Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mapping the Operating System for the Good Economy from Farmerline outward

Working to help an efficient mobile messaging platform that does metrics and evaluation (M&E) while helping entrepreneurs make more money, save money and do their jobs better is where we are starting as we evaluate what part of the Operating System for the Good Economy is already in software. We are doing our experimental pilot of how we work with tech companies with and Alloysius Attah II. His growing platform already has people centered M&E. His goal is to add planet focused M&E functionality. We are also working with NYU journalism student Dezelle Bennett who is running this Indigogo campaign to finance her trip to Ghana to do a video on Farmerline. We have a Frontier Market Scout, Katie Athaide, working on helping Farmerline, too.

Selling justice like Gatorade, as a performance enhancer


As I’ve come to think about it, since I learned how quotas fit in historically, I think it’s like this: you can push ceilings all you want, and show why things should change, and then you just have to break those ceilings with something like a quota. People in power don’t just give it up after thinking about it when you explain it to them, or so says Dr. King as I read him. This has got to be sort of like that, I think.


And I don’t think guys are resisting out of an unwillingness; it’s more a blind leather recliner chair and a beer kind of bias; we just get focused on the game we are playing the way we play it. This is a hard thing for most guys to get their heads around, at first. It’s hard to see that it’s a real problem and that just consciously thinking better thoughts, or having better attitudes sort of makes things change. In fact, the selection process is skewed in ways we are blind to and we well meaning white boys just don’t seem to see it. I probably don’t see them either; so if I were in their shoes I’d be thinking I’m going to do it right, as most of the guys choosing entrepreneurs did in those accelerators. They probably all thought they were unbiased modern men.


The results say we, I, have a bias that is leading to lower portfolio company performance in our selection criteria; a bias we can’t see. As a matter of fiduciary responsibility, we then just need to set in place a quota to make sure we are selecting the highest performing group whose value we, guys and the people on these selection committees, some women of whom are women, can’t clearly see. We need to do this through an artificially instituted changing of the selection criteria to do what the data says to do but that we don’t seem to be able to do on our own. This is a crutch to help guys achieve better portfolio performance, a guide for a blind man. Guys are built for comfort. Changing big rules like this is worse than going shopping with your wife or girlfriend.


Then we are looking to lateral relational value, with vendors, customers, employees and the community, which I write about on our site. for the areas where we think we will find that extra financial value.


I think a series of global Google hangouts, phased up to SOCAP13, along with maybe some physical meetings at our Hubs would accelerate this idea. The Hubs around the world could get involved, maybe. This is a seriously challenging idea to guys. The former head of the Santa Fe Institute contacted me to explain how unjust this was, how unfair, possibly illegal. I told him male privilege was not enshrined into law, just country club rules. That, I am told is my message in this mix; a guy can say that line while a woman can not. So I say that line, then talk about what the numbers say, then explain my action as I scope out the next fund I’m going to be involved in, and offer this quota as a possible piece of impact investing infrastructures to others doing early stage funds. Only use this tool if you want to beat the other boys is the way we might play it for them. Guys, using the quota is like taking a performance enhancing substance, like steroids. Except it’s not. Compare the financial performance of funds that used it against those that didn’t. Gender lens quotas: a tool for winners. Be the best fund manager you can be. Use a gender lens quota. Sell justice like Gatorade. It could spawn have its own line of deodorants and personal care items. Yes, I am wearing True Justice, the quota cologne, do you like it?

When you design the system correctly, justice is just a positive externality. I think our selection process is flawed, too, in what we look at from the standpoint of company performance; seeing the enterprise as an island rather than situated in a community. Looking at relational value, as the SOCAPOpen entry suggests, is an attempt to design something new into the criteria; new places to check under the hood, new methods to refine the site on your hunting rifle, a new way to sharpen your warrior blade. We will be looking for the bonus in places most funders don’t look, in feedback loops that create financial value through trusted, mutually value creating relationships. And I think that approach will outperform what the existing research shows. I think we will be above baseline, that this approach will outperform its peers.

The data says this is the path to higher performing fund portfolios. There are, of course, other reasons to do this. But it’s interesting you can argue from that perspective. I am not suggesting that higher financial performance is my reason for doing this. But when I saw the data I saw this as a lever to change some things. I’m not sure if it’s moral strength as a quota is weakened or strengthened by the fact that it is eminently practical and should lead to investors making more money; enriching the already rich, unless we change the dynamics around that in this fund.








