Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Infinite Games

A Helicopter Tour of The Infinite Games (TIG)

This site consists of an ever-growing, ever-evolving, body of knowledge — a collection of interdependent lenses, strategies, distinctions, examples, stories, tools, offerings, recommendations, forums, connections — all designed to serve those committed to the work of transforming their organizational systems. There is no lack of players who are ready and able to play important roles in this vital societal metamorphosis. As you explore the site sections described below you will find many clues as to how this movement can begin to accelerate.


What Are Infinite Games

James Carse, in his wonderful book, Finite and Infinite Games, suggests:

There are at least two kinds of games.
One could be called finite, the other infinite.

The finite game is played for the purpose of winning,
an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play,
...and bringing as many persons as possible into the play.

Finite players play within boundaries;
infinite players play with boundaries.


The purpose of business is to make a profit.
The purpose of business is to generate true wealth for all stakeholder groups.

The bottom line is supreme.
Excellent triple bottom line (People, Planet and Profit) performance is essential to ensure both organizational and global sustainability. Two out of three aren't enough.

Our mission is to be the best in the world.
Our mission is to be the best for the world.

Keep your eye on the ball. Do what it takes to achieve this quarter's financial goals.
Design for distributed resilient operational capacities, for excellence in all domains of performance, and for developing leadership's capacity to create a sustainable future—for our organization and for the larger whole.

Divide and conquer.
Connect, collaborate, co-create and co-evolve.

Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming an important compliance issue.
CSR, when approached creatively and proactively, can become a foundational ROI initiative—corporate social opportunity.

Effective leaders are able to motivate and otherwise manage the performance of their people.
Effective leaders create a context where leadership is widely distributed, where motivation is intrinsic in the work design, and where performance development is woven into the fabric of daily operations.


Check out the "Profile" in our Community of Allies section
to see if this site is a fit for you.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spiritual Politics

Spiritual Principles for a New Economics
© 1996 by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson

"From our experience and experimentation with different economic systems, and living according to the spiritual laws of manifestation, there seem to be important principles that govern economic well-being. We would like to share these with you, in hopes that they might be useful in your group or individual life. Please use your own intuition in determining their truth and relevance to your own situation - each individual is unique."


Economics literally means "earth household" a key image for understanding what right economics requires. If we care for the planetary economy as we would our own household, we can see that it must work for all members of the earth household, or it will not work for any part of the human family in the long term. Just as we wouldn't tear our house apart to make a fire to keep warm, or dump garbage in our living room, so we must learn to see the larger household of the earth as we do our own. And we must be concerned about the effect of our actions on future generations who will inhabit the earth.


The body of our planet is a living organism, (called "Gaia" by the ancients), and all economic interactions from the individual to the international take place within this body of moving energies. If circulation through the system is blocked through manipulation, hoarding, etc., then all parts of the organism suffer. When there is free circulation of goods, resources and services throughout the body, nourishing all parts of the system, then the system as a whole flourishes. Equally, when the whole is cared for all the parts within it are nurtured.


As individuals develop their creative abilities connected to their spiritual Source, the need to consume from an inner sense of lack transforms into the ability and urge to create and give to the world. We then find our true creation or calling, and trust that what we put forth from our inner Self will be of value to others, and we will receive what we need to live in exchange.


When we realize the great abundance-producing, creative energy and potential within us, we overcome the fear of lack or "scarcity consciousness." We are then able to share as we no longer fear "running out." And when we see with the eyes of unity the polarity of giver and receiver dissolves, as we realize that to receive is also giving the opportunity for others to give.


As we have faith or trust in the abundance of the Life of the Universe we find greater abundance flowing to us. Faith allows us to act "as if" there is abundance and to do what we know is spiritually right for ourselves and others, trusting that it will work out economically for everyone, despite how it may appear to the rational mind. Faith eventually grows into knowing God's law works as we experience it in our lives.


We "prime the pump" of the universe by creating a vacuum in our lives by giving our time, money, energy and love to others. Giving is an act of faith that the abundance of the universe will circulate in return. The ancient law of tithing 10% of all income to spiritual purposes honors the Source from which all abundance emerges.


From a higher perspective, we can ultimately possess nothing on the material level, although it may possess us - (because we are too attached to and worried about it!). We can, however, be good custodians of what God has given us. The Great Economist is highly resource - and energy-efficient, and we harmonize with universal laws when we keep our resource channels clear and flowing. When we care for and improve what has been entrusted to us, and release to others things we don't use, we see a new inflow of abundance. And of course an attitude of gratitude brings plenitude.


