Ethical Enterprise Conference Learning Outcomes


Another year of the Ethical Enterprise Conference has officially come to an end, and while we’re still wrapping up at the backend of this whirlwind, we want to take a moment to share with you some of the amazing messages, inspiring thoughts and key takeaways from this years ‘Collaboration for Change’ Conference.

Planning an event a year out into the future, you’re not always going to be able to predict whether your topic is still the hot pound cake that everyone wants by the time it’s ready to come out of the oven or whether everyone will have moved onto something like… Macaroons. Oh, no, now it would be something along the lines of a refined sugar free, sustainably sourced and packed with medicinal mushrooms slice… Thankfully ‘collaboration’ is a near evergreen, ever useful topic in the realm of Ethical Living!

In coming together to learn from leaders in collaboration, there was of course a wonderful opportunity to network – from b corp to social enterprise to someone in corporate who just wants to gain insight into how to be more ethical or collaborate with ethical motivations. Needless to say, in such a conference, there is always a golden nugget to walk away with, perhaps a new client, customer, business partner or friend!

Regardless of which nugget you gained, being in such a space is inspiring and often acts as kindling to a passion project taking another step in its journey.

“When there is so much negativity and the bush is literally on fire, it was wonderful to be around and hear the wisdom of a group of entrepreneurs with values and heart.” – Ben Neville, Associate Professor, Coordinator, Leadership for Social Impact Faculty of Business & Economics, University of Melbourne.

‘Creating Collaborative Networks’ Ben Neville, Molly Harriss Olsen, Andrew Davies, (Helen Steel & Lisa Boothby not pictured)

“Knowing – Being – Doing” : With Susanna just returning from the Social Enterprise World Forum, 2019, and returning with the insight of how Ethiopia social enterprises are literally driven by the community at every turn, and to note how we in the West could learn from them in this way, Anna Guenther sharing the following were so in line with these learnings:

“A successful campaign is driven by community. Communities come together not to own things but how to make things happen. Therefore successful campaigns are those that have community support” – Anna Guenther, co-founder of Pledge Me in workshop ‘The future is owned by the community’.

These learnings continued throughout the event of course, and as to be expected the “Collaborating in the Indigenous Business Sector” panel shared some key points that we’d like to share with you:

  • Indigenous people observe and practice a circular not hierarchical leadership style and allow the best leader to lead
  • The Indigenous way of doing business is an extension of their spiritual connection to Country, Land and People. There is importance and recognition of intuition and trust which is an extension of their connection to Country, Land and People

Michelle Evans, host of “Collaborating in the Indigenous Business Sector” panel shared that “the relationship of collective leadership drives Aboriginal people in Australia” and through this panel we really gained an insight into how we could both learn from the Indigenous approach to business. We also learned that broadening our scope of ‘how we do business’, by having different discussions, depending on who we are approaching, as Gill Mailman suggested “eg government is different from the corporate conversations”, would allow us to embrace each other and “use the business lens to achieve social change” – Chris Crocker, Managing Director Impact Investment Partners.

Gill Mailman, Chris Croker, Nicole Stewart, Michelle Evans – “Collaborating in the Indigenous Business Sector”

The CollaborAction panel shared the good the bad and the ugly of collaboration and noted that collaboration is, by nature, multi faceted given the coming together of various bodies or businesses. Rod Little, Former Co-Chair & Director National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, highlighted the importance of shared values in making a collaboration work well, going on to say “though you might not have all the skills needed to achieve a goal within your collaboration, honesty is of ultimate importance”. So if you can’t do something…pipe up, be upfront and honest about what you can and can’t offer, what will and won’t actually be possible or available to you. In coming together many have the best intentions, but with this sometimes there is a tendency to overextend and exaggerate what we can bring to the table. Honest and trust between each other are imperative.

A stellar highlight from this panel was that the pink elephant in the room is that at some point, one person may be giving way more than the other in what is supposedly a collaboration. Not that this is not ok, but this is not actually a partnership, but rather a one sided giving and receiving situation. This is partly why in collaboration it is important to have the honest conversations that lay everything out on the table, set healthy boundaries and know what each party is accountable for achieving and or providing. Whilst some conversations may feel awkward, clarity is key and enables a collaboration to thrive.

Importantly, when beginning a collaboration know what it is you bring to it. This panel showed us the value in reflecting on what we have to offer, as well as being clear on what we want and understanding the people or businesses we will be collaborating in by doing the necessary homework and asking the important questions.

Clifford Moss, Co-Founder, Good Business Matters & Goodsmiths, also stressed the importance of going into collaborations with the attitude of learning, and as one of our volunteers said, if you have the desire to learn you will never lose.

Emma O’Halloran, Ruth Lee, Timothy O’Brien, Ashleigh Wall, Rod Little & facilitator Clifford Moss

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