Antony Upward

Antony Upward - May 2017

Pracademic - Practicing Academic: Flourishing Enterprise Designer · Adjunct Professor OCADU & HalmstadU
Co-founder, the 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
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 sustain 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.  

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 requires a community of practice.  To create this Antony is undertaking a number of interlinked activities.

In 2012 Antony became one of four co-founders of what is now the international and rapidly growing Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group (SSBMG).  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 as four increasingly well cited peer-reviewed articles in respected journals (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 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 150 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 project 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.

2. Better My Business "Unleashing Innovation Through Co-Creation with Established Enterprises".  This project is focused on professional strategy design services, frameworks, methods and tools. Better My Business then applies these with enable leaders of established small and medium sized enterprises to develop strategiies that leverage the social, environmental and economic innovation and risk reduction benefits of the flourishing approach. 

The commercial aspects of all three of these projects 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.  In the fall of 2017 Edward James Consulting became one of the rapidly growing community of over 2,600 Certified Benefit Corporations® that seeks to use business as a force for good, doing good to do well.  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.


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 ERP, CRM, SCM, SRM, PLM, etc..  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 create impact at the necessary global scale to realize its audacious vision, funding, structure and much more praxis work is needed.  Antony is co-generating this evolution of the SSBMGroup to ensure its vision and potential is realized at a global scale.  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.

In March 2019 the Flourishing Enterprise Institute came to life.  In partnership with the Wilfrid Laurier University's Viessmann Centre for Education 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 the SSBMGroup members from around the world interested in establishing nodes of the Flourishing Enterprise Institute.  At the workshop the participants will co-create the research agenda for the Flourishing Enterprise Institute.  All participants can then use this agenda to secure funding to establish nodes of the Institute hosted by their local instutition, creating the plantary wide Institute.

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 initatives, 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 permenant home for the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group Community, the Institute's global expert community of innovation practice

Movement for Flourishing #Movement4Flourishing

And finally, going really big picture, Antony believes, all this work could be enhanced and accelerated as a part of a global “big tent” / inclusive civil society movement focused on what replaces the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) when these expire in 2030.  His observation with others on the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group, is that if, in all our work focused on organizations, we want to strive for outcomes such as flourishing, resilience, low-carbon, future-fitness, thrivability, regeneration, strong sustainability etc., we are much more likely to succeed at scale, if there is broad support at a global level for these ideas. 

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 group),  200+ attendees at the Octo 2017 Relating Systems Thinking and Design conference, 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. For example,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 e.g. Brundtland, that they feel could be used for a next step.  Antony is searching for collaborators with appropriate links to the Federal Canadian government and other interested parties.

So, 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.

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

Antony Upward's Invitation To You, His World and Stories... So Far - a Visual Summary

Click the image for the full-sized version.  The details on this diagram are linked below...


Positions, Roles and Affiliations


Pracititoner and Scholarly Publications

Please see Antony's page on


Online Presence