A Brain-Candy Store

I work with a Charitable organization that you might call a brain-candy store. To say that it is an innovative organization would be an understatement…even though that word is part of its name: Innovative Communities.org (ICO). In the past several years the organization has made a huge turnaround. They’ve gone from owing more on their mortgages than the property was valued at to have a viable budget. I don’t even have to tell you an exact dollar value because part of the innovation was to create transparency. If you want to know what their financial status is, just go to their website and their entire set of financial journals and spreadsheets are posted on their website….AND… it is updated on a daily basis.

Quite possibly the reason they’ve made this turnaround and created a financial stability to their organization is the innovative business model they chose to switch to. Instead of have a “top down” model their entire organization is driven upwards from the community grass roots level. They currently have over 250 volunteers in their organization, no one is paid, all their money goes towards their projects and their overhead costs are incredibly low. If they can find a way to do something free it gets done that way.

The average age of their volunteers is between 25 – 30 years of age and they get resumes from people every week who want to join up in the organization and contribute in some way. Yes you heard me right people send in resumes to ICO. Most of these people work in the general framework of the organization. Their volunteer base dedicates their time, resources, skills and talents to make innovative Initiatives, a.k.a. Projects, happen at the local level. If you have a great idea for an innovative community, all you do is submit your idea for their approval. Then they tell you if it fits their visions and goals. If it does they supply you with all the people power and resources you need to build this Initiative.

But do you start to work on the Initiative right away? Not really. They have a research Chaord, a.k.a. Department, that looks over your Initiative and does all the necessary fact finding necessary to take the next steps in creating the new Initiative. Notice all the alternative terms they use. They have a unique vocabulary that shies away from militaristic terms to describe business i.e. strategic planning, projects, take-overs… you know the terms I’m talking about.

While this research is going on, the job of the Community Representative, a.k.a. Team Builder, starts asking people to join the new Community, a.k.a. Team, and choses an Initiative Leader, a.k.a. Project Manager, to take over the evolving tasks coming from the Research Chaord.

The only other time I’ve come across this type of business model was written by Ricardo Semlar in a book called Maverick. He took a “top-down” business and turned it around by giving power to the employees to steer the direction of the company.

The brain-candy? I happen to be a Community Representative for the Courtenay Community, here on Vancouver Island, B.C. Every day I get to interact with young, since I am no longer a spring chicken myself, people. Not just ordinary people but brilliant, innovative and exciting people. People who sprinkle my mind with the candy of ideas, thoughts, suggestions and new ways of doing things. If you happen to have a craving for sweets like this, drop in to their web-site, look around, take a nibble of the candy they have and see what it tastes like. See if you can find my name in the directory.

How do you think your life would look if you worked for a company like this?

What sorts of brain-candy do you find in your workplace now?

What types of organizations do you volunteer for?

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