Antony Upward

Antony Upward - May 2017

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

This page was last updated in 2019 – 
see LinkedIn for most recent information.

“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

Executive Summary: Antony designs tools and conducts applied research to enable startups and established businesses to create business models that will flourish in the very different business conditions of the early 21st century - where financial viability depends on a win-win integration of social, environmental and financial performance rather than considering it a win-loose trade off.

Deep Dive: To bring about his audacious vision for flourishing enterprises, 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 and beyond (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 because people are flourishing and nature is thriving (Cooperrider, 2010),

Antony 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).  He explored these ideas 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 Sloan 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.  This movement seeks to shift mind-sets and behaviours of enterprise leaders at scale and and quickly enough to materially impact human well-being during the coming years and decades.  Recently Antony has suggested the movement's aim should be to shift the mind-sets and behaviours of ~50% of all business leaders and 90% of entrepreneurs world-wide, by 2030, adopting sustainability-as-flourishing as the goal for their enterprises: socially beneficial, environmentally regenerative and financially viable.

In 2012 Antony became one of four co-founders of what is now the international and growing Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group (SSBMG), an increasingly important part of the Flourishing Enterprise Movement.  This group of senior practitioners, researchers and graduate students, hosted by the OCAD University Strategic Innovation Lab, is community of innovation practice and knowledge mobilization initiative.  It is 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 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 "Strategy Design for Flourishing: A Robust Method"  His research significantly extends 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 strategies with 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 - different cultures, sectors, groups, issues, places and more.  To understand, test and refine the Toolkit, the project has established a free First Explorers licensing program.  Over 230 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.  For example the pan-European climate change initiative, EIT-Climate-KIC recently released a free to use on-line training course on Sustainable Business Modelling with the Flourishing Business Canvas as the featured tool.  This course was the result of a collaboration between five First Explorers, including EIT-Climate-KIC.  Additionally, Antony himself is engaged with First Explorers in two specific 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. Enterprise Evolution "This is the new process of strategy; This is strategy as learning system; This is the Enterprise Evolution Program".  This collaboration of Four First Explorers is focused on professional strategy design services, frameworks, methods and tools. Enterprise Evolution applies these to enable leaders of established small and medium sized enterprises, as well as municipalities and other public sector / not-for-profit organizations, to develop innovative strategies that leverage the social, environmental, economic and risk reduction benefits of the flourishing approach.  Enterprise Evolution, with other First Explorers, has developed the Flourishing Enterprise Strategy Design Method (FESDM), one of the Methods in the Toolkit. This is now published as a book chapter in an important new book on strongly sustainable strategy development "Rethinking Strategic Management", published in late 2019.

Antony undertakes his involvement in the commercial aspects of these two initiatives through his 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 3,500 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 30+ 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, from 1998–2008 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 a visiting professor at Halmstad University School of Business, Engineering and Science, Department of Innovation Management, Halland Region, Sweden.  He is also a member of that 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 is needed.  Further the wider Flourishing Enterprise Movement needs planetary wide co-ordination, leadership and approach in order undertake all the necessary applied research and practice development required.  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, and 90% of all entrepreneurs world-wide by 2030 adopting sustainability-as-flourishing as the goal for their organization: socially beneficial, environmentally regenerative and financially viable. 

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 was used to hold a Founding Forum for the institute in August 2019.  Dr. David Cooperrider, delivered a powerful keynote address "Towards Full Spectrum Flourishing" (slides and other videos here), which was live streamed, engaging the whole movement world-wide.  Dr. Cooperrider's keynote provided the frame for the subsequent two days of discussions by invited 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 began to 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.  These initial outputs are being used to secure funding to establish nodes of the Institute hosted by local institutions, 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, and as of mid-2020 this had been achieved, with VERiS hosting the first node of the Institute.

Over time, by executing the co-created research agenda the Flourishing Enterprise Institute will, across all the nodes in its network, realize and empower Flourishing Enterprises and activists in the Flourishing Enterprise Movement 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 acting Director of Research & Practice for the institute, which is being led, as founding acting Executive Director, by his SSBMGroup colleague Randy Sa'd.


Flourishing Fiction Co-Laboratory – The Critical Role of Art and Imagination in Realizing Sustainability-as-Flourishing

In his practice over the last eight years, and from discussions with SSBMG members and others in the flourishing enterprise movement, Antony has recognized that the single biggest constraint on achieving flourishing enterprises at scale and quickly is citizen-leaders ability to imagine them.  After all, if you can't imagine something, like what a flourishing enterprise in a flourishing society on a flourishing planet might look and feel like, it is very unlikely you'd be able to design a strategy to help bring about that outcome.  

One innovative approach to closing this imagination gap, and building the imaginative capacity of citizen-leaders would be to supply them with speculative and science fiction stories set in worlds where people, environment and economy are flourishing, or where  this journey is well under way.  Critically, since at a certain level, we already have the systems-based trans-disciplinary scientifically credentialed knowledge, ethical and moral frameworks, and deep indigenous wisdoms of how to achieve flourishing, these stories must explicitly rely on these bodies of knowledge.  Then, the citizen-leader readers of these stories would have their imaginations informed by exciting positive stories of the humanity in all its messiness, which are in practice feasible and desirable.  Citizen-leaders imaginations would then be filled with ideas for strategies for their enterprises and communities to move them decisively towards sustainability-as-flourishing.  Note, that at present there is no body of science or speculative fiction which has attempted this formal explicit link to our best available knowledge, ethics and wisdoms of sustainability-as-flourishing.   This means that any current speculative fiction story, the small percentage that are not "gloom and doom" could lead  readers to believe things are feasible and desirable, when in fact we already know otherwise.  In this case, the risk is that those citzen leader readers might imagine futures and develop strategies with their enterprises and communities that also are infeasible.  

To tackle this gap in the artistic field of speculative and science fiction Antony's is acting as 'provocateur' for a new Flourishing Fiction Co-laboratory, whose first project will be to run a global challenge for speculative and science fiction writers to submit stories explicitly based on our best available knowledge, ethics and wisdoms.  The result will be stories shared  with citizen leaders, growing their imaginative capacities, enabling them to design futures in which they, their enterprises and communities are experiencing sustainability-as-flourishing.   He is searching for collaborators with appropriate links to organizations at the intersection of art, science, philosophy and wisdom, who also understand the urgent need to grow our citizen leaders imaginative capacity, and have the resources to act decisively.


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 people in 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 from civil society at a global level for these ideas and goals.   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, Antony 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 acting as provocateur for this important part of the flourishing puzzle.  He is 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 and have the resources to act decisively.


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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