Antony Upward

Antony Upward - May 2017

Flourishing Enterprise Designer; Adjunct Professor OCADU & HalmstadU
Co-founder, Flourishing Enterprise Institute and Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group
Principal, Edward James Consulting Ltd.;
 Certified Management Consultant


My Intention: Take Action to Enable Flourishing -- Antony believes that we need a world where business no longer only attempts to do less harm, but instead sets as its goal the flourishing of human and other life (core beliefs)

Watch: Video Introductions to Antony (Story of Self 2 mins, Professional Introduction 9 mins)
Watch: 20 min Video Introduction to Flourishing Business Canvas including mini-Case Study

To bring about this audacious vision, Antony takes on the role of a pracademic - a practicing academic.  As a practicing Sustainability Business Architect he designs flourishing enterprises: Antony helps business leaders design businesses that are simply better: socially beneficial, environmentally regenerative and financially viable.  As an applied researcher Antony undertakes projects and publishes to support, enhance and share his practice. <!--break-->

Flourishing Enterprises are organizations of all kinds that are fit for the future that science tells us is emerging, and that increasingly we know we need: resilient, innovative, and aligned with all the stakeholder's values and needs.  These "Flourishing Enterprises" strongly contribute to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and go beyond to realize "sustainability-as-flourishing": sustaining the possibility for human and other life to flourish on this planet for seven generations (John Ehrenfeld, MIT, 2000).  These "tri-impactful" and "tri-profitable" enterprises simultaneously strive to "do good to do well": co-generating social, environmental and economic benefits with all their stakeholders.  In a world that where human organization have adopted this as a common purpose, enterprises excel, people flourish and nature thrives (Cooperrider, 2010),

Antony recently explored this vision and mission in his well received keynote speech at the 2nd New Business Models Conference in Graz Austria (slides with speakers notes).  More recently,  he explored this in more depth in this video of his talk "What is a successful (sustainable) business?" given at the Copenhagen Business Schools Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (slides with speakers notes)



To achieve these challenging but necessary outcomes at a scale and in timelines to make a difference to human well-being, given the growing existential threats facing humanity, requires a global community of practice and a wider movement for change.  To create these Antony is undertaking a number of interlinked activities.

Between 2000 and 2014 a diverse group of people at MIT Loan School of Management (Dr. John Ehrenfeld) and Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Business (Dr. David Cooperrider, Dr. Chris Laszlo), started to conceive and convene the Flourishing Enterprise Movement.  This movement recognizes the key role that human organizations of all kinds,
for-profit, not-for-profit, and government, must play to realize sustainability-as-flourishing: a world were business excels,humans flourish and nature thrives. (Cooperrider 2010).  This movement seeks to shift mind-sets and behaviours of enterprise leaders at scale and quickly, given the urgency of the existential threats to humanity’s well-being.  Recently Antony has suggested the movement's aim should be to shift the mind-sets and behaviours of ~50% of all business leaders world-wide, by 2030, adopting sustainability-as-flourishing as the goal for their organization: social benefit, environmental regeneration and financial viability.

In 2012 Antony became one of four co-founders of what is now the international and rapidly growing Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group (SSBMG), an increasingly important part of the Flourishing  Enterprise Movement.  This group of practitioners, researchers and graduate students, hosted by the OCAD University Strategic Innovation Lab, is community of innovation practice and knowledge mobilization initiative focused on all the aspects required to enable small and medium enterprises to design, adopt, and gain benefits from strongly sustainable, future-fit, thriving, regenerative, resilient and flourishing business models.  

Then in 2013, with early members of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group, Antony convened an international team to bring to market the Flourishing Enterprise Innovation Toolkit including the Flourishing Business Canvas.  The Toolkit is based on his recent graduate research in which he designed and evaluated an ontology and canvas for strongly sustainable business models.  His research is now published in a number of increasingly well cited peer-reviewed articles in respected journals, and most recently a book chapter (citations and manuscripts here).  His research significantly extended the earlier profit-focused Business Model Ontology and the popular visual collaborative practitioner design tool the Business Model Canvas.  (For a practitioner introduction to the research see these blog posts).

The Flourishing Enterprise Innovation Toolkit provides business leaders and entrepreneurs with a comprehensive view of the key factors necessary to design innovative strategy using business models that are simultaneously socially beneficial, environmentally regenerative and financially viable,  i.e. fit-for-purpose in the changed and changing world of the 21st Century. The Toolkit includes an integrated collaborative visual design tool, the Flourishing Business Canvas, design principles and methods for designing better business strategies, along with patterns and case studies. Watch a 20 min Video Introduction to Flourishing Business Canvas including mini-Case Study.

