IDEA | Radical Enterprise

Posted on 06/08/2011


Colleagues invited me to draft some points for their business planning. It sometimes seems, when we’re thinking about enterprise that engages social and cultural ends/means/value, we’re thinking only in terms of social enterprise, NFP models, current models of social innovation, chasing ever-decreasing pots of funding, and the like. Increasingly, I find this line of thinking limiting and self-defeating, especially as it engages ‘base of the pyramid’, micro-enterprise and diverse needs in our communities. So in the process of working on my colleagues’ business plan and thinking about the need for change, I developed this proposition of ‘radical enterprise’ as a provocation, a way of shifting the capped ways of thinking about alternatives. In some ways, it emerged from the spark of thinking in an earlier post about the Design Action Leadership Action Hothouse in which I reached a point of thinking about radical living, sacrifice and ‘the gift’. It’s about understanding the foundational elements of those words and also that we can do things with words:

1350–1400; Middle English  < Late Latin rādīcālis  having roots, equivalent to Latin rādīc-  (stem of rādīx ) root1  + -ālis -al1 .
It has many meanings but here I refer to meaning of foundations or fundaments; thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms; and favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms.

1400–50; late Middle English  < Middle French,  noun use of feminine of entrepris  (past participle of entreprendre  to undertake) < Latin inter- inter-  + prēnsus  grasped, seized, contraction of prehēnsus,  equivalent to pre- pre-  + hend-  take hold of + -tus  past participle suffix
Also has several meanings but here I am thinking about it’s relationship to risk as in boldness or readiness in undertaking; adventurous spirit; ingenuity as well as a company organized for commercial purposes or a business firm.

In the current environment, we’re increasingly drifting towards networks and communities as the basis of new relationships and new economies. It seems that this idea of radical enterprise might provide another way of thinking about a commitment to aspirational approaches to transacting business and taking responsibility beyond well meaning social enterprises and arbitrary corporate responsibility especially in the face of avaricious disaster capitalism as it relates to un/natural disasters (noting that much of the conversation in the Design Futures program is oriented towards redirective practice, sustainment and taking the threats of climate change seriously). And also understanding that we need to address the challenges of adaption, resilience and transilience (an idea I first mention in this post, and which means ‘an abrupt passing or leap from one thing, condition, etc. to another’). The multiple crises of economics and ecology are ripping and clawing at social and cultural capacity. Taking on the challenges of local economies, sustain-ability and place-based needs and aspirations, this idea of radical enterprise might take root in everyday machinations of localities and communities, energise our own practices, provide restorative opportunities for ‘vitalising’ places in ways that promote readiness and futuring …

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