Hybrid organisations and how to recycle creative industries?

Recently, I was occu­pied with research­ing vari­ous busi­ness mod­els and try­ing to find one myself. You know it is quite easy when you just want to intro­duce some­thing like­able, edible or smok­able to the mar­ket. Of course, it is com­pet­it­ive, but selling toi­let paper, lem­on­ade or some other bull­shit is always easier than intro­du­cing some­thing new, mis­sion driven and not quite prof­it­able at the moment. In this busi­ness world, we always talk about mod­els. Actually, if you have guru, he can totally train you how to sell, how to pro­mote, how to lick client’s ass in the right dir­ec­tion and basic­ally how to sell shit and prove that this is gold. Sometimes I just get lost in this game, where every­body is lying so much that even myself start to believe that this selling cul­ture is the right thing to do.

At least until I meet some out­sider, total fucker, ego­centric or, on the other hand, just an ordin­ary per­son, who is so driven with his mis­sion and pas­sion that it is just unbe­liev­ably inspir­ing. At that moment, I can actu­ally feel cre­ativ­ity, this cha­risma com­ing with sim­pli­city and hon­esty. The fun­ni­est thing is that these people sooner or later get that they want, maybe it will not be mil­lions, but you will remem­ber them for sure. We all know these stor­ies about crazy artists, indi­vidu­als and ego­centrics. However, in every­day life I mostly meet beau­ti­fully pol­ished faces, ugly shiny shoes and smart suits. In other words, this middle class, CEO’s who mostly talk more than do a decent job. I know that it could sound naive, but I just hate that feel­ing these people give to me — you some­how feel that you should sit straight, smile, be chatty and play the role of this charm­ing and fluffy per­son­al­ity which is just so insin­cere. The worst thing hap­pens when you basic­ally real­ize that people buy into this stuff and then you either play the role, either try to escape to your world with people you mainly like and respect.

So, I want to shortly intro­duce this cre­at­ive, mis­sion driven and socially respons­ible hybrid organ­isa­tion — Sun Ovens International. Maybe it is not so art related com­pany, but its solu­tions and product are cre­at­ive and fas­cin­at­ing. This com­pany is based in Elburn, IL and provides energy solu­tions to the world’s poor. It has just six employ­ees mak­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing solar ovens around the world. In devel­op­ing coun­tries par­tic­u­larly in rural areas, approx­im­ately 2.5 bil­lion people rely on bio­mass sources, includ­ing fire­wood, char­coal, animal dung, and agri­cul­tural waste to meet their needs for cook­ing energy. Approximately 1.3 mil­lion people — the major­ity of whom are women and chil­dren — die pre­ma­ture each year due to expos­ure from bio­mass indoor air pol­lu­tion. Fuel col­lec­tion takes away time and effort that could be spent on edu­ca­tion or other income-​generating activities.

I think company’s busi­ness model is clever because they have con­sumers in both developed and devel­op­ing coun­tries and at the same time they are solv­ing prob­lems and mak­ing busi­ness out of it. Contrary to most of envir­on­ment­ally friendly organ­isa­tions Sun Ovens International is registered as a for profit busi­ness, not a char­ity, but all of its busi­ness is mis­sion driven and prob­lem solv­ing. In developed coun­try mar­kets, it’s con­sumers are green con­sumers (eco-​conscious), food enthu­si­asts (claim­ing that solar ovens offer more fla­vour and juicier, all nat­ural tastes) and emer­gency pre­pared­ness (using it when elec­tri­city in no longer avail­able). Despite its core busi­ness in ovens, Sun Ovens has plans to expand the port­fo­lio of offer­ings with solar-​inspired cook­book, solar-​powered head­lamp and solar powered water pasteurizer.

In devel­op­ing coun­tries, Sun Ovens either licenses its Global Sun Ovens to local entre­pren­eurs who ulti­mately sell to poor fam­il­ies will­ing to replace their wood/​dung based cook­ing equip­ment, or it sells to large inter­na­tional NGO’s who dis­trib­ute these ovens to people in need. The aim of the entre­pren­eur­ial model is to drive as much cost as pos­sible from the price, thereby mak­ing the product more access­ible to a wider group of con­sumers. Recognising that donor fund­ing is not a sus­tain­able source of fund­ing, Sun Ovens prefers to license its product to local entre­pren­eurs in an innov­at­ive arrange­ment. This is part of this busi­ness which attrac­ted my atten­tion the most. The com­pany is primar­ily aim­ing to be prof­it­able itself and chooses a dif­fer­ent path from most of mis­sion driven non profit organ­isa­tions who always just seek for fund­ing from donors. In my opin­ion, this is truly innov­at­ive and at the same time risky choice because the com­pany has to earn her profits itself and do not pri­or­it­ise grants. Many of its com­pet­it­ors are non­profits, but Sun Ovens was delib­er­ately incor­por­ated by Paul Munsen in 1998 as a for profit enter­prise because he believes com­pan­ies selling truly valu­able products that reduce poverty must be fin­an­cially sustainable.

I just began to think how could we apply the same model of hybrid organ­isa­tion to cre­at­ive indus­tries and arts in par­tic­u­lar where most of the organ­isa­tions are reli­able on donors and grants. Of course, we have design com­pan­ies which are mostly for profit, but just a few are genu­inely mis­sion driven and solve prob­lems. I do not say that all of us have to work with poor and that there are no prob­lems in developed coun­tries or less notice­able prob­lems. However, I some­how feel that arts and cre­at­ive indus­tries could learn from these hybrid mod­els and be more self sus­tain­able. At the same time, of course arts and cul­ture are highly related to enter­tain­ment, fun or just advert­ising and visu­als, but could it be some­how recycled and be more mis­sion driven? I know that some­times it is dif­fi­cult to truly under­stand where are actual bene­fits brought by arts, but does it mean that we just stop talk­ing about it? Do you know any art/​creative indus­tries related hybrid organ­isa­tions? Especially, suc­cess­ful ones — mis­sion driven and for profit?

Recommended book.

Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
About author:
Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
Gintare Zitkeviciute is Art Pit’s thinker and doer. In her work practise, she values lean approach, creativity and quick decisions. She doesn't like working with random people and thinks that a team is a heart of successful project. For that reason, she carefully picks people she works with on everyday basis. She is mostly interested in innovatio... Read further >
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