Minutes for SPC Call 4 on July 13 2009

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Strategic Planning Committee


1. Participants

  1. Richard Benedick
  2. Jacky Foo
  3. Garry Jacobs
  4. Ivo Slaus
  5. Jasjit Singh

2. Members approved the minutes of the July 6th meeting

3. Review of Proposals

  1. Cross-Cultural Social Science
    • The Committee supported the emphasis on cross-cultural studies in social science as a valuable perspective that should be incorporated into WAAS projects wherever practicable rather than be regarded as a separate project in itself.
    • The proposed projects on Revolution in Human Affairs, Employment and Individuality can incorporate cross-cultural dimensions
  2. Testing Ideological Assumptions
    • The Committee supported the view that testing ideological assumptions should be an essential aspect or criterion for WAAS projects in the social science, rather than be regarded as a separate project in itself. For example, the concept of “war on terrorism” needs to be challenged and replaced by a focus on the real causes and remedies.
    • The proposed projects on the International Financial Crisis, Revolution in Human Affairs, Employment, Rationality and Individuality should specifically address this criterion.
  3. Pivot States and Forward Observation Sites
    • The Academy itself can benefit from this proposal by expanding its own membership, activity and areas of concern beyond the OECD countries in association with regional organizations.
  4. Content Analysis
    • The Committee recognizes the importance of content analysis as a research tool, but is unable to identify a clear role for the Academy in promoting it.
    • The idea should be considered further if one or several Fellows comes forward within the Academy to champion and pursue this issue with a concrete proposal.
  5. Global Fund for the Arts
    • The Committee recognizes the importance of greater support for the Arts, but is unable to identify a clear role for the Academy in promoting this proposal.
  6. Belief-Independent Spiritual Growth
    • The subject of psychological and spiritual growth is one that remains vague and poorly defined. It is the rightful domain of many different perspectives including philosophy, psychology, education, sociology, literature, art, religion and spiritual experience. It has profound implications for our concepts of ethics, morality, psychological maturity, social adjustment, mental and emotional development.
    • The proposed projects on Individuality and Limits to Rationality can incorporate this dimension.

4. Discussion of Questions relating to WAAS Mission

The second half of the meeting renewed a discussion of fundamental planning issues raised during the initial meeting. The following is a summary of major ideas expressed, including points drawn from notes provided by Jose Furtado.

1. What does the world presently need to address its problems & opportunities?

  • The frontier of human progress has shifted from the national to the global sphere, yet we do not find today the leadership needed to guide and direct that progress effectively. Leadership may come in the form of outstanding individuals, governments with a larger vision, or other organizations that provide a crucial missing ingredient to help the world more effectively guide itself. Most of all, the world needs leadership in the form of new ideas and perspectives that take into account the rapid evolution of the global community.
  • The world lacks the very things that only institutions such as WAAS can provide. The challenge we face is to find an effective way for the Academy to contribute meaningfully.

2. What knowledge is the world lacking?

  • Specialization of disciplines has compounded the problem of addressing complex problems that transcend the narrow bounds of any field. We are losing the ability to link up different perspectives, such as philosophy, which had a more prominent position as knowledge 100 yrs ago. Each discipline is looking at special issues from their own narrow perspective, which results in a partial, fragmented approach to solving problems.
  • In a recent address, Drew Faust, President of Harvard, refers to the need for absolute intellectual integrity, implying that the academic community assumes some responsibility for the current international financial crisis by not questioning assumptions and speaking out more frankly.
  • We as universities have not done all we could and should to ask the deep and unsettling questions necessary to the integrity of any society. As the world indulged in a bubble of false prosperity and materialism, should we — in our research, teaching and writing — have done more to expose the patterns of risk and denial inherent in widespread economic and financial choices? Should our values have posed a firmer counterweight and challenge to excess and irresponsibility, to short-term thinking with long-term consequences? The privilege of academic freedom carries the obligation to speak the truth even when it is difficult or unpopular. So in the end, it comes back to veritas — the commitment to use knowledge and research to penetrate delusion, cant, prejudice, self-interest.

