I’m a big fan of Patagonia – not only their products, but the way they do business. I loved founder Yvon Chouinard’s unconventional business book Let My People Go Surfing, as well as the excellent documentary 180 Degrees South.
In many ways, Patagonia is one of the original social enterprises. They donate 1% of their revenue or 10% of their profit each year (whichever is greater). They try to ensure that everyone in their supply chain gets paid and treated fairly, and they try to minimise the impact of their business on the environment.
Recognising the urgency of the fight against climate change, Patagonia have gone one stepped further and changed the company mission to “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.” I think they set a great example about for businesses aiming to be conscious of their impact on the environment. Read more at Fast Company.
My partner Hannah is from the UK, and to keep up with the news while overseas she installed the BBC news app. Every now and again the app interrupts the day with the urgent tones of a breaking news alert, making you aware of the latest plane crash, mass shooting or bloody coup. Over time we began to flinch upon hearing the news alert, thinking “Oh no, what’s happened now?” The foreboding sound eventually instilled the sort of existential dread usually reserved for the particular alarm chime that woke you up early each morning for school… until we turned it off.
We aren’t alone in opting to drop off and tune out. Conducted last year, a joint study between Rueters Institute and Oxford University found that a third of people often or sometimes avoid the news, with 48% saying they avoided the news because it has a negative effect on their mood. In the same survey, 28% said they avoided the news because they didn’t think they could do anything about it. News intended to keep people informed and help them take action is doing the exact opposite; we feel disengaged and disempowered.
I started searching for a way to stay informed without feeling cynical or depressed, and was amazed at what I found. There is a nascent but growing movement around constructive journalism, or ‘solutions journalism’, aiming to re-frame the conversation. Journalism doesn’t just mirror the world, it also influences it. In the same way that media reporting of terrible crimes can lead to ‘copycat criminals’, media reporting has the potential to create copycat changemakers, social entrepreneurs and local heroes!
So there’s positive news out there, and there are lots of journalists doing amazing work in this space. Why is it still so far below the mainstream radar? The undeniable fact is that news media is experiencing significant disruption. The current business models dictate that attention (eyeballs) equals revenue, and the best way to capture attention is with shock and fear. It’s a race to the bottom, hyper-accelerated by instant feedback and analytics – “if it bleeds it leads”. I came to realise that it wasn’t just a problem of negative bias in the news, but also of distribution: how do we shine a light on positive news?
I’ve launched The Good News Email in an effort to amplify the amazing work of constructive journalists that I admire. It’s a curated selection of positive stories and solutions from around the world. I wanted to create the type of news alert that makes your heart sing when you see it, like a message from your mum or dad. My mission is to provide an alternative lens through which to see the world, one that encourages action rather than making you feel helpless and disempowered.
Why have I chosen an old-school newsletter to deliver this message? The Skimm, Finimize and Daily Pnut have led a renaissance in the world of ‘blissfully slow internet newsletters.’ In that vein, The Good News Email cuts through the noisy whirlwind of your social feeds and constantly updated news sites, to be read in the relative sanctuary of your personal inbox. It’s delivered once a week, every Monday. Subscribe at thegoodnewsemail.com.
Survival of the Richest is an interesting article about a futurist who was asked to speak to a group of wealthy men, and the discussion that turned into a Q&A for surviving the apocalypse.
One of the parts of the article I found most interesting was the author’s discussion on ‘unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism’. I found myself thinking about Zero to One, part of the start up canon recommended to all, by all in the venture capital fuelled bubble.
I struggled with a large part of the book that urged prospective founders to build monopolies, advice which flew in the face of all I’d learnt about the benefits of competition and the dangers of capitalism. There seemed to be a missing consideration – there was no balancing what might be good for the small number of founders and investors who own a monopoly with the effects on society as a whole
I think it’s one of the most frustrating parts of the narrative that dominates the current startup zeitgeist – the lack of wider awareness and ethical discussion on the way technology impacts the world. There are exceptions – Time Well Spent and Sam Altman’s interest in UBI for example.