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By Laetitia Laubscher
April 16, 2015
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By Laetitia Laubscher
April 16, 2015
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“There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything… it involves changing how we live, how our economies function.” Naomi Klein

Sam Lindsay is one of the many emerging modern-day Clark Kents of this world. But instead of a cape, he dons cufflinks. Together with talented muralist Aaron Glasson, the two New Zealand-born social entrepreneurs take on the world's problems using business and a little creativity. Their fledgling 'ideas marketplace' company Aligned is a social enterprise which harnesses other social enterprises to help each connect to the other, as well as providing a nice ideas and inspiration platform for the world. One social enterprise to rule them all, basically.

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It’s been a gridlock worse than Auckland traffic negotiating seemingly opposite poles – for-good and for-profit ventures. “People generally have a traditional view of business and social impact – either you’re an NGO or charity trying to achieve maximum social and environmental impact or you’re a for-profit company trying to achieve the maximum amount of money for your shareholders and your stakeholders.” Lindsay mused via a crackly Skype conversation with Concrete Playground.

Enter social enterprises. If personified, a social enterprise would be one of the hot dudes reading (not saying it can't be a she, but just roll with me on this one). He likes taking showers, daily, using a rainwater tank. He has a spiffy office, made of recycled material. He rides a bike. A really, really nice and well looked after vintage bike. In less flowery terms, here’s Wikipedia: “A social enterprise is an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximising profits for external shareholders.”

Aligned is part of this emerging new style of businesses which fuse the two together, making the business of being good profitable; sustainable. The for-good company is founded on the concept of creative change, believing that innovative mavericks can make the world a better place using their creations. As their beautifully written manifesto proclaims: "To create is no longer trivial. It is among the most defining actions you can make. An action which extends well beyond our immediate circle of influence — our creative decisions now carry global consequences."

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The concept of a social enterprise emerged on the final cusp of the ‘70s at Beechwood College near Leeds in England, where Freer Spreckley used the term to describe co-operatives that were using a ‘social accounting and audit’ system developed in Beechwood. It’s a concept that's now become popular enough to feature as a talking point at mainstream political conventions (see: Europe 2020), as well as slowly becoming legit worldwide too. Social enterprises are now even legally recognised by Vietnam’s Enterprise Act 2014, which has even gone as far as registering Vietnam’s commitment to "encourage, support and promote" such businesses.

However, despite being an increasingly popular emerging trend, social enterprises are still struggling to find a place for their products on regular shop shelves. “One of the biggest obstacles is that it isn’t easy to find a market.” Thunyawat Tositrakul of Green Net SE, a social enterprise which sells organic forest coffee, confided in The Guardian.

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Which is where Aligned comes in. The creative platform is a digital supermarket stocked with socially and environmentally conscious creatives’ work. In addition to being a place for their ideas to be exhibited, it also acts as a means for creatives to connect with each other internally. On top of that, the ad-free platform also looks at using creative work to simply inspire as well. “Every photo, every video that’s uploaded is someone’s thoughts, someone’s passions, someone’s motivation, someone’s insight on a particular social and environmental topic which has value for other people in the world who are trying to tackle the same issue”, Lindsay said.

For those interested in joining the network, the platform is looking for businesses which take "a creative stance or a creative perspective on a social or environmental issue”. In other words, "they have to be producing inspirational work or particularly interesting work, or visually inspiring, something which captures your attention in a way that hasn’t been done." So far, this has included ventures like Fish for My Unborn Children, a company using discarded tuna skin and Sri Lankan craftsmanship to make beautiful brogue-ish shoes and other garb, the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park which is a stunning set of sculptures that double up as an artificial coral reef, a bicycle-powered cinema, and Ovnibus, an abandoned bus in Mexico which has been repurposed to now acts as a free classroom and workshop site.

Most importantly, according to Lindsay, is that once a business gets on board with them, Aligned helps that business increase the world's goodness. “Our mission, the core reason for the business, is to generate and to help our businesses generate a bigger environmental and social impact.” We can get on board with that.

For those who would like to find out more, head over to their website.

Published on April 16, 2015 by Laetitia Laubscher

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