To be useful in practice the toolkit needs to be applied in specific situations.  To understand, test and refine the Toolkit, the project has established a free First Explorers licensing program.  Over 185 licensees around the world are now engaged in their own initiatives trying out Toolkit in their contexts and providing feedback to the Toolkit project team.  Additionally, Antony himself is engaged with First Explorers in co-leading two of these initiatives. These two initiatives are focused on enabling leaders in two different contexts to apply in practice the Toolkit along with other relevant frameworks, methods and tools to realize flourishing enterprises.  

1. Lean for Flourishing Startups "Innovating Innovation with the Startup Ecosystem".  This startup business is focused on learning, content, methods and tools to help organizations encouraging entrepreneurs and their startups to benefit from the innovative flourishing approach.  Based on its integrated Flourishing Entrepreneurship competency model, Lean for Flourishing works with entrepreneurial encouragers (accelerators, incubators, co-working space, corporate innovation centres etc.) to enable them to innovate they way they help entrepreneurs be innovative and achieve their goals.  Lean for Flourishing, with other First Explorers, has developed the Lean for Flourishing Startup Method (L4FSM), one of the Methods in the Toolkit (a peer-reviewed paper and guidebook are in the works).

2. Better My Business "Unleashing Innovation Through Co-Creation with Established Enterprises".  This startup business is focused on professional strategy design services, frameworks, methods and tools. Better My Business applies these to enable leaders of established small and medium sized enterprises to develop strategies that leverage the social, environmental and economic innovation and risk reduction benefits of the flourishing approach.  Better My Business, with other First Explorers, has developed the Flourishing Enterprise Strategy Design Method (FESDM), one of the Methods in the Toolkit (a book chapter introducing this method will be released June 2019)

The commercial aspects of these two initiatives is undertaken through Antony's company, Edward James Consulting Ltd. a flourishing enterprise design consultancy in Toronto, Ontario, and an Industry Partner with the sLab since April 2014.  Edward James Consulting is also incubating the Co-operative of Flourishing Enterprise Innovators, the long-term home of the global community using and further developing the Flourishing Enterprise Innovation Toolkit.  In the fall of 2017 Edward James Consulting became one of the rapidly growing community of nearly 2,800 Certified Benefit Corporations® that seeks to use business as a force for good, doing good to do well. 


Education and Practice

All this work builds on Antony's 25 years’ experience in the design and implementation of management information systems for companies such as Apple, Bell Canada, CGI and AT&T, focused on enterprise applications such as the ERP, CRM, SCM, SRM, PLM solutions provided by SAP AG.  More recently Antony has undertaken business model work for a number of for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises and startups, and has worked with The Natural Step and B Lab on a new benchmark for truly sustainable business - the Future-fit Business Benchmark - another project of members of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group.

In addition, for over 10 years Antony designed and delivered undergraduate, graduate and professional courses at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University (Toronto) focused on the business case, people, process and technology aspects of improving business processes.  From 2014 onwards he has developed and delivered hands-on courses on Flourishing Enterprise Design and Lean for Flourishing Entrepreneurship that have been delivered internationally. This has included programs delivered via the leading Norwegian Innovation Cluster GCE NODE, the pan-European Union climate change initiative EIT-Climate-KIC, ia the Centre for Social Innovation's OCE Ontario Social Impact Voucher Program funded Flourishing Business Model Innovation Accelerator, and via the sLab's Ontario Centres of Excellence funded DesignJam program. In 2017 he delivered a graduate course "Total Sustainability Management" (SEP770) at the McMaster University W. Booth School of Engineering Practice's Masters program. 

Antony is a graduate of York University's' faculties of Environmental Studies and Schulich School of Business with a Masters of Environmental Studies in Business Model Design and Sustainability and a Graduate Diploma in Business and the Environment.  

Starting in fall 2017 he is an adjunct professor in OCADU's faculties of Graduate Studies and Design, Toronto, Canada.  Starting December 2018 he is an adjunct professor at Halmstad University School of Business, Engineering and Science, Department of Innovation Management, Halland Region, Sweden.  He is also a member of the university's Business Model Innovation research group in the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning research (CIEL)


What's Next?

Flourishing Enterprise Institute

In order that all the work of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group's members is able to quickly create impact at the necessary global scale to realize its audacious vision, funding, structure and much more praxis work is needed.  Further the wider Flourishing Enterprise Movement needs planetary wide co-ordinated leadership and approach to undertake all the necessary applied research and practice development.  Antony is co-generating this evolution of the SSBMGroup and the wider Movement to ensure its vision and potential is realized at a global scale: shift the mind-sets and behaviours of ~50% of all business leaders world-wide by 2030 adopting sustainability-as-flourishing as the goal for their organization: social benefit, environmental regeneration and financial viability.

