Do we want to change the world? Or does the world want US to change? Lynn Serafinn tells the story of the 7 Graces Project, and discusses how social change moves in a spiral motion propelled by something far greater than our original idea.
Back in 2007, I attended a workshop led by my friend Nancy Goodyear in London. During the workshop, she led us through a guided visualisation. In the visualisation, I saw myself as a 75-year-old woman, sitting in a small house in a village in Africa. The people around me knew me and were friendly, loving and respectful. I got the impression the enclave of buildings in which we were sitting was some sort of school or training organisation. I could sense I had something to do with the formation of this school, but that I was now more or less seen as a figurehead rather than as an active teacher.
I found the experience rather odd. I had never been to Africa, nor had I ever thought about going there. While the picture I saw and the feelings I felt in the vision were extremely vivid, I thought they were probably whimsical, fleeting thoughts that had no significance in reality.
One week after I attended the workshop, I went to a leadership training retreat (Nancy was also in my leadership group). Quite serendipitously, on the first day of the retreat I was put into a partnership with a young woman I hardly knew at that point. This woman happened to be the ONLY black African member of our group. Our task was co-create a workshop we would deliver together. Of course, the biggest challenge was that I lived in England and she in Johannesburg. Within five minutes of our talking, and without knowing anything about my ‘vision’ from the previous week, she grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye and said (quite intensely):
“You must come to Africa.”
I have to admit her words sent shivers up my spine. Ten days earlier, I had never thought about Africa. Even in all my years of social anthropology and world music, my focus was mainly on the culture of the Indian subcontinent. Then, inexplicably, I had a vision of Africa during a workshop that I had waved away as a playful fancy of my creative mind. But now, I was suddenly being asked to come to Africa to deliver a workshop. What’s more, because doing this workshop was part of our leadership course, it WAS going to happen no matter what.
Within two months I was flying down to South Africa. In the seat next to me was Nancy. By wild coincidence (or is there such a thing?), and with absolutely no premeditation, she had also been paired with a South African member of our leadership group, and they had agreed that Nancy would also come down to Johannesburg to co-lead their workshop. So there we were.
As I lived so far away and had no contacts in Johannesburg, my African co-leader had arranged the venue and recruited workshop participants. Our participants were mostly young (under 30) black African entrepreneurs, who were members of the “Junior Chamber”. I had no idea how significant this would be to my future direction.
Our workshop was NOT about business, but personal transformation (that’s what I was “into” back in 2008), using a model I had created for my 2009 book The Garden of the Soul. While I felt the workshop was very sketchy due to it still being a work in progress, one of the exercises provoked a powerful emotional response in two of the young men attending…
They were weeping.
The quieter of the two men said softly to me, “I never realised my life had so much meaning.”
Entrepreneurs as Healers of a Broken Society
The more assertive of the two explained why they were so emotional. He talked about what it had been like growing up under Apartheid. He said “All our lives, we have felt powerless.” He explained that foreign corporations had destroyed both their economy and their culture. He said that, on top of that, racial segregation had left them feeling like lesser beings, who could offer no real contribution to their society. He said the end of Apartheid had opened new doors to them, but they were now facing a long process of social restoration. He said that this group of people from the Junior Chamber believed that being an entrepreneur was the way to start the rebuilding of their country. To them, independent entrepreneurship was sacred. It was part of their responsibility to their nation.
The honest and courageous outpouring from these two men left an indelible stamp in my memory and my heart. I knew this was a defining moment for me, but I was still unsure exactly how.
At the end of the workshop, the less shy of the two men came up to me and said, “We need more training like this here in Johannesburg. When are you coming back?”
“When I’m invited,” I replied without hesitation.
“You are invited,” he replied.
Unfortunately, the young man’s invitation was not enough to bring me back to Africa just yet. My co-leader, who was my only connection to Africa and to these people, had a change of life direction, and she fell off the map of my life. But I always “kept” the invitation in my head and my heart, and I knew I had unfinished business there. I just didn’t know what it was.
How an Invitation Can Be ‘The Call’ in Disguise
Back in Britain, I started to process the significance of what the young entrepreneurs had told me. I started thinking about when I had been in the educational system here in the UK, working with inner city youth in arts and media. I started thinking about how similar their situation was to the South Africans’. So many of these young British students felt marginalised and unimportant. Many came to study music tech or media, thinking they would “get famous” and get pulled out of their impoverished and crime-ridden environments. But of the hundreds and hundreds of students I saw go through my classes (and later my department, when I was a manager), hardly any reached their dreams.
