A New Currency For Conscious Entrepreneurs

These past months I had the opportunity to meet and advise hundreds of entrepreneurs and while I’ve been amazed by their energy, ambition and passion when talking about their projects, I must admit that I’m sad to not see more of these brilliant individuals work on social and environmental issues. Information technology has enabled us to be aware more than ever about the problems humanity is facing today; but sadly most entrepreneurs still choose to address more traditional challenges.

I thought for a while that the lack of “conscious projects” within the entrepreneurial community was simply because entrepreneurs were not interested. I believed these individuals were too business-minded, cash-oriented to think and care about social and environmental issues.

I apologize because I’ve been wrong.

In following articles I will elaborate further on what I consider to be the under-estimated root of this problem; the one issue that has gotten in the way of amazing entrepreneurial opportunities for decades while dictating business owners’ behaviors much more than we imagine:

Our current monetary system

The global monetary system as we know it developed during the industrial age, a time of nationalism, competition, endless growth and colonization. This system is based on individual profit.

A direct consequence of this system is that it binds wealth growth to financially profitable activities. As an entrepreneur it means that it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are or how brilliant your ideas are: If you can’t reach a market quickly, compete for money and make a profit, you won’t be able to sustain your project. Imagine for example that you create a solution that allows factories to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by half: You won’t be able to make your project sustainable until you find a way to prove how the factory owner will make a financial Return On Investment by using your innovation. Is it normal? I don’t think so.

Because of this profit motive, important causes are not prioritized by entrepreneurs. They continually limit their spectrum of actions to fit specific markets and this has been a major reason why a large majority of the entrepreneurs I meet decide to work on building solutions that enable individuals or businesses to “get tasks done more effectively”. Examples are: getting more customers, commuting faster, finding information better, managing social media simpler… I’m totally fine with creating these kinds of solutions with enthusiasm, nevertheless I get the feeling that we spend time and energy working on fixing “details” while not enough of us try to solve much more alarming and urgent matters.

Entrepreneurs who have the courage to work on serious causes go unrewarded as their activities don’t fit any economic market: Just think for instance about founders of NGOs that work on solutions to rescue endangered species or protect our lands. They are strapped for resources and often find themselves in vigorous competition with each other for a very limited pot of money coming from government grants or philanthropic investors (if they are lucky to have some in their region). They work hard to prepare crowdfunding campaigns and beg for donations among their supporters to make their innovations sustainable. Consequently, a substantial amount of their time and energy is spent trying to raise capital and not enough is focused on the actual cause.

In addition, these entrepreneurs often work hard at building a community around their purpose but struggle at creating engagement and participation among members and as a result they often get the feeling that people don’t really care about their cause or share their convictions. But this is not necessarily true. The underlying problem is that everybody is already too busy trying to make a living and cannot spend much time supporting projects that in fact matter to them. Our monetary system keeps us from tapping into the power of collective intelligence although we have the technological solutions to set up collaborative work.

I thought for a while that “social entrepreneurship” — whose objective is to create innovative solutions to social problems — could help fix some of the world’s most pressing needs. However, social entrepreneurship is more misleading than it looks at first for the simple reason that entrepreneurs are still pressured to find ways to make their projects profitable. Let’s take the example of the famous micro-loans given to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Once they receive the money, they have to focus on activities that can enable a fast Return On Investment if they want to be able to repay for their loans. These models don’t allow them at all to work directly on social and environmental issues that affect their regions and only re-create phenomena already seen with entrepreneurs in developed countries. Although it’s meant to do good, social entrepreneurship is also based on our global monetary system and that is why I don’t see it as sustainable at the moment.

I’m really concerned about how an outdated monetary system affects decisions made by smart entrepreneurs all over the world. I believe the current monetary system has definitely thwarted entire sections of conscious innovations and entrepreneurial opportunities. This is one of the reasons I started to dream a few years ago about the development of alternative peer-to-peer currencies that aim at promoting community, collaboration and abundance rather than selfishness, competition and scarcity.

I spent time digging on the topic, learning from the impressive work done by economists such as Bernard Lietaer. As well related in his book “Rethinking Money”, several local communities around the world are issuing their own currencies today to complement the national money. You may have heard about the BerkShares in the US, the Brixton Pounds in UK, the WIR in Switzerland, the Chiemgauer in Germany. Also, Time Banking initiatives are flourishing around the globe, fostering participation, mutual help and collaboration among members. Meanwhile, Internet currencies like the famous BitCoin make peer-to-peer currencies more and more popular each day. All these currency projects are showing us that we can complement the existing system and that the best way to imagine our financial and economic future is simply to create it ourselves now.

I’ve launched the page “Conscious Entrepreneur” to help cause-driven entrepreneurs promote their projects, raise awareness and recruit supporters. I want to give them feedback, advice, share best practice tips and ideas to make their projects successful.

Substantive work has to be done to create a new generation of currencies if we want conscious entrepreneurship to become the norm rather than the exception.

I will share more about this topic in following articles. Please subscribe to my newsletter if you want to be notified or simply follow my Tumblr blog. Feel free to schedule a Skype call too. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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