Tag Archives: innovation

Scaling disruption – congratulations Clotho!

Last month we published a blog on scaling disruption. It focused on entrepreneurs that are redesigning systems to support a more sustainable future. We mentioned new Upstart Startup Clotho London that has created an aspirational second-hand clothing marketplace, saving C02, water and – best of all – changing youth mindsets around fast fashion.

We’d like to congratulate them on winning two competitions in the past fortnight. First they won funding from and a place in the True Start Accelerator. Last Friday they won (tie first place) funding and support from the Mayor of London Low Carbon Entrepreneur Awards.

Below you can see them pitching their ideas to Dame Ellen McArthur – “How many times can you mention circular in two minutes?! ”

Clotho

Do you have a world-changing idea?  For more information on Clotho and other Upstarts, please contact nicola.millson@6-heads.com

Scaling disruption

There are multiple ways we can intervene in the current business system in order to support change toward better environmental and social outcomes. One of these ways is to scale small initiatives that have the potential to create significant change in the current ways business operates. This is particularly effective where these ‘disruptors’ also act as commercial demonstrators to traditional organisations and inspiration for other emergent entities by proving the case for alternative forms of business.

I have a portfolio of these ‘disruptors’ that I currently coach from seed stage until first significant funding. This means taking them through a structured programme of business development, drawing on IDEO, LEAN and my own start-up experience across multiple sectors and stages of new business building.  The programme is underpinned my three key principles: fail fast, engage early and rapidly build credibility. This means we work closely together to:

  • Identify and engage potential customers to establish and build the business toward meeting real needs,
  • Set-up of a series of experiments where the team can quickly configure and test different operating methodologies, and
  • Understand how the market operates, where the gaps are and which organisations could inform and, even better, certify the set-up.

This is underpinned by regular ‘pivoting’ as we reconfigure the business model to meet emerging needs and cost structures. It is supported by work around vision, team dynamics, business basics and fundraising.

Two oranisations in my portfolio are currently seeking an extension of their seed funding. They are:

Clotho London: The destination for sustainable fashion. http://www.clotholondon.co.uk/

Set-up by two recent graduates from Imperial College (who worked together as Chemistry lab partners) this business aims to create a secondary market for good, used clothing. It is a simple technology platform built on the principle of clothes swapping. It provides young women with a more sustainable option for quality fashion choices. Clotho thereby works towards preventing new purchases of high-street brands and reducing the 350,000 tonnes of used clothing that goes to landfill in the UK every year. They currently operate collections at 3 UK Universities and are rapidly growing a loyal customer base. They are looking to raise investment to fund operational costs as they scale their service.

Vesco: Developing sustainable feed systems. https://vescofeed.wordpress.com (under-development)

Vesco has been set-up by four classmates from the Imperial College Environmental Technology MSc programme.  They are developing a sustainable ‘insect-based’ animal feed designed to mitigate the environmental and biodiversity impacts of contemporary soy and fishmeal-based feeds. They aim to harness the efficiency of insects in converting organic waste into high-quality nutrients and are running a number of experiments to rear  fly larvae on a variety of organic wastes. They are working closely alongside high-profile potential customers to co-develop product specifications and a unique, ‘circular’ offering and are in the process of organising trials for pilot products. Vesco is looking or funding to allow further development of the concept by paying a base wage to the team. 

Both these worthwhile organisations will effect change in the existing systems they operate within – clothing and food – through demonstrating initiative, possibility and trialing new business models.  Any funding or other suggestions to scale and support these worthwhile organisations would be appreciated.

Alternatively, if you are a young enterprise with a good idea towards a positive shared future or an investor/accelerator/incubator with disruptors in your funding portfolio  that need help in clarifying their business models towards delivering scalable impact –  please do get in touch.

For further information or to arrange a meeting, please fill in the form below:

 

Can business change the world?

Creating conditions for positive business engagement in society

Leading businesses increasingly recognise the need to go beyond traditional corporate social responsibility approaches and see contribution to societal good as a strategic imperative.

Some are engaging fodeloitte 1r commercial return, recognising opportunities to develop new value. This might be through access to additional revenue from new markets, to solve a problem and/or to build new strategic capability.

Each of these motivations results in different pitfalls for which there are some useful ‘remedies’.

1. Accessing new markets
Most businesses are aware of the value in the bottom of the pyramid. Some have noticed that this segment is also more resilient to economic flux and that businesses that have engaged here have received significant public visibility – all good reasons to develop a new market.

Some companies get this right. Grameeen is the much touted example.  Another example comes from the insurance world. One issue confronting the poor is the lack of any support system – if a child is sick or a shop burns down, there is no access to bridging funds or reparations. In many cultures this is addressed by women pooling funds to support each other through crises. Recently AXA created an initiative to support groups of these women (working through PWDS in India) to access family health insurance. Based on a community verification and penalty scheme, operating costs are kept low. This is a positive example of a company engaging with new markets in a way that is in line with existing structures and which meets real needs.

