Thanks to Steve Henry pointing me to the Ministry for the Environment's Sustainable Management Fund, we have a progressed application for funding that is in the final phase of approval. In this phase the SMF support the refinement of the plan and budget towards their final decision to fund the project or not. The deadline for this refining stage is June, and I am to have a completed plan and budget as per their templates.
Here are my initial attempts at the SMF Plan template. I haven't started expanding the budget yet (it is on another template) until I get feedback from SMF on how the plan is reading and apply their suggested changes.
In short the plan is 3 fold as per initial meetings with all local stakeholders on the appropriate needs of this course (see project notes):
- develop a new business planning text that incorporates sustainable accounting, marketing and operations, and that is useful to other business support and education agencies.
- list all the seminars, workshops and community events that relate to the content of the business plan. Tax seminars, sustainable business open days, accounting workshops etc etc. Many of these events are available freely to the public and on a regular basis, so our task is to organise their dates and locations into a usable calendar for students undertaking our course, and have course facilitators direct students to this information and events as required when completing the planning text. Where there are content gaps we contract people to deliver seminars and workshops, offering them freely to the public as well.
- the final part is to develop a nationally recognised and accredited, not for profit course targeting students who are completing studies and considering to start a business, as well as general public, with assessments relating to the requirements of the various business support agencies who will progress graduate's ideas further.
Notes on this educational development are being kept on the wikieducator page: starting a business
Some thinking of step 1 - the text.
Last night I was thinking about step 1 - the development of a sustainable business planning text. On the project notes wiki I have been listing links to information that may be useful to this first stage. The difficulty is obviously not in finding a business plan text, we have that care of NZTE, it is in incorporating sustainability ethics, principles and methods in a usable way.
Particularly useful links have been the financial permaculture work and the Global Reporting Initiative.
The GRI work is based on triple bottom line accounting mainly, but with a lot of set up guidelines aimed at auditing existing practices, addressing ethical and organisational changes, and setting principles. The wording and layout in this document will be useful, but I think it is still too complicated for our needs, and will blow out the size and reading level of the final text we develop.
I have always been impressed with how usable and flexible the principles of permaculture are and how directly they relate in fact to documents like the GRI. I would say that the permaculture principles are very much based on things like GRI in fact, and that the permaculturalists have done great work in making them plain, accessible English.
But I think the real results will be something in between the GRI and the at times overly simplified permaculture guidelines. For example:
Permaculture sets up on 3 ethics:
- Care for earth
- Care for people
- Fairly sharing
That's where the permaculture principles come in handy, and they too are relatable to the tools in the Global Reporting Initiative once we are able to look beyond the simple wording:
- Observe and interact
- Catch and store energy
- Obtain a yield
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
- Use and value renewable resources and services
- Produce no waste
- Design from patterns to details
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Use small and slow solutions
- Use and value diversity
- Use edges and value the marginal
- Creatively use and respond to change
I think the above principles are useful in expanding the ethical framework and leading us towards methods to develop and document in the business plan, and developing the right accounting tools to measure outcomes better. The challenge is to find the right, first-step balance in developing a new guiding text for people planning a business. The text has to lead people toward having a business plan that a bank or other supporting institution will still recognise, but encompass as much sustainability thinking as possible within that format.. it will be a challenge, but I'm confident it can be done, and that it will help make a significant difference to new business practices in Otago.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.