According to #JamaicanTwitter, Jamaica is not a real place. Yet a couple million of us are declaring our new year’s resolutions to live our best lives right here. But is this the best place to grow our dreams? And if not, what’s our vision for what this place should be?
Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Statement
I think one way to approach this is to look at the country’s vision statement. It describes what we want the country to look like 10 or 20 years down the road, so we can see how we fit in, and if our dreams belong. It’s like a national selfie from the future, that we choose to be a part of now.
So what’s Jamaica’s vision statement?
Vision 2030: “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”
I think as far as vision statements go, this is concise, contextual and could even be catchy if it were a song (Is there a song? There should be a song). But if I’m to be completely honest, I’m not so inspired.
My beef with the vision statement comes from my experience in brand strategy. By helping to develop Brand DNAs for companies and countries in Jamaica and Kenya, I’ve experienced the power of a strong vision statement in helping people find direction and stick to it.
For me “the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business” is the generic vision every country has. If a company’s vision were “Our products are the product of choice our customers use” it wouldn’t be saying anything different from anyone else. It doesn’t take a stand.
What People See in Jamaica’s Vision 2030
I’m not the only one who feels left out of the national selfie. I took to Twitter like a true millennial and asked “On a scale of 1–5 (5 highest), how inspired are you by Vision 2030?” A few responses came in:
I also asked a few friends what Jamaica’s Vision 2030 looked like to them. One said:
“Well, is a whole heap of foreigners walking up and down.”
And possibly the most positive response was:
“Every man and woman have a chance to can live a decent life.”
So I learned two things. Firstly, I wasn’t alone in feeling disconnected from the vision. Secondly, for those that felt our vision statement was OK, their big picture wasn’t a big idea. Instead it was a baseline of “well, I think we stand a chance.”
What a Strong Vision Statement Should Be
I’ve made some sense of this using Brand DNA logic. Two qualities I look for in a strong vision are a) A Big Idea and b) ‘Usness.’
A Big Idea is Inspiring. The country’s vision statement should paint a big picture that has its people saying, “That is exactly the kinda place I want to call home. Sign me up.” In just a few words, it tells you where you’re going, so you’ll know when you’re there. A vision statement should inspire pride, confidence and joint action.
The BBC’s vision is to “be the most creative organization in the world.” That’s a pretty big idea. And even if they never actually achieve it, they’re unleashing so much new creative content they can certainly claim it. It says how they want to be in the world. They don’t want to be just a global network, they want to be a creative force. My question is ‘What’s Jamaica’s big idea?’
‘Usness’ is our DNA. ‘Usness’ says who we are. It means something to the people who it’s made for, because it takes into account what they’ve been through. Context is what makes a vision unique to us, rather some place else.
We can become a place of choice to do business by building a trading port and becoming the ‘buy and sell’ capital of the world. A place of choice to work can be about creating a labour force working for “a whole heap of foreigners.” Or maybe our core focus can be empowering creators and producers to innovate so we can create a sustainable path to security and development. Whichever way, the vision statement doesn’t say.
By the way, all the details behind the Vision Statement can be found in the 7 guiding principles, 4 national goals, targets and 15 national outcomes. But not many people are going to comb through those docs. That’s why the burden of that single statement is significant. As a vision, it needs to inspire and be meaningful to its people by painting just that… a vision. I think that’s where it falls short.
But what about other countries’ vision statements? Do their visions paint themselves as the best place to grow dreams?
Vision 2030s from Around the World
There are lots of countries with a Vision 2030. In the early 2000’s, Vision 2030s became the global planning equivalent of a viral video. 2030 may actually be the most highly envisioned year of all time. So I found 10 country visions and grouped them based on the 2 qualities I mentioned: A Big Idea and ‘Usness.’
Here’s what I found :
A Big Idea
- Singapore: The World’s First Smart Nation.
- Saudi Arabia: The heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, the investment powerhouse, and the hub connecting three continents.
- Zambia: A prosperous middle income nation by 2030.
- Mauritius: An inclusive high-income country.
- Qatar: By 2030, Qatar aims to be an advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for all of its people.
- Kenya: A globally competitive and prosperous country with a high quality of life by 2030.
- Namibia: A prosperous and industrialized Namibia, developed by her human resources, enjoying peace, harmony and political stability.
- South Africa: A South Africa where everyone feels free yet bounded to others; where everyone embraces their full potential, a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work.
- Trinidad: We are a united, resilient, productive, innovative, and prosperous nation with a disciplined, caring, fun-loving society comprising healthy, happy and well-educated people and built on the enduring attributes of self-reliance, respect, tolerance, equity, inclusion and integrity in which… (It’s actually a page long. It continues on their site).
- Jamaica: The place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Our Visions are Projections of Our Selves
Each of these vision statements is loaded with context. They give insight into how these countries have been shaped by their past, and how they want to see themselves in the future.
Singapore is not playing. They have a simple, singular vision that is no doubt influenced by their government’s leadership style. How will they achieve it? Will everyone benefit equally? The devil is in the details. But you have to say it’s a big idea.
South Africa’s vision warms my heart. It paints a uniquely aspirational view of the world that’s directly influenced by their defining past. I read it, and I get them. There may be issues in executing it but just by reading I get a sense of who they are.
When you think about it in context of our economic and social challenges, Jamaica’s vision says we want to conquer the crippling effects of brain drain and crime. These are both huge problems that need attention to spur our growth. But it says “we have stopped the problem,” without defining the future we are creating.
My question is, what defines us? Jamaica’s vision statement doesn’t leverage or mention our creative strengths or our cultural powers. I think this is a huge missed opportunity. And even if it did, I don’t think it’s just about ‘creativity’ either. Everybody is owning creativity these days. It isn’t unique anymore. What’s the uniqueness of the Jamaican ‘Creativity’ that makes us so special? And how do we make our ‘Usness’ a core part of our future?
If our vision is separated from who we are, we won’t relate to it. To be powerful, it has to be embedded in our fundamental truth.
Let’s Project Ours
Jamaica may not be a real place, but I still want to help build it. I want my country’s vision to inspire and empower creatives to build our dreams here, rather than some other smart country or prosperous nation.
Everything happens by design. What if we all got a chance to paint the picture we want to be part of in 2030? What’s your big idea? If you have one, declare it. Tell a friend what’s missing from this vision. Tweet it using the hashtag #FiMiVision2030. I don’t care how, but we should start a conversation on this from the ground up. My big idea is that we design a way to jointly create our vision, our way. I’d love to see what a national vision looks like that we all write together.