2015: Bring on the year of empowerment

Craig Wills
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The tipping point, at which consumers will claw back their personal data, is on its way (Source: Getty)
It's dangerous territory, some smart-arse proffering a crystal ball projection of the future.
From weathermen to economists, the curse of the prediction has floored many a better man and woman than I; but as the headline states, we are wallowing in the age of empowerment.
I’m not talking about John Lennon’s “power to the people”, revolution and all that jazz – I’m musing on a power shift so profound that as it creeps into all aspects of our lives, the blinkered and belligerent will be left in its wake. With this in mind and feeling empowered, predict I will.
All aspects of our lives are now subject to a refreshing layer of empowerment fuelled by our digital infrastructure - our intuitive, protected and “nowhere-to-hide” transparent friend. And, of course for some, foe.
This year witnessed the kick-off of the UN’s Decade of Sustainability for All – an audacious program placing the individual at the heart of its programme for change, empowering the person to affect positive change through a multitude of initiatives, from harnessing natural energy to education programmes.
Track back to 2007 and Tesco funded the Sustainable Consumption Institute with a £25m grant. Seven years on we are witnessing a shift from stick to carrot.
In government, the idea of “crowdsourced” is no longer a buzzy vote pleaser. Citizens’ imaginative ideas are viewed as the start point to a sustainable future – across the world, initiatives and programmes inform action, a new type of government model in play.
Midata Labs, the cross-organisational partnership blending academic, government and commercial bodies collaborates to empower and protect consumers in the data age, wrestling back the ethics on who owns and can use your data. The tipping point cometh, the big push to claw back personal data from the conglomerates and put basic (as my mother would say, “polite”) measures in place to at least ask for permission to use one’s precious data profiles.
The theme is rampant, from diagnosing and managing health to sharing opinion to defining the actual activities of organisations and government bodies.
In parallel, commercial brands are embracing the shift to empowerment.
Unilever, for example, has pledged to empower five million women through its employment programme, but also to empower young entrepreneurs within its supply chain, shifting from “say” to “do”.
While few brands pooh-pooh the idea of empowerment, the genuine shift from listening to responding to a model where comment and ideas are embraced will affect everything a brand does. One angry tweet can torpedo a brand, but it’s how the organization structures itself to embrace genuine ideas and comment that will win out.
Arguably. a prediction loses some of its punch if it’s already happening – but it’s the prevalence I predict.

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