Friday, April 1, 2022

See you on the Other Side!

 After careful thought and some useful feedback from colleagues I've decided it would be smarter if I was only posting to one blog - my personal one at  Over time I'll migrate the earlier posts here to there.  All new posts will occur there. 

Hope to see you on the other side! 

Flourishing felicitations

Antony Upward

Friday, March 25, 2022

Sustainable Earth – Part II

Sustainable Earth: A New Destination for Western Culture?

A two-part blog post that explores how our modernist culture got us into the mess we’re in, and a small suggestion of how to proceed to an Earth that can sustain the possibility for human and all other life to flourish for generations.

Read Part 1 here.

Part II: A New Destination – Sustainable Earth

Getting Real About Humanity’s Situation

So, what is the alternative to trying to reach the modernists ‘perfect’ Globe?  In part one we came to understand that in any real sense we have never been modern, it was ‘only’ an idea.  Further, we recognized that the destination of the modernist ‘perfect’ Globe was an impossible conceit. It can never be reached.  But at the same time, we also recognized that we cannot and do not want to go back to the ‘Land’, despite the fact it had some positive points.

This is Your Captain Speaking

Bruno Latour, one of the pre-eminent philosophers of science alive today tells a great story to make our predicament clear.  To paraphrase:

Some years ago, we Westerners all got on a plane called ‘modernism’, that took off from the Land airport. After take-off, the Captain tells the passengers just how amazingly perfect their selected destination is, to expect continuous uneventful progress on the flight to the Globe, and that the flight will be short. Even though this is the first and only flight from Land to Globe, the captain's voice exudes confidence and excitement.  The captain gets updates from the destination, the Globe, and passes these on to the passengers: more details of how amazing the Globe is compared to pre-modern Land.

But just as the passengers were getting more and more excited about just how clever they were to get on this flight, the Captain announces turbulence and that a small diversion is required, but the course to the modernist Globe destination would be resumed soon.  Some passengers start to get nervous.  But what can they do at 10,000m?  Jump?  And even if they could find a parachute and jump, where would they come down.  The Land is far in the past, but the destination Globe is still far in the future.

Then the Captain receives the news the Globe airport is now closed due to a massive storm that would last longer than the fuel left on board.  The Captain, as the person responsible for everyone's well-being, naturally plans a course back to the Land airport, and announces this plan to the passengers, knowing most will be very upset – everyone wanted to progress to the amazing and perfect Globe.

But upon turning the plane around and radioing Land airport there is no reply; it appears that the airport has been demolished and no landing is possibleThe Captain gets on the intercom again: “Modernists, the Globe is closed due to bad weather, and the Land no longer exists. We have fuel for just two more hours. You need to decide where you want me to land and how to get there!  I’ve heard rumors that we may be able to land at a destination I'm becoming aware of called Earth.  You might want to consider this possibility and what it could entail; perhaps the cabin crew can help?” <pause>  “1 hour 55 minutes” <pause> “1 hour 50 minutes”…

What will the modernists decide to do, and how to do it? Will everyone perish, or will the Earth present new opportunities? Stay tuned for next week’s episode in the exciting story of humanitys' futures!

A Path Forward to Sustainable Earth

So, could a path forward be to bring ideas from the Land, ideas from the Globe, and new ideas to a new place?  What if we called this new place "Earth" or "Gaia".  Can we recognize that now, in our current situation, some parts of the Land world-views and cultures are relevant to our circumstances today? (World-views and cultures that peoples who managed to retain their indigeneity against the onslaught of colonization often still live and breathe every day).  Can we recognize that not everything about the modernist project to perfect ourselves is inherently 'bad'; that there is some baby in the modernist bathwater?

Perhaps in this new place, this Earth, we can invent new world-views, new ways of being, new visions of desirable futures, new cultures.  Cultures that recognize our planet, and all life, including us humans, are not the same everywhere. Cultures that recognize diversity as normal and a source of strength.     Non-modern cultures.

Starting Our Journey to a Sustainable Earth

So how might we start such a project?  A project to save ourselves and future generations from our modernist selves.  Bruno Latour has a suggestion here too.  Perhaps we should start by understanding just where it is that we live, where it is that all life exists? 

Now for modernists, the answer is easy and clear.  We live on the Globe - literally and figuratively.  And of course, although we know it’s only a “pale blue dot”, we think of our planet as being huge.  But what about for us attempting to be non-moderns?  Attempting to chart a course to the sustainable Earth.  How should we think of our planet?

