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Champions Retreat Alice Springs 2017

What can we do that we can’t do apart? - This was the powerful question that brought together 120 members from 61 B Corps, B Lab staff and board members from all corners of the world.

Bound by our common purpose, in the hope that the desert location would liven our senses, we convened upon Alice Springs, the red centre of Australia and home to the Arrernte peoples.

Energy was rife as our Champions trickled through into Alice Spring and set the mood for the next few days. Faces both old and new to the B Corp movement trickled onto the grounds of the Double Tree Hilton over the next two days.

On day one, our Champions embarked on three different field trips that provided them the opportunity to explore and learn more about the local communities that call Alice Springs home. From sitting with elders as they told stories of their social and environmental enterprises on Arrernte land, to the cultural walking tour that drew on 40,000 year of life in Central Australia, to visiting the Desert House and exploring first hand design driven by the desert landscape, the Champions were introduced to the indigenous heart and spirit of Australia.

“This rich and diverse culture, and incredible knowledge and understanding of our land, needs to be preserved and celebrated,” says Amanda Robinson, from Silver Chef  reflecting on her experience of being on the cultural walking tour.

Later in the night, following a Welcome to Country by Arrernte Elders, Bart Houlahan, co-founder of B Lab officially opened up the Retreat. Bart reiterated the need to replicate the progress that has happened in Australia and New Zealand in growing the B Corp movement in markets all across the world.

Our Champions were also reminded that “this community has extraordinary power to move the needle” acknowledging a higher purpose for business in the world at a moment where there has never been a greater need for leadership.

A panel of our B Lab Global Partners chaired by Alicia Darvall, Executive Director of B Lab Australia & New Zealand opened up on day two. Pictures of the movement globally were painted, fostering a sense of confidence among our Champions of the momentum B Corp was gaining beyond our shores.

A unique feature of the Retreat was the Ideas Lab Sessions. Adopting an Open Space themed session, they were intended to be a space for B Corps to tackle the topics they care about with the purpose being to develop initiatives and projects – a significant difference from other conferences.

Open Space is a self-organizing practice of inner discipline and collective activity which releases the inherent creativity and leadership in people. By inviting our Champions to take responsibility for what they care about, Open Space establishes a marketplace of inquiry, reflection and learning, bringing out the best in both individuals and the whole. It utilizes the Law of Two Feet which dictates that you take responsibility for what you care about -- standing up for that and using your own two feet to move to whatever place you can best contribute and/or learn.

Set against the idyllic backdrop of the Desert Park, the exchange of ideas and creativity filled the air with a buzz like no other.  The groups then had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the community at a PitchFest where audience members would then vote in real time on which idea they were drawn to and wanted to be a part of. Almost all ideas gained wide ranging acceptance and support from the community.  

A lighthearted way to provide some down time in what was otherwise quite an intense day, was The B Corp Market set up at lunch time. B Corps that offered a service or sold products were invited to showcase their wares at the marketplace to interact and engage with everyone about their business. We had products that ranged from coffee pods by Republica Organica to delicious dark chocolate from Alter Eco to beer from 4 Pines Brewery, to homemade chutneys from Eat Me Chutneys and knitted jumpers from Hand Knits. Dumbo Feather handed out their latest issue alongside Intrepid Travel who showed off how to enjoy impactful travel. Trial passes were on offer by co-working space Hub Australia while Australian Ethical Investment and Foresters Group showcased their financial services.

The Gala Dinner took place beneath the open skies of the desert, at the Earth Sanctuary. We were treated to the sounds of the The Ntaria Choir, an indigenous women’s choir from 125 km west of Alice Springs. They shared something old, and something new with their harmonies and their music. In the stillness of the desert, the Champions gathered under the stars united by a single vision of ensuring a more prosperous and durable economy for all. Impassioned toasts to common futures for the betterment of all and calls for ‘unauthorized creativity and innovation’ were made. Constellations in the night sky were pointed out to the Champions in a guided astronomy tour – it was a great hit!

On our final morning, groups from day 2 were encouraged to again self organise around the ideas they wanted to be a part of, and have their first meeting. After an hour together, they were asked to report back to the main group on where they got to, and what the next steps are.

Amazingly, some of the groups had already began setting up LinkedIn groups and taking steps towards implementation in this time.

In what proved to be a beautiful way to end this unique experience, the group were asked to share their reflections on the past few days. Beautiful sentiments were shared, invitations to Brazil, Chile, Portugal and Taipei were made, culminating in a group hug.

As Pedro Tarak, Co-Founder of Sistema B quite rightly said, “seeds of shared futures have been planted”.

We hope you will join us next year in working towards being the change we truly seek in the world.




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