This morning's New York Times features a terrific article, Social Change's Age of Englightenment by David Bornstein. In the post, Bornstein shows how the growing realization that "we are not econs," combined with rigorous, disciplined collection/analysis/use of empirical data, can help us reframe intractible dilemmas in ways that allow breakthrough change.
Certainly, this matches my experience. I adopted the approach Bornstein describes when I worked in banking research. At some random point, it occurred to me that what we call 'money' is not a thing, but a symbol. Paper money, coins, and/or data flowing through an ACH system: none have inherent value. The value is found in the meaning we give them. They are no more or less than buckets of meaning. "But what is that meaning?" I asked myself. Although the field had no name at the time (late 1980's), it turned out that I had stumbled upon behavioral economics.
Bornstein does a terrific job of articulating what the approach entails, the tools we use, and the value that it can deliver. I'm grateful to him for his cogent description and compelling argument.