Minessence: the story of a global co-op #coopstories #values

“It doesn’t matter what values you have. What matters is how you live them.” 

These are the words of Paul Chippendale, founder of a remarkable co-operative designed to help people to live their values.

Mi-Coop_LogoMinessence Co-operative was formed in 2014, a rare story of a global co-operative working across borders. It’s roots though go back thirty years.

Paul Chippendale had twin interests in technology systems and human culture. In the 1970s, he studied non-linear systems (chaos) theory and a decade later was working as Chief Information Officer in the telecoms sector in Australia.

What he came to realise, in his own company and its competitors, was that an organisation’s values, and those of its people, are pivotal processes in how that organisation develops. He also saw that there was little available to help people to work with values in a work setting, so, like all great entrepreneurs, he took the risk to meet that need, leaving his role to work full-time on values.

The first tool he developed, adapting it collaboratively from an earlier, more faith-based model – the Hall-Tonna Inventory of Values – was a way to map personal and organisational values.

This became the flagship product – the AVI: A Values Inventory which is specifically designed to discover unconscious priority values. As Carl Jung puts it, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

The AVI is now one of the world’s leading values inventories and has been used here in the UK by many voluntary sector organisations including Healthwatch, Volunteer Centres, Childrens Centres and multi agency partnerships and across the world by companies as diverse as Coca Cola (NZ), Vodafone, Lion Nathan, Westfield, and Burger King. In my view it is the way in which the inventory can be used to challenge and encourage practice in mainstream companies that is a testament to the integrity of the approach.

One aspect of the AVI that distinguishes it from all other values inventories is that it is under continual development by an international team, driven by input from those who use it. Just as values themselves are dynamic ideas which respond to context Paul has been determined from the start that the AVI evolve in its consciousness alongside emerging concerns of wider society. From an early stage, Paul started to accredit professionals as ‘values coaches’, training them to use the inventory and its related tools, subsequently encouraging these new practitioners to invest their learning and insights into the collective wisdom around the tool and its applications.

 

Is there a philosophy behind the AVI? Not in the sense of an ideology, but as you would expect of someone who lives and breathes values, Paul has articulated a sense of what matters most for the pursuit of the good life. These come down, in short, to three capabilities – ones that I imagine could link philosophical thinkers from Seneca in Ancient Rome to Thich Nhat Hanh today.

The three capabilities are:

  • acceptance;
  • commitment; and
  • conscious living.

After time, Paul faced the challenge that all entrepreneurs face, which is that of succession. All his knowledge of systems suggested that a single enterprise could not control what was needed to spread like a benign virus through business settings across the world. He therefore turned the organisation on its head, and invited its accredited trainers from around the world to become partners and members of Minessence now converted into a global co-op.

It was the core value and seven principles of the co-operative movement that attracted Pauls attention and the enthusiasm of his fellow founding directors. The co-operative model values aligned closely with the original core values of the former Minessence Group so in January 2015, the co-op was formally registered in Australia.

The mission is one of profound social change, rather than narrow commercial positioning. It is “to engage in the transformation of society through both individual independent action and cooperative action, bound together by a commitment to the mission and vision of our collaborative enterprise.”

My contact with Paul has been through the UK director, Jackie Le Fèvre, who runs

JLF ABP

Magma Effect and has an extraordinary knowledge and passion on the theme of values in organisational life and has helped me extensively in the context of my own work with co-ops, and findings set out in my recent book Values.

With other colleagues, she is also instrumental in the running of World Values Day, now in its second year. You can read more of the ‘values challenge’ coming up this year, in October, and its launch this week with an event at the Royal Society of Arts.

img_3173Minessence describes itself as world leaders in developing technologies  to support values-based personal, relational, team, organisational and societal development. Next on the list is an approach to apply these specifically in the context of other co-operatives – work which aligns with Principle 6 Co-operation to support the wider sector.

Watch this space. Watch these values.

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