Perhaps we can take a lesson from one of the most well-known modernist projects: the moon shot.  One of the key cultural icons from this project were inspiring pictures.  For example, Apollo 10 took humanity's first complete picture of the whole of the globe.  And the modernists loved it: here was evidence that humanity lives altogether, that in some sense the Globe is real and that the perfect global village was in clear sight, just a few years in the future.

The Earth from Apollo 10 (© NASA, 1969)

But there are other pictures, much less well known, that call into question this reading.  At around 17h04 UTC on Nov 24, 1969, as Apollo 12 approached the earth at 12,000km/h, astronaut Allan Bean observed Fantastic sight. What we see now is the Sun is almost completely eclipsed now, and what it's done is illuminated the atmosphere all the way around the Earth.”, then a few minutes later “You can't see the Earth. It's black just like space”.

“You Can't See the Earth, it is Black, Just Like Space from Apollo 12 (© NASA, 1969)

So perhaps we don't live on a globe at all.  Perhaps the globe is in fact dark like space.  Perhaps we live in the 6km high thin sliver of the atmosphere that supports life?  If you like a 'critical zone' for all life.  Imagine if we conceived of our home, of Gaia, as this tiny space. Could this be a good way to start to conceive of our new destination, Earth?  A destination that we want to sustain all of us.  Could this perspective ground new cultures, new ways of knowing and being?  Could this perspective allow us to solve what for modernists are increasingly looking like unsolvable problems?

Just how tiny is the critical zone?  Let's put into perspective in two ways: (1) many of us have commutes to work that are longer than 6km (2) If the planet was the size of a basketball, the critical zone would be the thickness of a piece of paper.

The Tiny Critical Zone in Context (Derived from © NASA, 2010)

Our current modernist culture and journey to a ‘perfect’ Globe is making the critical zone less and less able to sustain us, let alone enable us and all other life to flourish for generations to come. Could the idea that we actually live, and can only live, in a tiny, fragile, 6km high critical zone be a useful mental frame for the Earth we actually live within?  What cultures do we need to create that will promote human behaviours which result in a critical zone amenable to the flourishing of all life?  What should we bring with us from the Land?  What should we bring with us from our ideas of the 'perfect' Globe? What role would human organizations, businesses, enterprises, governments play in such a culture?

We’ll continue to explore these questions in future blog posts.

Credits and Sources

With full credit to the Land, Globe, Erath/Gaia ideas of one of the pre-eminent philosophers of science Bruno Latour, author of “We Have Never Been Modern”  Go deeper with this curated YouTube playlist of some of Latour’s ideas.  Latour is often not so easy to follow, so expect to have to work to get these videos… but the effort is worth it.

Sustainable Earth – Part I

Sustainable Earth: A New Destination for Western Culture? 

A two-part blog post that explores how our modernist culture got us into the mess we’re in, and a small suggestion of how to proceed to an Earth that can sustain the possibility for human and all other life to flourish for generations to come.

Read Part 2 here.

Part 1: From Pre-Modern Land to Modernist Globe

Back in Time Before Modernism: The Land

Imagine you are back in the middle of the middle ages... before the Renaissance (1400s), before the Christian reformation (1500s), before the age of enlightenment (1600-1799)... before the ideas of modernism were imagined into existence. 

Before modernism, wherever you were living, Europe, Asia, Africa, Americas, human prosperity depended on the land - crops for food, plants for medicines, animals for food and raw materials (wool, leather), woodlands for fuel and construction materials, rivers and the sea for fish, and so on.  Humanity had to live with an understanding of its total and immediate inter-dependence with the land.  For communities who farmed, crop failure literally meant starvation.  For hunter-gatherers failure of a plant required as food for a hunted animal meant fewer animals to hunt.

And the Spirit (for monotheists) and the Spirits (for polytheists) were everywhere.  They were immediately connected to everything in and on the land: rocks, trees, woods, mountains, streams, rivers, oceans - and to everyday events - storms, rain, snow, wind, birth, death, and everything in between.  Humanity was connected to nature and each other practically and spiritually.  In many respects, much of humanity was living in balance with nature.  It would not be too much of a stretch to say that, to a great degree, this human life was sustainable.  That is, if these behaviours and worldviews remained they could have done so for a very long time. 

But, this is not some romantic past that the majority of humanity who have lost these sustainable ways would wish to return to.  Back then, life was hard; life expectancy compared to today was short; pain, death and loss were everyday experiences.  Further, just feeding our current and expected population prevents us from returning in practice.

