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Alliances and Relations

4.1.1Alliances and Relations

How do we really do business today? Is that a fair question? I’ve noticed an increasing amount of alliances across the gamut of ‘industry’ today. Those alliances seem to have a variety of visions and missions, often relative to the garnering of market share and stock price. Competition is fierce. Collaboration amongst cohorts and peer groups is on the rise.

An ‘alliance’ is defined as: a union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations. What kinds of alliances get the most attention these days? One that I find is getting increasing attention is that of B-Corps or Benefit Corporations.

From Wikipedia:

  • In the United States, a benefit corporation or Bcorporation is a type of for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states, that includes positive impact on society and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals.

The purpose of a benefit corporation includes creating general public benefit, which is defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment. A benefit corporation’s directors and officers operate the business with the same authority as in a traditional corporation but are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on society and the environment. In a traditional corporation shareholders judge the company’s financial performance; with a B-corporation shareholders judge performance based on how a corporation’s goals benefit society and the environment. (not to be confused with B Corp Certification)

  • B Corp certification (also known as B Lab certification or B Corporation certification) is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a United States-based non-profit organization. To be granted and to preserve certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for “social and environmental performance”, satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholdersinto company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $25,000. As of March 2014, there are 990 “certified B Corporations” across 60 industries in 27 countries.

The B-Lab certification is a third party standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards, meet accountability standards, and to be transparent to the public according to the score they receive on the assessment. B-Lab certification applies to the whole company across all product lines and issue areas. For-profits of all legal business structures are eligible for certification.

Relations and relationships are expanding from the old-world view of being associated with humans to a more expanded (indigenous) view of the inclusion of Nature – the Earth and all its inhabitants, human, plant and animal. Perhaps this ‘new’ view is one that we’ve been missing for some time, the result of which has been the ‘unintentional’ devastation of ecosystems and the pollution of our air, earth and water – not to mention humans. Is it time for a reexamination of how we do business?

Of course the idealistic and perhaps unrealistic perception is that we can change. The notion of change is frightening from many perspectives, mostly from the fear of loss of something we think we has provided security or a way of life to date. First World countries have standards of living that Third World countries only dream about today. Second World (a term rarely used today) refers to the former Soviet Union and China, which have grown to First World county status as they’ve incorporated capitalism. Unbridled capitalism is probably the root of our collective problems caused by the poor fiscal and social management of resources.

How do we change? The introduction of change management philosophy has focused on the induction of what appear to be ‘holistic’ systems now; the view that each component of a system affects the whole, a type of synergy if you will. This new ‘strategy’ is being taught across the gamut of business schools, first introduced in the last century to the corporate world through the work of Peter Senge and others. ‘Learning Organizations’ became the goal for maximizing resources.

Speaking of maximizing resources, just a few years ago a long-time respected authority, the International Organization for Standardization (known for the ISO 9000 series manufacturing standards), turned its vision toward Social Responsibility and commissioned representatives from over 90 countries to draft the ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Standards. It took nearly 10 years to complete and offers one of the most exquisite examples of an alliance of collaborators.

The ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Standards was released on 1 November 2010. Its goal is to contribute to global sustainable development, by encouraging business and other organizations to practice social responsibility to improve their impacts on their workers, their natural environments and their communities. (Wikipedia)

The difference in these ‘new’ standards is that there is no ‘certification’ process; intentional action is the only requisite. Beyond the resistance to change is great potential, possibilities that exist to truly change the way we do business. The challenge is that the request for change and restructuring has to come from both directions – top-down and bottom-up. There are no more silos. We’re all farmers, tending the new crop of corporate standards and social responsibility. Isn’t it time?

E-Business Trends

CTC1E-Business Trends and Forces

E-Business has revolutionized the worlds of business to business, business to consumer, consumer to consumer, business with Government, and Nonprofit relationships. Although e-business is not ubiquitous in its applications to every consumer, niche and target marketing have become a necessary focus of the evolving business models. Products and services offered via the Web are growing at an astounding rate and simultaneously growing the marketing methodologies. This process is not only synergizing marketing strategies; it is transforming the way business is done. Education, across the spectrum of child to adult and life-long learners, is also part of this transformative expansion.

Educational Trends

At the time of this writing there are 116,910 public and private schools with K-12 students in the United States alone, of which 89,508 are public. Virtually every public school is now connected to the Internet. In the US alone, there are over 52 million K-12 school students and 4.2 million K-12 teachers. USD 351 billion was expended on K-12 education in 1999 with an additional USD 232 billion spent on post secondary education, not including vocational, specialty and professional development training. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics) It is also estimated that schools write 25 million purchase orders in a year at a cost of between USD 100 and USD 150 above the actual cost of the product for each requisition. (Source: Lamar Alexander, CEO of Simplexis.com, February 1, 2000). .

The Information Age and the pundits of propaganda (traditional textbook producers) are at war. Public schools, even with the technology that is now being incorporated, are slow to respond to the changes in the learning behaviors of students. The incorporation of the Web in the classroom is underutilized by most students due to the unavailability of technology in the classrooms themselves. Web-based learning, along with the use of LAN and WAN capacity development, is increasing faster than most schools can manage. Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that even the best Technology Plans often fall short due to the lack of skills, or resistance to change old teaching patterns within the classroom.

