Big ideas are our responsibility
The coronavirus pandemic changed almost every aspect of our lives and routines. The restrictions introduced around the world made all our lives smaller. As the successful roll-out of the vaccine brings us back to a new normal, however, we must ensure that our dreams and ambitions have not become smaller as well.
Now is the time for big ideas and extraordinary ambition that will help us take a giant leap forward over the many backwards steps caused by the coronavirus. Just as the New Deal followed the Great Depression in the United States and the National Health Service came after the Second World War in Britain, it is possible to emerge from this crisis with a legacy of positive, long-term transformation that creates hope today, and shapes the lives of tomorrow’s generations.
Big ideas are the essence of leadership. They dare us to face up to the seemingly insurmountable problems of our time by setting ambitions that are a beacon calling others to follow. Whether this is tackling climate change head-on by committing our resources and talent to a green economy, or striving to end poverty around the world, or cleaning up our oceans, we need big ideas that remind us of our limitless ingenuity and ability to innovate out of any crisis.
Lessons learnt from the pandemic should inspire creative thinking on the actions needed to strengthen our community to meet its present and future challenges. We should not expect the public sector to bear the entire weight of this responsibility. We, as business leaders, can and should play a supporting role. Now is the time to be bold.
Education is a prime example. Teachers, children and parents faced a steep learning curve when the closure of schools forced a switch to remote learning, and they have risen to the challenge. As a result, the way our educators work and how our children learn has changed permanently. However, online schooling has both exposed, and exacerbated, the inequity in our community, since not everyone has access to the necessary technology at home. This generation of students will feel the consequences for years to come.
To help address this challenge, we launched Lighthouse Connect, a fund established with the Bermuda Community Foundation and in partnership with the Mirrors Programme, with the aim of providing free laptops to every public-school student. These efforts have served not only to tackle the immediate challenges of the pandemic, but also to better prepare our children for the future. But this is just the beginning.
We must get the right technology in the hands of all students, so this educational disruption cannot happen again. Schools and students need to be able to shift seamlessly between in-class and remote education without compromising the learning experience.
The pandemic should also add impetus to the growth of renewable energy in Bermuda. Given the turmoil we have seen in the global economy, the disruption of international supply chains and oil-price volatility, securing the energy supply and reducing its costs in the long term is a priority.
Clean-energy development, in addition to its positive environmental impact, can be a catalyst for the local economy by creating jobs. In the longer term, the growth of renewables will slow the outflow of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on fuel each year from the local economy, which can be invested into the community.
The Bermuda Government has made clear its commitment to renewables, creating an encouraging environment for green entrepreneurs and investors to seize opportunities and accelerate the transformation to cleaner energy.
One of the areas that will also need investment is long-term care for our senior citizens. Globally, we are seeing ageing populations in many countries, and this is also true in Bermuda. About a quarter of the population will be 65 or older by 2026, according to government projections.
With rising costs and constrained supply, we must confront this challenge head-on by investing in the facilities, caregivers and technologies that will allow our grandparents, parents and, eventually, ourselves to age with dignity and respect. Like the other great challenges of our time, the scale is so great that we cannot reasonably expect the public sector to deal with it alone. We will all have a part to play.
From a personal standpoint, receiving the Best of Bermuda Award for Good Corporate Citizen from The Bermudian magazine has left me feeling both honoured and determined to work even harder for Bermuda. Despite my recently announced relocation to support the growth of L&G’s US business, Bermuda will always be my home and I will continue to find ways to invest in this wonderful community.
This summer, building on the progress achieved through Lighthouse Connect, I will personally launch Lighthouse Academy, a series of free workshops designed to assist Bermuda high-school leavers in setting up for the future. Educators, human resources professionals, counsellors and business leaders will teach our young people the tools and skills they need to navigate our post-pandemic world. The curriculum will include techniques to improve mental wellbeing, how to navigate entering college or university, help with career planning and résumé building, and teaching interview skills.
Thinking big is not a luxury, but our responsibility. In business, we must embrace this responsibility and become factories for great ideas that use our unique skills and talents to also turn them into a reality.
• Thomas Olunloyo is the outgoing chief executive of Legal & General Reinsurance, a Bermudian-based life reinsurer. Details on how to register for Lighthouse Academy will be released at the end of the month