Breaking Away from “Business As Usual”

Thoughts on business practices from Energy Garden CEO Agamemnon Otero, inspired by the Collective City conference, 24 November 2018 at Second Home Spitalfields.

Matriarch wisdom in business

Love, support and generosity can be built into business models

Matriarchs, who contribute this energy to civil society, have traditionally been pushed out of the business sector by men. Energy Garden is reconstructing a holistic business case with the Community Benefit Society, a simple governance mechanism which gives equal standing to all members, regardless of the amount they put-in. But why has this new business model emerged as a necessity? Have we forgotten the ancestral, matriarchal wisdom that once guided us? These are important questions to ask and the answers may provide us with a guiding light for the future.

 

Getting our heads out of the sand

What makes you get up in the morning when climate destabilisation is displacing more people than war? When global wild fish stocks have plummeted below 16% and the biome is suffering mass extinction? How do you then go to bed and do it all again the next day while hearing people were trampled on Black Friday; while Brexit persists with its modern fiefdoms too proud to support the next generation; while the twitter-twatter of Trump’s blatant racism, sexism and isolationism echoes in our news feeds?

 

Outdated business principles let down our communities

At the core of the 21st century dilemma is not the idea that capitalism is somehow “broken.” Rather, the form of governance that we have is faulty capitalism masquerading as a free market economy. What results is inequality in all sectors: while profits soar, costs are externalised and inputs like labour and resources are not sufficiently valued. For example, if your clothing manufacturer had to pay for all the environmental destruction it created in Bangladesh, its end product would not be cheaper than clothes produced at home.

Our extractive 21st-century mentality is run by fiduciary responsibility: an entity must legally create the highest financial return in the shortest amount of time for its share-holders. If one wants to trade internationally, one must have international labour and secure resource prices in international markets. This system treats nature and individuals as commodified assets to be exploited along with everything else. As it rampages forward, it strips individuals and societies of their dignity. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

 

Reaching toward Radical Happiness- imagining a new business model

New business model
Emotion. Warmth. Sharing. These ideas don’t have to be excluded from business. That is how and why I get up in the morning, knowing that one can embed radical happiness and love into a legally-binding structure. Community Benefit Societies have one-share-one-vote governance as their foundation. All Repowering initiatives are collective action and collective decision-making Societies, capable of supporting themselves with sustainable models.

In the case of Energy Garden, it supports over one hundred community groups on thirty London Overground stations, empowering citizens to take an active interest in their surroundings and health. These once-disparate individuals and groups work together to beautify Overground stations, produce food in urban spaces and improve air quality for their children. Getting hands in the soil, gardening, tending bees, cultivating green walls and re-wilding areas for biodiversity visibly demonstrates the power of community.

 

This innovative finance method encourages people to participate in shaping the future of their communities

Energy Garden Business Practice

 

Our community bond creates a participatory fund to purchase solar assets that generate revenue to pay for garden maintenance and youth training and provide a sustainable return on all investments. Calling Energy Garden a “business,” then becomes a semantic definition that disregards the positive feedback loops for its ever-changing people and ideas. It is bound together by a common desire for cleaner air, air quality education, horticulture, biodiversity and, finally, a financial return.

The amazing people working across housing estates and train stations are a part of this one-share-one-vote society, deciding on things like garden design, what to plant, whom to share harvest with and how to have fun doing it. At the heart of all of these projects are mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers. Like great trees, these matriarchs disseminate wisdom and wellbeing into the community through a benevolent governance. To construct a brighter future, we must rediscover the innate wisdom of matriarch knowledge and transform our mentality toward a new best business practice.

 

Special thanks to Collective City for allowing us to share this topic in a public forum.

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