Enspiral: adopting a positive impact as a personal motivation

With his open cooperation “Enspiral”, Joshua Vial distances himself for good from hierarchical company structures. The goal of his start-up is to gather people and companies who want to have a social impact. ‘Enspiral helps companies focus on creating jobs that really matter’, the enterprising New Zealander says. And this he aims to do in a radically open and cooperative way.

  • © Enspiral Selfie of the people at Enspiral © Enspiral
  • © Niels D'Haene Joshua Vial wants to keep inspiring companies to put social enterprise on their agendas. © Niels D'Haene
  • © Bucky Box Campaign image of Bucky Box, one of the companies within Enspiral’s eco system. © Bucky Box

Last Monday and Tuesday, Joshua Vial visited the Belgian capital to share his ideas with an audience of interested people and, above all, to explain what exactly his open cooperation, Enspiral, is. He was invited by Spotted Zebras and Hackistan, both also collective start-ups.

‘Definitions are not my strongest point, but you could describe us as a cooperation’, Vial begins. ‘Our 45 members cooperate with people and companies who care about climate change, social injustice and environmental destruction.’

‘Open is an adjective that fits well in our philosophy: we publish articles about our company culture, give workshops or unify like-minded people. Also, our vision is not patented, everybody is allowed to adopt our way of working’, Vial explains.

Social enterprise

This way of working took shape in 2009. Besides his job as a freelance IT worker, Joshua Vial volunteered in the social sector. After a while, he started struggling with the fact that little time remained to commit himself to causes that were dear to him.

‘We all felt that, around the world, far too few companies had put social enterprise on their agendas.’

From this inner need, Enspiral was born. By now, the open cooperation has 45 permanent members representing the cooperation. Three of them, the catalysts, are in charge of everyday management and about twenty people are in charge of the different small companies that originated from Enspiral. Others are working as Enspiral ambassadors all over the world.

In addition to this, about 1800 companies and private persons (financially) support Enspiral. The shares stay within the company and are not sold on the stock market.

The Enspiral flagship is the online open cooperation platform Loomio, which allows users to efficiently make decisions together. In 2014, the platform was used by the Internet Party of New Zealand to discuss their election campaign.

© Enspiral

Selfie of the people at Enspiral

A horizontal and decentralised company structure

Unlike many traditional companies, Enspiral stands out because of its horizontal company structure. Each of Enspiral’s 45 members get an equal say in the decision-making process, no one exerts power over anybody else. Even external people can have a say within Enspiral, which was impossible within the former company structure.

The radical rejection of the traditional, hierarchical company structure should contribute to people working more autonomously and efficiently on topics they really care about.

‘Hierarchical companies grew in a time when it was too expensive to deliver the ever-growing stream of information’, Vial explains. ‘People at the top were flooded with information that they could not efficiently deliver to their co-workers.’

If someone has a good idea, he presents it to the community and someone is chosen to develop that idea

Enspiral believes in a decentralised information structure: if someone has a good idea, he presents it to the community and then someone is chosen to further develop that idea with him. This way, small enterprises arise, working on a certain topic, such as social injustice.

‘In our enterprises, we try to answer questions such as: “How can citizens make their voices heard in every political decision that directly influences them?” or “How can education be organised in developing countries?”’

© Bucky Box

Campaign image of Bucky Box, one of the companies within Enspiral’s eco system.

Necessary alternative

According to Vial, up until now, mankind has done too little to formulate answers to the challenges we face, such as biodiversity preservation, distribution of wealth and global warming. He is pessimistic about the future: a new financial crisis will cause our entire financial system to collapse. Still, he claims that only man himself can avert this disaster.

‘We are an interconnected network within which information is freely shared’

‘If somebody starts a business simply to make profit or if somebody works very slowly for a governmental institution, they are wasting their time. And there is no more time’, Vial sharply concludes. ‘No matter what, Enspiral will keep uniting people around topics that really matter’.

This article was translated by Ayden Van Steenlandt 

 

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