Long Time Project inspires property industry to take a Future-Focused approach

As a sustainable mixed-use developer, we partner with long-term investors to build future-ready places for people to live, work and socialise.

We usually think decades in advance but how do we know what the world will look like in 2050, or 2100 for that matter?

Socius partners with people working at the leading edge of innovation to make predictions about what the future holds. For example, we’re working with Cambridge Cleantech to explore new technologies for more efficient renewable energy. We also partner with charities, such as Bioregional, to apply their One Planet Living Principles; a holistic approach to sustainability, that ensures we take into account not just energy or ecology, but also food, travel, health and wellbeing. Everything is connected, through people and planet.

We’ve been further inspired to pursue a holistic approach for the future, by the Long Time Project, which asks us to think about how we can be better ancestors to future generations. How can we use our time on Earth to be better stewards of our habitat? How can we leave a long-lasting legacy of natural resources, wildlife, human rights and freedoms?

Sometimes these answers lie in the past.

As a recent graduate of the award-winning Long Time Academy, Liam Ronan-Chlond wanted to highlight some of the most inspiring lessons he's learnt, which he's excited to explore further with Socius:

1. Think macro, not micro. Time is a precious commodity. Sometimes we stretch the fragments and limitations of time without necessarily being happier or more productive. Moreover, our obsession with it can lead to unhealthy and unsustainable short-term thinking.

Across business, government and society, short-term thinking is rapidly becoming an existential threat to humanity. The tunnel vision of the ‘here and now’ is leading to decisions that might mean, as a species, we’re only left with a short term!

2. Cognitive Diversity. At Socius, we embrace cognitive diversity – it’s the only way a team and culture can think ‘outside the box’ and innovate.

As a society, the West often suffers from ‘Group Think’. Our minds are the construct of modern Western culture, which can have severe limitations. For instance, if we only know about Western history, we can only really imagine a Western future.

Let’s look at Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) as an example. From Los Angeles to London, the West is exploring the potential of progressive investment through good governance, unlocking environmental and social value. However, that’s just one example, through the Long Time Academy, I’ve learned about ‘Long House’ democracy and matriarchal governance structures from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Mohawk Nation Council of Native Americans. I also heard about Maori ethical investing and from Annauk Olin, a graduate from MIT and a Shishmaref tribal member in Alaska, who advocates for a return to indigenous stewardship to help restore the decaying arctic ecosystem.

ESG has been around for centuries and innovations are taking shape across the globe. We just haven’t realised it!

3. Engaging with future-holders. We talk a lot as an industry about engaging with stakeholders, but what about ‘future-holders’? The Long Time Academy was full of examples of how we need to understand the implications of our present-day decisions on future generations.

At Socius we regularly engage with young people, but we can do much more and I’m determined for ‘future-holders’ to become central to our approach.

4. The future is circular. The Long Time Academy discredits the notion that time is linear. Time, they said, can be seen better through a kaleidoscope, as opposed to a telescope. One advocate for a more circular future is Cambridge Economist Kate Raworth. Her Doughnut Economic Theory represents a shift from traditional economics, providing fresh answers to modern challenges. Many cite this new economic model as the most effective solution to our social and environmental threats.

5. Food for Thought. Ending on the topic of doughnuts makes sense. Not only has the Long Time Academy provided me with plenty of food for thought, but it has made me hungry to explore sustainable solutions from diverse spaces.

As an industry, we can be pretty short-sighted, but, at Socius, we are encouraged to think long-term and embrace new ideas.

Liam Ronan-Chlond is Head of Engagement & Social Value at Socius