A $58 Billion COMMON Insurgency

By Mark Eckhardt, CEO of COMMON

Since New Year’s, I’ve been working on a note that captures everything we accomplished together in the last decade. This must be my fiftieth attempt, and my trash can runneth over. 

Nothing I wrote previously felt right. Every attempt took the form of what a CEO “should” write- you know, the typical “let’s look back and congratulate ourselves,” email that is a long list of accomplishments. 

Don’t get me wrong; those are super cool (and we’ll share that info at some point). 

But….given that in 2019 more CO2 was emitted into the atmosphere than ever in history, and economic disparity isn’t lessening, and nationalism is on the rise globally, etc. (all due in part to the effects of capitalism), it feels like we need a bottom-line of sorts. 

You know, something we can use to gauge whether or not COMMON, and our insurgency, is achieving what we set out to do. We need an indicator to know if we’ve been wasting our time. 

So I wrestled with that for a bit; then, something came to mind.

A single figure that I believe encapsulates everything we have done together. A data point that provides a view into whether or not we have made progress and our insurgency is real, or if we have just been making ourselves feel good. A point of reference to, perhaps, carry into the new decade with more confidence and enthusiasm.

Here it is.

$58 billion+. 

$58 billion+ represents the estimated, cumulative value of the organizations COMMON directly helped in the last decade. 

That includes startups we helped bring to market, the Fortune 500 corporations we assisted, and everything in between. 

If we add the independent work of our COMMON members and extended professional network, the number exceeds $100 billion – easily. 

That’s a massive footprint. 

It represents people and businesses throughout the world who, as a result of our work with them, are better equipped to understand and grapple with: 

  • the design of capitalism and its flaws
  • the implications of the gravitational pull towards profit and financial capital 
  • their impact on the environment and ecology
  • different ways of thinking about the role of businesses
  • new models that value all forms of capital equally 
  • practices that lead to cultures where workers thrive
  • wider distribution of profits to stakeholders

Why this matters…

Movements (or in our case, insurgencies) take decades to reach tipping points. As a social entrepreneur on the ground, it can be hard to know if you are making progress or just treading water.

The United States’ Civil Rights Movement, for example, was front and center in American society from 1954-1968. We now know, however, that the movement began taking form decades before it entered the cultural limelight. Similarly, the workers’ rights movement traces back to the 1800s, but didn’t culminate in organized labor unions until the 1930s.

In both cases, progress began with one person at a time, then in small groups. It took years for each movement to break through to the highest levels of society, eventually becoming official legislation that codified the demanded changes in culture.

The key for social entrepreneurs, at this stage of the movement that is redefining capitalism, is to look horizontally – at the level of conversation. What you will find is millions of people having a new conversation about business, testing new ideas, advocating for change, and figuring out what works.

Too often, though, we think vertically, meaning that we measure our progress against the barons of the past, and unicorns of today that skyrocket to billion-dollar valuations. And we say to ourselves, “I should be doing that!” 

To that, I flat out say, NO. Look to your left and right. Front and back. Not up.

An entirely new business system is being designed, one venture at a time. That means new models, products and services, technologies, supply chains, reporting and metrics, laws, and distribution of profits. No one has it all figured out, and the necessary pieces and people are at different stages of development.

While the process of building a new system of business is ongoing, things will remain volatile. To this day, COMMON experiences incredible surges…then, a model, system, or process will fail without notice. This is normal. It takes time to figure out how to deliver consistently without majorly departing from your values – without falling victim to the gravitational pull toward profit.

Eventually, social enterprise will have the system it needs to go vertical. By that, I mean more brands will, with greater regularity, grow the various forms of capital they have under their management according to a new set of values and priorities. And yes, that includes going vertical financially.

$58 billion+ holds within it countless numbers of people who have shifted their thinking as a result of interacting with those of us who are COMMON. Different choices are being made about the role businesses play, how workers are treated, how resources are used, how products are made, and so much more. 

It is $58 billion+ that is, little by little, redefining capitalism.

Our insurgency is far from over. We need millions of people to join us. 

To the end, I invite you to step further into your relationship with COMMON. Or, if you’ve pulled back, re-engage. 

If there is one thing that the last decade has taught me, it is that we can be FearLess together.

Here’s to our insurgency. Keep doing Shit That Matters.

Mark


COMMON is a creative accelerator and community for socially responsible businesses and projects. We make entrepreneurs famous by helping them build, launch, and promote wildly successful products and ideas that take care of the planet and all the creatures on it.

Write us at: itmatters@common.is

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