Virtual forum provides container for growing forward-edge business thinking
Union of design thinking, management and sustainability critical to massive innovation, says leader

A recent global forum in Cleveland, Ohio, explored the cutting edge of management and design thinking, and an online venue is providing the container for continuing the work initiated there.

More than a showcase of forward thought in business development, the Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) 2009 included action sessions in which participants collaborated to design projects.

Emily Drew, communications manager for the forum, says the action orientation is unique, and arises out of the thinking on which the forum is based, Appreciative Inquiry.

Feedback from participants has been that this is one of the most exciting conferences they’ve attended, she says.

The projects were created around the summit’s focus on uniting design thinking, business management and sustainability in order to accelerate business innovation and drive profit — even in a recession.

David Cooperrider, who facilitated the summit, says the marriage of design thinking and management is necessary “to see opportunity in the onslaught of great economic, environmental, and social challenges that today’s businesses face,” according to a press release.

The approximately 600 forum participants collaborated to design projects geared towards addressing a wide range of needs. As an example, a project underway is looking at ways to help any business become sustainable. Another is targeting the eradication of poverty while a third is exploring the advancement of worldwide learning around management and design.

Jeanne du Plessis, forum manager for the BAWB forum, says what’s most exciting about the virtual forum is that it provides a tool for the advancement of the projects.

“We’re hoping, (now that) the physical global forum (is over), that these projects would continue to grow and that this conversation would continue, using the virtual forum as a medium for doing that,” she says.

In addition to advancing these specific projects, the online platform, which is open to any user, is intended to increase knowledge and deepen the discussion around business as an agent of world benefit.

The vision is that as the next BAWB global forum, slated for 2011, approaches, people following the action online “will be inspired to take action as well,” says Drew. She says this lines up with the approach of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, which was founded by Cooperrider.

“Cooperrider’s whole paradigm is based on bringing together people from all over — from different experiences and different views and beliefs — to solve problems and advance ideas that can benefit the world.

“So we want to get as many people involved as possible and hope they see the value in large-group collaboration.”

To learn more about the BAWB Global Forum 2009 as well as participate in the virtual forum, visit

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