When we think of not-for-profit organizations, many of us think of inefficient groups that depend on donations, grants and volunteers to provide social services. But over the last thirty years, the not-for-profit sector has changed dramatically, paving the way to an economy based on human need rather than greed.
Increasingly, not-for-profit organizations generate their own income from selling goods and services, and they are reaching into markets once dominated by for-profits. Construction, manufacturing, software development, food catering and retail are now all fair game for not-for-profit businesses. Because all of their profits must be invested back into their mission, these businesses return wealth to the real economy, rather than making the rich richer.
Not-for-profit businesses also appeal to the best in human nature and fulfill our deep desire to work for companies that make a difference. This alignment is driving the rise of not-for-profit businesses in our economy. With marked advantages in terms of value creation, market reputation, innovation, human resources, governance, and productivity, not-for-profit businesses are increasingly outperforming their for-profit peers.
What if this trend continues? What if we rally around businesses that see profit as the means to achieving greater goals, rather than as a goal in itself? Could we help usher in a Not-for-Profit World?
The Not-for-Profit World is a vision of a world in which markets can facilitate collaboration, connection and caring, within ecological limits.
We came to these ideas, outlined in our forthcoming book How on Earth, through years of researching, analyzing and testing the Not-for-Profit World model.
We collected data about trends in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors. We drew on the latest insights from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, systems thinking, social psychology and behavioral economics. We databased hundreds of existing not-for-profit businesses in order to map the scope of the emerging Not-for-Profit World, and to have a suite of case studies to learn from.
Our analysis allowed us to see how the shifts that are already underway are catalyzing other changes – from worldviews and values to collective action and individual behavior. This is opening up space for new ways of organizing the economy to emerge. In this light, the Not-for-Profit World model beautifully coalesces with other growing social trends like collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer production, and crowdfunding.
To test our conclusions, we went through a multi-stage feedback process. We presented our ideas at conferences, public talks, in the media, via social media, at workshops, and had in-depth conversations with experts in a wide range of fields, including business, economics, finance and sociology. Finally, we started a not-for-profit business incubator in the U.S., giving us more hands-on experience and grounding our ideas.
It has been an incredible journey, and now we invite you to join us for the most important phase!
Set to be published in 2017, How on Earth will be distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing. Pre-publication orders can be made here, or you can grab a copy via our original Indiegogo crowdfunding page, which now enables perpetual campaigns. Updates on the book's progress may be read here.
Here’s to a world that works for us all!