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This Is What The Circular Economy Looks Like

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterOk, here we go, folks! Here comes 2012 and it looks like it’s going to be busier and more hectic than ever! Are you ready for it? We better be, because there is no way back! We are already fully immersed in it and it surely looks like it’s going to be another exciting, enlightening and rather interesting new year with lots of very inspiring and encouraging things worth while experiencing to the fullest! And today is no different! While I am still enjoying a few more days on holidays, before getting things rolling with another year at work, I thought I would drop by over here and kick-off the series of blog posts for 2012 with what promises to be *the* most Inspiring Video of the Year (Yes, I know! Already!!). One of those videos you must stop everything you are doing right now and watch it through! Specially, with lots of people around. Specially, with your kids or grand-kids. It’ll change completely the way you view things, and the way they, too, see them themselves. It’s the re-birth of the Circular Economy, as we know it. And about time, too!

I cannot believe that the video clip was put together, and shared across, in YouTube on November last year and that we all totally missed it, since it hardly has got more than 180 views so far. But, believe me, it will be worth while the 18 minutes of your life that it lasts. Every single second of it! It will change your life for good and plenty of your beliefs on what rules the world today and what should be eventually. Yes, indeed, it’s that good! It’s a rather short video interview that the one and only, Loren Feldman, put together for 1938 Creative in association with Important Media, to interview Ken Anderson, long-time naturalist, who word after word cannot but keep inspiring us all to help us understand how we need to redefine the way we live and the way we treasure, or not, certain things in today’s world.

Over at Ken Anderson: Perspectives From A Long-Time Naturalist Loren himself describes briefly in a short blog post what the interview will be all about, and in order not to spoil it, I will just briefly mentioned how, while going through the clip on its entirety I just couldn’t help thinking about two different blog entries that I put together last year and which would make up for some interesting reading along the lines of what Ken has got to tell us all on where we are heading. Remember “The Social Enterprise and The Circular Economy“? Or “Welcome to the Social Enterprise Awakening!“? In case you may not have, you would see how Ken demonstrates, time and time again, how it is possible to live, and embrace fully, a healthy, prosperous AND sustainable Circular Economy, as long as we shift focus from what drives our global economy nowadays (Not to worry, I’m not going to spoil it for you what Ken thinks are the main culprits of where we are today… Couldn’t have put it myself in better words either though!) and we start reverting things in the opposite direction of where we are heading. Tenerife - Mount Teide in the Winter

Eventually, provoking what Ken calls out for as “The Awakening“, which, and I surely agree with him 100%, is very much needed at the moment. Now, I could go ahead and describe that awakening referencing back again that blog post whose link I shared above already, but, no, I am not going to do that. I’m actually going to point you instead to a superb piece of art that my very dear good friend Susan Scrupski put together a couple of days back and which describes, quite nicely and with quite powerful words, what our focus and purpose for 2012 (And beyond!) is going to be. At least, that one from yours truly. Have a look and check out “#OccupyEnterprise and Start your own Revolution” and be inspired by amazingly powerful statements as this one:

The Council members are fighting for a new way of working where freedom of ideas will produce increased employee motivation and loyalty which in turn will spur innovation and problem-solving.  Yes, business objectives are driving this change, but the natural by-product is the humanization of the workforce.  Transparency will go a long way to revealing the unsavory underbelly of the corporate beast” [Emphasis mine]

And now, right after you have read Susan’s article, come back, hit the Play button of this embedded YouTube interview and be WOWed by Ken’s words of wisdom, knowledge, lifetime experiences, hope, optimism, outrageousness, deep caring, sharing, mother nature and our role in it, and, in short, ourselves, and our future in this world. Specially, for those who are coming after us and for whom we have got a lot to account for. Still.

Not sure what you would think, but after watching that video clip, there are two other things I’m going to be doing in 2012 plenty more: Wear Sunscreen and listen, and learn plenty more!, from our elders. They have always known, and experienced fully, a whole lot more than we do…

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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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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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