In late 2016, along other leaders of the Strongly Sustainable Business Model group, they imagined a distributed Flourishing Enterprise Institute, a planetary-wide network of nodes hosted by public and private institutions world-wide.  Over time they intend this networked institute to become a key leader of the necessary applied-research, practice development and knowledge mobilization to realize and empower Flourishing Enterprises world-wide.  The Institute is a key element of realizing the goals of the Flourishing Enterprise Movement as scale, quickly.

In March 2019 the Flourishing Enterprise Institute came to life.  In partnership with the Wilfrid Laurier University's Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability (VERiS), secured initial funding from the Canadian Federal Academic funding agency, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC), via a  "Connection Grant".   This grant will be used to convene a multi-day workshop of SSBMGroup members and leaders from the Flourishing Enterprise Movement from around the world interested in establishing nodes of the Flourishing Enterprise Institute. 

Before, during and after the in-person workshop the participants will co-create the initial research agenda for the Flourishing Enterprise Institute, along with measurement, governance and collaboration frameworks, and a theory of change / logic model. Dr. David Cooperrider is confirmed as the keynote speaker, and his talk will be live streamed, engaging the whole movement world-wide.  All members of the movement can then use outputs to secure funding to establish nodes of the Institute hosted by their local institution, creating the planetary wide Institute, taking the Flourishing Enterprise Movement to the next stage of development.  The Board of Directors of VERiS confirmed their intention to apply for funding to establish the first node in the network.

Over time, by executing this research agenda the Flourishing Enterprise Institute will, across all the nodes in its network, realize and empower Flourishing Enterprises world-wide by:

  • Supporting accelerated pathways to funding and impact for all current SSBMGroup initiatives, and initiate new complementary action-research
  • Coordinating research, development, and knowledge mobilization following action-research and anticipatory systemic-design science research approaches
  • Curating strategies, methods, tools, knowledge & flourishing enterprise business model patterns 
  • Providing a permanent home for the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group Community, the Institute's global expert community of innovation practice

Antony is the founding Director of Research & Practice for the institute, which is being led, as founding Executive Director, by his SSBMGroup colleague Randy Sa'd.


Movement for Flourishing #Movement4Flourishing

And finally, going really big picture, Antony believes, all this work focused on human organizations can only succeed at scale and in timeframes that avoid mass economic, social and human suffering that "business-as-usual" guarantees, if the Flourishing Enterprise Movement is part of a larger “big tent”.  His observation, with others on the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group, and the wider Flourishing Enterprise Movement, is that if, in all our work focused on organizations, we want to strive for outcomes such as flourishing, resilience, low-carbon, future-fit, thrivability, regeneration, strong sustainability etc., we are much more likely to succeed at scale and quickly, if there is broad support civil society  at a global level for these ideas.   In short, an inclusive civil society movement is required; a movement that includes a strong focus on what replaces the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) when these expire in 2030. 

Achieving such broad support for our shared goals beyond the UN SDGs has been a topic of recent face-to-face conversation between Antony, other members of the SSBMGroup, Dr. John Ehrenfeld from MIT (himself a member of the SSBMGroup),  200+ attendees at the October 2017 Relating Systems Thinking and Design conference (Oslo), Dr. Karl Henrik Robèrt, and other colleagues in Sweden, Norway, Denmark (Copenhagen Business School), the US (Case Western Weatherhead School of Business, Aim2Flourish Project), and across Canada. In addition,colleagues in a number of Scandinavian countries highlight that there is a strong tradition of this type of big picture thinking in those national governments that they feel could be used for a next step, e.g. the Brundtland Commission Report, lead by the then Norwegian Prime Minister.  And as others have noted, Canada also has examples of making such gifts to the world, including its contribution to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the establishment of UN Peacekeeping operations. 

For the moment, to see if “the willing” can be provoked into action, he and others in the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group are tentatively referring to this as the “Movement for Flourishing” (see #Movement4Flourishing on Twitter).  They are asking the question can we co-create Flourishing Goals for humanity, for the UN to adopt to replace the UN SDG's when these expire in 2030?  This aspirational label builds John Ehrenfeld’s thinking that inspires much of our work: the only the thing we can sustain scientifically, and the only thing we morally can defend as an ideal goal for our species, is sustaining the possibility for human and other life to flourish on this planet for seven generations and beyond.   Antony is currently actively searching for collaborators with appropriate links to the Federal Canadian government, at the United Nations and other interested parties, who share this vision for humanity.


My Invitation to You... Join Me To Take Action to Enable Flourishing

Putting It All Together Antony's Invitation To You, His World and Story So Far...  A Visual Summary
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Antony Upward's Invitation To You, His World and Stories... So Far - a Visual Summary

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Positions, Roles and Affiliations


Practitioner and Scholarly Publications

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