Businesses of all shapes and sizes come to ActionFunder to drive community engagement and increase their impact. Our friends at x+why are interested in community and impact too. This fellow B Corp runs co-work spaces for businesses driven by purpose.
So, what does x+why think about business as a force for good? We asked a few questions to find out. The answers are philosophical, practical and innovative by turns. Dive into what it means to be a B Corp, how to celebrate your business’ positive impact, and a bit about the SDGs below.
Why do you think having a positive impact is important for businesses?
The mainstream view of Capitalism currently falls under the Milton Friedman paradigm – this sees business as separate from society, stating that the duty of a business is to focus on profit and increasing its bottom line.
We now know this is wrong, and that businesses are a strong part of a highly interconnected ecosystem and economy – meaning that they can become hubs for transformational change.
Social problems are embedded in social systems, so businesses tackling their communities most pressing needs are able to positively impact systems change. This can mean the difference between tackling the root cause and the symptom of many social and environmental issues.
The John Elkington paradigm focuses on the Triple Bottom Line – people and planet, alongside profit. This element of purpose puts profit in context, and demonstrates that without a healthy society and planet – there is no room for business.
By widening the lens and redefining what it means to do business – it moves us away from the extractive model of capitalism that has been plundering our finite resources, and towards a more responsible, regenerative and circular economy that can be sustainable for the generations to come.
What do you do to foster a sense of community at X+why?
While we put a huge amount of thought and planning into all of our buildings, our spaces are all about the people, not the properties. Community is at the heart of everything we do at x+why.
The thing that makes us unique is our focus on mission and purpose – with all start-ups and companies signing a manifesto when they join, honouring their dedication to the triple bottom line. This means that from the outset, we house a likeminded community of members who are already thinking and acting differently, and have a shared sense of vision and values. First and foremost, this makes a huge difference to fostering an authentic sense of collaboration over competition.
Do you support non-profit in your area and if so how?
Yes, one of our founders Phil Nevin is also the founder of the Big Change Charitable Trust – which is where his interest in the intersection between charity and business originally stems from. Big Change back pioneers and projects in the UK and globally, who want to reimagine and transform education.
We’re also more than just a space that operates within a building, and we make sure that we actively extend an arm to the local area by regularly volunteering or supporting wider community initiatives and individuals. We do this by giving discounts to purpose-driven businesses committed to social impact and sustainability, as well as pro-bono support (free membership, event space and mentoring) to local movements and leaders.
At our space at the People’s Mission Hall in Whitechapel, we have a brilliant charity called Switchback who are improving prison reform by helping ex-prisoners successfully re-integrate back into society. We also support the Craftivist Collective run by award-winning campaigner and activist Sarah Corbette, they are committed to ‘gentle protests’ by using thoughtful, beautiful and custom crafted works to spark positive change in the world. Sarah regularly hosts inspiring events about their latest work such as posting crafty toys and creations to attract the attention of local MPs.
Former gang-leader turned activist Karl Lokko is a member who works to reform gang culture and fight for social justice. He volunteers with the charity Youth In Action and is the ambassador for organisations Talent RISE and Big Change. We also have mission-lead entrepreneur Nissy Tee who grew up in one of the toughest parts of London and managed to claw her way to Cambridge, after which she embarked on a career to inspire other young women. She regularly hosts events for her women’s personal development platform, ‘The Power Masterclass’.
Why have you joined the B corp movement? And how does it support you in what you do?
The B Corporation is the gold standard certification when it comes to truly delivering on people, planet and profit. We believe in walking the walk, not just talking to the talk, so it was important to us that we were part of a likeminded community that contributed to our ambitions.
x+why believe in being the change that you want to see in the world and uniquely, becoming a B Corporation was part of our ambition from our very inception. This has helped us to become pioneers in the space and having become fully accredited within 2 years of opening (passing with a very pleasing 98.3 on our first B Impact assessment), we are now able to work with B Lab UK to host our own Why B sessions – helping other start-ups and individuals to navigate the initial stages of a rigorous process.
This helps us to unite, inspire and amplify all the great work of our many purpose-driven businesses, and while we acknowledge that we are not perfect – the B Corp framework is a clearly lit guide-post for never ending improvement. As a mission-driven enterprise this is our North Star in a sea of change and uncertainty, making sure that we always stay on the right track as we expand and grow responsibly.
How do you celebrate the positive impact of businesses in your network?
Our story is built upon the success of our members. At x+why it’s central to our core purpose that we do everything we can to support and amplify our members journeys, leveraging our networks and resources to drive them forwards on their missions.
Our community is a hub of inspiration where achievements, trials and tribulations are openly shared – resulting in requests for help being answered in the weekly newsletter, exciting new product launches featuring on the main website, competitions and prizes being hosted on social media, or new audiences being picked up via our Why’s Words Podcast.
How do you integrate the SDGs into the work you do at X+Why?
Our buildings provide a sustainable and inspiring backdrop, but our true and long-lasting impact comes from convening, motivating and supporting a network of start-ups and scale-ups who put social impact at their core.
Our members are now collectively working towards 13 out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. These provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, for now and into the future. We believe they provide an important spotlight on issues for those wanting to position or re-position their business towards a social mission.
There you have it: a QA all about what it means to be a business for good. Are you inspired to boost your triple bottom line, to support your local community, to learn more from other businesses engaged in doing good? Look no further. Sign up to the ActionFunder newsletter to have updates on all those topics (and more) in your inbox, every month.