particularly during this Enabling Paradigm. I often refer to the Volunteer collaboration example and other innovative arrangements like this that are used to assist with meeting all of the SDG’s and for the better. In Collaboration the Key to Community Volunteering Success the joint alliance that is presented not only embraces innovation but is cross-cutting in design and extremely fit for purpose in the Enabling Paradigm. Like wise the UN Secretary General in the 2014 Synthesis Report used volunteering as a great example for industry, innovation and infrastructure:

“Volunteerism is a cross-cutting means of implementation” which can help to expand and mobilize constituencies and to engage people in national planning and implementation of SDGs” and ground the new agenda at a national and local level and encourage new areas of interaction between governments and people for concrete scalable actions”

The discussions around shared responsibility being at both a local and national level is what motivated me to deeply explore the SDG’s. Fortunately I am not on my own and recently Allender provided a useful blog on Finding Your Way Through The Frameworks. Although the summary includes various frameworks (including the SDGs ) it is an extremely important piece of work.

Having made the case for the importance of balance; foundations; navigation forming part of the galvanizing elements in this new paradigm there must be a way to ensure local capacity within global footprints. Rather than reinvent the wheel the collection of frameworks and their summaries provides a smorgorse-board of options with the preferred approach to take the simplest approach as possible.

There is something about simplicity with achieving effective innovation and infrastructure and if the three elements of STRADDLE™ do nothing else I hope that they provide some food for thought as we all navigate this period of change together





1 thought on “#37 SDG 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure and three elements of STRADDLE™”

  1. Anett Keresztes

    Great job! I have enjoyed your article and thought about the topic. I strongly believe that your state about why innovation is important and what does it mean for different countries is one of the keys to SDG9. Innovation can have many forms nowadays and could help all over the world to become more sustainable. Previously I read an article about companies, which did a great job in SDG 9 and I think it is really working to check it out too.
    Well done 🙂

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