To help us, let's give this cultural and practical environment, this world-view, this way of knowing the systems in the world and spiritual plane, this way of being, a label. Let's call this 'place' that humanity the world over found itself "Land".   And recall, back in the middle ages there was no sense that humanity was on some journey away from this ‘place’.  The Land was all that there was, and all that anyone could imagine would and could ever be.  

The Modernist Journey Away from the Land – Benefits and Harms

So what happened?

The processes of Western modernization gathered strength through the renaissance, reformation, and enlightenment caused Westerners to leave this 'place'.  The new big idea was that humanity was destined to progress to higher and higher levels of 'perfection'.  Humanity could know everything about everything and apply this knowledge to 'perfect' itself.  In the eyes of Western Modernists, that old place, the Land, was clearly less than perfect in nearly every way, and so needed to be condemned to history as a failure, with no redeeming features. It suffered that ultimate modernist damnation: the Land and its Spirituality was simply old-fashioned.  It was to be discarded as simply an early highly imperfect stage of progress.

If the most powerful idea of modernism was that all humanity was ultimately destined to go on an inevitable journey towards 'perfection', what was the ultimate destination?  The modernist's answer was that the journey was to a single 'perfect' global humanity, living in a single homogenous 'perfect' culture, in the 'perfect' global village.  Most recently we've called this journey 'globalism', or the process of globalization. 

And let’s be clear, very large swathes of humanity have benefited enormously.  The ideas of modernism were not some "bad" thing that now needs to be replaced wholesale so we can once again be sustainable.  Perhaps the key statistic to demonstrate the benefits of modernity is life expectancy.   For centuries the average life expectancy of a human was around 30 years.  And this didn't start to change until modernism had really gotten hold of the Western imagination.  By 1950 it was up around 40 years.  And by 2017 it was 72 years.  A remarkable achievement. 

And the averages mask massive inequalities.  Terrible injustices were and still are systematically committed.  These were and are driven by systematic processes such as forced colonization, that in turn were driven by belief in the modernist ideas of 'perfection' and globalization. 


Modernism… the Greatest Conceit of Western Culture

Let's unpack those quotes around 'perfection'.  The modernist idea was that humanity could 'perfect' itself.  But, isn't this the very definition of a conceit – excessive pride in oneself?  Or the definition of hubris – an excessive level of confidence?  I believe so. 

What are the major conceits of modernism? (1) progress towards the destination of the homogeneous 'perfect' global village is inevitable and cannot be halted or changed, (2) it is possible to know everything about everything and that will enable humanity to be 'perfect', (3) those who consider themselves more 'perfect' (aka 'civilized') are superior to those perceived to be less 'perfect' because they have supposedly made less "progress" and knew "less", (4) that capitalism, as it is now practiced, is the only possible economic system (5) there was nothing of value in 'older' ways of knowing, the 'older' ways of being.

And let's be really clear: modernism is 'just' a set of ideas. A very powerful set of ideas yes, but also a set of interlinked conceits.  Modernism is not real in any sense of that word.  You can’t actually be modern.  There is no such thing as 'progress', it’s a fiction, albeit a powerful one.  The ideas of modernism are 'just' in some human’s hearts and minds.  It is 'just' a world-view, a way of knowing and being in the world.  It is 'just' the basis for the ever-increasingly dominant human culture.

Again, to help us, let's also give this cultural and practical environment a label. Let's call this 'place' that modernist humanity the world over is aiming for the "Globe".  Today, for much of humanity, the 'perfect' Globe is all that many can imagine would and could ever be.  It is all that is worth trying to attain.

Trouble in the Modernist Paradise

Today the modernist conceit is slowly being called-out.  It is becoming clear that the modernist emperor doesn’t have any clothes.  From one perspective this is evidenced by a large range of philosophical intellectuals trying to claim that modernism is over, indeed that it must be over in order for humanity to survive.  These intellectuals are using labels like post-modern, ecologically modern, or reflexively modern.  From another perspective, social scientists are highlighting the current inequities systemic in our culture, education, the criminal justice system, opportunities for advancement, material well-being, and more.  And lastly, from the perspective of the natural sciences' nearly universal findings.  Our current journey to the ‘perfect’ Globe is literally reducing the natural environment’s ability to provide humans with what is necessary for our well-being, and the well-being of future generations.  Things like a stable climate, soil that can grow our food, clean water to drink, and so on.

