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6 January

Happy 2017!

It’s New Year’s resolutions season. Increasing productivity remains on my worklist. Many of you wrote last year after I shared tips to deal with two major distractions: meetings and emails. On the latter, I found more good stuff in Jocelyn Glei’s Unsubscribe: How to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions, and get real work done. It starts with facts that make readers question their habits: we spend 28% of our time on email, checking it 74 times and processing 122 messages every day.  It reminds us of what email is good for (eg scheduling) and not (eg making decisions involving lots of people). It flags an important bias: people are predisposed to perceive email messages negatively. It gives a check list to cut back on email mania: outline professional goals, define a daily routine, and set expectations. The number one tip is to move to batch processing of emails, 2 or 3 times a day. Batchers are more productive and less stressed. While the book focuses on productivity, it discusses spillovers on wellbeing and is published in times of growing support for the right to disconnect.
Should we not give up email altogether? Some argue that email is here to stay in our type of business because of its many other functions, like storage and backup. But with recurrent predictions about the death of email, the growing use of instant messaging in the workplace, and my teenage daughter’s constant reminder that email is for old people, I might create some space to think about a post-email UN in 2017.
I enjoyed listening to Nesta’s Geoff Mulgan opening the 2016 ESPAS conference with “What make a prosperous society in the 21st century?”. He uses Hegel’s dialectic thinking (history moves from thesis to anti-thesis to new synthesis) to analyze the current context and the new possibilities it offers.  The thesis was an open, democratic, technology-optimistic model. We are now witnessing the dark pessimistic anti-thesis. So Mulgan calls for new syntheses that go beyond nostalgic repackagings of the old thesis. His own proposal includes: education models that prepare young people for the future and nurture their agency; public services linked to a new kind of engagement with active citizens; iterative democratic models; participatory budgeting. This is an energizing perspective but I am left thinking: how does that participatory model work for those who are not connected, engaged, or even visible?

My graph this week is from the WEF’s “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors”. It shows that solar and wind are now cheaper than coal or natural gas. 30 countries have already reached “grid parity” (ie providing energy from renewable sources costs as much as traditional power grid generation) without subsidies. And 2/3 of the world countries will get there in the next two years.   

My quote this week is from Thomas Piketty’s “Passing of Anthony B. Atkinson”: “During the past half-century, in defiance of prevailing trends, [Atkinson] placed the question of inequality at the center of his work while demonstrating that economics is first and foremost a social and moral science.”

Bon week end!


Katell Le Goulven
Chief, Policy Planning

What I read is a weekly selection of readings. Their choice is subjective. It's usually about something that interests me. Something I did not know. Something I found relevant to my work and maybe to yours.

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