Swae, The Future of Organizations, Decision-Making, and Governance

Swae, The Future of Organizations, Decision-Making, and Governance

The Problem

For the past ~3 years, I’ve grown evermore frustrated by the lack of voice or meaningful influence normal people seem to have in the big decisions institutions and organizations make that significantly impact our lives. Simply voting for candidates or filling out engagement surveys at work feels inconsequential, futile, and, well, insulting. These ‘participation’ options don’t seem to influence the dull, unoriginal, and incomplete solutions most leaders tend to develop in response to the uniquely complex business and social challenges of today’s world. They don’t help prevent abuse of power or keep leaders accountable to their promises. Instead, they provide us a false sense of agency. As consumers, we have so much influence over our life choices, but as employees or citizens, we have so little say in much more important decisions. So, why are these our only participation options?

Our modern day decision-making model is broken.

The root of this problem boils down to our organizational paradigm — how we make decisions and organize ourselves in society. Our modern day decision-making model is broken. It’s outdated, too centralized, too efficiency-obsessed (think factories and conveyor belts of the 19th century industrial era, when this decision-making model reigned supreme), too exclusionary; over-relying on hierarchies, representation, and delegated authority, andconfining stakeholders to strict parameters for participation based on status or function, when we live in a world where ideas, expertise, and genius are distributed and directly accessible through technologies and protocols.

As we move from crisis-to-crisis in our political systems — see first-hand the limitations of many democratic institutions to govern effectively and anticipate challenges — or witness the uninspiringunethical, and poor decisions made by leaders in large incumbent companies about how best to navigate complexity, we see how unfit our decision-making model is in today’s world.

 

What We Believe

About 2 years ago, I began exploring alternative decision-making models from today’s status-quo, to see how we can “upgrade” decision-making in organizations (both companies and democratic institutions)— consequently upgrading governance. I attended Singularity University’s Global Solutions Program to learn more about the problem and build a solution.

During my research, first-hand customer discovery and experience at SU, I became convinced that we’re in the middle of an irreversible social and cultural transformation, accelerated by new technologies and unreasonable entrepreneurs. We are transitioning from one strong set of operating assumptions about how to manage society, to a new, upgraded set. The transition we are undergoing will redefine how we organize institutions, how we create new companies, who has a voice, what’s an acceptable social-contract. But the path is murky.

Source: Frank Diana, Tata Consultancy Services

The combination of increased computing power, the rise of blockchain technology, demographic and cultural changes has made the idea of designing alternative organizational decision-making structures and governance models that are different from today’s status quo — models that are more participatorymore intelligent, less corruptible, less costly — a real possibility.

These are still the early days but the trajectory is clear.

What We’re Building

Inspired by the pace of change, last year, I started a company to re-image organizational decision-making and build the operating system for future organizations. Our first product is Swae, an intelligent decision-making platform combining anonymity, artificial intelligence, and collective intelligence, to help organizations unleash the creativity of their stakeholders and make better quality decisions. Using Swae, individuals within organizations create great proposals anonymously with support of AI, then improve the quality of those proposals with crowd input. Proposals are debated on their merits, collectively evolved, and voted on. The proposals that receive the highest engagement (positive or negative) automatically percolate upwards to a decision (by management or the collective).

By providing the right mix of technology and process, Swae helps organizations efficiently tap into the wisdom of their stakeholders without reinventing the entire organizational structure. Swae’s process circumvents the blockages associated with traditional hierarchical organizational structures (cognitive bias, disengagement, fear of lost status and internal politics suffocating the expression of new ideas, etc.), to provide a more direct, transparent, and efficient pathway for ideas to go from the bottom to access management support. This helps decision-makers gather a greater level of truthful input, arguments, and data points to improve products, services, strategy and business models, without creating a tremendous burden of added work for management.

Swae intends to upgrade decision-making first in companies, then communities, then cities.

Fastrack Institute on Innovate for Africa Challenge- Pilot Partnership

Fastrack Institute on Innovate for Africa Challenge- Pilot Partnership

The Imperative for Bottom-up Decision-Making
Africa is at a crossroads. The continent is undergoing a period of unprecedented growth. Nearly 50% of the world’s 40 fastest-growing economies are in Africa. Transcontinental free trade is connecting Africa, strengthening the region and benefiting over 1 billion people. Half of Africa’s nations experienced changes in political leadership within the last three years.
With enormous growth come equally enormous challenges.

