Susan Labandibar speaks at CommonBound Conference June 8th

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.”

 

Southie Trees and Climate Change

On Wednesday, November 7th,  I arrived in New York City and stepped into the midst of the freak snow storm that came in on the heels of Hurricane Sandy.  I was caught off guard by the snow.  But I wasn’t nearly as unprepared as the London Planetrees, the Honey Locusts, and the Norway Maples whose leaves were still on their branches when Sandy and the snow hit.

As I jogged through the snow the next morning, it became very clear that there were hundreds of  downed trees in the five boroughs.  Irreplaceable street trees had failed to shed their leaves in time, leaving their great heavy boughs vulnerable to the ponderous weight of the wet snow.  Others couldn’t survive the heavy winds.  Here muddy spring-like conditions were the culprit.  Without being anchored in deep-frozen ground, the trees pitched over, their twisted roots torn from the soil.

The situation in the local cemetery was no better.  Trees meant to shade graves for generations to come were toppled over tombstones like soldiers on a civil war battlefield.  For someone who knows the effects of climate change on trees, it was a sobering sight.  Pollution, road salt and soil compaction are responsible for claiming the life of an average street tree within seven to fifteen years.   A warming climate will increase the burden of insect infestations, season shifts, droughts,  and violent storms on all trees, including those that create our urban canopy.

Hurricane Sandy was a wake up call for many of us.  But for me, it was about the trees.  In the months preceding my trip to NY,  I had begun to question some of my assumptions about how I could best leverage Tech Networks resources to preserve our environment.  When I started Southie Trees as a “do gooder” program with one full-time employee

george's island tree

working at Tech Networks of Boston, I imagined us working with volunteers to  preserve heritage trees and plant new ones for future generations.   The program exceeded most people’s expectations.  We rescued trees in parks, on streets and in housing projects.  We helped all kinds of neighborhood groups apply for grants for new trees and organized volunteers to plant and water them.  We educated kids in schools, cleaned up tree pits, and appeared in a documentary film about trees in South Boston.

Back in storm-ravaged New York, I spent one evening at an old armory in Brooklyn where displaced seniors from Far Rockaway were lying on cots, waiting for the flooding to subside.   At 2:00AM, as I journeyed back to my sleeping place, I made my decision.  For me, Southie Trees was not the right point of intervention in the system.  As fast as we planted trees, we were losing them.  With climate change in the picture, we were never going to meet our goal of improving the tree coverage in South Boston.

“You have to lead from where you are.”  That’s what Craig Altemose, founder of the Better Future Project, told me a few months ago.  Suddenly, it made sense to me.  I’m a small business owner.  I’ve spent the last 18 years working with small businesses and small non-profit organizations.  While there are many rewards to being a small business owner, ample free time is usually not one of them.  Like other small business owners, as I grew my business, I hired people to do what I no longer had time to do.  What if I were to hire someone full-time to advocate for a real solution to climate change?  Now the question is:  Are there other businesses like mine who would gladly include one percent of sales if they believed that their actions were key in the fight against climate change?

We started the Climate Action Liaison Coalition to answer that question.  The momentum behind the program is rapidly building.  Very soon, it will be apparent to all that there are many business owners today who are ready to step up and take action.  We look forward to working with them.

I’m sure you are wondering what happened to Southie Trees.  Our “do gooder” program is alive and well.   Thank you, Donna Brown and the South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation, for taking over the funding the program.  We also owe a debt of gratitude to  Bethany Lawlor, the Southie Trees program coordinator, who kept it going.  Bethany now works for SBNDC.

New Executives Reinforce Tech Networks of Boston’s Commitment to People-Centric IT Care

Tech Networks of Boston (TNB) today announced the arrival of three new executive team members as part of its commitment to provide people-centric IT care services to its customers. Michael Fenter and David Gleason started with TNB this month, joining John Marchiony, who arrived in November, 2012.

