Back in 2011 I left the world of tech and joined a world that has no universally agreed upon name. Back in 2011 it was the world of “social enterprise” and “social entrepreneurs” and those terms are still commonly used, but these definitions vary from organization to organization. These are terms that first arose in the nonprofit sector, and nearly all my work is with for-profits. Thus these terms never quite fit.
The term “impact investing” was made popular by a book with that title in 2011, and has since become in some parts of the world the leading term for describing what I do. But again there is no consensus on how to define “impact” and “impactful startups” doesn’t do a good enough job of differentiating startups doing social and environmental impact vs. tech companies having disruptive impacts in industries that impact investors don’t care about.
I call Fledge the “conscious company accelerator“, but the term “conscious” didn’t catch on outside of the Conscious Capitalism movement, which is a small subset of the unnamed world I’m trying to describe here.
That world also includes people and organizations doing “venture philanthropy” and meanwhile the edges of this world are getting blurrier as the foundations and charities are starting to do impact investing and “blended finance“.
Meanwhile, all this time German has had a word to describe all of this, “Gemeinschaftsgefühl“. This term was created by Alfred Adler, philosopher and contemporary to Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Austria. According to Wikipedia, Gemeinschaftsgefühl was on of ten aspects of Adlerian theory of personality:
Gemeinschaftsgefuehl can mean community feeling, social interest, social feeling or social sense. Feeling of community is a recognition and acceptance of the interconnectedness of all people, experienced on affective, cognitive, and behavioral levels. It is experienced as a deep feeling of belonging to the human race and empathy with fellow men and women. At the cognitive level, it is experienced as a recognition of interdependence with others, i.e., that the welfare of any one individual ultimately depends on the welfare of everyone. At the behavioral level, these thoughts and feelings can then be translated into actions aimed at self-development as well as cooperative and helpful movements directed toward others. Thus, at its heart the concept of “feeling of community” encompasses individuals’ full development of their capacities, a process that is both personally fulfilling and results in people who have something worthwhile to contribute to one another.
When I stumbled across this definition, it fit the “why” behind all the work being done by social entrepreneurs, impact investors, venture philanthropists, and conscious capitalists. If only it were a pronounceable word in English, I’d advocate for this to be the name adopted by the Gemeinschaftsgefuehl industry.