Other companies don’t get this right. A large water company tried to set up a water purification scheme in India. This provided entrepreneurs with the equipment to purify water, at an ongoing cost for maintenance over a ten year period. This wasn’t successful – it required new entrepreneurial structures, forced communities into long term debt but also, importantly, didn’t address the real problem – prevention of dirty water would be better than cure.

The main pitfall with this motivation is lack of alignment to communities and this is best solved by operating closely and within communities to determine and meet their actual needs.

2. Solving a problem.

Often this is driven by CSR practitioners or corporate philanthropists as a more sustainable alternative to traditional ways of donating. This may take various forms – the Carbon Trust was tasked with creating new businesses to shift sectors towards low carbon alternatives, M&S recently looked at how a new initiative could solve both a growing skills shortage in the food industry and help employ young people.

Both of these initiatives  – like most other initiatives of this type – suffered from a lack of inherent commercial rationale. They were looking for solutions where unmet customer needs (and therefore a commercial value proposition) were not the main focus. This made creating a business case very difficult.

These cases were ‘cracked’ by developing an indirect customer (e.g. suppliers, philanthropic funders), using new business models (e.g. long term equity upside) or finding a value differentiator (e.g trusted brand ).

A solution to a lack of inherent commercial rationale is therefore using ‘extreme’ commercial creativity. 

3. Strategic engagement.

These forward thinking pioneers are actively creating the customers, capabilities or resources for their future. A great example is Interfaces Net Impact programme.  It pays fishermen for old nets and then transforms these into tufting material for carpets. Fishermen from poor communities receive value from a ‘waste’ product. These nets are no longer thrown into the ocean and loss of marine life is prevented. Interface has a differentiated input for its carpets and new capabilities in setting up partnerships and accessing resources. Currently we are working on another Interface initiative to alleviate poverty, create a secondary market for used carpet and develop capability for global recycling.

A pitfall of companies operating with a strategic intention is the negative effect of ‘unintended consequences’. For example by enriching only part of the population resentment may be stirred up which results in domestic violence or tribal warfare.

Uninitended consequences can (often) be addressed by organisations taking a systems thinking approach to any new initiative.

For any organisation venturing into this space three new competences need to be built:
– extreme partnering: bringing together unlikely play mates with different agendas and resources towards achieving a common goal (e.g. AXA, PWDS charity, local women),
– lateral innovation: designing business value in entirely new ways, and
– ecosystem thinking: making sure that supporting initiatives and structures are in place to provide all the elements required (for example
Interface recognised the need for a banking partner for its networks initiative).

There are tremendous benefits for companies venturing into social change. From the bottom line benefits (e.g. new customers or premium products), to risk mitigation (e.g. diversified sourcing) to intangibles (e.g. employee loyalty, customer aw
areness).

I’d go further and say that no business can, over the long term, separate itself from the society that supports it – as suppliers or customers. Positive engagement with society is an imperative for business to build a robust and resilient global future. 

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This article is an excerpt from a talk Nicola did for Deloitte at a Net Impact event. She is focused on creating new commercial solutions for social and environmental change and is interested in exploring thinking and opportunities in this area. What is your experience in this area? Any lessons you’d like to share? How could your company engage better with society?

Please contact her on nicola.millson@6-heads.com for further information.

28 Days of Inspiration: Hope in an urbanising world

Tomorrows cities today

Hope in an urbanising world

urban_rural_graph2

The statistics on our rapidly urbanising world are compelling – more people now live in cities than in the country-side.  This is expected to continue to grow, particularly in parts of the world that are both poorer and at sea-level. In a time of diminishing natural resources and a changing climate, this gives us a new set of concerns.

These two projects show possibility for a different kind of urban environment:

Mata de Sesimbra in Portugal is an endorsed One Planet Living Community Resort with 5,000 zero-carbon, zero-waste homes, hotels and shops. The scheme includes Europe’s largest-ever nature restoration scheme, to return almost 5,000 hectares of surrounding land to native Mediterranean woodland. It is innovative and ecological in its development by using sustainable building materials, solar power and being energy and water efficient. The development has a 20 year target of having ‘zero waste’ – but reaching a massive 50% of landfill diversion in the first year. A €90 million sustainable public transport network is also planned, and will eventually provide hybrid eco-shuttles, free bicycles and car clubs.

Masdar  was started in 2006 in Abu Dhabi. It uses high tech solutions to push sustainability barriers. Its vision is to provide the highest quality of life and work environment with the lowest environment footprint – and to do so in a commercially viable manner. For transport, there are no cars, but a rapid, automated transit,. They use fully renewable powered, ½ water of others places, use sustainable materials (100% sustainably sourced timber), 90% recycled-content aluminium used for the inner façade, green concrete and water-based paints.

