1 April 2020
1 April 2020
There’s a lot going on right now, and things are changing fast. This article is not about that. There’s plenty of good and up to date information out there. But we’d just like to say that we hope you, your family, and your community are doing whatever you need to do to cultivate wellness and hope.
This piece is about channelling our economic and civic participation in the next three days, three weeks, three months, and three years from now.
Impact Seed works across a whole range of sectors, including social enterprise, circular, regenerative businesses, environmental and social, Aboriginal enterprise, forest conversation and natural resource management. But in our strategic work we’re as prone to alliteration as the cheesiest free e-book Linkedin stalker out there (note the earlier sentence of ’threes’). We love to get people excited about co-operation, collaboration, co-design, and co-existence. While we may risk being parodies of ourselves, there is method in the madness.
Techniques like alteration help people remember, engage, and … ‘co’-opt new ideas. It can be rhythmic, thus eliciting a deeper emotional connection. Dig deeper though, and we get to some important truths. After all, the etymology of the prefix ‘co’ lies in concepts like ‘together’, ‘mutual’, and ‘in-common’. Powerful principles shared by each of the words listed above, that are especially important today.
Another prefix that is particularly important right now is ‘re’, which finds its core in concepts like ‘back to the origin’, ‘again’, ‘anew’, ‘once more’, and ‘undoing’. (https://www.etymonline.com/word/re-) We can ‘go back’ to a previous time, state or place when we retrace, repeat, or redo. When we respond and react to an event or person we are sending our answer ‘back’. We restore and repair to bring something back, make it anew, and help it to live once more.
There’s three re’s (see what we did there) of particular relevance right now. The first two: ‘resilience’ and ‘rebound’ can be heard throughout much of the conversation around the world right now, whether they’re explicitly used or simply present as recurring themes. The third re, that we believe should be of equal importance is ‘regenerative’.
If something is regenerative, it is consistently supporting and manifesting the act of regeneration. It consistently gives new life and vigour to our social, economic and cultural life. This is how the natural world works after all, and it should always be our guide.
Our systems should reflect the natural world we inhabit
We need a regenerative politics that can disregard unproductive ideas and conflicts, and breath life into those that build resilience, empowerment, and co-operation. An ability to give new life and vigour rooted in a commitment to impact over winning the argument
We need a regenerative scientific community that is supported to collaborate, heal and lead us with vigour, rather than expending its energy on justifying its existence and fighting for resources. If there is one positive I can draw from the current situation it’s the image of our brightest and most diligent minds all over the world working together to solve this. We should support them, and where necessary get out of their way.
And we need a regenerative economy. This has many elements, but we want to focus on one. Specifically, the need to support, create, and incubate regenerative businesses with an emphasis on social enterprise. We need to do it right now as we strive for resilience in this moment, and in the future as we seek to rebound.
What is a regenerative business? There are already some fantastic articles that lay this out on Medium that I’ll link to below. But for now, one of the best and most prescient definitions is:
“Regeneration goes beyond resilience or sustainability. Whatever is resilient, restored, robust, or sustainable resists or recovers from shocks and stays the same. Shocks make a regenerative business better. It rebounds and has the capacity to do more and be more.” Carol Sanford, author of The Regenerative Business
Social enterprise adds explicit social and environmental impact into that mix. There is considerable economic anxiety right now. It’s present at an individual level, “how can I support myself and my family to get through this?” It’s with us at the community level, “how do we protect and support the most vulnerable amongst us?”.
Supporting the most vulnerable is top of mind for so many in the community right now
That vulnerability includes those at most risk physically, those at most risk economically, and those at most risk mentally. We want to support our local cafes, hairdressers, and artists as good consumers. We also want to support our fellow community members who may be compromised physically, our quarantined neighbours, and our collective mental health as good citizens. Social enterprise lets us do both.
As good consumers we want to support our small and local businesses
Over the next few weeks we will be working with our friends and partners in WA to highlight those social enterprises we can support now and in the future. We also want to the work ahead to enable the sector as a leading source of regeneration in WA’s economic, social, and cultural life.
In 2019 we began the WA Social Enterprise Mapping Project (https://www.impactseed.org/socialenterprise/) to develop a baseline picture of the state of social enterprise in Western Australia, understanding the capacity of and challenges faced by social enterprises, and the environments within which they operate.
Given the considerable focus on the way that our social and economic lives interact right now, there are some findings in the mapping that further emphasises the importance of the sector:
As we grapple with the social and economic effects of social distancing and self-isolation for the broader community, we must remember the existing community challenges of inclusion and social isolation. These challenges are now exacerbated. The enterprises who’ve been working on the front line of this challenge for some time are also the ones who can help lead us all through this period.
One enterprise that has been doing stellar work in this area is Befriend. Not only is Befriend a leading example of ways that we can make a positive impact in their chosen problem area, they are one of WA’s leading examples of a Social Enterprise.
Befriend is a community building organisation that exists to nurture connection and belonging. Befriend’s team of community builders and consultants are regenerating community connectedness through the power of citizen-led action, inspiring people to take action to nurture connection in their neighbourhoods, communities and workplaces.
At a time when our needs for social connection have never been greater, Befriend are mobilising volunteers to run online social groups, coordinate local phone tree and letter-writing networks and support local neighbourhood action. We are harnessing the abundance of goodwill into the power of collective action to ensure that no one has to ride this storm out alone, and that our communities bounce back even more connected than before.
Engaging Befriend’s expert consultants can help your teams engage with and collectively create better relationship outcomes and a true sense of belonging for the people your organisation supports. They offer workshops and coaching that develop staff capabilities, to strategic consulting and design of programs and services. You are supporting your own work, and therefore supporting theirs in the wider community. This is a perfect example of the kind of regenerating cycles that bring new life and vigour to our social and economic lives.
For more information:
Social Enterprise in WA:
Author: Daniel Mackey, Manager Regenerative Business and Sustainability at Impact Seed (email@example.com)
Impact Seed is a proud B-Corp and Western Australia’s peak market builder for impact investment, impact measurement & social enterprise. Since 2015 we have supported impact businesses, government, not-for-profits, foundations and family offices in building, articulating and investing in purpose driven businesses and projects, bridging investment and philanthropy.
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