  • WAAS can occupy an important niche in the whole way we think about society, economics, and human values. The academy can be an important voice for shifting gears on a global basis, finding allies in many field and leading a call for new thinking.
  • New thinking is needed from at least four perspectives:
  • -- First, we need to shift the center of focus from national to global solutions, because the most pressing problems we face today– environment, nuclear weapons, terrorism, financial stability, employment – far exceed prevailing ideas based on nation-centered power and governance. Several of the proposed projects focus precisely on issues that transcend national boundaries.

    -- Second, we need a shift from fragmented disciplinary perspectives to cross-disciplinary and, even more so, integrated perspectives that do not merely combine views from multiple disciplines but seek the common ground and unifying points at which the various fields of human activity are united in the fundamental value of the human being. Several other proposed projects focus on issues that transcend the expertise of any one or two fields of knowledge and necessitate an exchange and develop of new synthetic concepts integrating various perspectives.

    -- Third, repeated emphasis has been placed in the forum discussions, emails and these meetings need to give prominence to the ethical dimension of knowledge and problems. Virtually every problem the world faces today – finance, environment, nuclear weapons, terrorism, employment – has deep ethical foundations and profound ethical implications. An intellectual, scientific or technological approach often overlooks or minimizes the significance of the choices before humanity. Often we lose sight of the fact that our financial system, like our economic system, is not an end in itself but a means to provide for the economic security and well-being of humanity.

    --Fourth, we need to recognize that the humanity is evolving rapidly and that truths, assumptions, theories and practices of the past may no longer be sufficient or even relevant to the emerging future. Our approach to knowledge has to acquire a time dimension and validity of ideas must be evaluated relative to the point in time they are applied.

  • In many cases, the world also lacks awareness of the fact that knowledge and solutions already exists. The development of the Internet now makes available vast amounts of information that were inaccessible in the past. Drawing attention to available solutions is itself a valuable contribution to human development.

3. What assets and capabilities does WAAS have to address them

  1. Assets
    • Global reach
    • Wide range of expertise
    • Inter-disciplinary focus
  2. Capacities
    • Extensive institutional linkages through its membership
    • Capacity for collaboration with other agencies
    • The absence of a fixed academic agenda gives us the flexibility to shift our focus and resources from one issue to another
  3. Tools
    • IT technology
    • Partnerships
    • Ad hoc, need based, subject based flexibility
    • Local, regional, global
  4. Management Issues
    • The members of the academy have been, for the most part, passive and uninvolved.
    • The organization has not been able to mobilize a sufficient number of committed members to maintain an intensity of on-going activity
    • No system is in place to facilitate the grouping of members from similar or varied disciplines to approach and work on issues of common interest.
    • Capacity building is needed to improve the organization and management of Academy activities.
  5. Finance
    • The absence of an endowment or a steady flow of funds is a major constraint.
    • The idea of a mandatory annual membership fee was proposed and discussed, with provision for different rates in OECD and developing countries.

5. SPC Conference Call Dates

Next SPC Conference Call is on July 20 at 10 am EDT, 4 pm CET, 7:30 pm IST

This will be the last conference call of the SPC prior to the Board meeting

6. Agenda for Next Call – July 13, 2009

Tentative Agenda for Call

Review of the minutes of this call

Discussion of proposal on Education by Richard Benedick (if it is ready)

Review of revised proposals

  • Revised Proposal For An Inter-Disciplinary Project “From Crisis To Economic Development And Social Cohesion” - ISlaus,
  • Revised Proposal for Study and Dialogue on the Revolution in Human Affairs - JSingh
  • Revised Employment: Merged Proposal for E-Conference Dialogue & Research/Award Contest - JackyFoo,
  • Revised Proposal For An Inter-Disciplinary Dialogue On Individuality - GJacobs,
  • Revised Proposal for an Inter-Disciplinary Dialogue on the Limits to Rationality - ISlaus,
  • Revised Proposal for a Caucasus and Black Sea Basin Regional Division - LUrushadze

SPC Report and Recommendations to the Board