More? See http://6-heads.com/

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 25: The power of one

Daring to be great

Today’s inspiration is about those people who have chosen a different path – one of making a real difference in the world. They’re just normal people doing something they believe in, day after day…

faces

A question we often ask is “Where best to intervene in a system to create significant change?”. Paul Dickenson saw a pressure point in the role of shareholders. He is Co-founder and Chief Executive of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which provides a coordinating secretariat for 330 investors with assets of over $40 trillion who request information on greenhouse gas emissions from over 2,400 corporations. With more than 1,300 large corporations reporting through CDP, the CDP web site http://www.cdproject.net is the largest registry of corporate greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

There are lots of lawyers – most propping up the status quo, Polly Higgins talks of love and leadership, and runs a strong campaign on eradicating ecocide, fighting for its legal status to be enshrined by 2020.

A co-founder of Tsiba University, Leigh Meinert set-out to provide education opportunities to deserving youngsters from impoverished backgrounds – fundamentally changing society in South Africa. 5 Mandela Rhodes scholars produced in 4 years means she and fellow luminaries are doing something right.

Many people travel through communities facing extreme struggles to survive – few do anything. Alison Hall is different, after a trip to Uganda she set-up Seeds for Development which started off advancing funds to farmers in post-war Uganda to enable them to buy seeds and other farming equipment. Today they support around 15 000 people.

Miriam Turner, Carmel McQuaid, Tom Domen, and many others aren’t names you’ll necessarily recognise. They are are corporate intrepreneurs. All have an agenda to introduce and scale change to make their organisations ‘future-fit’. Often their resilience is tested – just like the entrepreneurs mentioned above. Yet, their efforts allow the organisations they are part of to take that different path and pioneer new ways of doing things.

There are many, many more ordinary people each in their own way daring to do extraordinary things… What are you choosing to do today? 

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 24: Don’t waste the opportunity

Don’t waste the opportunity

Composting-at-Pomona-College-700x466

Kate Hammer, a friend of 6heads from KILN, likes Compostory.org – she writes below:

Recycling organic material – what we commonly call “waste” – represents a huge opportunity. Today, the processes of making compost and biogas out of organics are well known and the benefits for the environment and the economy are proven. Yet still, many cities and businesses are still sending organics to landfills or incineration. Enter Compostory.org [www.compostory.org], a unique website driven by not-for-profit enterprise Green White Space [www.greenwhitespace.org].

Compostory.org is committed to building awareness and sharing best practices on how communities can create value from their waste stream and positively impact their environment. So the team has built an unprecedented online learning platform for local governments, agriculture and businesses in effort to bring their influencers up to speed on the subject matter.

The website offers open access to:

  • a free course for municipalities, farms and businesses on collecting – digesting – composting organic waste, now followed by more than 2500 influencers of waste management systems in 20+ countries
  • an industry directory to help you navigate the resource recovery industry and find support in your region
  • The Organic Stream: A podcast series featuring expert interviews and case studies from around the world, for inspiration and valuable how-to advice

Enter the learning space by subscribing here [learning space] using the guest code “6HEADS”
The weekly podcast is available on iTunes here [podcast]

Kate is part of  [www.kilnco.com], Throughline [www.throughline.co.uk] and StoryFORMs [www.storyform.co.uk]  She is likes Compostory so much she works on their advisory board.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 23: Scotlands culinary delights?

Beyond Haggis, Whisky and deep-fried Mars bars

I am up in Scotland this weekend and finding myself inspired by the myriad of community initiatives around food.

farm scotland

The closer people come to understanding and engaging with their food source, the better they can make decisions about what to eat. Ultimately better decisions around food choice can positively impact the food system, shifting towards organic, local and seasonal produce. Where this also engages the community it can result in a more equitable and resilient system.

The Fife Diet aims to develop collective and participatory approaches to reduce our impact on the wider environment through the food choices we make. It links community members through a New Food Manifesto, which aims to get an understanding of how food can be part of restorative practice across health and well-being ecology and community. They have some fascinating initiatives and are currently looking at starting a co-op to support access to local, organics products.

Bread is a food staple and there are a few community-owned bakeries which provide an opportunity for a community to engage in producing a food staple. Breadshare, says “Our mission is to serve and involve the community by making excellent, nutritious bread using organic ingredients and distinctive local products, helping to create a more sustainable and health-enhancing food system.”

