Busch: “Social contracts instead of hierarchical control are the future business model.”

The co-founder of Sandbox gave a talk at the open weekly Goldsmiths Social Entrepreneurship Society Social Innovation Speaker series on innovation communities and the power of collaboration.

Working now at the LSE Innovation Lab and having just finished his PHD in Social Entrepreneurship Christian Busch has always had a big focus on the international perspective of social innovation.

Busch presents social entrepreneurship as a golden mean or hybrid between social and financial value or as he puts it: “a combination of meaning and profit, of profit potential and social impact where you do well financially and good socially.”

In the future Busch hopes to see public policy become more engaged and comfortable with the idea of social enterprises over the next five years, by for example granting them the same tax breaks which charities enjoy at the moment.

One of his early projects was constructing living labs using locally contextualised communication in 15 different countries. This has turned into projects such as fighting corruption in Kenya using mobile phones, social media and peer2peer platforms sharing social capital by giving people access to the power of global peers and circumventing centralised governments.

This use of new methods against old models is a recurring theme in Busch’s work. As a teacher he often encounters the young people of the Y generation. Or the “why generation” as some call it. Facing a vastly different employment situation than their parents’ generation Busch emphasises that to have a purposeful career an entirely new business mind-set is needed.

Instead of looking at the hierarchy of needs coined by Maslow which focuses on the individual’s happiness increasing as they scale the pyramid alone, we need to look at ourselves and the communities around us as enlightened circles of needs which become stronger and more fulfilling the more they integrate with each other.

As Busch puts it: “Relation is the most important power in this new connected world.  If I help someone they help me back.”

In the old system there was often talk of someone either being a thought-leader or a do-leader, but now you have to be a bit of both as well as make sure you share your projects as widely as possible. You want the people who work with you to feel ownership of the projects, to feel as and become co-creators of the projects.

This integration of other people beyond the entrepreneur or founder herself has in the past often been a question of how much power they have been willing to give away. And that determined if the project became a movement or a network or relied on licensing, franchising and subsidiaries.

But simply giving away power does not create passion and Bush’s research into collaborative communities on both international and local levels clearly show that trust is one of the strongest driving forces behind great projects. You want to have complete and clear accountability among team members and users.

This is a core concept of success now, that you create a project around a context which other will want to represent, become champions of and share by word of mouth. In essence a social contract where people work with you not just because of the possibility of profit, but because they share your values and vision.


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