For the past two years, I have been lucky enough to be invited to Necker Island as part of my membership with Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) for a weeklong learning and networking experience hosted by Richard Branson.
For any entrepreneur, this is a life-changing event. Those of us in attendance learn from each other and from Branson, spending a week soaking up an ocean of knowledge designed to help our businesses succeed. As inspiring as every inch of Necker Island is, however, there’s one place there that is sacred. Maybe that’s why it’s called a temple.
The Elders Temple is a meeting place Branson built in the middle of Necker Island to bring together some of the most brilliant minds on the planet. It all started years ago when Branson was discussing an idea with the musician Peter Gabriel: What if a group of smart, worldly people -- who previously held great power, but were no longer held down by politics or elected office -- worked together to make the world better? The two men took their idea to former South African President Nelson Mandela and asked him and his wife, Graça Machel, to lead it. In 2007 on his 89th birthday, Mandela founded The Elders. In announcing the formation of this group, Mandela said, “The Elders can become a fiercely independent and robust force for good, tackling conflicts and intractable issues, especially those that are not popular.”
Branson wanted to give The Elders a home base. “Over the years Necker has become a place for like-minded people to gather. I built the Elders Temple on Necker in 2007 and Nelson Mandela, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Carter, Mary Robinson and other great elders of the world have used it since as a place to meet and discuss ways of resolving global conflict,” Branson told us.
For all of us entrepreneurs, the idea has great merit. Our families, churches and communities historically have all looked to our elders for guidance. Being in the Elders Temple was very humbling for me. To know that the room in which I was sitting at that very moment was the site of many great ideas from even greater minds inspired me to want to do my part in my corner of the business world. As Archbishop Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
The last night we were on Necker Island, Branson gave all of us an opportunity to become good global citizens. He announced that all of the attendees and their companies were now part of the Capitalism 24902 movement. Named for the number of miles that make up the circumference of the earth, Capitalism 24902 has the goal of making business a force for good.
Branson says this movement will make it possible to “screw business as usual” (also the name of his new book). In short, the concept states that our growing interconnectedness, in part fueled by the growth of social media, is transforming the way the world works. As power shifts from the hands of central authorities to the hands of people, business leaders worldwide need to figure out how to help young people everywhere deliver a positive future.
It’s critical that we work together to ensure we build a far more equitable world. That means, as Branson puts it, bringing together “social and environmental values into the core of our business strategies. So 'screw business as usual’ fundamentally recognizes that doing good things for society is good for business.”
That’s an idea I encourage all entrepreneurs to get behind. My fellow Capitalism 24902 inductees made a mutual commitment to use our businesses to give back to the world. We set agreed-upon rules, tasks and goals to hold one other accountable. I look forward to seeing what we all accomplish.
I encourage you, reader, to think about what you can do with your business to make change possible, to inspire the next generation of business owners. Working together, we might not change the world overnight, but we can definitely change our own corner of it.