A not-for-profit world

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A not-for-profit world

by Jen Hinton and Donnie Maclurcan (principals at the Post Growth Institute)


Could this view of the future become reality? (under a Creative Commons Licence)

Imagine waking up in a world where everyone feels good about going to work. You feel positive and motivated. You know that your work gives you enough to live on, and that it also helps others in a way that respects the ecological limits of the planet.

This is the Not-for-Profit World. Businesses can still make profits, but the profits are always invested back into society or organizations, not to make individual people richer. This world started because, in about 2013, a large number of people realized that an economic system that puts wealth and power at the centre cannot continue socially and ecologically. People did not like the very big executive salaries, a financial sector cut off from the real world, businesses with more power than people, lots of talk from politicians and business people about the latest technological ‘solution,’ and all the mindless buying.

As people started to pay less attention to the Occupy movement, protesters even started to ask themselves if it was useful to feel angry.

Then a real alternative started. The people already had a business structure that wasn’t centered on creating private profit and concentrating wealth and power; all they had to do was increase the not-for-profit organisations. This would move power away from the profit-making organisations. This not-for-profit economy changed everything by moving wealth and power away from the centre, but also keeping motivation for innovation and making people want meaningful work.

Before 2013, making a profit was the main business model, and this made finance unequal. People were worried about status because of big differences in material wealth. Most people often felt that they couldn’t be happy because they didn’t have as many things as the rich people. Some poorer people felt very worried and ashamed, which affected diet and health. For many people, the solution was to consume more of anything they had enough money for.

On the global level, this overconsumption went together with exploitation in sweatshops and using up all the important natural resources. This was clearly unsustainable. More and more people realized that all forms of capitalism and socialism – based on growth – centralize wealth and power and so are unsustainable. And they also began to see how a not-for-profit economy could decentralize power, and, at the same time, keep innovation. When enough people realized this and moved to the not-for-profit business model, everything started to change for the better.

How on Earth could that be possible?

A not-for-profit world is closer to the present reality than you might think. In many countries, the economic contribution of the not-for-profit sector has been increasing since the late 1990s. In Canada, for example, not-for-profit institutions now make 8 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. This is possible because not-for-profit does not mean ‘no-profit’ or ‘can’t make a profit.’ Not-for-profit actually means not-for-private-profit - or not for the main reason of making a profit. In most countries and areas, not-for-profits can make as much or as little money as they want. They just cannot give money to private individuals from extra profit.

The new work of not-for-profit businesses, from many areas: construction, manufacturing, banking, hospitality and healthcare, shows that innovative, sustainable economies, with high levels of employment, can exist without the motivation of making a private profit.

Many not-for-profits also understand that the money they make can be used for the good work they do (traditionally, this came from grants and charity). For example, BRAC is the world’s biggest not-for-profit organization. Since 1972, BRAC has supported over 100 million people through its social development services. But almost 80 per cent of its money comes from its own business. It has a large dairy and a chain of handicraft stores - all follow a holistic vision of sustainable business.

Not-for-profit organisations could be better than for-profit businesses in the near future, for many reasons, for example:

• Not-for-profit organisations make better use of new types of communication to reduce organizational costs.

• More people know about the tax benefits and free support available only to not-for-profits.

• Consumers want to support ethical businesses and products.

• Not-for-profit organisations can survive and even do well in bad years, because they do not rely only on making profit.

It is possible to achieve sustainability and justice in a not-for-profit world, but we really need a good map to show us how to get there. At the Post Growth Institute, they are writing How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-For-Profit World by 2050. This will be the world’s first book to discuss not-for-profit organisations becoming the central model of local, national and international business.

Business today is leading to a social and environmental collapse, but the good news is that, in only a few decades, we can change to a new type of business where profit for a few people has changed to shared wealth for everyone.

Find out more about the How on Earth book project and/or contribute to its development at the crowdfunding campaign page: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/how-on-earth-a-book-for-a-new-economy?browse_v=new&c=home For the book’s main ideas, see this 2012 talk by Donnie Maclurcan at the Environmental Professionals Forum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6QVdF-3fytg

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/2013/06/26/not-for-profit-world/