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The challenges now facing humanity mean that we must move from creating only incremental and insufficient change to holistic and radical enough change.
Taking a mission-led approach to change is an important tool to help us make this cultural shift.
A mission-led approach forces us to focus on doing what must be done in our communities to respond to the challenges facing us, rather than limiting ourselves to presumptions about what we think can be done.
This reframing is essential, to bridge the gap between the speed and scale of changes that are really needed and our current slow progress.
The American moon mission is common reference example of a mission-led approach, as it was beautifully put by JFK:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade… not because (it is) easy, but because (it is) hard; because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.
This captures how a mission should be sufficiently ambitious that nobody is quite sure how to achieve it, while still having the sense that it could just be possible. Missions should be targeted, measurable, and time-bound. And the timeframe for the mission should not be too long – around decade at the most, to push us to focus on making it real.
Today we need to apply ourselves to more critical challenges than visiting the moon. Community missions need to reflect local priorities and ambitions while being honestly informed by the global risks, challenges and standards we need to meet.
Community missions should be co-created through an inclusive and well-informed process. Such processes take significant time and resources to run thoroughly. Communities will need create a ‘headline’ mission/vision, and then a set of more specific missions to help shape action.
The EU has recently launched a series of innovation missions, acknowledging that current societal challenges need a comprehensive approach that cuts across boundaries of policies, programmes and
governance in ways that have not yet been achieved. The EU missions for climate neutral cities, resilient regions, healthy soils and clean waters are all well aligned to the work of Thriving Communities.