Category Archives: Culture

I accept white privilege

The hidden danger of saying “I accept white privilege”

I was at Seattle Poetry Slam last night. A slam isn’t a poetry reading, it’s a live performance of spoken word combining the best of alliteration, syncopation, meter, and emotion to shed light on truths we know but don’t hear.

In “Death of the Central District”, Ela Barton spoke of how gentrification forced people out. She spoke of friends forced to move too far for them to be friends anymore. And she spoke of a posse of 15 white people in the street, streets that used to be places you wouldn’t allow your kids to go to after 6 PM, in skinny shorts running “like they run our streets.”

It seems white privilege is the latest hot topic every liberal proudly rushes to admit exists. But if white privilege exists, if institutionalized racism exists, that means people of color who you see, are resilient. Somehow they found a way to stick around despite every institution and economic force synchronizing to move them out of the way for centuries. They mastered living resilient lives. They stuck around and wove a path that let them rise to take the stage and be visible in organizations.

Today scientist tout resilience as the solution to our communities and the path forward for sustainable ecosystems. They study the numbers and statistics and draw inferences from plants, insects, and monkeys living in rain forests and other exotic places. And they gleaned insights from these special places where plants and tiny creatures wove a path to do amazing things.

It’d seem that building resilient communities, that can survive climate threats, will require leadership with experience beyond book learning from plants and animals thousands of miles away. It will require leaders who know how to live resilient lives.

And there in lies the danger, we don’t have a common lexicon for this.   And that’s why I help organize events like Resilience at the Crossroads of Race and Climate Justice featuring Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP National Director of Environmental and Climate Justice.

The CEO who used soup to stave hunger for profit.

A corporation has a single core obligation: to make money. But some companies are signing a deal, promising to create not only profit but also a tangible benefit to society and the environment.

In the tiny town of Gilsum, N.H., you’ll find the headquarters of W.S. Badger Co. Inc. The company makes all-natural cosmetics marketed under the name Badger Balm.

“Early on, I started making soup on Friday. And I loved what happened to the company, seeing everybody sit down at the same time,” CEO Bill Whyte says. That sense of togetherness extends to the company’s 70 employees today and that seems to pay off for the business. Badger has doubled in five years, expanding its market to 26 countries, and they’re a good example of what’s called a benefit corporation. This is a type of company certified as being motivated by more than just the hunger for profit.

Think of it this way: USDA certifies organic foods, and Good Housekeeping puts its seal of approval on quality products, like washing machines and skillets. And since 2006, a nonprofit organization called B Lab has been certifying corporations it deems to be concerned about their communities and the environment.

In 27 states, legislatures have created a legal status for benefit corporations. The bill in New Hampshire originated with Badger.

So why would a company want a new law? It’s extra work, and there are no tax breaks. Tim Frick from MightyBytes, a tech company in Chicago, says being a benefit corporation is “being part of a larger global movement of making sure that business is being used as a force for good and not for evil.”

Erik Trojian, the director of policy, says B Lab measures just about everything the company does: “Supply chain, their interaction with the community, [and] the environment.” But he adds it’s also a way to “bake your morals and your missions into the DNA of your company.”


Photo licensed under Creative Commons from Rian Castillo on flickr


Facing flaccid innovation, they discovered this “doctor’s” antidote leads to never-ending drive.

A health care provider succeeds when other’s couldn’t, doing the impossible. Located in Nepal, where average income is US$150 and the average patient walks 2.5 hours to receive care, Possible discovered the solution wasn’t money alone. The secret was inspiring the community in an unrelenting pursuit of remarkable results.

“It’s critical that you draw a line in the sand and express who you are and who you aren’t with complete transparency. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a deluded set of partners or employees who waste your time.” So they created a Culture Code. And it’s been so successful that NGOs, donors, and corporations are learning it. For them culture is strategy.

Their unrelenting focus on relationship, with culture at the center, leads to different twists on common principles, like innovation and design. “We tend to underestimate users’ appreciation for great design — whether it’s visual, product or interaction design,” Arnoldy says. “What we’ve seen consistently, whether people are rich or poor, no matter where they are from, they have an ingrained sense of what makes a good product.”

So their mantra is “design for dignity”. And that’s led to their success at outstanding innovation.


Photo licensed under Creative Commons from walkadog on flickr