Dusting off Blended Value

When you work from a commons perspective outward to including the market, as we are doing with the bio-cultural resilience tool, the term Blended Value, coined by my friend and teacher Jed Emerson is still I think the most valuable one around. It is an inclusive value; blended value includes things you would gladly give to, things you would pay for and things you would invest your money and your life in. That’s kind of the coupling mechanism, thinking in operating system terms, which I am these days, for the linkage of the market to the commons that are managed by our partners at UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and their peers and George Wright Society fellow members from national parks around the world. I think Blended Value, a neglected resource as a research site and compendium of Jed and other’s thoughts around this idea, is something that fits in the tool in the category of translation tools.

Why biocultural resilience matters and what it can look like

It’s great to have this blog up as I am on a quest with Kevin Jones and others to accelerate business practices that restore and regenerate nature. Resilience offers a powerful frame to harness a convergence of new opportunities that I believe can allow us to greatly accelerate global sustainability and well-being. introduces what we mean by resilience. We are building from Stockholm Resilience Centre’s system’s approach to socio-ecological systems. We affirm a core value that human and environmental well-being are inter-dependent and inextricably linked.  We are working to consider the role of culture that binds people to one another, and manifests deeply in human’s material, social, and spiritual relationships with nature. Culture remains a poorly understood  dimension to well-being.

One manifestation of why this matters is the high correlation between regions with high concentrations of biodiversity and cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples. While I am not suggesting there are ‘noble savages’, indigenous cultures have sustained biodiversity in contrast to western culture that has driven the consumption of nature to a point of planetary crisis.

In this context, we are looking at how business can be a lever for systems change with positive social and conservation outcomes. This can mean companies incorporate ecological restoration into their cost of doing business extending beyond payment for environmental services which are good but remain insufficient.

Among my most inspiring examples are companies that restore and regenerate nature. Will Raap’s work with Earth Partners removing invasive species that permits range land restoration while creating wood chips fueling an energy substitute to coal.

I am also inspired by Terracycle growing rapidly with a business proposition to eliminate the concept of waste. They have taken plastics recycling, upcycling and product redesign to a completely new level. They are delightfully disruptive but perhaps don’t best embody biocultural resilience.

I hope this blog can build upon a rather lively conversation we have been having on facebook at providing a basis for a free flowing exchange uncovering a range of interesting resources and perspectives.

Biosphere Entrepreneurship – An Approach To Supporting Human Well-being and Ecological Resilience” reflects the work of one of our project partners that manages the Lake Vanern Biosphere Reserve in Sweden who has been diligently developing and applying a strategy to foster local business activity that contribute to the Biosphere’s conservation objectives which encompass natural, cultural, and economic dimensions.  As a non-profit, this project has also become a source of funding and constituency building. Thus, there are many benefits for non-profit conservation practitioners to adopt this approach, but it first requires value alignment which can unleash very powerful possibilities.

What can investing in biocultural resilience look like? Sweden’s Lake Vanern was restored from a highly polluted place to a healthy place for people and planet. This included identifying cultural assets and traditional knowledge that can be leveraged to build well-being for people and planet. And, this involved the non-profit biosphere manager together with local public officials convening public-private partnerships that supported actively expanding high value fish products with ancient native fishing communities – caviar for the planet!

Our project partner, Johanna MacTaggart, who is the Lake Vanern Biosphere Manager offers a translated VIP visit with native fisherfolk that offers a glimpse of what building biocultural resilience can look like.

Together, we are building innovative approaches to catalyze a way of thinking and analytical framework that uncovers poorly understood business risk and opportunity. However, we also need many others to join us including donors, protected area managers, public agencies and academia. Systems change requires many actors and we believe harnessing business can be a very powerful driver…to build the world we want.

We are building an open platform to support and encourage broad participation and engagement. We welcome ideas, learnings, and collaborations from all sectors. We welcome you to join us especially if you are committed to learning, using your voice and influence, as well as taking action.

Stay tuned for more as we turn our attention most immediately to fish, oceans and the blue economy.

Shaun Paul