Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Leaders, leaders, where art thou? Or, You can’t live on Gilligan’s Island anymore.

Leaders, leaders, where art thou? Or, You can’t live on Gilligan’s Island anymore.

Charlie Grantham

The Community Design Institute LLC (CDI) came into being on Jan 1, 2011. Founded by Charlie Grantham it is the next evolutionary step in the development of a think and do tank focused on growing Social Entrepreneurs. (See media interview at

Charlie has been working for decades with companies, communities and a highly leveraged network of entrepreneurs. Over the past few years this network of individuals and micro-businesses has shifted focus away from strictly profit motivated ventures to ones which seek to balance planet, profit and people wealth creation.

In early 2010, his research started to reveal a pattern in failed social entrepreneurial efforts. These case studies demonstrated a common factor: lack of effective leadership. Leadership in communities, leadership in start-ups and most importantly a crisis of leadership at a very personal level. So, the seeds of CDI were sown and the story began. But first, some background.


Social entrepreneurs grow in the gardens of local communities. However, Communities, which have been relatively homogenous since WWII, are being forced to change the way they think and behave by three major forces. First, communications technology that connects their residents to an ever-larger circle of acquaintances and social networks. Information, knowledge and ideas, which used to take weeks to move around now, occur instantaneously. What you say in Podunk finds its way to Huffington Post in a matter of minutes and is seen by hundred of thousands.

Second, demographics, which push villages and hamlets towards multi-generational populations and more ethic diversity. This driver, it might be noted, will become endemic when the labor force is in shortfall and importation of “immigrant” labor is required, perhaps within just a few years. Today we see it in the unskilled force for factory workers and manual labor. Meat packers in North Dakota, shrimpers in Louisiana and day laborers in the lettuce fields of Arizona. Tomorrow it will be for tradecraft and knowledge workers. But then again, if you don’t care about this part of the work world of the future it won’t matter. Note: see ghost town in Wikipedia.

The third force is recognition of the external effects of resources (e.g., the net import of energy, food and water). If you have to depend on importing any of these necessities of life, you are vulnerable to forces outside your social and political control. For example, a pipeline disruption in Uzbekistan sends gasoline prices in Nebraska skyward. Also, climate changes in one-region effects another, which changes weather patterns. Who would have speculated on the impact of an Icelandic volcano? We’ll leave the “climate change” debate for another time—but just ask anyone within 300 miles of the US West Coast what an “El Nino” does for them.

These conditions, in fact, are the seeds and fertilizer of social entrepreneurship.

How to get out of the mess (and off the Island)

First, we need recognition that we all need new ways of thinking; we must challenge our most basic assumptions about human nature, each other and how we come to understand things. In the words of Buckminster Fuller,

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

In short, the pathway is to live and act within a larger context—not just the immediate. And this is the core purpose of social entrepreneurs. You certainly need to react to what’s happening today but I would suggest those actions need to be in a larger frame of mind. The old adage of the 60’s about act local, think global comes to mind. Do the necessary for today, but think of tomorrow also. This means always thinking about sustainability—Sustainability with a big “S”. Let’s unpack that.

Sustainability: Long term, that is beyond ones lifetime. Viability to provide for itself, replenish resources (both natural and human) and increase in capability to change and adapt to environmental changes. It has three components.

1. Environment: Sufficient resources to maintain a certain quality of life beyond subsistence. Major issue in North America is water, both quantity and quality. Second issue is toxicity. Pollutants, waste disposal of all types that decrease capacity of land to produce or are harmful to human longevity and health.

2. Economy: Wealth producing activities that are beyond the extraction, agriculture, and industry paradigm. These older sectors of commerce are shrinking in relative proportion to all efforts (because they become more efficient) and other sectors are providing the value add of base jobs, which export product/services, and import wealth.

3. Community: Increases in social capability through education, recreational opportunities and creative endeavors such as the arts. Continuous development of intellectual, emotional and spiritual attributes of all residents.

The major barrier to developing a sustainable community at this point is a polity that lacks basic competencies to pull communities forward in the direction of societal evolution. That direction, by the way, is continuously greater connectivity, harmony of relations among different clans, tribes and guilds and the recognition of unity of purpose.

Leaders that can’t, or won’t lead in this direction are harmful to the long-term health of a community.

But most leaders today don’t know what they don’t know. This is where CDI finds that it can add value. Leadership needs a new set of skills, competencies and experiences. {} CDI’s basic assumption is that organizations cannot become relevant and sustainable until their leaders develop the mental flexibility and competencies necessary to deal with the uncertainties of the future. This is especially true for social entrepreneurs who are creating a postindustrial business model. It is a fundamental transformation in not only what business is about, but also how it operates and who can lead it successfully.

