We live in an age where despite rapid advances of technology, business profitability, and widespread education, our communities are increasingly uncertain, dislocated and, often, less satisfied than ever before.  A simple look to the polls shows that the legitimacy of business and our approval of government actions have simultaneously fallen to levels not seen in recent history. Our political leaders seem unable to outline a vision or fuel the ambition of ordinary people. To make matters worse, effective collaboration between business, government, and community advocates has stagnated at a time when it is needed most. Relationships are continually shaped by ultimatums, bargains, and unilateral agreements.

We need a new approach, and a new model of practice, that delivers returns to all sectors of society, growing the economy while solving social problems and ensuring governments balance budgets. A strategy which recognises that isolated attempts to evoke change are failing to resolve our most pressing socio-economic issues. A framework that forms robust partnerships based on the understanding that government, business, and communities all stand to benefit by solving social issues in tandem.

Shared Value is such a concept and framework. The initiative seeks to alleviate the challenges that often inhibit collaboration between business, government and community advocates by focusing on common goals, shared visions of change, and an identifiable motivation for working together. When the concept was first articulated by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer in the Harvard Business Review during late 2010, it was argued:

“The concept of shared value can be defined as policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates. Value creation focuses on identifying and expanding the connections between societal and economic progress.”

While the Share Value concept was birthed as an alternate to corporate social responsibility programs, both Kramer and Porter have acknowledged that effective shared value practices advance the particular interests of all participants equally. The outcomes are not mutually exclusive; be they financial gain, status, social capital, GDP growth, health and wellbeing, ending disadvantage.

In response, we have founded the Shared Value ProjectThe Project acts as an independent, non-commercial forum that is determined to foster shared value practices in Australia through facilitation and discussion initiatives. We are focused upon developing tailored models of practice and frameworks for implementation to solve the many commercial, economic and societal problems that we face today.

We will be first turning our attention to Australia’s ageing workforce, bringing together representatives from business, community, government and academia to explore opportunities for collaboration. Our findings will be presented to the industry at the Older Workers and Work Ability Conference on the 12th of December 2011.

There are many ways to engage with the Shared Value Project as we move forward; be it through the adoption of a shared value practice, an expression of interest in our expert advisory board, a contribution to discussion through web portals and project meetings, or by simply attending the many exciting events we have planned for the future.

The Shared Value Project is supported by Ellis Jones.