Key Questions

The Fifth Element seeks to ask new questions about the crises humanity is facing. Many efforts have failed to create deep transformation. By asking better questions, we address the blind spots in current approaches to human development.

Business, Regeneration

What would make regenerative organisations viable and widespread?

If the aim is to achieve “sustainable development,” regeneration must become the new norm. To achieve this, it is crucial to reinvent organisations, especially businesses, which are currently constrained by outdated frameworks that prioritise short-term profits, relentless competition, and growth at any cost.

In partnership with InTent for Change and the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust, we investigate the conditions necessary for regenerative businesses to become the rule, not the exception.  

Research, Sustainability Sciences

How do we reframe the role of research to better serve society?

Many assume that addressing self-inflicted existential challenges such as climate change requires more research and innovation of the same kind developed in past decades. However, do current models of knowledge creation reinforce the extractive models of development?

As part of the UN Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development 2024-2033, we work to transform the frameworks for new knowledge creation by establishing transdisciplinary hubs to build practical instruments for sustainable transformation and promote collaboration across disciplines and cultures. 

Governance, Decolonisation, Self-Liberation, Youth

How can Africa liberate our collective futures?

For a global transition from blind exploitation to holistically restorative of people and planet, we need to foster mutual learning and collaboration to break from self-reinforcing degenerative cycles.

The African continent has deep knowledge about resilience and adaptation in crises to share with the world. We develop recommendations and experiments to transcend gridlocks in African development practices with partners such as The Saville Foundation, Good Governance Africa, and the High-Level Policy Group on Africa-Europe Partnership 

Youth & Intergenerational Leadership

Can intergenerational collaboration foster systems transformation?

Can intergenerational collaboration help us shift to long-term, regenerative strategies in business and policy-making?

With the St Gallen Symposium, the Fifth Element aims to promote fairness and mutual support between generations. We collaborate with organisations and individuals to gain knowledge about the impact of different generations on sustainability strategies and outcomes. 

Digital, Regeneration

Can digitalisation bring a sustainable future?

Is digitalisation working to reverse the many unsustainable effects of human consumption ? Is it creating better opportunities for equitable human wellbeing within a healthy biosphere?

The Fifth Element investigates the assumption that digitalisation brings progress. The creation of technologies is not necessarily benign, with many unintended and often negative effects. Together with Globethics, we investigate the reframing of AI for the public good.

Art, Innovation

What is the role of art in social transformations?

Harnessing all human capacities and languages, including all forms of artistic expression, can maximise the potential for collective transformation through learning. 

Our intuition is that artistic practices can play a vital role in helping humanity transition from accumulated convergent crises to desirable futures. While art is innate to all humans, it is often viewed as a decorative business.

The Fifth Element challenges this perception and collaborates with the Future of Work Foundation and other partners to facilitate activities that nurture this intuition.