Fundamental transformation has four basic dimensions: it is irreversible, it challenges traditional assumptions, it changes your identity, and it shifts the purpose of the organization. New skills and abilities are required. We group learning into three basic categories: functional, expressive and motivational skills. They are defined as:




  • Future thinking
  • Drivers of change
  • New Patterns of action
  • Design Processes


  • Asking Questions
  • Systems Thinking
  • Balance, Flow and Circularity
  • Personal Identity


  • Living Out Leadership
  • Spirituality and Change
  • Presence of Self
  • Transformation



A path forward:

Leaders and communities need to work on three things at the same time if they want to respond to the complexities of today’s work in a way that will help them become sustainable. I think the first thing is to determine with some certainty if there is a willfulness to change and a sincere desire to become sustainable. One good test of that is to ask leaders if they are willing to invest time, money and energy in things that will benefit generations yet unborn? Another, almost spiritual, is whether leadership’s purpose (in their own opinion) is to serve groups larger than themselves. In other words, if it is all about family and clan, but nothing bigger, you don’t have a sustainable community to work with. Now, the three things to work on:

Polity: Leaders and a governance structure that promotes diversity of thought, beliefs and philosophy. A process that makes these differences visible, promotes honest discussion with respect and works on democratic principles to reconcile these differences and plan actions.

Economy: Balanced across a wide range of commerce activity and investment in developing new skills, business ventures and connects with a large society so there is a net import of wealth. Increases in community wealth will come through a transformational, integrated set of strategies that span both old, existing and new economies.

Community: Do not deplete natural resources without renewal. The community is a good steward to the environment and strives to become integrated into a society more expansive than a restricted geographic boundary.


Conscious Design: Make it happen, don’t let it happen!

Let me describe two projects that CDI is heavily involved to illustrate just how this social entrepreneurial transformation can take place. The first has to do with building a community (we prefer the term guild) of social entrepreneurs.

Strategic Efforts

CDI’s research shows that the war for talent is over and talent has won. US will be 15M short of knowledge workers in 2015. The need for social entrepreneurs has never been more acute. And, talent votes with its feet. They’re moving to high quality of life, low cost areas. So, we decided to focus on micropolises. Also, we noted that three organizational things are getting ready to happen:

  • The distributed work industry will coalesce around common metrics (i.e., planet, profit, people)
  • Communities will be a network of business community centers (currently seen as “coworking centers” 600 in US now)
  • Creative talent will organize itself into a guild like structure

CDI has actually created a whole new guild based entity called FutureWork>ing<TOGETHER to produce interactive events where the major actors in this transformation can come together and learn what they need to be successful as leaders and entrepreneurs.

The first of these is being sponsored by the City of San Luis Obispo in California in late September 2011. {} It will be a convening of an invitation only production of 100 thought leaders who share an abiding concern for the development of themselves and the people who live and WORK in their communities. It will be an opportunity to help give birth to the next step in our collective evolution and the exponomy.

Tactical Efforts

More to the on the ground mechanics of how CDI supports the growth of social entrepreneurs is the Launch Pad Prescott project. Launch Pad Prescott was opened for operation in March 2011. {} Its founders are the past Mayor of Prescott, AZ; his chief economic development advisor (CDI’s founder) and the leader of a community visioning effort.

Together, they decided that encouraging more social entrepreneurship in this rural micropolises was a necessary economic development strategy for a stagnant local economy. So, they build out a physical location for coworking. The 2600 square foot facility caters to the needs of entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses. Individual entrepreneurs pay as little as $250 month for the workplace and usually expend another few hundred dollars for business development services like market research and social media strategy.

It also offers different community programs specifically for social entrepreneurs. Leadership development, social media use and community organizing seems to be the most popular topics right now. One major project in a local neighborhood began in May. The project is designed to build a “talent integration ecosystem” that takes residents all the way from high school, through college and initial business startup. Mentors on steroids. We believe that the Launch Pad is a prototype is on the forefront of 21st century job creation.

The benefits for coworkers are shared equipment and space reduces startup expenses. Coworking provides increased connections that would not happen otherwise, resulting in symbiotic relationships with greater collaboration, productivity and profit among members. Initially these relationships are like a light bulb going on, and then people realize how much more they can accomplish with collaborative relationships. It speeds up their business development into a community of commerce.

Wrapping up the story

Leaders, leaders, where art thou? Or, You can’t live on Gilligan’s Island anymore.The Community Design Institute is a prototype of collaboration among a network of “artisans of thought”. The purpose of the Institute is helping find, nurture and grow social entrepreneurs. These brave new souls expand the wealth in the communities where they live—they don’t produce wealth for an industrial global giant.

Creating wealth is more than a profitable bottom line. It must also include a component of community development and individual purposefulness. And that is exactly what motivates social entrepreneurs. All of this requires a new kind of leadership, a new community of commerce, and a new work environment.

CDI is dedicated to bringing this vision into reality. Its two major efforts this year are operating at a strategic level by building a new Futurework>ing<TOGETHER guild of thought artists and simultaneously working with individual entrepreneurs in state of the practice coworking facilities.

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