Bioneers Conference is an annual conference I am very much fond of.
Morning Plenary Sessions in the Main Audotorium (3000 people)
Every October, leading-edge innovators gather in San Rafael, California to share breakthrough solutions. The word Bioneers came from ” Biological Pioneers” and is defined by the founder, Kenny Ausubel as
The bioneers are engaged citizens from all backgrounds and fields who focus on solving our world’s most urgent problems within a framework of interdependence: It’s all connected. Just as the web of life is intricately interconnected, so too are all environmental and social issues. We take a “solve-the-whole-problem” approach that is holistic, systemic and multidisciplinary. Taking care of nature means taking care of people, and taking care of people means taking care of nature. We connect the dots among most areas of human endeavor including environment, health, justice and spirit.
Founded in 1990, Bioneers promotes practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring Earth’s imperiled ecosystems and healing our human communities. I have attened the event twice thus far and am planning to go again this coming October too. It is such an eye opening experience.
I like it so much because the vibe is so inspirational and every single participant is passionate and very open minded to connect and learn from one another. I get inspired, encouraged and empowered. I feel that I am not the only one tackling these issues. It makes me realize that we are truly a global community in this green revolution and we can work collaboratively. And I did meet some great people and have become good friends.
The laid back grassy venue- San Rafael Marin Civic Center
Another thing that strikes me about the Bioneers Conference are the inspirational remarks and quotes by the presenters.
I still remember this one phrase from last year’s conference.
It has become the core concept and value of our business and simple phrase to describe what we do.
Non profit + For Profit = Social Profit
With this new idea, I have been trying to summarize our value proposition.
It’s still an ongoing process but it goes like this..
We are a team of passionate, creative people who spend our days strategizing, branding and designing the society to a more just, healthy and sustainable future.
There are two components to our business and how we design the society.
One is green.jp, a non-profit online magazine promoting sustainability into the mainstream. We see that people today are saturated by media and yet there is an absence of authenticity, love and passion in the media landscape. So greenz was created inJuly 2006 as a knowledge-sharing network through the global community to share best practices and accelerate the adoption of sustainability principles. Our mission is to lend a credible lens to the issues the world face today and re-think our core human behavior, through the eyes of Japanese- who has a rich culture, wisdom and values that are very different from the western countries – and this is the reason we publish in Japanese and English. We call ourselves media activists – trying to change the media landscape and corporatized media by engaging proactively in the online community, leveraging the web technology with optimism and creativity. greenz is a free open resource and platform to shift consciousness and our objective is to disseminate the information to many people. The reason why we are licensed under creative commons. The information is already out there and it does not belong to us. It should be shared. We just tweak and add some creative editing so that it’s easier to share.
The other component is Biopio Inc, a for profit sustainable creative agency to drive sustainability principles and integrate sustainability into the fundamental institutions of the society through strategic branding, conscious sustainable design, upstream holistic thinking to think “out of the box”. Biopio Inc exist to translate the theoretical knowledge gained through greenz into practical, deployable, replicable, tangible method. It is a company of thinkers and doers who care about the world we live in and who want to design the society in a way we feel comfortable living in and could be proud of, leaving no debt to future generations.
Now people may queqtion how we are different from the other “green” consumer media that offer eco-tips and “how to be green”. But we differentiate and define ourselves as being media activists. We connect the dots of like minded people doing similar actions -all in the pursuit of the same goal. But often, you’d be amazed to find out how these people are disconnected and not sharing resources, experiences and knowledge. So if you connect them, miracles start to happen. It’s a collective work and we have to think systematically and work collaboratively. We set the roadmap and vision to best and next practices, focusing on the most creative, innovative ideas and individuals.
Social Design is a hybrid of greenz and biopio’s core competence. What we are about is creating a new reality, new paradigm, new economy and new value. Biopio’s mission is an extension and in coalition to greenz. It is simply walking the talk.
But often the biggest obstacle of environmentalism or social justice from expanding is that we spend too much time on trying to change people’s mindset, vaules and beliefs, like the words from Gandhi “The greatest gap is between two minds”.
So what is critical is what we can offer when people DO actually change their mindset. The action is what matters. And we need to get there quickly. The bottom line is that we have to get things in place that makes sense in every aspect – economically, ethically, socially, environmentally, logically and emotionally. And these solutions have to be practical, sustainable, efficient and effective and most of all cool, sexy and fun. And to translate this process to our business, geenz is the propagator, catalyst and is the vehicle to promote and assist social change. Biopio is the one to actually design and execute social change.
When doing business, everyone thinks that business have to make profit. And so did we. But with the economy shifting to an unsustainable direction, we started to re-think the fundamental equation of capitalism. And the new idea just sounded to match the nature of our business.
Non-profit + For profit = Social profit.
This is what we are about.
We mobilize and empower the mass with greenz’ non-profit open source network to work collectively. We harness the power of for profit enterprise to integrate and expand the idea of sustainability into business strategies. This is all for the aim of creating social profit.
And there was another incident recently that I reaffirmed this concept about social profit.
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for founding the Grameen Bank microcredit program, dedicated to creating economic and social development from below, Yunus’ innovative approach of providing small loans to low-income borrowers has helped millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to escape the poverty trap. According to Yunus, the root problem with capitalism is its distinction between companies that chase profit and charities that pursue good. Grameen Bank operates as an efficient corporation, but channels its profits back into social objectives.
His words proved to me that we were on the right track, doing the right thing – as I sometime do get a little lost as to where we are headiing and what need to be prioritized.
According to Yunus, the financial crisis was created by few people in one country where they had so much super power. They relied heavily on a system and structure that was so fragile, it was as though they had built castles in the air and everything was fantasized. But with such crisis, people came to realize that it was also a good time of changes – great opportunity to shift our society in a new direction, and create new structures that are much more stronger and rooted to the ground.
Yunus also mentioned that we need to re-design the concept of business, stressing the very purpose of doing busines and the human interactions associated within.
Humans are not money making robots.
There is much bigger meaning in life than just to make money.
And as a human and citizen, individual responsibility and roles comes first.
So therefore, business (should) exist to meet and solve human needs.
However, under the current structure and society, there is unfortunately one type of business – the business so damn busy chasing profit and only considers CSR as a charitable action.
But there is hope.
There are companies created for social purposes to solve social issues – like Grameen Bank. They are called Social Business and we hope to be called the same.
According to Yunus, Grameen Bank was totally unaffected by the financial crisis. They have over 8 million borrowers in the world and re-payment rate is over 99%. The success of the business model – is simply because they were rooted to the real economy. They saw what people needed and wanted. They saw the common issues and problems in the society that needed to be solved. And built a trust based community and economy between borrowers and lenders where individuals had a clear responsibility.
With the unprecedented capacity in technology and creativity, we should utilize our design skills and knowledge to solve social issues. This is the core of our business and it just makes us so passionate about what we do.
Life is about excitement and happiness.If you can create social change, life is happy.
– Muhammad Yunus