Pilot and Partnership Announcement

Launching this month in South Africa at Africa Tech Week, Swae will be partnering with the Fastrack Institute on an open innovation challenge to crowdsource the best solutions for Africa’s most pressing challenges, directly from its citizens!

The goal of this pilot is to design and implement citizen-led ideas and solutions to the region’s greatest challenges.

Together with the Fastrack Institute, we are proud to announce this open innovation challenge, for all citizens of Africa, envisioning an Africa, made for and by the people.

Phases 1 & 2

In the first phase of this pilot citizens, partners and sponsors will use the Swae platform to identify and suggest possible solutions to key problem areas throughout the continent. Leveraging Swae, citizens will engage in idea creation, through our discovery methodology, AI augmentation and open deliberation methods, to design and collectively to contribute to a breadth of issue areas that concern them. In particular, citizens will be able to view, comment, and vote on other submissions raising their importance in the platform. At the end of this phase, the top ideas will be refined and improved through the collective deliberation process, and will proceed to the next phase for an innovation sprint guided by The Fastrack Institute. Any resident in the continent of Africa is encouraged and welcome to participate.

Goals for Swae — What We Hope To Learn
We’re incredibly excited to be providing the digital tools to enable decision makers and citizens the opportunity to design solutions together. If successful, this pilot can lead to scaling other approaches to community driven and informed interventions and decisions in Sub-Saharan Africa. We believe this is a fundamental step in how the future of governance processes and decision-making should scale. On our side, this opportunity allows us to test key hypotheses, particularly around our ability to develop high-quality, decision-ready ideas for serious consideration/feasibility testing and implementation — through a combination of our methodology and digital features (anonymity, idea augmentation, commenting, voting). We’ll also be measuring key indicators on diversity of participants involved in a given idea and whether that leads to more fully formed and holistically representative solutions in addition testing our augmented intelligence features in a new context and geography.
If you would like Swae to help your company, organization or community raise the inclusivity, quality, and intelligence of decisions, please get in touch directly here

More information
You can find out more about the Innovate for Africa Challenge and get involved here: https://fastrackinstitute.org/innovateforafrica/

About Swae
Swae is an AI-driven decision-making and governance platform that helps raise the quality and inclusivity of decisions within organizations, allowing people to participate directly in key strategy, budget, operational decisions and create solutions from the bottom up that can be institutionalized. By combining anonymity, artificial, and collective intelligence Swae helps organizations unleash the creativity of their stakeholders, discover new unrevealed ideas, and collectively build bottom-up solutions to strategy and resource allocation decisions, and improving overall decision quality without significant work for management.

About FTI
Fastrack Institute is a non-profit organization achieving social impact through injection of knowledge and technology to enable cities to adapt to and capitalize on rapid technological change alongside rapid urban population growth. They work together with member cities to find cutting edge, scalable solutions to grand urban challenge. They focus primarily on solving urban problems for cities and regions of one million or more citizens, although they do work with smaller cities and communities.

Their mission is to inspire, educate and empower cities and their citizens to find cutting edge, scalable ways to solve critical urban challenges 10X faster and cheaper than previously thought possible.

Soushiant Zanganehpour Founder & CEO

Soushiant is a social scientist, entrepreneur and Founder of Swae.io, an AI-powered platform for smarter organizational decisions and 21st century governance. Swae helps companies, cities and organizations of all sizes benefit from the collective intelligence of their employees, stakeholders and citizens helping source innovative ideas, program and product feedback, and policy, budget, and strategy suggestions, at a fraction of the cost. Stakeholders and AI build compelling proposals together from the bottom-up that are crowd-vetted and the best move to a decision-round for implementation, creating a bi-directional pathway for governance. Soushiant is a recognized global practitioner in the fields of business innovation, impact investing, social entrepreneurship, and sustainability having spoken at numerous international conferences and published in The Guardian, The Financial Times, Bloomberg Business Week, and Entrepreneur magazines. He is on Harvard Business Review's Advisory Council, and a board advisor of Biocarbon Engineering, a reforestation startup using drones to replant a billion trees per year.
Soushiant earned his BA (PoliSci & IR) from the University of British Columbia, a Diplôme in International Affairs from Sciences-po Paris, an MPP (Public Policy & Economics) from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and attended Singularity University’s Global Solutions Program as a Google Scholar. He was awarded a full scholarship by the UK's Foreign Office as one of four Canadian Chevening Scholars for his Masters. .

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