Season's greetings ring true from December's social innovators

Tis the season that charity and business seem to be everywhere you look. But for those who truly understand the symbiotic relationship between the two, look no further than UIX Grand Rapids.
December may signal business as usual, and as hectic, for some, but at what point of unrestrained consumerism is there need for a paradigm shift?

In a recent post on Innoblog, "Business Plans and Other Works of Fiction," Innosight managing partner Scott D. Anthony posits that modern business plans, with their volumes of market research, demographic figures, and the months of work that go into them, still miss the mark when it comes to defining the roles of business and customer.

Anthony begins with a quote by famed innovator Peter Drucker: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Given the previous week of consumerism so rampant, it includes days nicknamed “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” we may question whether the customers created in many cases are those with a need, those with a want, or those who can be convinced they have a need by advertising budgets and manufactured necessity.

The commonalities between the people and projects covered by UIX Grand Rapids are threefold. Like many successful businesses, they first meet the needs of a specific population; secondly, they recognize a responsibility to give back, sometimes to the same customer population and sometimes to another; and third, they aim for sustainability—customers support the business, the business supports the community, and the community produces more customers. The focus of any UIX piece will always touch on how specific people and the projects they’re working on benefit the community with a triple bottom line, but when it comes to the business side, they also understand that any benefit hinges on their continued success.

In essence, the “business plans” in use here provide a much more cyclical operation than simply cashing in on market research. They are examples of social innovation at work, our call to action.

This month we begin with the voices of Mary C. Hartfield and Gloria Lara of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, explaining the organization’s “Urban Initiative” to bring scouting into previously unreached city populations. The coordinated work of Rich Bloem and Homes of Hope and Matt and Kristin Fowler and The Nest will be highlighted as they work on bringing innovative housing to the underserved.  Shorouq Al-Mallah will be featured for her work at GVSU’s Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, where she is responsible for maintaining a network of vital services and resources for entrepreneurs. And near the end of the month, UIX Grand Rapids will cover husband and wife duo Wright McCargar and Jody Deems-McCargar, who established the Crescendo Foundation in 2012 to cultivate young musicians.

Tis the season that charity and business seem to be everywhere you look. But for those who truly understand the symbiotic relationship between the two, look no further than UIX Grand Rapids.

Matthew Russell is the project editor of UIX Grand Rapids

Photograph by Adam Bird
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