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Sacred Economics in a Gift Economy

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves, Mount Teide, Roque Nublo, Roque BentaygaIn the past, you may well remember how I have been putting together a good number of blog posts on a topic that I have grown to become rather interested in, and very fond of, over the course of time around the Circular Economy. You know, that kind of economic shift towards sustainable growth for everyone, even planet Earth. Well, it looks like there is a new one out there that I got introduced to, just recently, thanks to a Google Plus post by Luis Alberola referencing the excellent work from Charles Eisenstein and his rather intriguing book “Sacred Economics“. Of course, I’m talking about The Gift Economy. 

There is a lot of really good, well written, spoken, and inspiring literature around the topic of the Gift Economy. But perhaps the one that I have found the most transformational one is that one from Charles himself where he keeps talking about it in his new book Sacred Economics. This book, indeed, does look a little bit out of the ordinary, specially, when you go into the Web site and you find this rather uncompromising quote: 

In keeping with one of the main themes of the book, Charles has made the full text of the book available online as a gift. Click on the links below and enjoy. If you feel moved to send Charles a return gift, you may do so below

Of course, as intrigued as one can be, I decided to spend about 12 minutes on watching through the promotional video clip that was put together by director Ian MacKenzie and I doubt there would be anything more inspiring that you may have watched this week, perhaps this month, or, maybe, even, this year. What an absolute delight you will be embarking on if you start watching it. As a teaser, it kicks off with this absolutely stunning, and worth while living for, quote: 

“We’ve all been given a gift, the gift of life. What we do with our lives is our gift back” – Edo

Needless to say, that I would strongly encourage you all to watch further along the video, so that you can see what are some of the main key statements that Charles himself postulates not only on the video clip itself, but on the book as well. Topics like ancient gift economies, modern capitalism, the role of money on how it’s contributed, tremendously, towards “alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth“. How money is just an agreement; how it just doesn’t have any value per se; and how scarcity is built into the money system, just as much as our traditional concept of growth.

How our very own separate selfs have contributed into building a hostile environment for us as a species, in constant conflict with nature, with ourselves, with schooling (learning), with life and how we are already embarked on a ruthless self-destructive path difficult to revert back from. And in that context that’s where that gift economy kicks in. “We didn’t earn air, we didn’t earn being born, we didn’t earn our conception, we didn’t earn a planet that could provide food, we didn’t earn the sun” is just another superb quote that finishes with a rather mind-blowing affirmation: Inborn gratitude, where life is a gift and the natural response to giving / receiving a gift is gratitude. Naturally. The one we show every day.

According to Charles, in a gift society, if you have got more than you need, you give it to somebody who needs it. That’s what gives you status, a stronger sense of security. If you build up all of that gratitude people are going to take care of you, too. If there are no gifts there is no community and therefore societies become monetised. Eventually, according to him, we just can’t have community as an add-on to a monetised society. We actually have to have a need for each other, which surely makes perfect sense from the perspective of how we, after all, are social animals, with a strong sense of caring and belonging to the group. Regardless. 

His description on the video about The Shift and what it would entail is just priceless altogether on its own, finishing up with a quote that I thought was worth while mentioning over here as well, since I have mentioned it a couple of times already myself on where we are at the moment: “It’s going to be up to us, to determine at what point this wake-up plan would happen“. Remember, Awakening 2.0? Just brilliant!

Charles’ closing remarks from the video clip itself though are even much more profound ones on what’s needed to revert the tide, to aim at that significant change of how we do things, who we are as human beings, as community, and what we should be focusing on:

“[…] We have been messing around, playing with our gifts of technology and culture. And developing these gifts. Now we are coming into adulthood. And it’s time to apply them to our true purpose. At the beginning, […] it’ll be about healing the damage that’s has been done. […] We are in the business of creating miracle around Earth. […] It’s necessary. Anything even less than that is not even worth trying”

The interesting thing though is that for all of that to happen, for that shift to take place, and the sooner, most probably, the better, we may well need the current economic system to collapse and fail, big time, as my good friend, Dave Pollard, hinted out on a superb blog post under the title “Moving from Understanding and Protest to Direct Action“, where he reviewed the book  and he concluded:

If we are hugely fortunate, when the industrial growth system starts to fly apart and collapse through its own unsustainable failings (a process that’s well underway for all the attempts to cover it up), some collective of smart, generous, articulate people might start to put some of Eisenstein’s ideas to a real-life test. But I wouldn’t count on it. When things start to collapse, panic, denial, blame-seeking and reactionary thinking are more likely human responses

