Regional B Corp Communities Find New Opportunities for Connection and Empowerment with Virtual Events
Established to enhance the power of Certified B Corporations in their place-based communities, B Locals tap into the power of connections to raise awareness of stakeholder-driven businesses and amplify their impact. But this year has presented new challenges, with COVID-19 limiting in-person events, a divisive election campaign raising anxiety, and racial justice protests drawing attention to the vast inequalities that remain in our systems.
Organizations like B Locals — place-based volunteer-led groups made up of people from B Corps — were formed to build resilient, stakeholder-focused business communities that are now proving necessary to help us all meet this moment and build back better. The 20-plus B Locals across the United States and Canada are adapting to the realities of 2020 by continuing their focus on the strength found in community while offering virtual events, regular check-ins, and new opportunities for people in their regions to connect, learn from each other, and look forward to a future when in-person events are the norm again.
Some of these groups offer B Corp Leadership Development (BLD) events that provide learning opportunities for companies and people in their region. The Portland group, aka B Local PDX, presented an online version of its annual BLD conference in October with a focus on rebuilding a more inclusive economy with a social justice lens. The B Local Georgia group helped organize a regional online conference, BLD Southeast 2020, that also emphasized how businesses can lead in building a better, more inclusive economy.
B The Change checked in with B Local volunteers to learn how they have reshaped their events, where they see future opportunities, and what activities have the biggest potential to build and strengthen the B Corp community and their local business community. Below are highlights from leaders with B Locals in Quebec, Georgia, and Portland (Oregon), about their BLD plans, and thoughts on other collaborations.
What community activities or programs has your B Local or your local community of B Corps organized this year? How has COVID-19 affected these collaborative activities?
Quebec: We organized monthly community calls as well as a community of practice of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI).
Georgia: We are helping to present BLD Southeast, the first-ever regional BLD down South, with more than 190 B Corps from D.C. to Texas. COVID-19 has actually empowered — weird verb to use this year — us to do something virtual and start building a community of B’s and friends.
Portland: We offer Monthly B Learning Events. In March, when the pandemic and shutdowns began in Portland, we started hosting virtual events. Upon changing the format, we put together a survey to identify what the folks in our community needed. During the first two months, we ramped up our programming to cover COVID-19-specific responses for businesses, including SBA financial loan information. We’ve also hosted events with broader topics still relevant during the pandemic, including why B Corps should care about child care, cybersecurity, and alternative business ownership. We also put together a COVID-19 response page with resources for folks to get through things.
Where do you see room for opportunity/improvement in local B Corp community activities, especially in engaging more businesses and people in the movement?
Quebec: Demonstrating the potential for collective impact and engaging people who are not the B Corp champions or ambassadors within their organization.
Georgia: You have to get out there and do the work. We need to encourage B Corp companies and employees to take more ownership of B Local work and community engagement.
Portland: We’ve kicked off ABC groups (Always B Collaborating) that focus on specific roles and functions in a business. This has been a great space for individuals to work together and have support for their specific business roles. More groups like this would offer encouragement for individuals and businesses to work together and engage more people in the movement. With the shift to virtual events, we see opportunities to connect across the U.S. and Canada — and beyond! — to bring greater awareness and engagement with the B Corp community. We also launched an anti-racism ABC group to make an action plan in June. This helped us identify priorities from our community and connect it back to centering anti-racism work in our BLD planning.
How does the B Local organization help strengthen and connect local businesses — B Corps and otherwise?
Quebec: We create spaces for B Corps to meet, exchange, learn, showcase, commit to impact objectives, and invite others to join, support or follow.
Georgia: B Local Georgia helps bring the community together — aspiring B Corps, current B Corps, students, faculty, friends, and others. We host panels and tell the story of why this matters and why others should join the movement.
Portland: B Locals offer a space to connect with other businesses and individuals around common goals: inclusive organizations, environmental preservation, business as a force for good. Between learning events, BLD, and ABCs, we’re able to connect virtually to make change.
How are B Local activities and programming designed to drive community action? Which programs have been most successful?
Quebec: They help us translate B Lab’s global campaigns at the local level, showcase B Corps’ work, and organize meetups and communities of practice. The monthly meetup has been most effective as a space for collaboration.
Georgia: Panels and networking sessions, when people can hear from successful business owners who are making a difference while they make money and inspire others to follow their lead.
Portland: We focus our efforts on community needs. Through surveys, newsletters, and events we provide resources for individuals to connect. Our B Learning events and BLD have been very successful for our community as opportunities for our community to come together, commiserate, and create action plans back in their organizations.
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