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Posted 11.22.05

How do you imagine the best possible role business may play in the realm of human history and progress? Where do you find inspiration for the best relationship business may have with the rest of society? How do you anticipate -- and experiment -- with the business models and practices that may allow for business to serve as an agent of world benefit?

When a small group of faculty, staff, and students who were committed to the mission of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (B·A·W·B) first considered its contribution to the world, we knew we had no answers, but we were absolutely sure what the questions were. Starting with a simple hunch that the best possible world is not just around the corner – but indeed all around us -- we began our exploration. We knew the models, practices, and products allowing business to bring benefit to the world, while creating a sustainable financial future, are already being invented. All we needed to do was to discover and tell the stories of those inventions. That, we knew, would be a major contribution.

So, the World Inquiry was born. We partnered with schools, organizations, and communities to discover the most interesting and novel ideas at the intersection of business and society. We catalyzed thousand of interviews, and reviewed hundreds of submissions, to choose the best innovations that allow for both business and societal benefit. Then we built our first online outlet for the stories – the B·A·W·B Innovation Bank.

The Innovation Bank launched this summer with an impressive array of 60 diverse stories. Covering 17 areas of the globe, the Bank profiles innovative ways to address such global issues as human health, ecological sustainability, community development, human rights protection, and peace making. Among the profiles is the story of the Equator Principles, a collaborative effort by ten major competing banks in seven countries to connect social and environmental aspirations with the financial markets, submitted by a group of Case MBA students; a story of Pax World Balanced Funds, one of the oldest socially responsible investing organizations, shared by Neal Breslin of Benedictine University; a profile of a community bakery that promotes sustainability for Vila Sabara, Brazil, sent in by our partners at B·A·W·B Brazil; and a story of PeaceWorks, a not-only-for-profit specialty food company that manages to combine production of condiments with peace building, researched by our own staff. Our goal is to “bank” 100 stories by the end of 2005.

Although the current Innovation Bank provides just a short, one-page summary of a business-in-society invention, in the future the Bank will feature its most novel and provocative stories via expanded articles, multi-media presentations, and short documentaries. We also aim to produce case studies and teaching materials to provide detail and pose questions regarding the future of the private enterprise and its impact on the world. In 2006, online forums, readers ranking, and discussion boards will provide an opportunity to connect and converse around ideas and questions posed by the Innovation Bank stories.

By Nadya Zhexembayeva

To learn more about the World Inquiry, please go to http://worldbenefit.case.edu/inquiry/ or contact Nadya Zhexembayeva at ntz@case.edu

To browse through the Innovation Bank, please go to http://worldbenefit.case.edu/innovation/

 

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