The team at TNB adopted the mantra of “We’re Better Together” in 2010 with the launch of the company’s collaborative technology management initiative. Susan Labandibar, President and Chief Mission Officer, sees the expansion of the executive team as an important milestone in TNB’s evolution. “David, John and Michael will help prioritize the people element of our technology solution. All three are highly committed to caring for our clients, our colleagues and members of our communities.”

Michael Fenter, a 14-year veteran of a national managed IT services firm, joins TNB as Vice President of Technical Services. Fenter will harness his IT service and management experience to allow TNB’s clients to experience a mature information technology function that serves human needs.

As Vice President of Strategic Solutions, David Gleason will provide technical leadership and direction to help organizations discover and deploy effective solutions that help further organizational missions and goals. David has 30 years of consulting experience in the IT field, the last 8 of which have been in CTO and interim CIO roles for major nonprofit organizations.

John Marchiony, Vice President of Client Engagement, aims to ensure that people at all levels of the client organization feel empowered to learn, manage information, and communicate easily in a safe and supportive computing environment. Marchiony has contributed to the success of organizations like the Liberty Science Center, The Computer Museum, WGBH, and the United States Olympic Committee Paralympic Division.

A Celebration of Women-led Businesses

The Boston Business Journal (BBJ) and the National Women’s Business Council report that women-led businesses account for approximately 7.7 million jobs nationwide and slightly more than $1.2 trillion in annual revenue, contributing roughly 12 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

Annually, the BBJ recognizes the local women-led companies that contribute to the regional economy and provide the engine for growth and prosperity that enhances the lives of New Englanders. On Thursday, December 6, in partnership with The Commonwealth Institute (TCI), the BBJ celebrated and profiled “100 incredibly talented female executives and their companies who together set the standards for entrepreneurial success.”

Tech Networks if a Top 100 Women-led Business

Nearly 500 local business leaders attended the celebratory event. Susan Labandibar, founder of Tech Networks of Boston, which was named a Top 100 Woman-led Business, attended the event. Roxbury Technology Corporation, a Tech Networks client, and its CEO Elizabeth Williams were also recognized.

New research from Dow Jones entitled “Women at the Wheel,” reports that businesses with women senior executives “have a greater chance of either going public, operating profitably or being sold for more money.” Furthermore, “for start-ups with five or more female senior executives, 61% were successful.” For venture-backed companies, “a company’s odds of success increase with female executives at the VP and director levels. With every 10% increase in female executives at the VP level, the odds of success increase by 6%; for every 10% increase in female executives at the director level the odds of success increase by 3.3%.”

Elizabeth Warren Visits Tech Networks; Small Business Roundtable

Elizabeth Warren Visits Tech Networks of Boston; August 30, 2012

 

On August 30, Tech Networks hosted U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and local leaders for a women and business roundtable moderated by Massachusetts State Representative Marty Waltz.

Focusing on local businesses and economic health, Warren’s economic plan includes $100 billion in infrastructure funding to spur local jobs creation. Warren lauded the Massachusetts Jobs strategy co-authored by Rep. Waltz that has been effective locally, and which has been used nationally as a model. “Every time a person has a paycheck, that means there is more money to spend locally,” said Warren.

TNB’s Susan Labandibar, who participated on the panel, noted that 72% of TNB revenue is spent locally. Labandibar also shared her frustration that billions of dollars are going to support big businesses while “the infrastructure that TNB values is local and focused on education and transportation.”

All the women on the roundtable panel agreed that there is no such thing as “a women’s issue.” Every issue affects everyone. Equal pay for equal work should not be a topic for conversation because unequal pay affects families everywhere.

Engaging in civic life, such as regional and national political campaigns, local government, and non-governmental organizations was a broad priority for all the panelists.

According to Warren, “This is about our involvement with the issues,” and “our goal is to motivate people to get involved.  We are all called to speak up for what we believe in.  I am drawn to this race by the urgency of the moment.” Please get involved and vote.