Convergence in social processes: it is a challenge, is it a solution?

Development of society brings new, more and more complex, challenges. It seems that this reached the point where solutions that enabled breakthroughs in economy, technology and social development in the past now seem to be obstacles. Fragmentation, more than any. Namely, specialization in performing certain functions in society had an important impact on development of society. E.g. specialization in production operations was a breakthrough in development of industry. Observed more broadly, specialization in different areas of life used to bring better results. Establishing entities in charge of teaching, regulating, researching, and producing contributed to improvement of quality of life of individuals and to development of the society. They focused, more and more over time, on their tasks, thus building specialized capacity but also increasing the distance from other social entities and processes. E.g. universities teach, factories produce, and so on. They became very good at what they are doing. However, with time, it seems the focus shifted from the purpose and initial function of certain entity to the existence of the entity itself. So, nowadays, we often hear opinions that the problem is „silo“, i.e. each stakeholder is performing their specific tasks, fulfilling their specific function in social life as they see it, while interactions and consequentially levels of understanding problems and cooperation in the society becomes lower than needed for new breakthroughs. Is this good for future steps in social development? Or it is necessary to bring closer stakeholders that currently do their work mostly separately?

Convergence is already happening in different areas. E.g. in media, where division between printed and electronic ones, and then between electronic audio and visual ones, was clearly defined, while now we have different contents joined in online channels, so we can read, listen and watch the content from the same communication channel. Not only that, but technology also enabled consumers to become producers of content, so now we have not only contents prepared by professional journalists, but also by citizens that take an active role in reporting on social events. Is this a pattern that will spread through other areas of society? It is hard to say to which extent this will go, but it is already happening in different areas of social development. Universities are making endeavors to get closer to industries, adjusting curricula and intensifying research activities to meet demands of changing industries. Enterprises are investing more and more in research and development, participating more intensively in learning processes conducted by educational institutions. State institutions are making efforts to improve approaches and interventions enabling development of economy and increase level of quality of life.

If this social convergence, based on focusing on results rather than on existence and characteristics of different entities in society, is already recognized as something desirable and useful and if it is happening already, is this a subject to think about at all? The thing is, even in developed societies, i.e. in developed states, these processes are still facing many challenges, such as hesitation of different stakeholders to cooperate, being unable to see long term benefits and even necessity of such cooperation, trying to keep their independence and identity rather than bringing their structures closer to other stakeholders and thus involving more strongly in social development in different areas. In less developed countries, it is, of course, much worse, in regard to networking and cooperation, where risks are often on top of the list of decision making criteria, where low level of trust is preventing cooperation, and lack of resources is an obstacle for initiatives that are agreed on.

Also, there are numerous challenges in uniting social forces to enable next steps in social development. Some structures, functions and processes emerge. However, the old ones are quite resilient, seeing these changes not as development, but as jeopardy for their existence. But it is not about their existence. They can, of course, exist in future, but with changes and adjustments required by new development challenges. After all, they have already changed and evolved, no one is the same as some years ago. Therefore, strengthening trust, networking and cooperation seem to be the right way to join forces of social stakeholders from different areas, such as technology, education, industry and regulatory institutions, to enable the next step in social development. It brings the focus back on results and effects, not on existence and benefits of individual stakeholders. In fact, in the long run, this seems to be the best for the individual interests, too, because developed countries, where quality of life is high, achieved that to a great extent thanks to cooperation processes that are still recognized as a priority for further development. This approach enables joining resources and better prioritization on the level of society. Bringing together universities and companies, government and citizens, simply gives better results in social development. After all, societies came into existence on the ground that every individual can achieve much higher quality of life in comparison to existing in isolation. Specialization, as we mostly know it, seems to have served the purpose. It created capable entities that are good in performing specific tasks. Now they have to join forces and converge processes to enable further development in different areas of social life. With everyone doing what they do best, working more and more closely with different stakeholders in society, changing and adapting over time to new conditions and development requirements. That is what society is all about, isn’t it?