Probably, but, on the other hand, recent signals are starting to come out and tell us otherwise, and with various multiple flavors that are starting to become rather difficult to hide away from the common public, regardless of what mainstream media, governments or whatever other public / privates entities are trying to portrait further. A couple of them have actually become my true favorites, mainly, because they have started to show what that Gift Economy would look like in the real, and, specially, in the context of the current financial econoclypse that we are going through over here in Europe, by demonstrating that, if there is a way, we can make it. It may take some time, it may take plenty of good effort, energy, and passion, but if there is a way that we can show and demonstrate caring and sharing for one another, specially in times of need, and I mean, serious need, we will eventually find it, embrace it, apply it. Live it. 

Yes, indeed! Welcome to the Gift Economy! Where sustainable and profitable growth for everyone, including planet Earth, is now finally becoming a reality. Our communal reality. And where businesses take a new meaning in life by co-sharing that responsibility with the community to do things right and where money may no longer be the only ruling principle in town. Exciting times, my dear friends. Indeed, very exciting times … 

Have a good one everyone!

[Oh, and in case you are wondering, here’s how the gift economy would work… Charles’ book on Sacred Economics can be read entirely online for free, but I felt so inspired watching through the video, learning tons along the way, getting really excited about it, that I just purchased a copy of the book for my Kindle, as a token of gratitude for the inspiration. It *does* work!]

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Welcome to the Social Enterprise Awakening!

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo (As Seen from Artenara)There is no doubt that this week will probably be remembered for a long while, in the Social Enterprise space, at least, as one that served as the tipping point of embracing a new dynamic within the corporate world that is slightly different than what we have been witnessing all along with Social Business in the last couple of years. As we are wrapping it up, I am more and more convinced now that there are a good number of subtle differences between Social Business and Social Enterprise and somehow the main key differentiator between one and the other has got to do with a simple idea, yet with a tremendous powerful meaning: Social Revolution.

If you have been reading a couple of the blog entries I wrote this week, and, most importantly, a good bunch of the links I shared in those articles, I think we are witnessing that Awakening 2.0 phase I mentioned back then that is helping us all, knowledge workers, realise how this is our moment. Our true moment. Our opportunity to re-find and re-define our purpose in our workplaces, our wanting-to-make-a-difference moments; in short, experience that self-discovery journey of what we really want to do with our work lives, because, whether we like it or not, that’s also going to reflect on our own personal lives altogether. We now, finally, feel a whole lot more engaged, empowered, trustworthy, appreciated and … respected. And all of that thanks to the revolution social computing within the enterprise has, at long last, provoked within the business world, as well as in our society, as we know it. Something that my good friend, the always inspiring and very thought-provoking, Deb Lavoy, put together, beautifully, with this golden nugget in a recent blog post:

If the industrial revolution’s idea of a great business was one in which every role, process and activity was well defined and controlled by management, social business is one in which every employee and customer are aligned around a common purpose

To then follow it up with this other one that I, too, feel rather identified with:

“Social Business is one that recognizes that their mission is engaging hearts and minds to achieve excellence. Social Business is about respecting people”

Deb’s superb article under the suggestive heading of “Could E2.0 really mean Enlightenment 2.0?“, and which I strongly encourage you all to read through it as I am sure it would leave a wonderful taste just before the weekend kicks off for everyone, finishes off with a final remark that would be very suitable, in my opinion, for both Social Business (= Customer focus) and Social Enterprise (Workforce focus) and the kind of impact they both have, whether internal or external, with the emergence of social networking at the workplace:

A Social Business is a business that respects and profits from the complexity and unlimited potential of people

But it’s not the only article we have seen this week covering this very same topic of the “Social Revolution within the Enterprise“. Take a look, for instance, into this other brilliantly written blog post by another good friend, Bill Ives, under the title “The Gig Economy – Intrapreneurship – A New Style of Work” which pretty sums up this shift in the way we work with this rather inspiring quote as well:

“[…] one of the ways that things have changed is now workers are much more transparent about their work and having more fun at the same time. We are out from under the hierarchical cloud imposed by the industrial revolution. It is easier to do this as an enterprise of one that is connected to many organizations as I have experienced

Once again, both themes of Observable Work and Intrapreneurship coming along nicely to help us define the future of the workplace. Our workplace. One that it is for us to define and shape up over time, according to how empowered, and engaged, we feel in doing what we love doing: our jobs. But there is more…

