Entries in "sustainability"

June 13, 2007

Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics

Our handbook (which I co-edited with Ron Fry and David Cooperrider) is to be released next week, according to its Amazon listing. (The other good news is that Amazon is quoting a price almost 30% off Stanford University Press' list price.)

Here is a list of chapters and contributors:

Continue reading "Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics"

November 08, 2006

metaphors for social change

Remember back in May, when I wrote about the metaphors of motivating change? We need a whole new set of metaphors for understanding how social change occurs, as well -- metaphors that acknowledge the relational dynamics that accelerate or dampen social change processes.

Political social change seems to be occurring in the United States. The timeframe for that change ranges from the year (2006) to the generation (1980 to 2006), at least according to Joe Kein at Time Magazine. (Thanks to John Ettorre for his blog post bringing this article to our attention.) Klein's article is headlining 2006 as "the year the Democrats punched back", suggesting that political social change occurs in part as a battle of the fists (or at least of the political ad blows and counterblows). Klein's article ends with a very different metaphor, though -- the metaphor of tides cresting and receding:

"2006 may be remembered as the year that the Reagan Revolution finally crested and began to recede."

I recognize that some may consider 26 years more than a generation, and yet Strauss and Howe's 1992 book Generations called 1982-2003 the Millenial Generation. In political writing, this notion that great waves of right-oriented and left-oriented governing alternate is a familiar one, suggesting that perhaps no social change actually occurs; instead we are just watching a pendulum swinging back and forth very slowly... or, we are the grains of sand on the beach, washed first by one wave, and then by another.

And yet our individual experiences suggest that social change does occur, within one lifetime or less, and that relational dynamics are an important part of how social change occurs.

A generation from now, will history acknowledge that the BAWB conference in NEO two weeks ago was actually the tipping point for how business and academia began to act differently together, to make themselves agents of world benefit? Nadya Zhexembayeva is convinced that it was a tipping point, October 25, 2006. She has been watching for this tipping point for a long time -- she heads up the World Inquiry, an action research project of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB). She also served as the host of the Virtual Conference that extended the BAWB Global Forum to additional 500+ participants from all over the world.

Be sure to read what Nadya Zhexembayeva wrote for GreenBiz about BAWB and the tipping point. Read it not just to explore some of the metaphors for social change she evokes -- but also to become your part of the social change that is happening among us and around the world.

October 22, 2006

BAWB event open to NEO community coming up...

I will have handouts at BAWB on Tuesday or Wednesday, with the table of contents for the forthcoming Handbook of Transformative Cooperation. It is expected to be in print next summer at Stanford University Press.

I hope you see some of my BFD and/or REALNEO connections at the regional event! If you don't know what I'm talking about, please leave a comment and I'll find out if there is still space available for you to join us at Veale on Tuesday.

For now, let me leave you with a teaser about the forthcoming Handbook:

Continue reading "BAWB event open to NEO community coming up..."

October 01, 2006

management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time

One of my former students, and a recent alumna of Case Western Reserve, has been blogging about her experiences as a volunteer in Kenya. I have found her entries touching and inspiring.

"Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope." -- Robert F. Kennedy


Continue reading "management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time"

September 01, 2006

food for thought

NB: This blog entry was redistributed with permission in the CoolCleveland eNewsletter, also available online.

Yesterday I attended Convocation, drawn by the promise of ritual and the prospect of hearing Michael Ruhlman, author of Case's Common Reading for this year, speak. He wrote The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection more than 5 years ago, and so I hoped that his speech would go beyond the book into more elaborated thinking about what it takes to become an expert in one's chosen field. He did not disappoint.

He addressed head-on a criticism he has probably heard many times about his writing on cooking: Isn't it frivolous to write about fancy food in a time when there is so much serious stuff happening in world politics? His answer started with this assertion:

"Great cooking, in the end, has such power because it allows us to connect with our past, our future, and all of humanity, if we let it. I believe that America's insatiable appetite for food and cooking know-how is really the beginning of a spiritual quest for the bigger things: a search for meaning, order and beauty in an apparently chaotic and alienating universe."

President Eastwood looked quite comfortable listening to Ruhlman's speech up until that point, but when Ruhlman made his next main point, suggesting that sharing what he learned about master chefs brought into relief how all of America has become a culture of mediocrity, the President started to look a little nervous...

