The Network Effect: The 2013 BCLC Corporate Responsibility Conference
Jeff Lundy, PhD, Research Manager of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, opened the Business Civic Leadership Center’s Annual Corporate Responsibility Conference with a report on obesity. I wondered how this would set the tone for a conference I expected to focus on international development and engagement. Discussions of hunger, malnutrition, and food security seemed more appropriate for this cross-sector group gathered in Washington, DC, but I shelved a passing thought of a “Fat Chance” and made the conscious decision to embrace the unique perspective the conference was attempting to promote for its attendees.
That turned out to be the right approach. The obesity report, and the following discussion, set the tone for the the whole conference. It introduced key themes that would be repeated again and again over the next three days in addressing a myriad of topics: applied technology, social innovations, sustainable packaging and recycling, job-skills training, community capacity-building, leadership development, disaster response, sustainable supply-chains, environmental restoration, and even global food sourcing.
The theme of “purposeful engagement” carried through each conversation in turn, recognizing that the path to solve the most difficult challenges of our time requires a few key steps. First, those concerned must develop a common understanding gained with and in the community in question. To develop that common understanding, a group must value curiosity first and expertise second, all while withholding moral judgment. Through such a process, mutual respect leads to mutual value, which in turns leads to mutual benefit, leading those seeking to find a solution to embrace collaboration, because no one sector can solve these challenges alone. Only after a mutual understanding has been reached, and a collaborative solution developed can the final step be achieved: Action!