Venture 4 Change 2010 – My Take

A group of v4c attendees pictured with Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s. Image courtesy of Bright Lights Photography.

Reaching out and making changes

Venture4Change-20100330-094346Yesterday I had the great fortune to attend the Venture 4 Change conference in North Dumfries, a summit designed to bridge the gap between the corporate and philanthropic sectors and to open the dialogue on integrating both into the community with greater efficacy.

I won’t get into just how awesome the conference was and how incredible the speakers were — other blogs will surely cover that today — but I will speak to the honor that was hearing the likes of Tony Pigott, Sam Purdy and Jerry Greenfield speak to us about how for-profit businesses can make a difference in both the community and to world charities as a whole.

But what I really took away from the conference was the fact that the conference itself was the embodiment of everything it sought to discuss. The room was full of community members from all walks of life — some of them seeking social change from businesses, some looking for ways to make social responsibility a viable solution for their business, but everyone looking for those solutions together.

The big ideas

The themes in the conference boiled down to a few key components; embrace the community, learn what’s important to that community, find the needs of that community, offer a solution where you can and be generous. It wasn’t rocket science. We, as a community, do that everyday with our neighbors, our family, our colleagues… but applying these ideas to business has not always been an easily accepted idea.

So why did this effect me? I got to talk to a lot of people yesterday — some just to say they love my tweets and others to find out what my company is all about. But then there were some genuine conversations, people connecting with people.

One such encounter was with Jacqui Murphy. Business was never discussed. We just talked about community events, meetups and other such gatherings (embracing the community), which led to a discussion about our kids (what matters to the community), how kids can be trying at times (community needs) and ways to cope with them (offering solutions).

This is what community is all about and why it only makes sense that business should be run the same way. Businesses are made up of people. People make communities. Communities allow business to exist by their market activity. Businesses need to pay it back to their people and their communities.

Breaking it down

These are the idea I have followed in my own business operations since day one. I have worked very hard from the beginning to build a strong, helpful community around the products I make and sell. I have always been as generous as can be — be it my own time, money or opportunity — to that community which I owe my own existence to. I have embraced those local communities who seek to support other local businesses and I have reached out to communities who would seek to do me harm and embraced them with open arms. I give as much as I can to charity, as often as I can.

This is an exciting time we are in now. While surely there have been companies with philanthropic intentions since the dawn of commerce and trade, it’s not always been the height of fashion to do so. It’s my hope that the recent efforts of companies to openly go green, practice fair-trade and be more socially, ethically and economically responsible will be the norm in years to come.

Business + People + Community = Venture 4 Change indeed.