In the last ten years I have visited several innovative communities, and met with entrepreneurs who have put together exceptionally successful models that blend business, the arts, sustainability and also offer cutting edge, multi-level social missions, not just to mainstream society, but to the disabled, lost and delinquent. One such model is the Ruskin Mill, in Stourbridge, UK, a sprawling, abandoned glass factory that has been redeveloped and is now part of a cultural trust, divided into studios, a theatre, gardens, offices, a vegetarian cafe for all students and workers, staff etc. Best of all, they've used the government grant system most ingeniously to get funding for their community.
The government gives this trust fifty thousand pounds per year per delinquent child that the trust promises to take on as apprentice to the artists. The children, who otherwise would be housed and educated at a government detention center, are chosen through an intensive screening process and given house-parents for each year they're at Ruskin Mill. They take classes in art, drawing, and music. They learn to help run the farm that grows the food that feeds the center, and they are taught to make the tools that they will use in their work. The trust was created and is run by Aonghus Gordon, an incredibly energetic and capable person.
The Ruskin Center is healthy, gorgeous and bustling with energy. As an environmental side project, the artists there have won a major award for taking the lead out of computers from landfills, pioneering a way to turn it into leaded glass, and then blowing that glass to make beautiful flow-form fountains that will redeem the lead through the function of holding the movement of water.
While many companies in America are investigating 'social responsibility' and while those words have become a tag-line to those who are eager to jump on the band-wagon, it is clear is that a company's usage of materials, products and labor cannot exist without affecting others. A company can try to have like-minded suppliers that also practice social responsibility; or it can dabble in both like and unlike minds; or it can go off the grid entirely and form its own supply chain. And this is the wave of the future.
It may take a village to raise a child, but at this point in time, it takes a company with the ability to turn itself into its own city in order to make an enduring change in society. The trend that I hope to see grow in different corners of the world, is a rise in fully sustainable community initiatives that encompass every aspect of responsibility. Businesses that take an innovative, artistic and responsibly holistic approach to making a living. With a little luck and a lot of work, this could be the skeleton of the new corporation, and in a hundred years, there may be many excellent examples throughout the world.: http://www.rmt.org/