Cows versus squirrels: a mammalian metaphor gone mad


What on earth is all this about?

When the winter comes in the squirrel has already stored 3000 nuts in different tree holes that provide the food storage to overcome the harshest season of the year. The nuts have been collected in past months and will be shared with the other members of the community if someone is in need. The squirrel is small but has adapted to live in all sorts of environments including European capitals. It’s agile, collaborative and last but not least independent.

On the other hand, the cow needs to take shelter in the stable during winter. It would not survive without the famer taking care it of all needs. Its life is quiet and relaxed. It just needs to feed, reproduce, and produce milk. But it consumes a lot of resources and life ends always in the abattoir. Its life depends entirely on others for maintenance and aims. Cows live all together but don’t collaborate. The farmer is in charge.

That is in fact the baseline concept for a conference being organized this September by a consortium of Danish and Swedish institutes on “how the European Union can foster and support such pioneers through the new socio-economic policies, namely social business and social innovation.”  Does it all seem clearer now?  Maybe not…

This metaphorical comparison aims to help civil society leaders and social entrepreneurs picture the transformation our society is going through: less leadership and help from governments and corporations, and the need for self-organisation, funding, support and development of solutions to social problems. We have to rethink our strategy, collaborate and innovate in order to transform from the cow to the squirrel.

The traditional resources as public funding and sponsorships are shrinking but new opportunities and synergies are emerging.

Fair enough.  But where does the EU fit into this metaphor?  Is it the cow?  Or the tree the squirrels hide their nuts in?  Or the abattoir?  I’m confused…