I’ve talked in this blog before about how the structure for a competition or organization should be such that it reinforces the mission and philosophy of the organization. Taking that up a level of abstraction, to be successful, the mission should enforce a larger shift in society that the organization wants to push. Clearly one of the objectives of Acara is starting social ventures as we believe that’s an effective way to address large global societal issues.

But additionally, there are some interesting megatrends emerging that I think have relevance to Acara (or vice versa I guess).

How the new generation (millennial, Gen Y, whatever you call them) of workers will “work”. There has been a ton written about their short attention span, their use of social media, their need to “do their own thing”, their need to have relevance to their work. Well the last is definitely a big reason for students that did sign up for the Acara Challenge this year. But I think maybe the biggest trend is one identified in the latest book by Michael Malone, The Future Arrived Yesterday”, a technical/corporate forecaster. Namely that this generation is more likely to be entrepreneurial and start companies. A lot of the things mentioned above are really enablers for this I think, not actual ends in themselves. Jobs are becoming more untraditional (to an extent, nurses are still nurses, engineers still need the basic education, as do lawyers, doctors, etc.) in the sense of how the skills are translated into an actual organization (maybe it is that organizations are becoming untraditional). This means more flexibility is both required and rewarded. Acara clearly fits this, as we are developing these entrepreneurs. This bodes well for our mission.

Another big trend is decentralization. There are a couple elements to this. From an energy and resource standpoint, you see this in all the research being done on local renewables, especially biofuels/biomass. I spend a lot of time working with universities from all over the globe in my day job, and virtually all of them, especially in emerging countries, have a lot of work going on in this area. And in the Acara Challenge, the Leonardo’s Basement team had a solution like this. Generally, distributed energy generation, not a big massive infrastructure. Local food is another trend in this. A good book that talks about these local economies is “Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future”, by Bill McKibben.

Politically, this was best covered by an article yesterday in the WSJ which talked about regions becoming more autonomous (like splitting California up, making New England a region, etc.). I’d call this post modern tribalism. An example of tribalism is the ‘stan countries. The actual tribal boundaries have more effect than the artificial country boundaries. A couple good writers about tribalism and it’s effect on modern politics are Rober Kaplan and Colin Thubron if you are really interested. I think this is a real trend, but clearly one that will take a very long time.

But the upshot, is again, I think Acara Challenges are going to look at these kinds of local problems (the energy and economic ones, not the political ones) and try and figure out sustainable solutions.