Why? Because no one was teaching them how to be entrepreneurs.
The educational system was recruiting these students into courses that had almost NO potential for employment. In media there might be jobs for the best of the best in television production. There are also some (highly competitive) jobs for the best of the best creative minds in multimedia. But for the most part, “jobs” do not exist in the arts and media. It’s a freelance world. If you do not have a head for business, and the determination to be self-employed, you cannot make it in arts and media. And if the educational system is teaching students trade skills without teaching them entrepreneurial skills…well…all their training is likely to make them qualified for only menial jobs unrelated to their chosen industry.
If you add to this the fact that these students came from challenging social environments, you might begin to understand the kind of desperation and hopelessness so many of them felt. As a teacher, tutor and department manager, I’ve seen this hopelessness so many times. Eventually, it’s what made me leave the world of education in February 2007, just a few months before I started the leadership course. It’s not that I couldn’t stand seeing this hopelessness; it’s because I knew the system wasn’t doing anything to address the issue. As long as middle managers (like me) met their funding targets and put “bums on seats”, senior managers were happy. Whether or not we were leading young people on by telling them this would help their future didn’t seem to matter to them.
At the time, I could feel “the Universe” was calling upon me to do something to help business owners, but I did not fully understand how. I started a regional community in central England called “The Global Wellness Circle”, which grew rapidly and collapsed under its own weight just as rapidly. I trained and volunteered for some time with the Transition Network, which gave me great insight into many important issues, but ultimately led me to understand that my “calling” was on a different trajectory. Finally, I started writing The 7 Graces of Marketing in January 2010. The very process of writing and researching it was an educational journey for me. So many things became clear about the issues I had been witnessing in the world. The book came out in December 2011. Six months later I ran the 7 Graces Global Conference. With 60 participants in the room and another 50 or so attending via live stream, the turnout was smaller than I had envisaged, but no less powerful than I could have imagined. Something truly significant (if not miraculous) happened in our 3-day journey together—we became joined as a community with a cause.
It is from the energy of that community that the 7 Graces Project CIC was born (CIC means “Community Interest Company”, a legal name for a specific type of social enterprise/non-profit company that serves the community). I may have led it, but I did not “create” it. Something was happening in the fabric of social awareness. It’s bigger than me or my personal visions. Sometimes it puts me in awe.
One of the 7 Graces is the Grace of Invitation. Upon reflection, I can now see it was the immense power of the Grace of Invitation that caused this all of this to be. Without that heartfelt invitation from the young African entrepreneurs, my vision would just have been a nice dream with no direction. The invitation awakened something in me that never left me. It made me curious, focused and connected to a purpose. In short, the 7 Graces Project was born from the 7 Graces themselves.
How Opposite Forces Gave Birth to the New Entrepreneur
Over those years between 2007 and 2012, our global society had been going through some interesting transformations of its own. The two most significant changes have been:
- The collapse of our economies AND
- The rise of social media
The synchronous journeys—one down and one up—of our economy and our communication technologies has shifted society. How?
Together, they have created the era of the new entrepreneur.
The collapse of our economy has brought the issue of joblessness to the forefront. No longer is it just a problem of the “poor”, but a problem for everyone. As a result, these past few years have seen an unprecedented rise of sole proprietor (aka “solopreneur”) business start-ups.
Parallel but opposite to the decline of the economy has been the rise of social media. Blogging, Facebook and Twitter have the ability to “democratise” business and marketing. No longer do companies need big bucks to advertise on TV; instead, they can work hard to create their business empire online.
Who’s training them for this?
Furthermore, WHAT are they training them to do? Those of us who have been around the block once or twice have seen all the Internet Marketing gurus come and go. They make big promises of secret formulas, and then hold it all back until you fork over a chunk of money. Then, you find out they’re all saying the same old thing. Furthermore, they have no heart, no soul and no “vision”.
And lastly, they have no concern for ethics or for giving. These kinds of cookie-cutter marketing gurus are simply teaching people to take.
That’s NOT what the young entrepreneurs in South Africa were looking for. They didn’t want formulas—they wanted meaning. They wanted purpose. They wanted to be of service. They wanted their lives to have meant something to their families, to their country, to the world.
So I was thinking…
What IF all of that school in my vision was about THAT?
- What if… my life’s work is about filling the gap and answering the call of people who are crying out for meaning?
- What if…a group of us used our backgrounds and knowledge to create training and certification courses for people who KNOW entrepreneurship is the way forward in the world?
