SEEing Change

The world is fraught with problems. Think of climate change and issues of sustainability, the growing rich–poor gap, a broken political system, and an economic system that after the meltdown of 2008 is known to be more fragile than it was once thought to be. All of these factors and many more create a context in which the need for change in our business practices is apparent. But how is that change to happen? Public trust in institutions ranging from businesses to banks to governments and even including some NGOs is at an all-time low – and many governments and businesses seem stuck in old models of practice. Yet clearly there is a desperate need for new and different business models that tap into what Peter Senge and his collaborators have called The Necessary Revolution in a book of that name.

In our work on SEE change – the change to a sustainable enterprise economy, Malcolm McIntosh and I have discovered a degree of optimism, despite the many problems facing the world. Bubbling up from the bottom are many new types of enterprise. These enterprises, which we have labeled SEE Change enterprises, include networked enterprises like Facebook, eBay, and even Google. These are companies that rely on digital communication technologies for their business models. They even sometimes create “public goods” (e.g., access to information in the case of Google or trust in the case of eBay through its rating scheme) in their business models. To this list we could add socially entrepreneurial ventures that start their lives with a multiple-bottom-line orientation that emphasizes social, environmental, and economic goals simultaneously. Even within some progressive big businesses, new ventures are being formed internally that take a social, environmental, and economic orientation. Such new types of enterprise are part of the process that Schumpeter long ago labeled creative destruction.

Developing such enterprises – and there are many, of which B-corporations, social ventures, social entrepreneurships, and companies that align themselves with the Conscious Capitalism movement are only part – requires “seeing” the world with new eyes. It means being able to see past current practices to the ways in which new practices can begin. It can mean holding paradox (e.g., multiple bottom lines) in mind simultaneously and working with it to create something very new. So go out and find the examples of creative new enterprises in your world and see what you can do.

Sandra Waddock

Boston College
Greenleaf Author

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AVAILABLE NOW: SEE Change is about the myriad problems that we face and the systemic changes that are necessary for all enterprises in whatever sector and however constituted to operate within sustainable limits, to lower their ecological footprint, to enhance social equity, and to develop a sense of futurity. Limited offer: Order direct from Greenleaf and get 40% discount. Use voucher code ksbg611 at checkout. Offer ends 30 June 2011.

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