In the midst of corporate social responsibility, social innovation, political action and technological development, there it is: The seemingly endless game of blaming everyone else for sustainability challenges.
As humans, we take comfort in the company of our peers, and of course taking shelter from a storm together, pointing fingers at those of a different conviction or practice serves to reaffirm our community.
I have the pleasure of traversing many different types of communities, and I’ve seen the enticing tantalizing and oftentimes rewarded behavior that leads to stronger ties between community members. And walls. Because inclusion preys on exclusion, and suddenly, there it is; a siloed community
Once in a while, that one person will get up from the camp fire, risk being ostracized and bring back a novel interpretation. Grasping a different mindset without blame, cross-fertilizing community initiatives. If we allow for it to happen.
In defense of silos
As a sociologist by training and an innovator by trade, I welcome cross-disciplinary approaches, I thrive being the odd one out amidst engineers who ever so kindly try to grasp what it is the social sciences have to offer. Most of the time, I would insist that the likes of sociologists should be present when engineers make assumptions about technology usage or about the underlying truths in data. Because once the technology is developed, the assumptions have become inherent facts we build on.
But taking on that role as a social scientist, a manager or even as a citizen, the key is to know when to take a step back from blaming professionals for doing their best with the knowledge they have access to. Sometimes that team of robotics engineers or biologists need to do their thing in quiet silos of intense concentration.
Yes, we should scrutinize decisions made in those silos, but to engage meaningfully with expertise distributed across disciplines, we have to listen and accept that sometimes we may need to learn something new to really grasp what we're hearing.
So when we bring in the social scientists or economists to do their thing with the data from the engineers and biologists, the key is to recognize that knowledge generated in the respective silos can be difficult to synthesize, and probably requires training and experience to offer valuable critique. Keep scrutinizing assumptions, but please out the blame game, when you meet it.