On Living Business

What is a ‘living business?’ Using these words both as a search term and as a mirror of our collective consciousness on the Internet offers few helpful explanations. It leaves you with a business-as-usual frame of reference that easily leads to a casual interpretation that a living business must be about profits and growth. How else could such a business be successful and remain alive? But, knowing that Kosmos Journal invited essays on ‘living’ topics—the whole of life if you wish—I am prodded to venture beyond in dialogue here with you.

Our Interconnected Universe

You could imagine the gift of life and all that is—our interconnected universe—as an ever-evolving mystical story, creating wholes within wholes, always greater than the sum of their parts. It’s like a mesmerizing symphony of life coming alive through the performance of an orchestra of virtuosos masterfully guided by its conductor and inspired by the brilliance of its composer. All are moved toward integrated action for the joint purpose and meaning of love and care in harmony with life. Music resonates most deeply within us when it evokes the universe’s sounds and silence of primordial life. Great composers have intuited this time and again.

Life’s meaning and purpose as a human species is derived from aligning ourselves in harmony with the natural laws, wisdom, and creativity of a universally interconnected web of life that binds us all together. Willingly or not, we are propelled towards integrated action in support of an overarching and ultimately unifying purpose that makes us One with all that is. As co-creating musicians, conductors, and composers of this symphony for and on behalf of the whole of life, some may play out of tune for a while, but in the end, any long-term dissonance will be reconciled, even forced upon us, by that larger purpose of a cosmically orchestrated dance.

Now imagine living business as constituting a pivotal section of this orchestra together with other forms of organizations, such as living governments and living civil society organizations, all playing for and resonating with an audience of planetary citizens. You may already sense these living sections must be functioning within a living economy operating safely within a living ecosystem—a living planet, the Earth, and its biosphere. And oh, can you see how all sections of the orchestra would contribute to this symphony of life to carry current and future generations into a new world their hearts already tell them is possible and they truly want and need. Why then is our reality so out of tune?

Disentangling Money, Love, and Life

If the image of a horrible glutton devouring future generations— our children and firstborns—as sacrificial lambs to the God of Money offends you, it should. Its truth is more than symbolic and is deeply rooted in the legends and mythological stories that have portrayed our human existence since time memorial. Now is a defining moment in our history to really understand how money works and why it orchestrates a funeral march as opposed to a symphony of life. If you have sensed that an invisible hand has persistently been guiding you to forsake love and life for money, you are not wrong. Misplaced faith in money rather than love or care destroys life, lives, and livelihoods. Our relationship with money, love, and life is deeply entangled, indeed.

The way money works is quite simple. It is created out of nothing—alchemically, if you wish—by privately held financial institutions. It is secured only by our collective faith and illusion. Through our fractional banking system, the amount of money deposited typically multiplies ten times throughout the economy. It enables the issuance of more and more debt to finance our collective works. The magic of compounding interest creates prosperity and wealth for those enabled to charge it. Thus, an ever larger part of the local to global economy ends up servicing debt as opposed to creating goods and services we truly need and a peaceful and sustainable way of life. It also accelerates our devouring the fate of future generations. This system will work for you if you stay out of debt, spend less than you earn, earn as much as you can, and invest wisely what you save. But 99% of us are not successful at this simple strategy and obediently serve a financial casino in which the house of financial alchemists always wins.

Can we disentangle our relationship with money, infuse it with love, and sustain life? The answer is yes. Our money system was designed by people, so it can be repurposed by people as well. To do so, we must embrace the responsibility that we are the ones to transform the money system from within and align it to be of service to a living symphony of life.

Community and Entrepreneurship

One way of changing the money system is to remember that necessity is the mother of invention. Living business formation is a clear necessity and the demand for it is great. The world is now fortuitously wired and wirelessly interconnected to self-organize and unleash the creativity of communities and their entrepreneurs around the solutions needed to address humanity’s greatest challenges. Even before money and interest come into play, many new enterprises start with a brilliantly gifted idea that somehow connects the dots and addresses an underserved societal need. When this happens, the founders essentially own it 100%. It is at this juncture that questions of money, love, and life come into play. Will you give up equity and profits to private investors and enter the money system through the issuance of equity or debt? What if instead money was gifted by your community and you remained in control in a way that you deemed appropriate, agreeing to share the profits of your business success with the community that had supported you?

Community-based crowdfunding jumpstarted with tax deductible gifts (and/or pre-purchases of goods and services) holds the promise of a pathway to a future where living businesses can be financed pursuant to a license to operate that is based on a relationship of trust with community stakeholders, can bypass the grip of the traditional financial system, and can circulate profits back to those who jumpstarted the enterprise. Other key advantages are that crowdfunding typically spreads entrepreneurial risk over a greater number of investors, donors, and sponsors. And best-in-class venture development support and screening services, such as those used by incubators, venture capital funds, and community development banks, can be applied to perform due diligence on entrepreneurs and their living business proposals on behalf of the community that considers supporting any such enterprise.

Transformative change comes into being through leadership from within. I submit community and entrepreneurship in service to the whole of life is poised to seize the day and transform our corporations. What other choice do we have?

Spirit in Business

By Tim Macartney

It was 2001 and my business had imploded. I felt numb. I had withdrawn from the day-to-day operation of the company for two years as I searched for ways to articulate a new vision—spirit in business. Sitting in my parked car with traffic sweeping by relentless and disinterested, I faced the prospect of picking up the pieces and starting again. The prospect didn’t appeal. Not because I shy from challenge but because the spirit that built that business had departed some time ago and without renewal it was only a matter of time before the masonry began to crumble.

