How a 100-Year-old Tortoise Helped Build a Scalable Social Enterprise

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There is no shortage of people with a vision to change the world. But how? Strategy without the proper execution is simply a dream. When met with environmental and societal issues, organisations tend to use linear thinking (give a man a fish) to identify a solution to the problem instead of taking a circular, sustainable approach (teach a man to fish) by investing in the prevention of certain situations.

Take Lonesome George for example. As the last surviving tortoise of its kind, many think we must find a way to save his species – quick, hurry up, find him a mate. While the intentions are in the right place, they are missing a major lesson that he is teaching us – how did he get into this particular scenario to begin with? What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can we truly invest in our future to prevent Lonesome George type situations from occurring?

As a collective we need to take into account, like never before, the choices we make and the impact they have on the world around us. The flat world has arrived and as a consequence, we need to value our resources differently, so all may prosper.

That is what led me to create Lonesome George & Co and inspire a movement of agents of change who understand that their choices matter. With seven successful points of sale (including an e-commerce site) we have breathed new life into lifestyle brands. Our organisation was built around a hybrid business model that combines for-profit and non-profit components measuring success not only by financial gain, but also by the societal and environmental impact it has on the world. We have built this model to be easily replicated and scalable in other businesses and communities.

At the core it is simple: our social enterprise platform uses a for-profit arm to finance and raise awareness through the sale of our products. We call it Impact Apparel. We responsibly source and manufacture using Organic Pima Cotton from farms in my native Peru to help create jobs and stimulate the economy. Every piece of Impact Apparel purchased in our Galapagos stores generates the seed capital to fund Outward Bound Ecuador educational programs that enable a mental shift to empower youth. We finally run a careful selection process, using Ashoka’s selection methodology, to choose social entrepreneurs to be part of our human capital investment fund and change their communities.

We invite other social enterprises to use our MIND.SHIFT.IMPACT strategy to build their business. First, identify an issue you are passionate about. What lesson or issue do you want to bring awareness (MIND) to? Next, create a product that revolves around that issue. This product will be your income generator, the flagship product that will fund change in your community. Now is time to connect with an organisation that will SHIFT the behavior of your community and inspire youth to step up and make a change that will IMPACT the world we live in.

If we work together to build businesses that inspire agents of change, we will change the world.

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