Wealth-producing resources are the "common heritage of all mankind," as recognized by the United Nations in the Law of the Sea Treaty. The benefits of developing productive capacity through ideas, technology, labor or capital need to be shared between those who create the innovation and the social-planetary web that makes the production and wealth possible.


Love is the state of being that creates a positive sense of connectedness and allows harmonious economic interaction to take place. In legal terms it is called the "meeting of minds" and is the basis for all contracts, and in business it is called the "goodwill" a business has generated with customers which is assigned a dollar value in the worth of the business. It is the deeper ground of being which gives rise to the values of trust, honesty and fairness.


The attempt to achieve total self-sufficiency and self-centered independence emerges from the dominance of the illusory separativeness of the ego consciousness. As we participate in economic life we learn that we are part of an interdependent web of complex interactions, and changes in one part of the web affect all the participants. Thus establishing just, harmonious and honest relationships is the key to economic well-being for all.


When an individual or business through their labor transforms material substance or provides a service which truly benefits others, without creating harm anywhere, then a fair and equitable profit for the work done is in order. Profit thus allows the service or "good" to be continued to be provided to others. Profit must include considerations of being good for the whole, on all levels both short and long term, or distortions are created.


Money is a symbolic medium of exchange among humanity and represents accumulated human and planetary creative energy. It is essentially neutral and its value depends on the uses to which it is put. The highest view of money is to see it as a sacred trust to be used for the good of all humanity.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Turning Hustlers into Entrepreneurs

America can reduce poverty by enabling underground businesses
by Kai Wright, from The American Prospect

Excerpted from Utne Reader here;

Loretta Harrison is a born hustler.

“I been making and selling things since I was about 8 years old,” says the 45-year-old unemployed mom. She buys wholesale in Manhattan—balloons, socks, scarves, you name it—then loads up a pushcart and sells at retail prices on the streets of Jamaica, Queens. She’s peddled Icees off the back of a tricycle, teamed up with her teenage son to hawk bottled water for a dollar at stoplights, and organized “passion parties” where she brings together groups of women to gab about sex and buy erotic toys. “I love sales,” she says. “For me to have something that somebody else wants and for them to go in their pocket and bring out hard-earned money to get what I have is just—it’s like a high to me.”

Harrison hasn’t worked a traditional full-time job in nearly 14 years, since her eldest son, Malcolm, had a series of seizures in the second grade that resulted in brain damage. “After that, you know, he was a paranoid schizophrenic,” she says. “He’d think he didn’t have enough sugar in his cereal, and he’d run away and tell people we were bothering him. Punch out the windows and stuff.” So she quit her job delivering mail in the neighborhood to take care of him and her then-newborn daughter. “That whole year,” she says, “my Ready Teddy bags were the only thing that kept me going.”

Ready Teddy is Harrison’s pride and joy. It’s a crocheted teddy bear–and-tote combo that she’s been making since 1992. In the past, she’s sold the bags in a Brooklyn craft store for $35 a pop but now moves them herself for $20. “When I had people selling for me, I would charge them $15. They’d sell it for $20 and take out $5,” she explains, rattling off pricing and staffing schemes that have never been written down, let alone put into a business plan.

In fact, Harrison can’t so much as give a ballpark estimate of how much money she’s made or lost year to year on all of her little businesses. She figures that between her sales and her wage jobs—as a supermarket cashier, a newspaper carrier, a crossing guard—her income has probably peaked at $25,000 in a year. “As far as keeping records and whatnot—Loretta’s not so good at keeping records,” she jokes. “Especially when you get the money and you end up having to spend the money to live.”

Whether and how Harrison can actually live off her sales schemes are larger questions than she knows—and ones that may be getting more attention in coming years, as policy makers grope for solutions to the joblessness that’s strangling cities. Unemployment was at 10 percent at the end of 2009. More families went hungry in 2008 than at any time on record—an estimated 17 million households—and the poverty rate reached higher than it has been in more than a decade.

The conventional debate over how to help families who find themselves counted among those doleful statistics focuses on the social safety net—do we boost supports like welfare, provide low-skill job training, or just force folks to try harder to find work? The assumption lurking behind all of these answers is that poor people are broken and need to be fixed, or at least propped up. But a rarely noticed industry of small-business advocates and lenders say the problem is the other way around. What we need, they argue, is an economy that values the remarkable entrepreneurial instincts that people like Harrison already have. Their research suggests that with relatively small investments for training and with loans of as little as $500, small side hustles like Harrison’s could get neighborhoods like Jamaica churning with enterprise.