Yes, we could continue to try to aim for the Globe and our 'perfect' selves.  We could try to use our undoubted capabilities for innovation to solve any problem 'just-in-time' to avoid mass human suffering.  Even when those problems are the results of our own past actions to reach the 'perfect' Globe.  But, given the scale and interconnectedness of our self-inflicted problems, this bet seems increasingly risky.  The likelihood of mass human suffering is becoming more likely.  For example, is it really possible that we're going to mitigate and adapt to climate change by innovating from the same modernist culture and worldview that created the climate crises in the first place?

In Part II we’ll explore a key idea that could provide a foundation for a new human journey to a new destination: Earth

Read Part 2 here.

Credits and Sources

With full credit to the Land and Globe ideas of one of the pre-eminent philosophers of science Bruno Latour, author of “We Have Never Been Modern”

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Five Reasons for Enterprises to Aim-to-Flourish

Aiming to flourish means that all parts of human societies, including businesses and other organizations, will 

Strive to sustain the possibility for humans and all other life to flourish on this planet for generations to come, enhancing the integrity, beauty, and regenerative capacity of living communities.

(with thanks to John Ehrenfeld, MIT and Michelle Holiday)

This goal can be summarized as "sustainability-as-flourishing".  This is a radically different idea of sustainability from the more common "sustainable development" that prioritizes the sustaining of (economic) development not of flourishing.  This idea is also radically different from the financial profit-centric definitions currently popular: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environment Society Governance (ESG).  These both continue to prioritize sustaining financial profit and not flourishing.

Enterprises that aim-to-flourish, that aim to sustain the possibility for flourishing, do not just prioritize financial profit, though they, of course, must be financially viable.  Instead, enterprises aiming-to-flourish attempt to maximize multiple streams of benefits: for society, the environment upon which society is utterly dependent, and the economy created to help members of society better meet their needs.  Enterprises aiming-to-flourish generate social benefits, they regenerate the environment for all their stakeholders and they are sufficiently financially viable to continue to exist.  These enterprises excel because people are thriving and the environment is flourishing.

There is another important aspect of the aiming-to-flourish goal: this goal is an example of what Dr. Russ Ackoff described as an "ideal goal" back in the 1970s.  By ideal, Russ did not mean impossible or utopian.  An ideal goal is highly practical.  It is a goal that can be approached without limit, and, in making this attempt, generates a considerable ongoing stream of benefits.  For example, one might say humanity has an ideal goal of exploring our world and the universe beyond.  Clearly, we will never explore everything everywhere, so there is no limit to our exploration.  But by striving to explore everywhere much of humanity has received, and hopefully, all of humanity will also receive tremendous benefits: increased life expectancy and improving levels of happiness.

So why would entrepreneurs and leaders of established enterprises want to adopt the ideal goal of aiming-to-flourish as a core of their business's purpose? (Sometimes, called a vision statement, or a statement of why).  Why would a business want to adopt sustainability-as-flourishing as their practical definition of sustainability?

There are five reasons leaders are adopting aiming-to-flourish as the core purpose for their enterprise.  I will briefly introduce them here and expand on each in future blog posts.

One: Aiming-to-Flourish is Exciting.  Aiming-to-flourish passes a key marketing test: does it inspire and excite the desired audience to action?  There is no point in adopting an organizational purpose or a  definition of sustainability, individually or organizationally, that is boring, uninspiring, and blah!  This is a major problem with current definitions of sustainability.  Instead flourishing offers people an inspiring and hopeful vision for their personal future and their renewed relationships with organizations.  How powerful would your brand be if it authentically aimed to help stakeholders flourish?

Two: It is Practical. Science is now clear in physics, chemistry,  biology, ecology, and even in the social sciences on two points: (1) There is an understanding that the only constant on this planet is change.  This means it is a practical impossibility to keep things the same, to sustain any thing.  So what can we aim to sustain?  We can strive to sustain a possibility for all – flourishing.  Flourishing, unlike sustainability, is not an event at a point in time.   (2) There is an understanding that the processes of life will result in ecosystems that flourish – they exist at their highest level of potential. So flourishing is an unfolding process that occurs naturally in living systems as the world changes.  These two realities make sustaining flourishing as a possibility highly practical.  How much benefit could be realized for stakeholders by working with the flourishing forces and processes of nature, including human nature?