- What if…in building a new generation of entrepreneurs, we helped people escape corporate slavery, rebuild communities, restore resilience to their economies, and find meaning through service to society?
- What if…we taught people how to communicate through the “democracy” of social media marketing in a way that was based upon values, rather than tawdry, aggressive formulas?
- What if…these courses not only taught entrepreneurs how to market ethically, but how to communicate clearly and bring value to the people they served?
- What if…this certification became a worldwide symbol of a business owner’s awareness, social responsibility and dedication to service?
- What if…there were a global network of 7 Graces entrepreneurs who supported, mentored and collaborated with each other, reinforcing the knowledge that their work has meaning and purpose?
- What if…these courses could be offered at a sliding scale, so all students and business owners could afford them?
- What if…we could also create a 7 Graces Scholarship Fund to subsidise the training and certification for young entrepreneurs who live in underprivileged countries, cities, towns or neighbourhoods anywhere in the world, who have a vision to rebuild their communities through ethical entrepreneurship, but who cannot afford to pay?
In looking at all these “what ifs”, I can see my vision has come a long way since 2007.
The Spiral Motion of Social Change
During the conference, one of our speakers (Rachel Elnaugh) talked about the spiral-like motion of business growth. Since then, this image of the spiral has been very much a guiding principle behind the growth of the 7 Graces Project, and the “movement” we are creating. Whether you are growing a business or starting an organisation, it’s important to remember that things don’t move in a straight line. Themes keep recurring and adding to what came before. The input coming from other people is what will increase the energy of your seed idea. What came from a single point expands exponentially—but only if you allow the energy from the “Invitation” itself to propel it forward. If we try to direct the energy in a linear fashion, we are likely to miss the essence of what our business or cause is about.
Kate Griffiths, one of our core team at the 7 Graces Project, dubbed this phenomenon “spiralution”. Not as radical as revolution and not as slow as evolution, it is something very different. Together, Nancy, Kate and I are creating the pilot for our 7 Graces training. Sometimes it feels like we are back-tracking, but this spiral model reminds us that this is all part of the process. Later this spring, we will invite a group of members from our community to take the course and provide us with valuable feedback that we will put back into the course design. Then, through this collaborative effort joined by a common vision, we hope to begin offering this training and certification to independent entrepreneurs sometime in the autumn of 2013.
3 Ways You Can Help Build a New Generation of Ethical Entrepreneurs
The easiest, no-cost way is to read this blog whenever you can, and share it with your social networks. Have a browse through our articles and SUBSCRIBE if you’d like to get them delivered to your Inbox. Our aim is to create interesting, valuable, informative and provocative articles you will want to read (and comment on!).
The other thing you can do is come along to our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.
FINALLY… if you are a KINDLE user, you can help us build our 7 Graces Project Scholarship Fund, to help subsidise ethical marketing training courses for young social entrepreneurs in need. All you have to do is subscribe to the blog on Amazon for 99 cents a month (77p UK). You can take a 14-day free trial before you decide. You’ll get a new article 2 or 3 times per week.
100% of ALL proceeds we receive from Kindle blog subscriptions will go to the 7 Graces Project Scholarship Fund. Amazon pays us 35% of your subscription fee, and we make NO money at all until there’s $100 in the “kitty”. That means, we need 300 subscribers to make a monthly income for the scholarship fund. Hopefully, with time, our subscriber base will be large enough to enable us to offer training for free to whole communities, like the young entrepreneurs I met down in Johannesburg in 2008, or classrooms full of young people like those I used to know in London.
We Hope You Share Our Vision for the Future
I do believe that the rise of home-spun, independent businesses is the way back to economic, social AND environmental resilience. I also believe it is the way back to our sense of purpose and feeling of belonging. But most of all, I believe that the spiral-like motion of a community joined by a common vision can create real miracles in the world. The 7 Graces Project is merely the pinpoint at the base of that ever-growing spiral.
Please stay in touch with the 7 Graces Project, even if it is only by dropping by every now and then and reading our latest articles. And do leave a comment, so we know you’re reading and what you think and feel about any of the issues we discuss here.
~ Lynn Serafinn
18 March 2013
Find out more about The 7 Graces of Marketing, and how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
- The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
- Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the top 20 of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.
Be sure to subscribe to this blog for more articles on ethical marketing and to receive news about the evolving 7 Graces Project.
Join the 7 Graces community!
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/7GracesMarketng
On Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden
On MeetUp: http://www.meetup.com/7-Graces-Global-Community-London (not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)