Whitmuir aims to become Scotlands first community owned farm. They have a vision that it will become a national resource on sustainable food and farming, with discovery trails, exhibits, educational opportunities and citizen science projects. People can discover what bugs and beasties do all day; why organic farming is good for you and the planet; what makes a pig happy and how to grow your own food. They provide an opportunity to explore everything from the brilliance of clover to the intricacies of the carbon cycle. You can buy a share in the farm for as little as £50.

Tying it all together is Nourish Scotland. It host events, workshops towards reconnecting producers, growers, retailers, consumers and all who care for local, sustainable food to make healthy, local, seasonal, and organic food available everywhere in Scotland.

Hungry?  Time for a visit to Scotland then…

Initiatives from your region that are inspirational?  Please send them to us at info@6-heads.com.

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 21: What’s for lunch?

Feeding the future

James discovers zero carbon farming – underground!

farm

Here at 6heads we love food and we love the pioneers blazing an innovative trail in making our food more sustainable. On our harvest hike last autumn, Kate from GrowUp talked about how they are making their vision of closed-loop, hydroponic, rooftop, urban farms a reality. Or our friends at Hodmedods, a recent start-up seeking to encourage people in the UK to fall back in love with the humble fava bean as a low carbon protein source that can be grown here, in contrast to most other beans which are imported.

Perhaps most counter-intuitive is Zero Carbon Food’s current initiative to grow salad greens underground in an old London bomb shelter! As Stephen Drink points out it a Guardian article about the initiative: “Open field and greenhouse farmers are affected by low light, weather, pests, all of those issues”, says Dring. “Between 2009-2012 food inflation ran at about 32%. That’s because of issues with crop production and failed crops … down here we have no pests and a consistent temperature of 16C. Once we’ve put all the LED lights in they give off a little heat that will take us up to about 20C, perfect growing temperature.” The lights are currently powered by a renewable energy supplier, but they plan to generate their own renewable power on-site using wind and solar energy.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 20: Grow your own… building

Grow your own building

James wonders if the buildings of the future be built from bricks biologically engineered to grow themselves from plant waste and fungal cells? 

hy-fi-the-living-MoMA-PS1-young-architect-program-designboom-01

Co.exist thinks so with their recent interview of David Benjamin, the creator of Hy-Fi, a giant circular tower that creates a cool micro-climate for pedestrians in searing city heat.

Hy-fi will be built this June at MoMA PS1 in New York using bricks, produced by the startup Ecovative, are grown from mycelium, or mushroom cells that grow upwards and outwards like a branch. Combined with agricultural waste like corn stalks, the materials fuse and shape into a solid brick–or into whatever shape the architect wants. And like other biological materials, when no longer needed as bricks, they can be composted and used as fertiliser.

The building is not just about using cradle-to-cradle thinking in material selection. The design itself turns the usual way that brick buildings work upside down. Lighter, porous materials are used at the base drawing cool air in, while hot air is vented from the top.

Given the high carbon-intensity many building materials (such as cement), this use of biological processes in construction results in a cheap building material that emits no carbon and creates no waste…

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 19: Forty years of happy

Forward to the Past

toys

Dwayne Baraka shares his inspiration:

I don’t know how I came across it, but it’s one of the things that I can’t imagine doing without. No, it’s not an Apple product. Giving them up was tough, but now I can’t imagine going back. Nor is it Google glass. (Actually, if you know how to get hold of one of those…)

It’s the Lewisham Toy Library, and I am in love with this model of shared product ownership.

I have a 17 month old boy, and for a very modest fee each year (24 pounds), I get to borrow a steady stream of toys. Many of the toys are focused on my little one’s development and many of them are wooden or deliberately focused on longevity and sustainability. Not a Barbie in sight, but there is a set of ‘different ability’ dolls to help teach children about things like diversity and difference. I have borrowed a staggering array of toys – musical instruments, balls, bath toys, battery powered things, cooking sets, blocks, books and tents – most of which I would never have bought. And all of which are a joy to my little boy, and have been since he was six months old.

I can’t wait to borrow a bicycle, or a trampoline, or the very technical-looking Meccano set as he grows older. I’m guessing that my wife and I have saved hundreds of pounds already, and over the lifetime of our membership will save thousands. Honestly, we could pay twice as much and that would still be true.

It also saves us an incredible amount of space. One of our friends sacrificed a full-size fridge to house all of their child’s toys, and we barely have more a freezer drawer’s worth. It’s recycling at its best. And it has allowed us to politely explain to relatives that our child has thousands of toys (literally, in a fashion).

Shared ownership is a good thing, but it’s not a new thing. The Lewisham Toy Library celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. If you’re wondering about the title, if Back to the Future can work, I figure Forward to the Past must work too?

Happy 40th Lewisham Toy Library!

Disclosure: The author recently became a committee member for the Lewisham Toy Library, and periodically receives a cup of tea and a biscuit at committee meetings and a sense of pride in supporting something that helps many.

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