Collaboration is the New Competition

by Jodi Clark, of Collective Awesome

“Collaboration is the new competition.”  This was a running theme at a panel event on social enterprise hosted by Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies which featured a range of local social entrepreneurs. The depth of the conversation spanned the origins of our current corporate structures, steeped in the plantation model which relied on slave labor and padded the pockets of the British elite, all the way to the emergence of various modern social enterprise structures that enable entrepreneurs to pursue social missions in addition to profit.

Throughout the discussion, themes of collaboration and shared leadership punctuated questions around shifting the current business paradigm and leading consciously:

  • What does it look like to work together across sectors and industries to shift the definition of business?
  • Does that require that we completely shed the competition default built into the traditional business paradigm?
  • How can companies fulfill their missions and provide meaningful engagement with employees and communities in the key decisions?

    Some answers to these questions certainly lie in the story of Impact Makers, the company featured in Lori Hanau’s most recent article Guideposts for Conscious Growth in Conscious Company’s Winter 2016 Issue.

A Total Game Changer

As a for-profit, IT consulting company,  Impact Makers has made a radical move in ensuring that all of their assets are owned by two community foundations which serve the city of Richmond, VA. They are a certified B-Corporation, an increasingly popular certification offered by the non-profit B-Lab. One marker of the assessment is a company’s community benefit, which is where Impact Makers soars above the average of 17 points with a total of 91 points. In their recent video, they tell their full company story and speak to their transformation into a completely publicly owned company that gives away 100% of their profits in addition to the direct support they give to four other organizations that align with their mission priorities.

When an organization is able to make that kind of direct impact on its community, the reverberations are huge.  My gut reaction to hearing about this model was exactly in the words Michael Pirron himself uses to describe his company, “this is a total game-changer.” It completely disrupts the norm for how far a social venture can go to not only benefit their community, but weave their own thriving into the fabric of the thriving of their community.

One of the biggest challenges facing communities engaging in systems level transformations, such as those working on population level health and wellbeing initiatives, is a lack of sustainable funding. This is true of those working in the collective impact model or in other models of multi-stakeholder collaborations. What if the primary source of funding for long-term systems change could come directly from the community seeking to transform itself?  How would that impact the community’s perception of their ability to achieve their goals?  What does that do to their ability to move with more agility and commitment because they are working with a social enterprise that not only understands them, but IS them?

Scalable at Any Level

The model for Impact Makers is scalable at any level, can be based in any industry, and has proven that profit does not suffer when inextricably linked to social good.  This is Shared Leadership from the inside out.  The keys to making this work are outlined in the CCM article.  May companies and communities far and wide be inspired to take make this kind of deep commitment to their collective thriving.

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