Toward a More Sacred Economy
At Uplift, we believe in the potential of business. Unfortunately, today’s economy celebrates power, control, and wealth. Conventional companies reward their owners with these perks, and the result is cut-throat competition, short-term thinking, and work that deadens the soul.
Too many people are working in jobs they don’t actually believe in — jobs that largely exist so founders and investors can make gobs of money when they sell the company or IPO. Too many companies are nothing more than a commodity meant to be sold to the highest bidder.
Those working on such products sense this. And yet they feel stuck. Where else can they go to make enough money to live on? For some, the answer is to join a non-profit. But those who’ve taken that route quickly realize that non-profits come with their own set of issues, from the fact that they have to spend so much focus on fundraising rather than doing the work to the fact that those who donate to their causes often make requests that hamper the very mission they set out to fulfill.
Fortunately, a new class of entrepreneurs are structuring their businesses differently, inviting stakeholders to participate in the trenches, developing fresh approaches to timeless needs, and sharing surplus with the community. When focused on these outcomes, businesses contribute to positive social change.
The truth is, distant owners cannot comprehend the impact their decisions have on a local community. This model that maximizes the financial return for outside investors is not only outdated, it threatens the well-being of people, who want to exchange their gifts at work, and our planet.
By thinking long-term and remaining independent and steward-owned, we are insulating Uplift from the pressure to deliver for shareholders. Our philosophy weaves together the best of free market, cooperatives, startup culture, movement building, and mindfulness. Those closest to the work make the important decisions. Over time, we intend to encode our values legally in the organizational charter. Uplift is a living organism, and our team serves as stewards of its evolutionary purpose, offering our collective head, heart, and hands to bring its ideas into form.
Success is measured by how well we fulfill our mission, not by the size of our profits. Any surplus is reinvested in the enterprise, distributed to our stakeholders, or donated to charity.
Uplift is the first venture to emerge out of a new social innovation lab. Our in-depth interviews with people revealed a series of tensions many experience in the workplace:
- Purpose. Success feels empty when work isn’t connected to making a meaningful difference in the world.
- Power. Although people long for more autonomy at work, they act cautiously to avoid those in power coming down on them.
- Growth. Developing professional excellence is deeply satisfying, yet growth involves more than skills — it’s about wholeness.
- Trust. People want to bond with their co-workers but seek reassurance they won’t jeopardize their position when they reveal their truths.
- Money. Workers expect fair compensation. But once a financial comfort threshold is met, they prioritize contributing their talents to a greater cause.
- Burnout. Managing chronic stress is considered an individual’s responsibility even though our current system is designed to create unrelenting pressure.
This lab uses market forces to address challenges afflicting our community, not only through products and services that serve unmet needs but also by building these businesses differently. With each new project, a more sacred economy that alleviates suffering and supports human flourishing comes into being.
In short, we want to create a world where people feel completely aligned with their work — where they don’t feel dead inside and where the idea of being “purpose-driven” isn’t just a company slogan but is baked into the core of everything. The sacred economy is about re-instilling work with purpose.