Over the last few years, we’ve come to see our mission as helping to manifest a more sustainable economy.
A sustainable economy is one that gives back. Continuously. A golden Goose as it were.
We’ve been working on it chiefly in a few ways:
- Choosing to work with values driven brands, non-profits and intra-preneurs
- Insisting on making meaningful marketing, instead of push/land-fill marketing no one needs
- Getting BCorp Certification
- Helping BCorp spread in our region
- Having progressive policies (like paying 40% of people’s exercise dues)
- Convening and connecting smart, interested people
- Donating personal time to boards and committees
- Sharing useful info through our site and social networks
It’s been a great approach. Beyond helping us sleep better at night AND being excited to come to work in the AM, most of the people drawn to working with us and for us are pre-qualified fits. In the last year we’ve launched projects for dynamic organizations like Local Food Plus, Canadian Immigrant and MaRS (all our clients are awesome so if you didn’t get mentioned it just means I’m trying to keep this brief).
All that changed a couple of weeks ago.
Jodi and I attended the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) Conference in Grand Rapids Michigan and we left with a new sense of purpose. We learned about Generative Economies from Marjorie Kelly. Generative economies are a significantly extended version of my idea of sustainable economies. They aren’t merely self perpetuating, they create more opportunites.
We learned about the value of local ownership and what happens when community members collaborate on defining and serving a vision for their workplace, neighbourhood or city. Let’s unpack that for a sec.
When business owners live where their ventures are located, they often have a different interest in the community. And there are many forms of ownership–people can be invested in an idea or process as well as an enterprise. But when owners live near their enterprise, money circulates in the local economy a lot longer, creating more value at each turn.
Then there’s this notion of collaboration. Imagine what would happen if BIAs, neighbourhood associations, folks looking for work, non-profits, poor people, wealthy people and municipal leaders got together to map out their challenges and dreams. I can tell you that from what I saw in Grand Rapids Michigan a few weeks ago, it looks good. Gorgeous real estate is affordable. Corporations like Cascade Engineering take on challenges like racism. I met a computer programmer who was starting a business with a government grant matching his seed capital. The place wasn’t perfect, but it felt like it was headed in the right direction.
Next is the “service” notion. That a business, region or given opportunity doesn’t exist to be exploited but to be served. My role is to serve not only my clients, but my employees and broader community. Heady stuff. But tangible too.
We both felt like we left with clear ideas about how to be a better purpose driven business. We’re investigating ownership models for our team members, have started to reach out to community organizations we didn’t know yet and have started meeting with the rest of the Toronto based BALLE attendees to discuss how we can use what we’ve learned to foster ownership on the city level. Stay tuned.
It’s worth noting that I heard no end of amazing stories of people who have figured out how to turn the way they make a living into a way to build opportunity and community. I now see a picture forming of an alternative to the gloomy financial meltdowns on the news daily. I see people taking and creating ownership and I think it couldn’t be a more exciting time to be in business.