Microenterprise, as it’s called, has long been associated with the developing world. The Grameen Bank’s Muhammad Yunus pioneered the idea back in 1976 with a $27 loan to a group of Bangladeshi businesswomen following a famine. A global industry has since parceled out billions of dollars in microloans, and Yunus has won both a Nobel Peace Prize and a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. But while the idea owes its fame to the developing world, it has also been slowly building in America since the mid-1980s—it’s just been ignored by an economic and political culture obsessed with the pursuit of large, rapid growth.

Now, with the U.S. economy in disarray, domestic microenterprise advocates believe this is finally their moment in the sun. Both Grameen and the celebrated peer-to-peer lending tool Kiva.org have announced new U.S. ventures since the recession began. And after years of hostility from Bush-era Washington, micro enterprise development has won the support of both the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress.

The effort is thus far relatively tiny: The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), a trade group, estimates that $100 million to $150 million is invested annually in U.S. microenterprise development. But industry researchers argue that Harrison is among an estimated 10 million low- to moderate-income people who could turn their ideas and hustles into thriving, job-creating businesses—and rescue inner-city economies in the process.

America’s roughly 6 million small businesses—defined as firms with fewer than 500 workers—employ about half the nation’s private-sector workforce. Another 21.7 million people ran their own businesses without employees in 2007. Politicians of all stripes love to laud these folks. In the American political narrative, small-business owners do everything from creating jobs to building communities. And they’re the people for whom Congress is still trying to pry open traditional credit markets. As President Barack Obama proclaimed in May 2009, “The entrepreneurial spirit lies at the core of our nation’s economy and identity.” Microenterprise-development advocates say politicians and bankers shouldn’t view people like Harrison any differently.

Microenterprise is defined, officially, as any business with fewer than five employees that takes less than $35,000 to get off the ground. According to the Aspen Institute’s Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination (FIELD), the vast majority of these ventures are both owned and staffed by an individual or a family. The AEO estimates that more than 24 million such businesses exist in the United States.

The idea of building upon tiny, family- run businesses has never caught on in U.S. economic-development circles. But according to Aspen’s most recent count, at least 500 organizations around the country either lend money or provide training to people who are trying to use small business to thwart poverty. The field started off providing capital largely to residents in black neighborhoods (particularly to black women) who had been walled off from banks for decades; it has since grown and splintered into both money lending and business training. Fifty-eight percent of the clients of today’s microenterprise-development groups are people of color, according to FIELD, and about 60 percent are women.

The changes driven by microenterprise programs are incremental but nonetheless meaningful. In 2008 Aspen surveyed about 1,400 clients served by micro enterprise-development groups. Over half of those who were living below the poverty line when they joined the programs had risen above it within a year. Average household income went from just under $30,000 to $36,000.

The programs have demonstrated a clear ability to help clients build sustainable businesses. In Aspen’s 2008 survey, nearly two-thirds of people who didn’t have businesses when they entered a program successfully got one started. Those new businesses split about evenly between full-time and part-time ventures; the full-time ones generated median revenues of $40,000 in 2007. That’s not Wall Street money, but it’s enough to move a family out of poverty-wage labor. And the biggest programs show even more potential. ACCION USA—the nation’s largest microlender—spokesperson Laura Kozien says, “For every microloan that ACCION approves, 2.7 jobs are created in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.”

Tasha Stoudymire started working in department-store photo studios in high school when she took her newborn son for a portrait and ended up applying for a job. Over 11 years, she scraped her way up from $5.15 an hour to $16.70 an hour. “I couldn’t stand it,” she says of the sacrifice demanded by earning that money. “My son said to me, ‘Mama, you work more than you stay home. You go to work and you come home and sleep and shower.’ That hurt me.”

After a series of family and medical issues kept her away from the job, Stoudymire was let go. Now, at age 30, she has a new plan: opening a combination day-care and child-portrait business out of her Queens home. Skills aren’t the hard part. She just has to figure out how to make it all work as a proper business.

One night in the late fall, Stoudymire and a dozen other mothers and grandmothers attended a child-care business-development class conducted by the Business Outreach Center Network, a group that offers training and small loans to mostly immigrant clients. The women listened raptly as a trainer walked them through the impressive array of expertise they already have. “The word just—let’s eliminate that,” the trainer chided one woman, a gray-haired grandmother with a small, informal day care who introduced herself too humbly. “You’re not ‘just’ a child-care provider. You’re a child-care provider.”

