Nagrik Dialogue

Open Letter- By Gagandeep K. Bhullar

Gagandeep K Bhullar

My Fellow SuperHumans,

Human endeavour promises continuous evolution and therefore, the zeitgeist of every era in the history of humankind has witnessed its own revolution. Five centuries ago, the dark middle ages resulted in the renaissance or the intellectual revolution. Exploration and discovery following the renaissance resulted in the industrial revolution a couple of centuries ago. Then, about half a century ago, globalization along with advancement in science resulted in the technological revolution. Today, we stand at the cusp of a sustainability revolution.

The genesis of the sustainability revolution resides in the survival instinct of humankind itself. However, at the SuperHuman Race, we believe that it also borrows from the technology enabled real-time democratization of information, opinion & reaction. This information overload in the sustainability domain, creates an urgent need to separate opinion from measurement. Contrast this with an example from business, where for any corporation anywhere in the world, profitability is a performance metric that is industry agnostic and location independent. Even public opinion or reaction is recorded not only through dialogue & engagement on social media, but also through the dynamic numbers emerging from stock markets that inform valuation. This rigor of measurement is missing in sustainability, we are yet to arrive at headline numbers that make performance comparable and benchmarking possible.

Ironically, the backdrop of this challenge is marked by a culture of hyper-measurement and data obsession; we live in an era when all kinds of data are being amassed by entities around the world. This near-fanatic data collation follows from the assumption that all data is pregnant with the possibility of optimizing performance and driving efficiencies. This assumption is flawed, data is not inherently intelligent. Intelligence is a function of human curiosity, experience, knowledge & wisdom. The questions we ask of data form the premise of any intelligent insights that might emerge from analysing the data.

Since the SuperHuman Race is a technology start-up that measures ‘good’, we make it our job to help our clients ask these questions as they begin their ‘impact identification’ journey. First, our technology ensures that the performance of each project & portfolio can be boiled down to a single headline ‘health’ number. This number is derived from an evidence-based framework and measures the commitment to deliver on ‘promises made, promises kept’. For each partner we had in 2019, about 1800 data points were transitioned to the SuperHuman Race each week by implementing agencies, resulting in evidence-based health monitoring for over 10,000 project milestones & impact objectives.

Next, we automate intra & inter organization benchmarking between thematic areas on various parameters of impact & investment. One of the most significant learnings for us was that unlike for-profit business initiatives, sustainability initiatives seldom have discrete targets broken down to the level of the individual contributor. Our approach contextualizes performance relative to these discrete targets while benchmarking with peers & top performers. 

Last year, we wrote more than one million lines of code within our suite of thematic area metrics, to offer deep customization without trading off on scalability and automated benchmarking. This approach has enabled our clients to access 100+ pages of single-click, fully automated visualizations for the specific work they do. Moreover, for thematic areas, where custom metrics are often set, our clients are able to evaluate performance distilled from as many as 100,000 data points in less than a minute! These data points come from various projects, locations & multiple implementing partners. And the best part of how this works is that every single data point is attributable to the source of the data itself. This is a major departure from present-day sustainability reporting, where the largest organization independently gathers discrete data from partners and assumes full accountability.

Now the question arises as to why the young engineers & artists at the SuperHuman Race,  have decided to dedicate themselves to the drab task of measurement. Our team realized that it was universally accepted that ‘good’ is extremely hard to measure, but how do we reward something that we cannot measure? If we don’t reward ‘good’, can we really incentivize the culture of ‘good’ in perpetuity? The challenge really lies in inspiring the common person to do ‘good’ by becoming a sustainability enthusiast and activist.

Sustainability is among the most pervasive terms of our times and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals represent humankind’s most ambitious aspirations for global sustainability. However, in order to realize the ambition to leave no one behind; along with governments and businesses, individual citizens need to commit to these goals.

Behavioural observations underscore the value of gamifying the pursuit of sustainability. First, sustainable development goals must be broken down to achievable micro-goals that go from me-goals to community goals and finally to global goals. Second, there is a great need to precede dissemination of information (or even opinion) with content curation, whether it is automated or manual. Lastly, we are all driven by context and relativity and nothing addresses these two motivations better than the comparison of our contribution to that of our peers, our friends and our competitors.

At the SuperHuman Race, we have used data analytics, behavioural dynamics & ‘good gaming’ to devise a blueprint to drive this sustainability revolution. Our blueprint relies on data, proves that ‘doing good is good business’ and explores engagement and fun as levers to popularise the sustainability mindset.

There are various new business models which are embedded within the sustainability revolution, waiting to be discovered. Doing good is already a strategic differentiator for companies. Going forward, the value of earned PR, through improved employee productivity or customer loyalty will become an influencer for driving 360-degree sustainability in organizations, from their products to their processes as well as their presence. Even today, we have data to demonstrate that engaging employee audiences in a shared sustainability journey, generates 4X profitability per employee for no additional pay. Similarly technology modelling and affirmative action to achieve SDGs can perform the key function of ‘reputation insurance’ for organizations and governments, protecting organizations from infamy and collapse when things go wrong. Afterall, sustainability, like charity, must start with the self.

The revolutions that have shaped our world emerged from the collective vision of a better future; transforming social constructs, behaviours, products and ideas by stretching the imagination of contemporary society. As we enter the decade of action, we need to keep in mind that the answers of yesterday will not solve the problems of tomorrow. For tomorrow, we need to rewrite the narrative by making the sustainability agenda personal. 

Gagandeep K. Bhullar,
Founder & CEO, SuperHuman Race

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