by Kwabena Nkromo
For those of us who have chosen the path of social justice and some form of spiritual transformation, we often struggle with a split view which says that attempting to do good in the world is a pure intent and conversely earning money is tainted. The unbridled greed we’ve witnessed on Wall Street for example can contrast sharply in our minds with the noble poverty of people like Mahatma Gandhi or Malcolm X. So our aspiration to live as more enlightened, conscious change agents often leads us to view money as a necessary evil.
However, this artificial division is one of the biggest struggles faced by conscious, caring, generous people who are committed to making a difference. When we subtly reject money and see it as “unholy,” we reject the power it has to have a positive impact in our personal and professional lives–and in the world. Consequently, financial struggles often end up undermining our ability to fully share the gifts and messages we are inspired to share.
What we all need is a synergy of “doing good” and earning money that allows us to embrace the sacredness of money (yes, I said sacred!) while acting as conscious, caring stewards of what we have. We need to honor money’s ability to amplify our intentions and manifest our dreams. And ultimately we need to call forth an abundance that supports and helps create a world in which all can thrive.
When I first conjured up this thing we now call Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN) over two years ago, my original vision was for the idea to be expressed as a social enterprise business. To me, it was as an important and necessary thing to demonstrate the real world veracity of the local food movement and urban agriculture industry as a viable economic activity with its own inherent sustainability. What more viable entrepreneurial effort could there be than one that accurately anticipates the return of society back to a connection and interface with our most basic need as human beings: a closer relationship to the food that sustains our lives?
Our initial phase as a non-profit program, incubated within our fiscal sponsor Environmental Community Action Inc. (ECO-Action Inc), was a strategic period that is now coming to a close. For us, the only significant difference between our work being funded by philanthropy versus directly earned revenue or capital will be the processes which we employ to secure financial success for our core constituency and ourselves. I believe the success of this transition will be based on our ability to demonstrate the principle of “shared value” in order for AM-FFN to mature into Atlanta Food & Farm, LLC.
A resolution to the oft falsely perceived divide between for-profit enterprises and non-profit entities lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Social entrepreneurs must reconnect their companies’ successes with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center. I believe that we can give rise to the next major transformation of social impact business thinking and our new incarnation as Atlanta Food & Farm LLC will be an attempt to help lead the way (excerpts from “Creating Shared Value” by Michael E. Porter & Mark R. Kramer, Harvard Business Review 2011).
Kwabena Nkromo is the Founder of Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network and will serve as “Lead Partner” in the transition to Atlanta Food & Farm, LLC. Our consulting group’s new business address is within HUB Atlanta at 318 Cherokee Avenue SW, Suite 104 Atlanta, Georgia 30312.