Three: It is the Right Thing To Do.  Philosophers from Aristotle to, most recently, positive psychologists have described flourishing as the process of attaining and retaining the highest possible level of our inherent potential.  Whether as an individual or an enterprise aiming to flourish is striving to be the best that we can be.  From personal goals of self-knowledge to attaining spiritual enlightenment to honor a deity,  aiming to flourish creates the best possible chance to realize these in practice.   How attractive would your enterprise be to all its stakeholders if it declared an authentic intention to help all of them to flourish?

Four: It is the Best Way to Gain and Retain Financial Viability.  Unlike financial profitability, flourishing applies to every facet of human lived experience.  Aiming-to-flourish implies exploring not only traditional sources of financial profit but also exploring opportunities to create benefits socially and environmentally.  And Aiming-to-flourish also implies going beyond traditional sources of risk to become aware of new sources of risk emerging from the social and environmental perspectives.  In today's world, where increasingly opportunities and (financial) risks emerge from the social and environmental perspectives, adopting flourishing brings in the social and environmental with the financial to organizations strategy development and execution processes.  How many new opportunities could your enterprise find, and how much risk could be mitigated, by strategically working with all your stakeholders to flourish socially, environmentally, and financially?

Five: It Maximizes the Possibility for Innovation to Better Face an Uncertain Future.  It is well known that the most innovative innovations come by bringing together highly diverse people, ideas, and situations.  New inspiring ideas are much less likely to emerge from the same people, with the same ideas in the same situations. Further, the potential for significant innovation comes from appreciating current situations and asking how good could we make them, rather than looking for problems to fix.  Since aiming-to-flourish means always striving for the ideal, innovation processes in enterprises that adopt this purpose automatically become more effective.  How many new ideas to enable sustainability-as-flourishing could your enterprise find and bring to market, by innovating with all your stakeholders socially, environmentally, and financially?

To close let's return to the observation of Simon Sinek:  "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it".  People buy based on the alignment of their purpose in the world with yours.  Would could be a better why, a better more exciting, and inspiring purpose, for all your stakeholders than aiming to help all of them flourish?  To help sustain for them the possibility for flourishing. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

More Ideas for Design Principles for Flourishing Organizations

Over the holidays  I was fortunate to have received a copy of Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson (published 1998) - set in the near future and based on the author's experiences visiting the antarctic in the mid 1990s.

Other than the shockingly (to me at least) high level of understanding of climate change that was known 15+ years ago, one of the most interesting elements of the book was the 8 elements of a proposed "Antarctic Protocol".

These protocols, developed by the characters in the book in response to varies crises, have the goal of proposing a set of behaviors that could lead an Antarctic continent where human and other life could flourish.  The first seven elements comprehensively cover the economic, social and environmental choices needed for flourishing to be a possibility.  The 8th of these elements posits "What is true an Antarctica is true everywhere else (on earth)" (a compelling key hypothesis of one of the main characters).

As I read them it struck me that the comprehensive nature of these proposals for the Antarctic continent were highly related, complementary and overlapping with my own proposals for design principles for flourishing organizations - introduced in this blog post "Towards Design Principles for Strongly Sustainable Organizations"  (for the full text of my thinking see my thesis  Chapter 4, sections 4.7.2, pp.398-403 "Towards a Theory for the Conditions Required for Strongly Sustainable Organizations" and Chapter 7, section 7.7, pp.845-856 "Proto-Strongly Sustainable Business Design Principles").

Of course both my proposals and Kim Stanley Robinson's align well with the Goals and KPIs of the Draft version of the Future Fit Business Benchmark.

To allow for comparison, I reproduce below the 8 Points of Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctic Protocols.

I look forward to everyone's reactions;  not least who else is doing similar thinking about the design principles for organizations who choose as a goal to create the possibility for a flourishing environment, society and economy for humans and all other life on our shared finite planet?

“The Antarctic Protocols”
Pages 626-628 Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson 1998, Bantam Books

1. The Antarctic Treaty should be renewed as soon as possible, after whatever renegotiation is necessary to get all parties to agree to terms and sign. Some law needs to be in place. Paraphrasing the original proposal for an Antarctic Treaty, written by people in the American State Department in 1958: "It would appear desirable to reach agreement on a program to assure the continuation of fruitful scientific cooperation in that continent, preventing unnecessary and undesirable political rivalries, the uneconomic expenditure of funds to defend individual interests, and the recurrent possibility of misunderstanding. If harmonious agreement can be reached in regard to friendly cooperation in Antarctica, there would be advantages to all other countries as well."