Over the next two hours the women traded hard-won child-rearing and babysitting wisdom. Throughout, the trainer nudged the women toward a business owner’s mind-set, noting their legal responsibilities, marketing advantages, and money-saving opportunities. “Start looking at things in your house right now that could be used. Take off your adult cap and think as a child. What’s a toy?” She put a shoebox face down, propped the lid on its edge like a ramp, and sent a toy car sailing downward. “You don’t have to buy this! You’ve all got on shoes.”

Stoudymire and her classmates will go through 22 sessions like this, learn how to acquire free start-up supplies, and qualify to apply for a $1,000 grant. Since 2003, the BOC Network has put almost 800 New York City women through this training and given them more than $170,000 in grants. By BOC’s tally, the businesses those women later built created more than 275 jobs.

At the previous week’s orientation, Stoudymire burst into tears of joy as she listened to the talk about the market advantage of providers who understand kids’ developmental challenges and can help navigate city bureaucracy. She had that feeling all innovators get, that conviction that they know something nobody else does. And she embraced an emotion few have found in the recent economic downturn, declaring, “I’m excited.”

Excerpted from The American Prospect (Jan.-Feb. 2010), a perennial Utne Reader staff favorite for its smart, authoritative political reporting. A 2010 Utne Independent Press Award nominee for political coverage and general excellence.www.prospect.org

Thursday, April 22, 2010

US Renewable Energy Advocates in Germany

US Renewable Energy Advocates in Germany; Discussing COP15 and beyond from the trenches

A Feed-in WHAT?!
21 January 2010 by RE fan

Want something to work on that promotes the use of renewable energy so that the US has something to show at COP16? A renewable energy policy that began in the United States (Jimmy Carter: 1978), was popularized by Germany, is slowly (ever so slowly) making its way back to its maker—the “feed-in tariff” or FiT. (A tariff? could be dangerous. Well, make sure you read paragraph 4) Gainesville, FL adopted a FiT in March 2009 and has experienced huge gains in solar installations. There are a few other FiTs in Vermont and California too. That’s great, but what is a FiT anyway?

The Sunshine State!
Using sources of renewable energy (eg. solar, wind) is currently more expensive than traditional sources (eg. coal). Unless purchasing renewable energy is incentivised, the prohibitive high prices of renewables may mean that these clean energy technologies never take off, where economies of scale can allow renewable energy to reach grid parity (ie. same price as traditional energy sources). Basically, a FiT requires that utilities pay above market prices for energy produced from renewable sources and this is guaranteed for a set amount of time. The extra cost is distributed among the consumers where (in Germany) they may pay ~ 3% more on their electricity bill. So once you install solar panels, which are likely to be subsidized, the utilities will pay you for the electricity you produce!

Renewables Pay
In Germany, this incentive is designed to taper off to promote more efficient and greater production of renewables. The added cost per German household in 2007 was 3-4 Euros per month, or approximately 1 latte, as reported in the National Journal. Neville Williams, author of “Chasing the Sun: Solar Adventures around the World” (I recommend this to anyone interested in the potential impact that renewables can have in developing countries), comments on both the FiT adoption in Florida and Germany’s added costs to the consumer. He says the added costs in Florida is much cheaper than building new power plants for the needed energy.

For what it represents, the name “feed-in tariff” is quite misleading and may actually be one of the main reasons why it has not succeeded in the US thus far. Using the word “tariff” is big no-no for politicians. The original German term is “Einspeiseverguetung” Einspeise (feed-in, from “ein” and “speisen”) Verguetung (compensation, fee or payment). Basically, it is “compensation” for you (the producer) “feed(ing)-in” the renewable energy you produce to the grid. Wherever this policy is implemented, renewable installations take off! Germany has the solar isolation (amount of sunlight hitting the earth) equivalent to Alaska and they still accounted for almost half of all solar installations worldwide in 2007.

The U.S. can do Better
Think this is a great idea? It can be. There are some logistical/technical problems associated “tying into the grid” such as how to balance production using variable (coal) and intermittent (wind, solar, etc) power sources to meet demand. This has produced some headaches. For example, I was told that one really windy day a while back, wind turbines produced so much extra electricity in Germany that a coal-fired power plant had to be shut down for a while. All RE had to be purchased and to prevent excess electricity from being wasted the plant had to go offline. Cool right? Well, it is very difficult to stop and start a coal-fired power plant. Imagine having to synchronize something like this with more RE in the mix. That’s where careful planning, redesigning the grid and scientific breakthroughs in energy storage come in…what are you waiting for? Get to work!