Portrait of Zebras Unite in Sweden
‘Zebras fix what Unicorns break’. In our previous blog post we introduced the Zebras Unite cooperative, and what it means for Sweden. Who are we, Sweden Zebras? The Zebras manifesto summarizes the changes we would like to see in our national corporate landscape.
We, purpose-driven changemakers and sustainability professionals, are here to think outside of the box and challenge the norms of the system. Through innovation and strategic thinking, we are exploring the connections around us: connecting with oneself inward, connecting with others, and connecting with nature.
Our network wants to add value and enable the change we want to see, with tools based on knowledge sharing and lessons learned. Our end goal is to find scale-up opportunities for best practices that contribute to the SDGs and Agenda 2030.
Zebras are diverse. Worldwide, we attract members from all colors, shapes and sizes. We raised the interest of students, entrepreneurs and business owners, consultants as well as employees from the private sector, the public sector and the non-for profit sector.
Zebras Unite is an open movement, and so is our Sweden community. Because sustainability is such a holistic concept that can be part of everything we do, all of them can find their place and contribute with their own experience and perspective. The one common factor is the shared belief that we need a more human-centered approach in our economy.
The change we want to see
Combating climate change is obvious for us Zebras, as our carbon footprint is the direct result of our lifestyle. How do we plan to achieve it? We want to make it easier for everyone to make climate smart choices and encourage organizations to make decisions based on climate science and taking into account the planet boundaries.
Though in Sweden the awareness over global warming is quite well spread, there are still areas of improvements where we can influence a change. Better food consumption and production, less greenwashing, improvements on measuring material impacts, are a few of the topics the Zebras of Sweden are interested in.
Inclusion, diversity and well-being
The most popular topic among Sweden Zebras is Inclusion and Diversity. There are different dimensions in this area, and the focus is overall on work/life balance and individual well-being. Overall, Sweden Zebras are sharing the feeling that organizations don’t generally provide enough room for individuals to exist and find a sense of fulfillment at the workplace. There is a will to move towards self-management and allow different personalities to thrive. A recurring topic during our discussion was the lack of support provided to introverts to help them contribute, express their ideas and grow. This might be the result of the aggressive competitive working environment often experienced by employees in the private sector. Self-confidence is damaged, and in return it damages the engagement of employees at the workplace.
There seems to be a consensus among Zebras Unite Sweden around the need to rethink business models and management practices, inherited from the industrial revolution, to create a healthier and more respectful workplace that inspires and engages employees. Reducing working hours, facilitating flexibility and offering support for well-being at work are tracks that Sweden zebras wish to explore.
Leadership and corporate culture
How do we make a change then? With an overall entrepreneurial (and intrapreneurial) mindset, Sweden Zebras want to take actions to vehicule change and raise awareness. An example of action could be to brainstorm and provide tips on how to create and implement more human-friendly business policies. We want to invite every actor of the society to listen to each other and to be open to different ways of working and different backgrounds. Together we can co-create and innovate to promote real change. How do we drive projects and organizations with purpose? Organizations should look at the bigger picture and understand how they exchange with their stakeholders in their daily lives.
Collaboration and sharing
Our favorite way to create progress is by collaborating and sharing knowledge and experience. We want to replace competition with collaboration, both at an individual level and at an organizational level. Individually, people are invited to connect with themselves, with others and with nature. By helping each other with network opportunities, Zebras humanizes the way organizations collaborate with each other. Sweden Zebras can showcase business models that create societal impact while being financially profitable. With members from all sectors and a connection to a global network, Sweden Zebras encourages to connect with existing organizations that work in the same direction. Where further research is needed, why not connect with students or university professors?
At its origin, the Zebras Unite movement was focused on funding and financing opportunities. For startups that don’t fit in the box of conventional venture capital or social investment. Zebras businesses focus on stability and balance, rather than high and fast return on investment over social and environmental impact. Therefore, there is an obstacle to impact entrepreneurship at its root.
How does one get started with no funding, even with a promising business idea? How do we fund projects that overall improve people’s health and living conditions without a starting budget? Zebras Unite Sweden share the same vision and want to promote alternative ways of funding. Sweden Zebras want to promote gender equality and diversity at large in funding opportunities. In addition, we want to showcase successful stories of impact entrepreneurship that are profitable. We also want to cooperate to start conversations on joint ventures and cooperate, or even present long-term investment opportunities.
To sum it all up: We need to change the norms. We need to create a space for organizations to connect with the real world and be empathetic towards all their stakeholders. We do so by embracing innovation instead of blocking it, and by innovation we don’t mean only technological innovation, but also social and managerial innovation. Together we want to empower people to build more sustainable models of growth. We will do so by organizing conferences, brainstorming sessions and workshops on different themes of interest.
All Zebras are welcome to join our Mighty Network channel and already start connecting with other Zebras worldwide on topics of their choice. You can also join our Sweden group. The membership to the network is free of charge.