…Can capitalism and social good co-exist? That’s the question ad industry rockstar–turned–do-gooder Alex Bogusky is answering with a wholehearted yes in his new venture. Introduced this month, COMMON is the brainchild of Bogusky and fellow ad industry veteran Rob Schuham in collaboration with John Bielenberg. Described as an open-source medium for social innovation, the project is part OpenIDEO, part Quora, aiming to harness the collective creativity and knowledge of what’s fashionably referred to as “the crowd” in solving the most pressing social problems of our time. It calls itself a “new capitalist brand” built on “transitioning from competitive advantage to collaborative advantage.”
Core to the concept are two ideas not normally seen in tandem: The belief that the capitalist paradigm has the capacity to solve global poverty and the concern that the planet’s environmental limits are being pushed to unreasonable extremes. But in an age when the economic impact of individual corporations rivals that of nations — according to the World Bank, Wal-Mart’s 2009 revenue eclipsed the GDP of Norway — not enlisting the power and reach of brands in addressing our most time- and resource-intensive issues would be short-sighted at best. At least that’s Bogusky’s idea with COMMON, which aims to build a bridge between “consumers” — that’s us, the common people — and corporations in order to, as the project’s mission states, “design a capitalism that spreads love and prosperity to all its stakeholders.” The initiative is equal parts conceptual vision and empirical experiment in reinventing capitalism for, for lack of better words, the common good.