Susan spoke at the CommonBound conference on June 8th about technology’s role in the new economy. This topic encompasses our strategic priority of contributing to the missions of organizations that improve our community. Susan highlighted that as the economy changes, you must also evolve the way you use technology, such as TNB using technology to create successful collaborations.
One example of the new economy creating opportunities for technology is the creation of B Corporations. Tech Networks of Boston was recently granted B Corp certification, which legally allows a company to prioritize mission over money. The government is realizing that encouraging businesses to put community before profit increases innovation for the greater good. Information Technology is becoming more and more useful for building community and the CommonBound Conference was a perfect showcase for the like.
CommonBound 2014 is the New Economy Coalition’s largest and most significant convening yet. This conference showcased a wide variety of new economy strategies, and participation from organizations such as the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Demos, Climate Justice Alliance, Shareable, PolicyLink, and more.
To learn more about the New Economy Coaltion (NEC) visit neweconomy.net.Here is her full speech: “ What is the new economy? It’s human scale, resourceful, restorative and compassionate. Just like in colonial times, it’s profoundly DIY and it’s profoundly democratic. But unlike colonial times, it is built on highly sophisticated technology that is so simple to use and so affordable, that almost everyone can use it. Why is this so important to the development of the new economy? Well, let’s step back for a second and let me tell you that we already know how to live within our planetary means, even with a population of more than 7 billion people. All we need to do is reduce the standard of living worldwide to that of the average citizen of Bangladesh. Now that doesn’t sound so appealing. The new economy is more than just the democratization of technology, but let me tell you, there is no way we’re going to build durable economies without it. The democratization of technology has had profound implications on the business I work in, Tech Network of Boston. Tech Networks is an IT services company that started twenty years ago delivering used computers to inner city college students. When computers became cheap and ubiquitous, we shifted our focus to maintaining computer networks for local area non-profits. Then, guess what happened? The same thing. Email, shared files and applications began to move to the cloud. Software in particular became so easy and cheap to use that almost anyone could download and install them on their phone. So then we started helping people use technology to collaborate. For three years now, our mantra has been: “We’re Better Together.” And over time, we’re learning how to build even more powerful collaborations and break down silos. Some people think that we earn our living by maintaining servers and building network infrastructure, but that’s becoming less relevant. We are helping non-profits use information technology to serve their employees and their constituents, to scale in size and impact, and to innovate. But Tech Networks, like so many other social enterprises today, is itself an innovative organization that defies traditional labels. We’re a Certified B Corporation on the road to becoming a Massachusetts Benefit Corporation. That means that we are legally allowed to prioritize mission over money. Thank God. If I had investors they would have fired me a long time ago! Our mission, like the new economy itself, is complex. In the new economic ecosystem there are no clear boundaries. Yes, we enable positive change in the world by helping non-profit organizations take advantage of IT. But we have many other relationships within the community, including our IT community of practice, our workforce development partnerships, and our initiatives outside the IT field, like Southie Trees which focuses on maintaining and expanding tree coverage in South Boston, and the Climate Action Liaison Coalition, which enables businesses to take action against climate change. Tech Networks is extremely grateful that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has created a legal status for businesses like ours. But there is so much more that government could do to encourage the growth and development of the new economy. For the last thirty years, the City of Burlington Vermont has explicitly followed an economic development plan that features government, small businesses and non-profit organizations working together to build a durable economy that meets the needs of all residents. It’s my hope that cities and towns across the nation will take notice of the success that Burlington has achieved by following this model. I’m going to wrap up with a story with a personal story about government, the new economy, and an opossum in a trash can. One of the crowning achievements of the Department of New Urban Mechanics at the City of Boston was the “Citizens Connect” iPhone app. Whereas, prior to the app, City of Boston employees used to drive around the City, looking for potholes and other problems, the Citizens Connect application allows any smartphone user to snap a picture of a broken street light, pothole, or other annoyance and automatically report the location to the City. There is also a Twitter feed, so people can follow along as the problems are reported and fixed. I had just downloaded the app after learning about it at a neighborhood association meeting. I was bored, it was 11:00 on a Friday night in the middle of winter. I clicked on a few pictures of potholes, and then I saw a picture of a red trash can with something in it. The accompanying text was: “Possum’ in my trash can. Can’t tell if it’s dead. How do I get this removed.” I got on my coat, walked ten minutes to the trash can location, and, sure enough, there was an opossum trapped in a trash can. 15 minutes later, I filed the return tweet: “Possum? Check. Living? Yep. Turned the trash can on its side. Walked home. Good night, sweet possum.” Talk about “We’re Better Together” When citizens, businesses, and governments work together, you never know what can happen. Sometimes, you might even save an opossum.”