Sunday, July 26, 2009

Incubating Green Eggs

This weekend I met with three friends (David Waskom, Susan Short, and Elph Morgan) in Ann Arbor to explore the creation of a business consulting consortium for cooperatives that we're styling GREEN EGGS—Guild for Relational Economics: Experts in Neighborly and Entrepreneurial Growth that's Green & Sustainable.

The Ecovillage Design Education curriculum sponsored by GEN identifies four foundational elements of sustainability:

Our premise for Green Eggs is the dynamic marriage of the economic and social components. While our group may not be world experts in economics, nor the only tools in the shed when it comes to the social aspects of cooperative living, we believe we have something special to offer when it comes to the two together—analyzing cooperative businesses in such a way that we expressly factor in the community and social features.

Like all new commercial ventues, the market place will soon tell us whether our thinking is sound.

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My observation is that the economic leg of the EDE formula is the weakest. Many cooperative groups disdain regular economic tools because they're so strongly associated with traditional capitalistic thinking (and are therefore evil). Marketing is eschewed because promotion is linked in cooperators' minds with Madison Ave and manufactured demand. At Green Eggs, we believe we have to do better than that. If you have a product or service with sound values and you believe in what you're doing, it shouldn't be a debasement to tell people about it, and with enthusiasm! We're not talking about twisting arms; we're talking about not hiding your light under a bushel.

Our point of leverage is to help cooperative ventures get over whatever humps they encounter on the path to profitability and excellence. We've embraced the egg as an icon because our idea is to either help birth businesses or to offer them rebirth. (While we aim to assist in live deliveries, we don't figure to be
particularly involved in raising the offspring.)

We won't just look at bottom lines and supply lines; we'll also look at communication lines and feedback. The revolution is going to have to make social sense as well as economic cents, and we believe this can be fully realized without compromising values. In addition to offering financial and social analysis, we'll broker financing, and examine management and staff selections and relationships. We'll look at how well the business fits with the values and make-up of the community in which its embedded, and at how well the business recognizes and leverages its advantages while coping creatively with its liabilities.

We're launching the Green Eggs initiative on the belief that there are enough cooperatives out there who get it that setting a high bar for social dynamics doesn't mean you have to settle for a low bar for financial success. While we may or may not be prophets; we believe in profits. In the coming months, we'll find out if this concept is profitable.

1 comment: said...

I found this especially apropos to our experience: "Many cooperative groups disdain regular economic tools because they're so strongly associated with traditional capitalistic thinking (and are therefore evil)." We've found far more support for our business venture OUTSIDE our community than within. I look forward to seeing what happens with Green Eggs!