2. In this renewed Treaty, and by a more general proclamation of the United Nations, Antarctica should be declared to be a world site of special scientific interest. Some may wish to interpret this to mean also that Antarctica is a sacred ritual space, in which human acts take on spiritual significance.

3. Oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, minerals, and fresh water all exist in Antarctica, sometimes in concentrations that make their extraction and use a technical possibility. (Oil in particular, to be specific about the most controversial resource, is located in no supergiant fields but in three or four giant fields and many smaller ones, totalling approximately fifty billion barrels). Given that this is so, and that world supplies of some of these non-renewable resources are being consumed at a rapid rate, the possibility of extraction needs to be explicitly considered by not only the Antarctic Treaty nations, but the United Nations as well.

Non-Treaty nations, in the Southern Hemisphere in particular, think of the possibility of oil extraction from Antarctica as one way of solving energy needs and dealing with ongoing debt crises. At the same time current oil extraction technology presents a small but not negligible risk of environmental contamination as the result of an accident. Technologies are likely to become safer in the future, and world oil supplies are decreasing so sharply that any remaining untapped supplies, left in reserve for future generations who may need oil for purposes, other than fuel, are likely to be extremely valuable. These trends point to the idea of caching or sequestering certain oil fields for future use. Southern Hemisphere nations in need of short-term help could perhaps make arrangements modeled on the debt-fornature exchanges that have already been made; in this case, the World Bank or individual northern countries might buy future rights to Antarctic oil from southern nations, with the payments to start now, but the oil to be sequestered, with extraction to be delayed until the extraction technology's safety and the need for oil warrant it.

At the same time, demonstrably safe methane-hydrate drilling could proceed, providing a less concentrated but still valuable source of fuel and income 'to the drillers, while serving also as a training ground for drilling technologies that could be considered for later use in oil extraction.

4. The Antarctic Treaty suspends all claims of sovereignty on the continent, at the same time that it specifies free access to all, and a ban on military presences for anything but unarmed logistical support. The continent is land without ownership, terra communis; it is not property but commons, in the stewardship of all humanity. It is also the largest remaining wilderness on this planet. As such it exists in an experimental legal state which cannot ban visitors. Therefore if people desire to live in Antarctica, and take that responsibility and that cost on themselves, this is their right, even if all governmental and other official organizations disapprove and withhold all support.

However, because Antarctica is such a delicate environment, individuals like countries should be required to adhere to the principles of the Antarctic Treaty in its current form, and to respect the continent's status as wilderness. This adherence and respect puts severe limits on the number of indigenous animals that can be legally killed under international convention and law; thus the natural carrying capacity of the continent for human beings is very low. People interested enough in Antarctica to consider living there should keep this in mind, and a scientifically established "human carrying capacity" should be ascertained for Antarctica and for its local bioregions, and the human population of the continent and the bioregions should not exceed carrying capacity. Current preliminary calculations of the human carrying capacity of the continent suggest it is on the order of three to six thousand people, but human carrying capacity in general is a notoriously vexed topic, and estimates of capacities both local and global range over many orders of magnitude, depending on the methods used; for instance, for Antarctica figures have been cited ranging from zero to ten million. Possibly work on this issue in Antarctica could refine the concept of human carrying capacity itself.

 5. If people do decide to try to become indigenous to Antarctica, special care will have to be taken to avoid polluting the environment, because the Antarctic serves as a benchmark of cleanliness for studies of the rest of the world, and in the cold arid environment many forms of pollution are very slow to break down. Some would wish to add that as sacred space, cleanliness of treatment is our obligation to this place.

Again the entire continent must be considered a site of special scientific interest, in this case becoming an ongoing experiment in clean technologies and practices, including sufficiency minima, recycling, waste reduction and processing, etc. The goal should be a zero-impact lifestyle, and the reality cannot stray very far from that goal.

The Treaty's ban on the importation of exotic plants, animals, and soils means that any local agriculture attempted by inhabitants will have to be conducted hydroponically or aquaculturally, in hermetically sealed greenhouses and terraria or in well-controlled aquaculture pens containing only indigenous sealife. This constraint will be one aspect of the carrying capacity calculations, and suggests also that self sufficiency for any indigenous Antarctic society or societies would be impractical and risky for the environment, and should not be considered a goal of such societies. The reliance on outside help should be acknowledged as a given.

Anthropogenic reintroduction of species that used to exist in Antarctica is an issue that we leave to further discussions elsewhere.

