We First

[3:37" on YouTube]

I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Simon Mainwaring who was at SxSWi to talk about his first book and new company — We First. The intention behind the book is to serve as a tonic against the "me, first" mentality that has driven thinking and behavior in the private sector for decades.

And it's really got us in trouble in terms of behavior in the business sector, for example Wall Street. In the private sector with issues like over consumption. The net of all this is that it's unsustainable. We cannot keep practicing capitalism in the way we have until now, if we hope to spread prosperity to a greater number of people in the world.

The idea of We First as a practice of capitalism came from the idea that brands and consumers, connected by social technology, can serve as a third pillar of social change that then work with government and philanthropy managed by an overarching body called the global brand initiative to drastically scale our response to the crises we face.

The hope is that the private sector is really the large and last untapped resource we can engage to really scale change so that we can look to the future with optimism rather than being terrified by the reality of all the crises we see around us.

Simon's personal story was the driver behind his initiative. 

He was a long time ad guy working in London, then working on Nike at Wieden+Kennedy and running global accounts like Motorola for Ogilvy. Part of the reason why he mentions it is that he did feel fulfilled in his career. He did not feel he had found his own purpose.

Being an Australian, with an Hungarian mother, American daughters, who's worked in Europe, Asia, and the Unites States, he ended up being a citizen of the world in a sense. Which means you feel a responsibility in those terms.

The true catalyst was reading the transcript of Bill Gates Creative Capitalism that he gave at the world economic forum in 2008. In it, Gates said government and philanthropy cannot fix the world on their own. We need the private sector to get engaged. And as an advertising guy, Simon took that as a brief. He thought — here's a massive business problem that needs a creative solution.

The only reason he felt I could contribute something is that he looked around and saw the rise of social technology that was transforming business. And as an ad guy and branding consultant he knew that anything that connects people so seamlessly, so easily for free is potentially transforming.

Simon thinks that social technology is giving consumers a voice through which they can organize themselves and leverage their buying power to coerce brands to be more responsible so that together the private sector can be a third pillar of social change and really build a sustainable practice of capitalism we so desperately need.


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