Continue reading "food for thought"

August 04, 2006

why reducing unsustainability fails

From John Ehrenfeld, a just-released Change This manifesto:

Beyond Sustainability: Why an All-Consuming Campaign to Reduce Unsustainability Fails

After a quick skim, this looks like a must-read. What do you think?

April 21, 2006

responsible capitalism: employee-owned companies, and how they support one another

Did you know that Ohio is home to a Center for Employee Owned Corporations? Are you planning to attend their conference today in Akron?

Companies with ESOPs suggest a more socially responsible variant of capitalism, where the interests of the stockholders and of the employees need not be divergent. When employees have a stake in the corporation, the long-term interests of investing in a particular region can be taken more seriously when members are elected to the board of directors, and when decisions about relocating facilities or changing working conditions for employees are considered.

Want to learn more?

Continue reading "responsible capitalism: employee-owned companies, and how they support one another"

March 29, 2006

how do company values affect consumer behavior?

I've noticed some interesting tidbits lately about how we respond to corporate actions that communicate social responsibility, and I'd welcome a chance to generate a dialogue about these issues. Take this poll, in the right sidebar of the Case (family) Foundation Spotlight, for instance: it asks, when is a company's commitment to a social issue most important? and suggests that the company's values might influence the products we buy, where we work, or how we invest. Which would you choose?

(Go ahead, click over there, and then come back and tell me! And if you have a hard time deciding, check out these Reebok sneakers, and let me know if you would be more likely to buy them because of the cause you'd be supporting....)

Another datapoint: the online shopping portals that are springing up to allow consumers to donate a portion of their purchases to worthy causes. The latest one I've come across is Alonovo, which allows each user to indicate which social and environmental issues are most important, and then get data about the companies which supply books, music, computers, electronics, etc. that you might want to buy. For instance, you can choose to buy products from companies which share their profits with employees, or which have a better representation of women and ethnic minorities on their boards.

A third datapoint: businesses which have fully embraced sustainability, like the ones that students in the green MBA program visit on field trips, or like Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Company and nearby Wooster's Hartzler Dairy. Will the new business ideas emerging from the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability network in Northeast Ohio find that they are favored by consumers because of the values which guide their business development?

What do you think? Is this a blip, or a genuine trend?

February 21, 2006

problem solvers wanted

In a faculty meeting yesterday, one of my colleagues argued that we could measure our degree of success in developing our students' skill levels by assessing the difference in their salaries before they entered a degree program and after they left. He asked a rhetorical question, something along the lines of this: "Isn't anything we do that will have value for students going to get translated into more money for them after they leave here?"

I could not help myself. I bellowed, from the last row, "NO!"

I feel quite strongly that an MBA is not just a ticket to corporate success. It should also be a ticket to superior problem-solving skills, and an understanding of how businesses can be used as vehicles for solving world problems. When I ask my students what their top 5 values are, relatively few of them say "getting rich"... most of them talk about things like honoring their family, enjoying time with friends, and pursuing meaningful achievements. The value of our degree programs must lie in the extent to which we develop the skills that students need to live noble lives, acting in accord with their values.

James Cascio at Worldchanging makes an impassioned argument that environmentalists need to be working on solving the poverty problem, and I would argue that businesspeople should be working with them. CK Prahalad argues in "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that pulling those in poverty out and into a class of entrepreneurial consumers is the next great challenge for business. I would argue that pulling all of us into the status of sustainable producers and consumers is fundamental to the question of whether our global society will remain healthy, or implode within my daughter's lifetime.

CK Prahalad's book argues that working at the bottom of the pyramid is profitable. I'd assert that even if it yields lower lines of financial return than other types of work, it's still worth pursuing. There are more important things in life than making more money, and solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation are two of those most important tasks for my generation and those that follow.

More information about companies pursuing this strategy is available here and here and here, and I'd appreciate receiving links to other similar collections of information, as well.

February 20, 2006

Global Discover Contest

The Weatherhead School of Management’s Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) has partnered with Net Impact to develop the Global Discover Contest, which invites people to offer suggestions on new ways for business to live in mutual benefit with the earth’s ecosystems and world’s societies. The deadline is April 1. Learn more at this URL.