Stop, collaborate and listen

None of us have all of the answers. At Virgin Unite, we’ve found that the most rewarding and successful work we’ve done has been with groups of partners who have come together to bring ideas to life.

We’ve used this model a few times to help incubate The Elders, the Carbon War Room, Ocean Unite, and the B Team amongst others – all of which are great organisations, with wonderful leadership teams in place whose agenda is to do what’s best for humanity and the planet.   

Along the journey to grow these initiatives, we’ve had some successes and some spectacular failures – of course, we've learned more from the latter. 10 years ago, with the support of a great group of partners, Virgin Unite had the privilege of incubating The Elders. We took a couple of years listening to hundreds of different organisations and people. 

It was a wonderful learning experience, but also had moments of frustration as so many people had different views on what The Elders should and shouldn’t be. In the end the idea evolved to something far better than we could have everimagined. Ultimately, collaboration on all fronts is what makes The Elders work. Many people – from our incredible family of donors to the wonderful collaboration between The Elders themselves – all join together to help resolve conflicts around the world.

Virgin Unite, The Elders

The next collaboration we focused on was the Carbon War Room, which, now together with the Rocky Mountain Institute, helps scale market-based solutions to carbon reduction. Once again we brought together hundreds of organisations to help co-create this exciting initiative and ensure it did not duplicate existing efforts. Collaboration is what binds all the Carbon War Room initiatives together. 
The Carbon War Room has fostered many other unlikely collaborations, such as our work with small island nations to help them become fossil-fuel free; or the joint effort by competing airlines to advance the development and use of renewable jet fuels. 
Ultimately, we realised that if we wanted global change, we needed to bring the right group together to help catalyse a better way of doing business for the wellbeing of people and the planet. 

Virgin Unite, Carbon War Room

So, through the same collaborative process, we launched the B Team – a wonderful collaboration of leaders who use their collective voice to change business for the better. The B Team includes leaders such as yours truly, Paul Polman, Ratan Tata, Arianna Huffington and Mo Ibrahim.
The beauty of the rise of social media is that power has shifted from the hands of small, centralised groups to millions of people around the world, who can make history at the click of a button, on a moment’s notice. This has helped our work with the Global Commission on Drug Policy, for example, enormously in getting the word out there that drugs issues should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal problem. The same goes for our work with the OceanElders and Ocean Unite in rallying millions of people on issues such as shark finning or the protection of reefs.

Richard Branson and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, New York UNGASS 2016

We live in a highly interconnected world that frequently opens our eyes to the many issues and opportunities people face. We must work together towards a shared future that will be filled with opportunity for every single person to live with the dignity they deserve.


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