Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

True collaboration paves the way to divinity – year end update

Posted by jembendell on December 20, 2009

“True collaboration paves the way to divinity”
The Mother (the founder of Auroville).

I write from Auroville, in India, a place that aspires “to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and harmony, above all creeds, all politics and nationalities.” In that spirit, I wish you a happy holiday, doing whatever brings you closer to that sense of human unity. As with all things the aspirations exceed the material reality, but those aspirations for Auroville are still inspiring.

As I’ve been involved in producing some new resources in the past year, Im writing a general work update for the end of the year, to quickly update you on those outputs, some of which may be of use or interest.

At Lifeworth we have relaunched the corporate responsibilty jobs portal, which with thousands of jobs on it is now the most comprehensive source of opportunities in this field. We have also relaunched our consulting practice bringing together 18 associates in 9 countries with a focus on organisational strategies for social change. One of the main areas I’ve been focusing is the luxury sector. If interested, check out a programme for CNBC on eco luxury that I helped edit, and the report for WWF. I’m currently finishing a book on sustainable luxury management, which follows a recent book on luxury brands with one of Spain’s leading business women. The network I launched to connect professionals in the emerging sustainable luxury sector has now grown to over 600 participants, and we are the online network for the UN’s first major fashion show, happening in January. My societal aim for this work is to help affirm in people who are not usually reached by eco messages, that sustainable lifestyles are aspirational and fulfiling. My professional aim is to advise on strategy with elite organisations that can act quickly.

We have continued producing our annual reviews of trends in corporate responsibility, the 8th annual review focusing on how the rise of Asian societies is influencing, and will influence, the environmental and social dimensions of business practice worldwide. If you think your organisation could benefit from being recognised as a supporter of the next review, out in a month, do get in touch as we still seek an additional sponsor.

At Griffith Business School (GBS) in Australia we’ve successfully launched the new Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, and a new Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Enterprise, which I developed and recently taught. I was pleased we came 5th outside the US in the Aspen rankings of responsible business MBAs; it will soon be 3 years since I began working with the Pro Vice Chancellor on his agenda of making GBS a leader in sustainability education, so it is good to see the impact. We recently hosted an Asia Pacific conference on corporate responsibility, and I interviewed a number of the delegates. I’m looking forward to achieving more with GBS in the coming year.

It’s now 14 years that I’ve worked to transform business and finance to make it more enabling of fair and sustainable societies. One question has remained throughout: how best to do contriubute to such change. However, Ive come to realise that the “how best” to create change question cant be answered definitively, and what’s important is to find people who have that same question underpinning their work. So my new question is whether I will meet enough people in this field who are commited to creating meaningful and lasting change, and so continually learning about that. It’s about coming together with people as part of a social movement to transform business and finance. I explored this in my latest book, The Corporate Responsibility Movement, published earlier this year. I recommend the introduction, which can be bought cheaply.

One of the tools of any movement is its mobilising structures, and networks are key to that. So In my last project for the UN I focused how organisations use networks for advocacy, and they could be better at it. The paper was critically constructive, but some of the criticisms didnt go down too well with the participants. That reminded me of the dangers of becoming attached to the idea that we are doers of good, so that our self esteem is threatened by any question whether we actually do good. The danger is we fail to see, to learn and adapt. I also relearned the importance of taking the time to work on the interpersonal. I continue to be reminded how our states of mind, our consciousness, are most important in us being effective in any efforts to improve something. The implications of that insight for professional practice are difficult, as it’s not something easily discussed or sold within an organisational setting. It’s something I hope to explore further through my board role in the Global Vision Institute, advisory board role in the Source of Synergy Foundation, and maybe discussions with people here in Auroville!

I’m here until mid-March so drop by if you are near. One local project Im helping with is the governance system for a community currency. Its leading me to reflect on whether support for local economies through some use of local currencies is one way that businesses could help address the systemic inequalities our current financial systems create. Meanwhile in Geneva, the CSR Geneva network I established with colleagues is thriving, with over 600 members and regular events. I look forward to helping organise events there in 2010, on transformational change.

If you are interested in accessing my earlier publications, nearly all of them are available on my personal website. I also link from there to my blog, where I comment on various things and, at times, even attempted poetry. You can also find me on Linked In and Facebook, and my other contact info follows below.

I plan and hope for various things in 2010, most of which take forward the areas outlined above. But who knows, maybe a benefactor will come along and collaborate to unfold our common divinity.

Thanks for reading through this big list of things… I hope one of the links proves helpful. I plan to only send out such generic emails every few years, so if you want to hear from Lifeworth Consulting more often, then subscribe, or if you want to hear from me more often, subscribe to my personal site.

Happy Xmas.
Jem

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