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In this blog I try to explain the phenomena of “citizen entrepreneurship” and why I use such words. Hopefully I create a sensibility on how it changes the world by creating a new local and global society based on exactly the opposite values as those that are dominant.
Maybe you recognize some of your own processes. I will finalize with personal experiences and decisions after a decade of active and experimental entrepreneurial citizenship, including my own steps in creating an alternative society within a society. The latter is conditioned of course to my own complex surroundings in the Netherlands. This may differ from your own and your own experiments in this field. That’s why we initiated also the experimental development of the STIR Academy with the intention to share knowledge and experience about such processes through a worldwide network structure of hubs.
Looking forward to hearing from you, your opinion after reading the blog and your own initiatives, I remain,
Warmly and actively
Jean-Paul Close (Sustainocrat and entrepreneurial citizen)
What comes to your mind when we use the word “entrepreneurship”?
You may think of people who run a business for money. That is the effect of a culture and perception that we created for ourselves in a money driven consumer economy. It is however not the only meaning of entrepreneurship.
What comes to mind when I ask you about “citizenship”?
You probably think of yourself as a citizen, a law abiding member of your local or national community. Citizenship goes with a sense of belonging to something big, regional and relatively powerful. It provides a sense of safety, an identity of which one is part.
That is how far it used to stretch for most people. When you read this you are probably already a person who has broken through into a level of awareness that looks around in search for answers to a bigger reality. We have become aware of the limitations of our planet Earth, the destructive forces of a global way of life and the dependence we have of financial means that seem to be managed by people of a highly disputable reputation.
When we become aware of this the first question that arises is: “what can I do about it?” This is an entrepreneurial question. It has nothing to do with the money driven enterprise but with key human and ecological values that have reached your inner worries and demand reflection and, if possible, action.
In terms of human psychology we refer to this break through as the turning around of our inner mirror. We first mirror ourselves on the behavioral aspects of our surroundings. We adopt the way of thinking that is common around us. We are also educated that way by our parents, culture and educational systems. We become what society expects us to become.
When however we arrive at a point that our awareness starts questioning aspects or even the entire functioning of our surroundings we also question our own selves. We open up to new thoughts that may even contradict the common understandings around us. We start thinking for ourselves and do not simply assume the “right or wrong” imposed by our culture or systems of law. We enter phases of awareness that develops around a new sense of morality and responsibility. The phases we feel are generally fairly common to all of us:
- We become critical
- We start taking decisions in a different, sometimes controversial way to the norm
- We start expecting “something else” from our society and leaders
- We look for new ways of getting satisfaction for our inner drives even if they are opposite to what “society”‘ imposes.
- We become the “society” of our beliefs and start acting and connecting with other people in that way.
We become an entrepreneurial citizen.
We become like in thinking
For over a decade I have been such entrepreneurial citizen myself. In my profile you can read why I opened up to this awareness and decision to start experimenting with my citizenship in order to create a surroundings that I could happily pass on to my children.
In 2009 I started the STIR Foundation (the name already refers to the stirring transformation process that affects the person and his/her surroundings) to see if I could leverage the personal views into a new reality that involves more people and institutions. For many years I had tried to convince business people, non-entrepreneurial citizens and government officials to change. This did not work.
So I decided to “become the new world” and invite others to connect. The foundation gave it all a non personal status, allowing a new reality to become of all of us, not just of me. Being the representative of a world inside a world I could explain the values of the new world. If people understand they may decide to join me in any way they want. They then go through a fearful process of opening up to a new reality and positioning it in relationship with the old one. This is complex for any person, even more for an entire community. I could help them along the way.
Here are some decisions that I made along the way, forced by the circumstances and the deepening of my awareness when learning to live a new, satisfying reality within a larger unsatisfying but dominant one.
When my awareness reached out to my own living nature as part of the universe I could see the destructive forces of pollution that were the consequence of the way society had evolved. It was not that difficult to notice that our consumer lifestyle and consumption based economies were the cause. It was equally easy to see that the political and economic hierarchies of our society were all structured around that lifestyle. The standardized factor that connects everything is “money”. But when we consume massively without producing anything ourselves to compensate, we create an unbalance in which money only flows one way. To continue our lifestyle we depend on the injection of money into the system allowing those that manage the money to become dominant over us. This financial slavery has been imposed on us by ourselves. To undo ourselves from it we need to eliminate our money dependency.
That is not easily done when everything has been connected to this money based consumption system up to the smallest fragmented detail. In my perception money is a means, not a goal. But in the dominant reality money has become the single goal and is made available to us at incredible (financial) expense without negotiation possibilities or alternative compensations back. This became unsustainable, so I had to eliminate money from my world and concentrate on productivity of our own.