Check out this other great piece, over at Forbes, put together by David Kirkpatrick, under the heading “Social Power and the Coming Corporate Revolution” to see how, once again, the business world is about to be hit, without remedy, by that thing called the tsunami of the Social Web and what it has meant for our society as we know it in helping transform how we live and fully embrace those 2.0 core values of openness, transparency, engagement, trust, respect, and, above all, sharing. Another worth while read, for sure, to have a good glimpse of what’s to come, specially, based on the good number of stories from companies who have already embraced such social transformation and those that are facilitating it and what’s meant for them all along, containing as well, perhaps, one of my all time favourite quotes by another good friend, John Hagel, on such a key important trait for every single business transaction amongst knowledge workers and business people: Trust!

“Trust is built by sharing vulnerability […] The more you expose and share your problems, the more successful you become. It’s not about the top executive dictating what needs to be done and when, it’s about providing individuals with the power to connect”

Absolutely spot on comment on what I truly believe the social revolution for the Social Enterprise would be all about. And talking about John himself there is another really interesting article that I would want to point you folks to, so that you can have a look and find out plenty more about why I mentioned above that I feel we have reached that tipping point of that internal social transformation provoked by social computing. In “John Hagel on Empowerment, Management Fears, and Social Software in BusinessAdam Ludwig conducts a rather insightful interview with John, where the latter gets to talk about how we have already started the transition from being managed to being lead; to have leaders, instead of managers, acting as servants helping facilitate and get the most, and the best, out of their knowledge workers; to move away from the traditional hierarchical structures where a few told the vast majority what to do and what to think, to an environment where work gets regulated and done by both networks and communities, helping facilitate that transition from knowledge stocks into knowledge flows.

His description of how empowering it is to lower the center of gravity in decision making and problem solving is absolutely fantastic! Just as well as how social software tools help lower down tremendously both transaction and friction costs allowing knowledge workers to become more productive by solving business exceptions much faster, without having to rely anymore on traditional tools, which, on their own, probably made handling exceptions even worse over time! (Hint: email!)

Finally, one of my all time favourite ideas, the one that keeps me coming back to work, day in day out, that John gets to share on that interview, and which I think is the main culprit of what we are witnessing with the social revolution within the enterprise, on empowering and engaging your employee workforce, is passion. Passion of your knowledge workforce about what they do, what they believe in and the connections and relationships they have been able to build over the course of time as a result of it. Connecting people with a common affinity / passion for a particular topic, specially, work related, is a very powerful thing, as John mentions: “Passionate people are deeply motivated to improve themselves and drive themselves to the next level of performance“.

Now, I am not too sure whether we are entering a new era of Enlightenment 2.0, as Deb suggests in her blog post, that I referenced above. Perhaps it may well be so. What I do know though is that this week we have just opened up the door towards a much more socially integrated, empowering, open, transparent, engaging and nimble enterprise and that has got to mean something.

There is no way back. Welcome to the Era of the Awakening 2.0!

Have a good one everyone! :)

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The Social Enterprise and The Circular Economy

León - Stork's eye view from the churchEarlier on today, and continuing further with yesterday’s blog entry on “The Social Enterprise – Welcome to the Era of Intrapreneurship!” that I shared over here, my good friend, the always insightful Susan Scrupski put together a follow-up article that absolutely pretty much nails it for me on this whole topic of transitioning into “The Social Enterprise” from “Social Business”. Under the rather thought-provoking title of “Zen and the Art of Enterprise Maintenance” Susan herself has set up some homework for all of those folks out there who may be involved with Enterprise 2.0, Social Networking / Computing or Social Business (In my case, Social Enterprise). To name: “We are aiming to change the world of work“. And somehow although plenty of folks out there would see that as a call to (silent) arms I tend to think more along the terms of the Awakening 2.0 that a bunch of us have been waiting for a long while now…

Further down in that article Susan gets to explain, in a rather enlightening and insightful fashion, what she actually means with “We are aiming to change the world of work“, which I guess is probably rather well described under this golden nugget:

To get to the “fix” part of this equation, it’s going to take the smarts and knowhow of everyone who’s focused on the Enterprise. There’s a great thread on G+ from Sameer Patel on the “how.” The lasting value will be to apply the spirit of social revolution in the enterprise to the practical application of social in the enterprise

To then finish it all off with setting up the challenge ahead for all of us:

