How President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi Could Have Meaningful Conversations
Developing the skills needed for productive dialogue.
A Hot Mess in Washington DC
A colleague commented on the recent State of the Union Address that we needed some adults in Washington, DC. My response was that an impressive collection of teenagers like Greta Thunberg of Sweden would better serve us. I have since wondered what it would take to get us out of this negative downward spiral of political divisiveness. We also see a growing number of environmental and social issues all around us. It may seem like there is little hope for the future of the US. Thankfully I then remembered that some are making a difference in the world. There are the growing B Corp community, 3,243 companies, and counting.
One great conversation can shift the direction of change forever. — Linda Lambert
A B Corp Champion
Christina Cain, who was then the executive director of the Staunton Creative Community Fund, introduced me to the B Corporation world. She told me that I needed to meet Michael Pirron of Impact Makers. Another individual told me the same thing a few weeks later. He offered to make the introduction. I decided to take him up on the offer.
Photo Credit: Joe Kornik — Consulting Magazine
Developing a New Approach
Previous to our meeting, Michael had been a student enrolled in 2001 in a Leadership and Ethics class. The course was part of the curriculum in the Kellogg International Executive MBA Program at Northwestern University. He wrote a paper titled A Nonprofit Competitive Business. The goal was to create a new kind of nonprofit supported by a foundation funded by profits from a for-profit company. The company would focus on maximizing profits using the socially responsible business practice to fund the charitable foundation. A different approach to a traditional company’s desire to maximize shareholder value.
In October of 2006, with $50 and a laptop, Pirron moved from concept to practice, founding Impact Makers. He began the first step to develop the for-profit element of his paper by launching a management and technology consulting firm. Impact Makers would become a B2B version of Newman’s Own B2C model where 100% of the profits for both organizations go to charity. The second step in Pirron’s plan began in April of 2015. Impact Makers gifted company ownership of 30% to Virginia Community Capital and 70% to The Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond. This gift valued at $11.5 million will eventually fund the nonprofit foundation element of his plan. Additionally, Impact Makers had also provided significant local philanthropic support. A total of $1 million in financial backing from company profits and pro bono work at the time of this gift.
An Example of Societal Beneficial Legislation
Impact Makers was also a founding certified B Corp. This designation is awarded for the meeting or exceeding the standards set in the B Impact Assessment developed by B Corporation. These are companies that balance purpose and profit using business as a force for good. They consider their impact on the community, customers, environment, governance, and workers. B Corporation is also championing the benefit corporation legislation passed in 36 states, with five additional in progress. This legislation is to protect a company’s stated mission to consider all of its stakeholders.
The Commonwealth of Virginia was the third state to pass benefit corporation legislation. Michael Pirron worked with a local delegate to put forth the benefit corporation model for a vote. Through the support of the Virginia Bar Association, the legislation passed unanimously. This story has repeated 35 more times. The social justice left, and conservative right has come together to support this legislation each time. Evidence that legislators can find common ground if they allow themselves to listen to one another and work to make a positive impact on our country.
I have been very fortunate to have met Michael Pirron. I was immediately impressed with him from our first meeting. I continue to benefit from his friendship. He has introduced me to many beautiful individuals involved in the B Corp community and other similarly focused organizations. His story as the founder of Impact Makers has been shared by him to include a speaking engagement at Liberty University. When invited, he asked them if they realized that a conservative Christian university invited a radical Jew to speak to them. Further evidence that those with differing perspectives can benefit from working together.
President Trump and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi could have meaningful conversations if they chose to do so. They are, after all, in key positions that should focus on fixing the many pressing issues. There are many that some would argue that our legislators have either created or have failed to address adequately. If interested, I would be happy to send them each a copy of the book Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. Authors Jackie Stavros and Cherri Torres can help them dramatically improve their conversations to deepen understanding and unleash positive potential. The president and speaker could then engage in dialogue that leads to similar success as the benefit corporation legislation shared above. However, if our elected representatives do not take the lead, I still recommend that the rest of us commit to embracing meaningful discussions in all aspects of our lives. We can all use more positivity to happen around us.
Joe Sprangel is a business dean, associate professor, and principal consultant conducting academic research and industry practice in sustainable strategic planning. This work focuses on using organizational strengths to leverage the power of business to create a better world for all stakeholders.
This article was originally a blog post on www.emmanuelstategicsustainability.com.