Inclusion of new information regarding the nature of learning, including multiple intelligences and emotional intelligences, puts even more pressure on the professional development of teachers and the need for state-of-the-art curriculum. Some schools have incorporated computer-based instructional programs that have been developed to meet or exceed State Standards for educational proficiency levels, or levels of mastery of the material. These programs incorporate multimedia, which is supposed to make the material ‘interesting’ and ‘fun’ to learn for the students, yet provide little more than clicks and giggles. The ‘giggles’ come from students who think they are ‘getting by’ simply by following the same linear educational philosophy of the industrialists (Dewey, et al.) who created the current system. There is very little challenge for them.

Charter schools that have incorporated these ‘stand alone’ programs often have less-than-adequate teachers at the helm of the classroom, believing that following the bouncing ball (prescribed path) will meet the educational needs of the students. Of course, that is providing that there is adequate technology in the classrooms of the charter schools, which unfortunately is usually not the case. Many schools have donated computers that essentially are the leftovers after companies have upgraded their own. Charter schools, although publicly funded, do not receive the same financial contributions per student as district public schools. This affects the level of utility that a charter school can effectively perform for the community it serves.

CTC Trends

A Community Technology Center (CTC) is where people get free or low-cost access to computers and computer-related technology, such as the Internet, together with learning opportunities that encourage exploration and discovery. Partnerships create shared ownership of vision and distribute responsibility of task completion in the achievement of collaborative missions, utilizing both click and brick assets. Socially responsible action in creating low-cost solutions for educational content and delivery to the end user creates community utility.

“Enormous resources are being spent in the public and private sectors on education and workforce development. Last year, an estimated $5.7 billion was spent on technology in schools alone. The challenge here is not finding resources but deploying them effectively. There have been many experiments deploying technology and training in low-income communities over the last decade. These promising models, from technology training programs for youth to online content development efforts, provide useful lessons for going to scale — lessons not yet widely applied. There is a growing constituency for these issues: business leaders concerned with a quality workforce, parents who want opportunities for their children, and educators and others who want to see technology tools for youth not only in schools but in after-school programs, housing facilities, faith institutions and libraries. Elected officials are interested in technology, workforce, and education issues and are ready to move ahead with policies that suit their districts and state.” (Children’s, 2003)

E-Content Forces

Global E-commerce revenue will top USD 1.1 trillion by 2002, up from USD 15 billion in 1997, according to recent estimates from Deloitte Consulting. (Source: Forrester Research) The following figure charts the increasing activity of the internet sector and projects continued acceleration in growth over the next few years.

Updated Info

The US is expected to generate the majority of the total Internet generated revenue, USD 842 billion. The rest of the world’s regions together would generate the remaining USD 300 billion. The Asian market is predicted to generate USD 50 billion in revenue. In addition, there are 92 million US and Canadian web surfers over the age of 16 and another 150 million people worldwide who actively use the Internet. Over 60 percent of these surfers shop on-line. By the end of 2005, it is predicted the global market will grow to over 300 million surfers of who 225 million will shop on-line. Nearly 70 percent of this Internet “universe” will be outside of North America. (Source: The Computer Industry Almanac, December 1999)

“The great untold story of online commerce is that business-to-business sales have already eclipsed the higher-profile business-to-consumer (B2C) market by a long shot. Annual B2B e-commerce is projected to soar from $34 billion in 1998 to $1 trillion by 2003, according to Forrester Research, while the consumer market swells from $7.8 billion to $108 billion in the same period.” (Source: Business 2.0, September 1999) According to the Gartner Group, 7% of the forecasted USD 15 trillion total global sales transactions will be done through B2B e-commerce. Updated figures by the Gartner Group on January 26, 2000 estimated the B2B market to grow from USD 145 billion in 1999 to USD 7.29 trillion in 2004.
Differentiation

The target market for this project includes K-12 learners, young adults, and life-long learners. These individuals are in public and private schools, at home, and at various places of employment throughout the world. The CTC framework allows low-cost accessibility of curriculum, assessment, and State reporting as a result of data storage and retrieval capacity within the local data center and direct links with similar facilities nationwide. Features and functions of the CTC website include most of the standard models of e-business, such as shopping carts, real-time inventory (ASP feedback), customer service (on and off-line), product information and catalog, customization for specific programs, wish lists, and intelligent agents. Marketing to educators, schools, home-learners, training and development departments, correctional facilities, and other potential clientele will occur through a combination of e-direct, reciprocal links, industry publications (on and off-line), and referral networks. Benefits of this project/program include time-saving lesson development and topic-specific thematic units, low-cost access (shared resource), training and development templates for ease of instruction, career and professional development for working professionals and life-long learners.

Conclusion
Educational reformation is unavoidable and is happening whether we like it or not. Much of this process is happening through underdeveloped or underutilized programs and click and mortar structures caught in paradigm paralysis. This paradigm paralysis occurs because there are no new models, no working examples, of what is truly necessary to develop strong youth and adult learning programs and ultimately a strong community. It is apparent by our ‘walled communities’ that we have forgotten the essence of what makes us strong as a nation. Sustainable growth comes from community involvement that is facilitated through the inclusion practices of the organization; developing a community capable of raising the new genre of children through a systems approach to learning.

References
Children’s Partnership, The, Young Americans and the Digital Future Campaign, (2003) [WWW document] URL: http://www.childrenspartnership.org/youngamericans/overview.html

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