The world of business holds within it some of the best and the worst of which we are capable. We’ve had upsizing, downsizing, we’ve hammered quality nearly to death, made visions, set off on missions, and pretended the whole time that we know what we’re doing. Many times actions that would be considered brutal if promulgated by an individual are passed off as ‘normal business practice’ when emerging from the boardroom of organisations.

We in business still persist in seeing work as separate from life. We have to grow wise fast. Spirit moves in us all. It is what brings us joy and urges us to strive for meaning and purpose in our lives. Spirit inspires you and me to be generous, to gasp at the huge presence of the ocean, to search for love in our lives, to dig deep and seek the very best of which we are capable. Spirit should not be confused with religion. Spirit is you and me growing our gardens with tenderness and appreciation; it is the young child climbing her first tree; it is the huge leaping joy of birth and the final embrace of someone we love. Spirit guides our greatest dreams and accompanies us in our darkest moments. Spirit is the inspiration of all that is beautiful in you and in me.

Business is the powerhouse of change, but if this is to be constructive change, then our business leaders need to become much braver, more radical, more determined to lean into the wind and insist upon change. We must stand in awe of beauty, accept the challenge of our own self-learning, and be brave enough to stand up and be counted. This is the stuff of leadership. It is born from inspiration and from a vision that is, at its essence, spiritual.

Later, on the same day that I had sat in my parked car trying to readjust and find a way forward, I arrived home in Devon. I was shocked at how easily I had moved from angry paralysis to excitement and purpose. Standing in the garden I took a deep breath, tasting the flavours of wood smoke, newly turned earth and the damp Atlantic breeze. It felt good to be alive. It still took most of the winter months to claw the vision of ‘spirit in business’ from the half-formed intuitions that hovered like shadows, dancing just out of sight. But a vision once seen is not so easily forgotten, and like the kingfisher that just now has blazed her blue fire across the lakeside waters, I have work to do.

Excerpted from a longer article available at


You may be wondering if such community crowdfunding is happening already. It is. I am honored to work in a number of community and entrepreneurial settings venturing into the largely untested terrain of living business creation. This work involves the nurturing and mentoring of whole system entrepreneurs and initiatives with the aim to collaboratively implement the concept of Profits4LifeSM. This Quintuple Bottom LineSM financial mechanism seeks to regenerate both planet and people by balancing economic, social, natural, cultural, and spiritual stocks and flows in society. At the heart of the approach is a benefit-sharing agreement that essentially stipulates how profits will be shared with the community that crowdfunds the enterprise. While any type of corporation can adopt the approach, it is perhaps most suited for a benefit corporation, which is a for-profit entity intended to realize public benefits.

When a benefit corporation is formed, the general and specific public benefit purposes are described in its articles of incorporation. The corporation is required to report on their realization and will be assessed against transparent third party standards. Stakeholders have legal recourse if the purpose and intention of the benefit corporation is not in compliance. Changes to the articles of incorporation require a super majority, which helps to ensure an unwavering commitment to the benefit corporation’s expressed public benefit purposes. It is already anticipated that many traditional corporations, including public corporations, will become benefit corporations in the decade to come.

My longer term vision and wish is to enable a crowdfunded ecosystem of whole system enterprises—living businesses—that are not only unique and promising based on their own merits, but also create a thriving and collaborative symphony of life. It would be a platform of synergy for potential quantum innovation effects to emerge that would serve the resiliency, success, and collective impact of this living entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole.

The Next Ten Years

Preceding industrial revolutions brought much wealth, prosperity, and progress. They also precipitated greater acceleration of technological advances testing ethical boundaries, social and financial inequities, cultural and spiritual disintegration, and a deterioration of virtually all major indicators of health and wellbeing of our planet and the majority of its inhabitants. This is the fundamental consequence of our complicity and addiction to sustaining economic growth at all cost—a systemic drive to feed and serve our God of Money and pay our interest-laden debts to a privileged few. In the current Anthropocene era, everything is interconnected. Nearing and exceeding important planetary boundaries, we are the ones now firmly placed in charge of realizing our own destiny. To manage this huge responsibility well, each and every one of us is called upon to think outside of the box of limiting concepts of low quality growth, systemic design flaws in the money system, and otherwise antiquated belief systems—the old story we must abandon. This must be transformed into alignment with the self-governing, natural laws of the symphony of life as part of our emerging new story for a new world.

Thinking outside of the box requires reflection and silence, and then opens up the essential space to compound our consciousness and tap into the limitless possibilities of a future we want. This is what is so fascinating and hopeful about our future. It heralds unprecedented opportunities for servant leaders working in concert with artisans of transformation that can activate the creative idea hubs of metamorphosis we urgently require. These leaders and artisans will redesign our human enterprise to accelerate its natural purpose and meaning. It is already happening. Over the next ten years, we must and will bend the curve of prevailing public ‘bads’ as the magical growth in compounded consciousness outpaces and replaces dated concepts of economic growth, money, and governance held in place by the magic of compound interest and those licensed to charge it. Living businesses, living organizations, and a humanity embracing the whole of life must see this through.

There simply is no other way I can see. Can you?