Who is in your community? It seems like such a simple question.
In reality, your organization probably doesn’t just interact with one community, but a whole host of very different communities and sub-communities. The only thing these communities may share is that they are made up of individual human beings.
When asked to list the groups of people making up an organization’s community, most would probably end up with a list that looked something like this:
B Lab, the organization behind the growing community of B Corporations (companies using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems) or B Corps for short, recently released its 2011 annual report.
The report highlights some interesting progress over the last year, including a 75% increase in the number of certified B Corps, with larger businesses also joining the growing movement.
But the theme within the report I found particularly compelling is that the community of B Corps is now becoming large enough to exert a gravitational force of its own with the power to impact public policy while also creating opportunities for member corporations to help each other.
A few examples:
In 2010, with the encouragement of B Lab and the community of B Corps, legislation passed in both Maryland and Vermont creating a new type of “benefit corporation” with a legal responsibility to work for the good of the communities they serve, not just for the profit of their shareholders. Nine additional states in the US are set to move forward with similar legislation in 2011.
This week, the folks at the Management Innovation Exchange announced a new project called the Hackathon Pilot. The idea of this pilot is to test out a collaborative approach to building the source code of management, with people working together on hacks and stories using online collaboration tools.
I’ll be the guide for this pilot as the first task in my new role as the MIX Community Guide. We’ll specifically be tackling how to enable communities of passion in and around our organizations. I have lots of thoughts on the subject (you may have noticed), and I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to work with other smart folks and share ideas with them as well.
If this project sounds interesting to you, please consider joining. If you haven’t participated in the MIX yet, the pilot is a perfect opportunity to check it out. For the full details, read my post on the MIX website. Then send me an email and let me know you’re in: chris (at) newkind.com.
Since I’ve recently been on one of my Tom Sawyer rants again about the lack of humility I see in many community efforts, I thought I’d share a story that might help you visualize the role your organization could play in the communities it belongs to.
A few months ago, two of my business partners, David Burney and Matt Muñoz, were sitting in a meeting with a client of ours (The Redwoods Group, a very cool B Corporation), discussing the unique relationship that organization has with its customers, employees, and other communities. The conversation turned to the ideas of service and humility, which are so often ignored by big organizations attempting to engage with communities.
All of the sudden, Kevin Trapani, CEO of The Redwoods Group, encapsulated the entire conversation in a few short words:
“We should be of it, not above it,” he said.
So many organizations, intentionally or not, approach things as if they are above a community. Sometimes this means taking the Tom Sawyer approach of using community strategies to get others to paint your fence for free. Sometimes this means creating a new community with your organization at the center rather than joining an existing community effort. Sometimes it simply means a lack of humility or selflessness shines through in the organization’s community interactions.
I’m always looking for interesting new communities to highlight on opensource.com. Over the past year, I’ve covered everything from Wikipedia to OpenIDEO to The White House and am, frankly, overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of new community-building efforts going on out there.
Seems like every day I get an email or see something on Twitter or Facebook about a new community that sounds interesting and innovative. I’ve found some amazing people and visionary ideas. I hope to continue to highlight the best of these new communities here on the business channel.
But at the risk of sounding like a hater, I must admit I’m getting a touch of new-community fatigue.
I think I went over the edge a few weeks back when ex-advertising industry celebrity Alex Bogusky (yes, the same guy who did all of those weird chicken ads for Burger King and famously tried to make Microsoft cool) announced his new “Collaborative Community/Brand For Social Entrepreneurs.” He calls it Common. No offense to Alex, but when the advertising agency folks are hopping on the community brand bus, you have to wonder whether the seats are starting to get a tad bit full…
I also wonder if there is a bit too much Tom Sawyer-fence-painting going on in some of these new communities. In case it’s been a while since you read Tom Sawyer, here’s how Wikipedia summarizes the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence: