The Yellowstone Business Partnership was founded to work across jurisdictional boundaries on large, ecosystem-scale issues that individual communities can’t tackle on their own. As an organization, we strive to bring together diverse viewpoints and identify actionable strategies to live and grow community within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and beyond.
This is certainly easier said than done. One major focus point moving forward is growing our partnerships. We work with extraordinary groups and individuals, and the opportunities for collaboration are boundless. Regrettably, our time for cultivating such partnerships is not boundless. Here are a few key strategic partnerships I believe we need to dedicate significant time and energy toward.
Perhaps one of our greatest untapped strategic partnerships is with our UnCommon Sense graduates. To date 43 businesses and organizations have completed the program. Only about 5 remain actively engaged with the program, serving as mentors, instructors, and advisors to new classes. Around 10 are occasionally engaged; 17 are generally supportive of our work and remained inactive members; 8 have been unresponsive to communications, and three may not even be in business anymore.
The caliber of organizations and businesses with which I have been fortunate to work is astounding and one of the reasons I love the work I do. Consistently the greatest benefit of UnCommon Sense that is called out is the networking component of the program, how it’s structured to connect the organizations to each other and to encourage collaboration. We need to develop a clear strategy to grow these relationships and partnerships.
The Story of Stuff Project
This past April, I had the incredible pleasure of meeting and working with one of my all-time heroes, Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff Project. We invited Annie out to speak at the 2013 UnCommon Sense graduation of our 6th class, the “Common Scents”. She spoke to change by design as opposed to change by disaster, moving from individual to societal change, and the power of community. Annie lives and encourages a sharing lifestyle, choosing quality time over stuff. Her neighborhood community of six families collectively owns one car, one trampoline and one power drill (did you know the average lifetime usage of a Home Depot power drill is 15 minutes?). She abhors the mass of “poorly designed toxic containing over packaged crap that we have to throw away because it can’t be fixed”, which speaks directly to my values and is one of the core culture shifts we focus on in UnCommon Sense.
One of the most impactful statements she shared was this: “Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I want a 20% reduction in segregation every year until 2020’. We’re taking half steps moving toward a solution not half steps solidifying a flaw in the system.” Annie and crew’s newest project, The Story of Solutions, “explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction, starting with orienting ourselves toward a new goal.”
As I near completion of my MBA in Sustainable Systems from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), I see the power of connection becoming more and more evident. The BGI community is social entrepreneurs, innovators, impact investors, change agents and sustainability pioneers. It is people living their passions and working together to “change business for good”.
A few months ago I posted a question to the community asking if anyone had connections to an intellectual property lawyer. Within two hours, I had messages from 3 alumni connecting me to 6 colleagues. I know that I can call up anyone connected to BGI, and from that mutual connection an immediate level of mutual respect is created.
BALLE (The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) was founded on the idea that local businesses working together have the greatest opportunity for positive impact within their own communities, and that local communities connecting to one another sharing resources and ideas creates a stronger collective voice. “Within a generation, we envision a global system of human-scale, interconnected local economies that function in harmony with local ecosystems to meet the basic needs of all people, support just and democratic societies, and foster joyful community life.”
YBP has an existing relationship with David Korten, founding board member of BALLE. Mr. Korten was the keynote speaker at YBP’s annual conference in 2012, where he spoke on how to create a framework for local living economies.
I met Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab, while he was a CAIR (Change Agent in Residence) at BGI last year. B Lab is a non-profit organization third party companies to become certified benefit corporations, . B Corps certification upholds rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Lab also works to pass state-level legislation to create the legal framework for Benefit Corporations, to give leaders legal protection to pursue a higher purpose than profit. B Lab also maintains B Analysis, a comprehensive database of verified social and environmental performance data for benchmarking, measuring and reporting on impact, to help “measure what matters”.
Naturally I cornered him at every opportunity to learn more about B Corps and explore ways that we could incorporate B Corps and the work of B Lab into the UnCommon Sense curriculum. UnCommon Sense is deliberately not a certification program, as we work with such a variety of industries and organization types/sizes.
All of these organizations are natural alliances with which to form collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships. They are doing important and inspiring work to create a better world; and we have an existing relationship with them. Their missions and visions align with everything we are trying to accomplish in UnCommon Sense and with YBP. There are countless others that could become valuable partners. The Social Venture Network? The SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible Impact Investing? I welcome any suggestions or connections to other potential strategic partnerships.
We are all focusing on game-changing solutions to systemic problems. The Story of Stuff Project sums it up succinctly: “We’re a Community of 500,000 change-makers worldwide, working to build a more healthy and just planet. Together, we believe it's possible to create a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.”