People stand looking at a city.

People stand looking at a city.

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Moving Beyond the Bottom Line

The beginning

Lara Stein is the co-founder of Boma Global. Over the past 15 years, she has been working with both for-profit and non-profit companies. Her work has focused on developing systems and global networks that scale and deliver profit and impact. Ten years ago, she was hired by TED to think about how to bring TED's high-level conference out into the world.

The first framework, TEDx, launched in March 2009. It was rather experimental - uncertain of its outcome. But it worked.

In the first year, 250 TEDx events happened around the world. Last year, more than 3000 of them took place worldwide. From here, Stein wanted to focus on the next step of systems change. According to Stein, the next step was centered around the question: how can we drive real impact in the world rather than just inspiration?

One of the learnings coming out of TEDx was that it’s very hard to sustain a volunteer network. So she took a chance and started to build the next global network for Singularity University. It used a combination of impact and, at the same time, profit to make it more sustainable and create change and positive impact.

But her ultimate vision would take her even farther. Rather than focusing on technological change, which is Singularity University's primary approach, she was seeking for a more holistic approach, one that would reflect the true complexity of the changes we are seeing.

Stein gathered with three of her former partners who had been with her on her journey for the last 12 to 15 years and founded Boma.

Building boma

Boma's goal is to build a global network that represents the kind of system’s change we want to see in the world. The team wanted to create something new, something that is decentralized and agile. A kind of smart learning platform that includes all stakeholders – not only corporates and investors, but also governments, communities, youth, NGOs, and educational institutions.

Stein emphasizes that the world is facing strong geopolitical changes, social change, economic change, climate change, and other vectors of change. Traditional systems often rely on top-down models designed for a "command and control" centered approach.

This traditional leadership model, Stein says, is not tailored to meet the current and upcoming changes and fails to include all voices – something that will be needed to secure success.

“That’s what we do at Boma," Stein said. Boma was created to help institutions not only understand the changes and challenges for their industries, it helps create sustainable strategies and leadership models around them, and it includes all the necessary stakeholders to guarantee success. It's about generating long term impact while remaining profitable.

“Speaking about technological changes only does not do justice to the complexity of the moment. It’s too simplistic,” she said. Everyone would have to learn to embrace this new complexity and diversity needed rather than shying away from it and clinging to old patterns. This, Stein believes, is the only way to solve global challenges.

Balancing profit and purpose

“We are a tiny planet and the world gets smaller. How do future global organizational and decentralized networks start these required conversations and take action,” Lara asks. “We need to train our future leaders. We really need courageous leaders who embrace the agility needed and make decisions based on the rate of change.” She recommends balancing social, economic, and environmental needs in order to create long term sustainability and success.

“We all know that corporates have a heavy responsibility towards their shareholders, so it will take a very different kind of leadership and a very courageous group of leaders to say: “Enough is enough. Over the last 50 years, we have decimated the planet and we need to think differently about the future that we create for our children.”

Stein is particularly focused on the social aspects of this work. “I would like to believe we are moving towards a world where my daughters would be able to walk into any workplace in the future and have the exact same respect as their male counterparts. I feel like we have a long way to go”, she concludes on the current status quo on gender equality. “The sexism is not blatant in Silicon Valley. It’s like still waters running deep.”

Stein is convinced that a radical change is always linked to a system’s change. She hints towards some of the northern leadership models where 40 percent of women in boards have been introduced as part of a scaffolding that is needed to create change to the system – change that lasts. Without these new fundamental structures, change will not happen, Sten firmly believes.

Boma is part of a new management curriculum, Stein states, where corporates and other institutions learn how to think of leadership in a different way.. Profit and impact must go hand in hand in the future – they complement each other and are mutually dependent. “Young generations today seek for a meaningful existence. They want their jobs to bring meaning to their lives. They would like to work for companies which are doing their best at driving a more responsible future," Stein says.

The article was originally published on the #DMW platform in German and is now open to our English speaking readers by courtesy of the DMW-network.

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