 6. The achievement of clean appropriate zero-impact lifestyles in Antarctica is not merely a matter of the technologies employed, but of the social structures which both use these technologies and call successor technologies into being, as a function of the society's desires for itself. This being the case, all inhabitants of Antarctica should abide by the various human rights documents generated by the United Nations, and special attention should be given to cooperative, non exploitative economic models, which emphasize sustainable permaculture in a healthy biophysical context, abandoning growth models and inequitable hierarchies which in Antarctica not only degrade human existence but also very quickly impact the fragile environment.

 7. In such a harsh environment all attacks against person or equipment constitute a threat to life and cannot be allowed. All those interested enough in Antarctica to come here must forswear violence against humanity or its works, and interact in peaceable ways.

 8. What is true in Antarctica is true everywhere else.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Tools for Impact Investor and Businesses Alignment

The Challenge of Alignment

Both impact investors and businesses seeking impact investments share a strong desire to see that businesses are tri-profitable.  Tri-profitable businesses create the possibility for human and other life to flourish on this planet forever by generating as much tri-impact as possible: financial rewards, social benefits and environmental regeneration.  This shared desire to maximize the tri-impact of business exists because impact investors and tri-impact entrepreneurs fundamentally share the same values and world-view about business: businesses will do best when they do good.

Based on their shared desire for tri-impact:
  • Tri-impact entrepreneurs are driven to choose strategies and design their operations to be tri-profitable,  and
  • Impact investors are incented to allocate capital (debt, equity or hybrid forms) to investments where they expect both to receive a financial return (ranging from return of principal to market-beating returns) and a defined additional social and/or environmental impact.  
In other words both are intending to act in alignment with their shared values. 

But, what we're learning in our conversations with impact investors is that despite their shared values and intention to act accordingly (and all the goodwill this engenders), there isn't currently an approach for the investor and the business seeking investment to efficiently and effectively carry  forward their shared values to the necessary next level of detail.  In other words there isn't a good way for them to:
  • Gain a shared understanding of the viability and quality of the action the business is planning to create its tri-impact
  • Report on whether the actions, once undertaken by the business, have produced the intended tri-impact.

Impact investors and tri-impact entrepreneurs are struggling to figure out how:
  1. Businesses can know that their proposed action (the design of their business model) is well aligned with the their intention to create tri-impact 
  2. Businesses can share the story of their proposed action in a language that will resonate with impact investors
  3. Impact investors can quickly judge whether a businesses proposed action to achieve tri-impact is sufficient and realistic
  4. Impact investors can sense what risks to tri-profitability and opportunities to increase tri-impact a business has missed, and communicate this in a way an that a business can quickly improve its planned action.
In summary the unresolved problem is: how can the investor and the business to quickly share the action planned by the business in a way that allows mutual understanding and learning while deepening their relationship?  How can they efficiently and effectively determine if they are aligned and have a good fit for each other based on their shared values?

Slowing the Growth of the Impact Investing Market

The lack an efficient approach for impact investors and tri-impact entrepreneurs to deepen their relationship around their shared values creates a range of problems for them both:
  • It takes too long to build confidence - impacting deal cost and deal flow
  • Its hard for businesses to tell inspiring stories about all aspects of their planned tri-impact - profit, people and planet 
  • Its hard for the impact investor to communicate to additional opportunities for tri-impact or additional risks they identify
  • Its difficult to identify a concise set of performance measures and reports to track all aspects of the businesses progress in delivering its planned tri-impact
But there is also a wider impact on society: these problems effectively limit the number of viable tri-impact business opportunities demanding investment, and the supply of impact investments seeking those opportunities.  In turn, this limits the scale and speed of the impact investing market and hence the total quantity of integrated environmental, social and economic benefits being created by business to address today's most pressing challenges created by the ever growing mega-forces of change. 

Challenges of Current Approaches

But don't existing techniques used by profit-priortizing businesses resolve these challenges?  

