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Realign Conflicts

The family is the first place that we learn about conflicts of interest.  Fathers and mothers relentlessly press children to behave in approved ways, though there is an evolving resistance that may throw parents and others off-balance.  Interests and feelings press us to get along with adults, but as children, we also endeavor to satisfy our own needs in our own way.  Similarly, as we grow up we evolve our own way of resolving the many conflicts of interest that arise throughout life.  Most of us have developed response patterns that work for us and are rarely uncomfortable.   People with responsible positions, like corporate executives or heads of government departments and agencies or of health and educational organizations give high priority to the needs of the hierarchies they lead and also may try to accommodate the needs of others that to some degree conflict.  Those who rise to the top with success after success are among the most assured that the priority and decision-making methods that they have evolved are just right for them.

They are so comfortable with their methods that they think that “conflicts of interest” are not a problem for them.  It does not occur to them that occasionally some particular resolution of such a conflict by their normal methods will cause them to miss the opportunity for a better alternative.  While the public may not notice such failures, on rare occasions it does.  The leaders may then pay a severe price -- loss of office, loss of opportunity to achieve high office again, or public disgrace. 

Each of the Solutions is an opportunity for interventions that is missed by mainstream leaders because in their comfort with conflicts-of-interest they are not aware of the high price society pays for tolerating such conflicts or, if aware, are not in a position to ameliorate the situation with a systemic point of view.

The Solutions, for example, can re-align the parties involved in a way that eliminates major conflicts-of-interest.  Such conflicts cannot be eliminated by the players themselves acting inside the system.  The conflicts treated in the social innovation Solutions include

  1. The conflict of interest of elected officials between satisfying their campaign contributors and doing what the public wants. 

  2. The conflict of media between important, interesting, and truthful product (articles, stories, or programs) and losing advertising because such product does not provide a comfortable background for the themes of desired ad messages. 

  3. The conflict of major corporations that profit more from deals which are more hurtful or less beneficial to their competitors than to themselves. 

  4. Marketplaces that are market-maker-blocked by those who compete in the marketplace both as marketmakers and as agents for customers. 

  5. The conflict of natural monopolies between serving existing customers and enticing new customers when they strive to achieve dominant market-share. 

  6. The conflict of elected officials between running fair, accurate, low-cost elections and favoring incumbents by election and registration rules, oversight, and funding. 

  7.  The conflict of companies in an industry such as the financial industry between increasing their own profits and serving customers by helping them with financial gains. 

  8. The conflict of members of key professions like law, economics, management consulting, and medicine between helping their clients, customers, or patients and locking their clients, customers, and patients into long term profitable working relationships producing profits more beneficial to themselves.

  9. The conflict between countries that pursue their own interests and ignore the interests of other countries or seek agreements more beneficial to themselves than to other countries. 

  10. The willingness for individuals and companies to maximize short term profits (or market-share and longer term profits) to work in an area where there are few standards, slight legal requirements/enforcement, little reliable official oversight, and/or an inactive or corrupt criminal justice system rather than working in another area or attempting to ameliorate the situation systemically. 

Social innovators who have a fine ear for conflicts-of-interest and a willingness to read, study, discuss, and think hard about how to overcome them with arrangements that are better for all involved then also have a very useful talent and a good background for social innovation.  A well-balanced social innovation team needs not only at least one good networker as we see in networking, but also entrepreneur-innovators well versed in the causes and cures for conflicts-of-interest throughout society.

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