2. new negotiation
The interaction between me and society changed as a consequence. Instead of negotiating for money (a job, a subsidy, a loan) I started to negotiate for value creation based on the productivity of real values. By taking the lead in complex issues (global issues, local solutions) that are ineffectively being dealt with by the reigning structures (because they contribute to the cause) I could ask in reciprocity some values back for myself. My financial needs transformed gradually, eliminating the unnecessary until it reached the most problematic issues of dominance of the money driven world, my primary needs (food, clothing, housing, etc). All these needs are fragmented too in the money driven world with their own systems of dominance and power. These are reluctant to change their attitude because the alternative is self sufficiency, eliminating them from the chess board. To take a distance I needed to look at ways of becoming more independent to their powers through steps in self sufficiency.
3. Self sufficiency
This negotiation brought me to define “sustainable human progress” in my own way because I needed something to help me structure my own sustainable progress and coherent negotiation with my surrounding. In order to achieve what I needed for myself I also needed something that my surroundings wanted and that they were willing to connect to, accepting me as accountable entrepreneurial citizen. The crises had affected the system’s world of money driven and money dependent structures so they were also looking for inspiration (if they managed to survive the shake out caused by the depressions). Two tendencies started to show clearly:
- Those who were committed to keep the old society system going hardened their dominate money driven position, often supported by the reigning systems of law,
- Those who opened up to new models and inspiration, allowing me to strengthen my world supported by moral common sense and lack of money,
This tension became a transformative give and take between realities that forced me to address top down and bottom up at the same time. In a previous blog I explained the three steps of transformation caused by awareness. But if I wanted to survive the transformative processes I had to bridge the processes and not just live in idealism only. One cannot eat money but dreams neither. The advantage of operating totally opposite the dominance of money is that it does not have a grip on me other than the ability to take away certain commodities from me. But that is just hardware. My inner drive is only strengthened and supported by growing amount of people in my surroundings that fill in the material gaps instantly.
Primary needs are food, health, safety, self sufficiency and self awareness. The became the basis of Sustainocracy, the new democracy, that placed this commitment to human progress as a dot on the horizon. Every step I took should take me and those that join me a bit closer to achieving that new harmonic reality. Meanwhile I and my people gad to defend ourselves against the dogma’s of an old society, negotiating our right to sustain ourselves by taking a distance of damaging but dominant realities. We arrived at a point that even our constitution and its executive operational reality became a point of attention. Two realities appeared, one in severe stress and the other growing while openings provided the opportunity.
As a Sustainocrat there was a strong desire to transform the complex reality, not to substitute is with a kind of utopia. The old reality was providing still a large stability and security to massive amounts of people. This needed to be respected even though these old values could never be sustained in the long term. There is no absolute truth nor ideal situation, just a purpose driven force of change. By presenting the new reality as an alternative of choice anyone involved, person or professional, could determine for him or herself the choice and the consequences of choosing.
3. The first Sustainocrat
My bottom up approach was to address my own direct environment to become self sufficient with me. As an individual I of course have my limitations and together we can combine talents and opportunities.
Top down the complexity of course increased tremendously because of the tremendous network of financial dependencies. Still it was necessary also to get executive support and commitment for change to create openings for the bottom up processes.
With STIR we tried in the field of education but the doors opened and closed at equal speed because of the system dependence of semi governmental structures. To get to the policy source I needed to break through to the right levels of operational execution. After a lot of trial and error I arrived at taking human health and air quality as the binding factor. AiREAS was born as a new age venture.
4. Fragile at first
The steps and commitments to a new reality are fragile at first. As it starts becoming part of the operational reality of the people and organizations involved they start behaving accordingly. Every change in the setting and bondage based on the learning process brings back the possibility of shaking up the structure. It becomes important to stick to the dot on the horizon and take steps that maintain the cohesion of the group. The more the steps materialize in results that can be celebrated together the stronger the bondage becomes of the group and less chance it has to fall apart.
There is difference between the volatile commitment of people who act in freedom of choice and those that commit as member of a formal institutional community. Both have a transformative challenge of their own that comes together with the Sustainocrat.
5. Not volunteers but professional
One of the snags of NGO’s and new age citizen entrepreneurship is that we are seen by the establishment as hobbyist in the area of volunteers. The money driven system’s reality is considered “professional”. It takes time to penetrate the pld hierarchy, invite them to participate and to take the issue seriously. At first we are seen as a threat, easily maneuvered into the spectrum of the “undesired”. When we display continuity and gradual progress through results and determination, while the old system continues its collapse, the doors open more seriously to accept our new age professionalism as value driven new (non economic or political) world to take into serious account.
For those who started the process it was a long time an open field of loneliness that gradually received visitors and later even collaborators of ever larger authority. That is why we are now experimenting with the STIR Academy as a worldwide structure destined to share information, knowledge and best practice.
We even started a website to see if any interest is generated to connect.
Multidimensionality means that one thinks and acts within the frame of three pilars:
- What can I contribute to create and maintain a healthy and motivated society?
- How can I contribute to minimizing our ecological footprint?
- What added value do I provide to my community, market, country?
As a person one can act according these values and as a business enterprise one can as well. In that case we call this multidimensional entrepreneurship. A profitable business foundation is created in which money is not the ultimate goal but a means to achieve the above added values. If we all, as a person or as a business behave according these guidelines we will change the world into a better place within a decade.