This is the hard part. Delivering on the promise of social. So consider it a clarion call for all practitioners, consultants, and vendors (big and small): Figure it out. Bring it home for the rest of us and the planet. We’ve done the first hard part which is selling the promise of revolutionary change. And we’ll keep beating that drum, btw. It’s the backbeat to the song we’re singing

Of course, as I finished off reading through her blog post I just couldn’t help thinking about the “Figure it out part of her article and start thinking about potential solutions. And while catching up further with some other interesting reading I just couldn’t help pondering that we may have a holistic solution far too close to each and everyone of us to realise about it, and make it work. It all came clearer to me when I re-discovered a rather inspiring video clip that re-introduces a very innovative and creative concept that I would love to see it being explored by the enterprise world and not just by a few companies: The Circular Economy (Re-Thinking Progress)

In a rather revealing article over at the GuardianRosie Bristow describes quite nicely how the current linear economy hasn’t taken us too far ahead; quite the opposite! It seems that it’s made things a whole lot worse, not just for the business world, but just as much for both our societies and the world we live in:

“The basis for this thinking is that the linear way in which the world economy currently operates fuels a culture of consumption and creates more waste than is sustainable in the long term. In contrast, the living world operates in a circular cycle where the waste of one species provides the food for another and resources flow”

That last sentence is probably as good as it gets and it reflects how, once again, nature may be a whole lot wiser than all of us in managing her own resources to create, cultivate and nurture progress. Her progress: the one that affects us all in our day to day lives. So Rosie keeps wondering whether we could make the switch towards that Circular Economy along these very terms:

“What would a circular economy look like in practice? The video suggests that it’s about redesigning and rethinking products so that after they have been used by humans, their component parts return to manufacturers, with biological elements being used to support agriculture and valuable resource parts such as metals being used in the creation of new products. In this way, today’s goods become tomorrow’s resources, forming a circular cycle”

Not such a bad idea, don’t you think? While musing about Susan’s and Rosie’s articles I just couldn’t help thinking that perhaps what we really need to fully embrace and live the Social Enterprise would come pretty close to this whole concept of the Circular Economy, where we try to mimic what nature has mastered doing over the course of millions of years without facing too much trouble, till we humans started reverting that trend. Perhaps both growth and progress are meant to be that way. Perhaps we should starting shifting gears and introduce that whole concept of leasing / borrowing, instead of owning, which, if you ask me, is pretty close to what we would be doing with that Social Web activity we have all fallen in love with: sharing!

Sharing what we know, our experiences, our skills, our knowhow, our selves, so that others could benefit by reusing it themselves and make it better. Sharing our connections and personal business relationships, so that others would benefit from those new relationships instigated by empowering connectors / hubs. I am not sure what you folks would think about it, but this key trait from the Social Web / Web 2.0 does come pretty close to this whole concept of the circular economy, where progress is being made not so much on how much you grow, but by how much you are capable of reusing and learning along the way to create something better without having to destroy, without remedy, something in between.

It’s probably that openness, transparency, and trusting relationships in the system that surely have made it work for nature all along (Because she always knows what’s best for her and those around her…) and perhaps we need to fully embrace those critical social aspects to “figure it out“, as Susan mentioned. Plenty of food for thought, for sure! And for those folks who may be skeptic about re-thinking new ways to help us progress further into the 21st century, let’s look at what that linear economy has managed to do in the last 3 to 5 years to see, and realise, we are probably not much better off than what we were a few decades ago after all…

Yes, we need a reboot. And pretty desperately. We have been probably needing it for over a decade already, and in times of (financial) crisis (Crisis as in choices / changes), we need now more inspiration than ever to leap forward and provoke that shift towards a Social Enterprise: a sustainable and engaged economy where all factors are looked up equally, including the resources we have got available to us all, so that growth finally makes its move towards progress, respectful and sustainable progress.

And that’s why from here onwards I’ll be making a huge effort, my ¢2, really, to start transitioning myself from that linear economy of consumerism, just for the sake of consuming, into that circular one by applying some smart and educated thinking in what I consume and buy and what I don’t. That basically means I will be looking up to those businesses that would want to start making a difference and change our future and I do seriously hope that my own company will be jumping the shark, too!, as it enters its second century of existence.

But what about yours? Is your business ready to embrace and live the Circular Economy? Do you think it’s worth while trying? Do we have a choice any longer? After all, what would we lose not trying it, right? Probably not much, but a lot to gain, for sure!

Our very own survival as a species.

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