Hope - and social enterprise - trumps hate

Sitting down to write your column on the night it looks like the USA elected Trump is not an easy ask.

I had an idea brewing that was not going to be related to politics at all – I’d hosted the amazing CEO of a Far North community enterprise as part of Sustainable Whanganui’s annual celebration last week and wanted to share his insights into how to “do well through doing good”.

The election results attempted to derail me, but having recently shifted house, I rediscovered “Good News for a Change” by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel, while restacking the bookshelf.  These two are North Americans (from Canada) with their heads screwed on, writing about successful, non-mainstream business models, way back in 2002.

This good news approach to business, to creating jobs that matter, to finding sustainable solutions that recognise our dependence on nature, is no longer new – and perhaps it never was.

My original pitch for this column, the “Glass Half-Full”, was a series of local sustainability success stories, and there have been a few, although I’ve strayed into whinge territory from time to time.

Getting back to the point of this fortnight’s instalment – the impressive Cliff Colquhoun and the organisation he leads in Kaitaia, CBEC – the Community Business Environment Centre.  It’s been running for 25 years, turns over about $4 million each year and employs 45 people.  It was employing a lot more until it recently lost its waste management and recycling contract, due in part to an emphasis on contract price at the expense of other valuable factors like supporting local expenditure.

Prior to the construction of our Resource Recovery Centre, a team of Whanganui people visited CBEC in Northland to learn from their experience.  Cliff is now taking his experience and insights into Auckland to help the super-city set up satellite recycling centres.  There are good people doing good work and we shouldn’t lose sight of that, depressing Trump win or not.

Planning is underway for next year’s La Fiesta, led by the indomitable Carla Donson of the Women’s Network.  I’ll be hosting a panel of women leading businesses with heart at the festival.  I have the director of Connect Global, who opened a call centre in Waverley last month, creating nine permanent long-term jobs for locals, the kaiwhakahaere of a local iwi working on an innovative product, and the general manager of a business development service supporting social enterprise in New Zealand.

There are so many stories of success out there – I strongly believe if we put more of our energy and attention into sharing what’s working, we would shift the balance.  We need to focus on where we want to go.

I had two bright young Whanganui people meet with me this week who know where they are heading.  They are seeking support for a local social enterprise network.  Watch this space – we are working together to get something started and hope to have Ākina Foundation, my former employers, join us.  Find out more about social enterprise and a case study on CBEC at www.akina.org.nz.

For my new Horizons’ role, I’m keen to see how we use our recent foray into regional economic development for the power of good – for long-term, sustainability-based opportunities, that creates jobs that don’t cost the earth and give people work with meaning. Yes, that means saying enough is enough to the intensifying dairy industry and blind belief in extraction and fossil fuels – the boom-bust industries are letting us all down.

And for those of us still suffering a Trump hangover, feeling disempowered and without the resources to run our own company for good, what can I say?  Start small and stay conscious – little things truly do add up.

“I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do” – Edward Everett Hale.