Unfortunately the two most common existing approached by themselves will not enable the required level of values aligned shared understanding, mutual learning and relationship building via story telling

  • Business Plans.   First there is no agreement on what a business plan that describes a tri-profitable business looks like; every business and impact investor has their own ideas of what's required.    Second, as Alex Osterwalder and Steve Blank have observed, business plans don't enable compelling story telling, they are not conducive for learning, nor are they easy for investors to assess.
  • Reporting.  First, while reporting provides some evidence of tri-impact created in the past, it doesn't give a view of the future that helps assess the quality of the planned actions to create (more) tri-impact.  Second, we don't have an integrated set of reports (financial, social, environmental) that allow rating and ranking by investors.  This is a large part of the challenge our colleagues in the Reporting 3.0 initiative and the Future Fit Business Benchmark project are wrestling with.   As examples: The popular B Impact Assessment doesn't include the financial dimension of tri-profitability, and the Global Reporting Initiative standard doesn't allow comparison since everyone gets to choose the specifics of the metrics they report.   

    Introducing New Approaches

    We think that impact investors and business would find it easier to get aligned on a specific opportunity based on their shared values if they had a shared language to communicate both:
    1. The action the business is planning to create its tri-impact 
    2. The quantity of tri-impact the business is currently creating in the world
    To make this language usable in practice impact investors and businesses also need need tools that use this language to enable them to communicate.  Two tools that have done exactly this are 
    1. the Flourishing Business Canvas, a tool to communicates the action a business is planning to create its tri-impact via its business model
    2. the Future Fit Business Benchmark, a tool to communicate the quantity of tri-impact a business is currently creating in the world.
    Let's explore these two new tools and how the solve the problem of developing values aligned shared understanding, mutual learning and relationship building via story telling between impact investors and businesses.

    The Flourishing Business Model Approach to Describing Planned Action

    Business models are a language shared by investors and business to describe action a business is planningIdentifying the elements of a language and collaborative visual design tools to describe and design financially viable business models was the amazing contribution of Alex Osterwalder in his million selling book "Business Model Generation".
    But impact investors and tri-impact entrepreneurs need an expanded language for business modelling that includes not only the elements of financial viability, but also a full conceptualization of tri-profitability and the root enablers of the possibility for flourishing. 

    To find these root enablers for flourishing we must look to the natural and social sciences to inform our understanding of the elements required to describe a tri-profitable business model.  In our recent research we developed a solid understanding of the relevant science and used this to develop the shared language of tri-impactful business models.  

    We then developed the Flourishing Business Canvas as a visual design tool using this language (you may have heard us talk about an earlier version that was known as the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Canvas).  We're also using the same understanding of the root causes to  describe "design principles" for flourishing business" which can help businesses design their business to create the most tri-impact now and in the future. 

    We believe that by providing a shared language for impact investors and businesses a flourishing business model approach adds an efficient and effective means for:

    1. Businesses tell powerful stories to impact investors of the actions they plan to take to create tri-impact.   A flourishing business model clearly identifies the necessary and sufficient hypothesis for all the planned actions to create tri-impact: outcomes, value, stakeholders and processes) 
    2. Impact investors to communicate risks and opportunities in the same language the business already understands and can directly act upon (its not easy for a business person to figure out what to do differently from a report - its much easier from a business model)

      The Role and Importance of Reporting

      But having a shared language to describe flourishing business models, the actions a business plans to take in the future to be tri-profitable, is only half the story.

      Once an investment has been made by an impact investor in a business, both parties are keen to know if the flourishing business model they now share an understanding of is in fact creating the  tri-impact they both desire.  

      To do this we believe the business should report its performance based on the same understanding of the root causes of tri-profitability used to describe its flourishing business model.  By doing this the reporting becomes a key part of a powerful learning feedback loop for both business and impact investors.  We believe this returns reporting to its role as a powerful shared learning and decision making tool - as suggested by the Total Quality Management movement (Dr. Edwards Deming) in their now famous Plan, Do, Check (report), Act continuous improvement cycle. 

      But what business performance reporting system is based the same understanding of the root causes of tri-profitability as the Flourishing Business Canvas approach?  While the B Impact Assessment is well aligned with the underlying science, to our knowledge to date only second project we're involved with, the Future Fit Business Benchmark, uses this same understanding of the same science to build its KPIs and goals. 

      Symbiotic Approaches

      The following diagram shows how together the Flourishing Business Canvas and the Future Fit Business Benchmark are symbiotic approaches to help businesses achieve tri-profitability and maximize their tri-impact.

      Symbiotic Initiatives to Enable Tri-Profitable Business:
      The Flourishing Business Canvas and Future Fit Business Benchmark


      We'd like to invite you to explore how impact investors and business seeking impact investments can use this new language of tri-profitable, flourishing, business models and reporting to more efficiently and effectively achieve alignment based on their shared values.  

      If you're interested in learning more about this topic please check-out