When People, Profit and Purpose Align
25 June 2019 - Cathy Xiao Chen

Alexander Ingster Hofgren is a Business Advisor at Coompanion Stockholm. When he was studying economics at university, he felt that everything had a right and wrong answer. Over the last 7 years, he has been helping people to define their common purpose and to build cooperative organizations. His work at Coompanion Stockholm also extends to guiding organizational development, providing training for company boards, and advising businesses on establishment and operations. As an individual, he is dedicated to his own personal development and to ensure that his communication reflects a high level of authenticity. Alexander hasn’t kept count, but he estimates that he has advised over 100 startups during this time and has observed them with different effects as they tried to manage their growth. One question that eats away at his thoughts is why do some groups work and some don’t? This differentiation pointed his interests in the direction of self-organization.

In the Netherlands, one organization paved the way for a new approach to healthcare. By overthrowing the efficiency paradigm where healthcare workers are expected to perform certain tasks in specific timeframes, thereby leading to lower quality of care and burnout; Buurtzorg tried something different. They understood that a social network is imperative to making it possible for elderly people to regain their autonomy. Instead of relying on healthcare workers to fulfill all of their needs, they could reach out to their friends and neighbors for help. And the healthcare professionals, expressed through self-organization, were granted the freedom to make decisions and improve processes for the benefit of their patients. The company grew from 4 to 14,000 and has now taken over 60% of the market share. Ernest & Young has studied the phenomenon and found that this new approach has resulted in a 40% savings to the Dutch healthcare system. According to KPMG, Buurtzorg has accomplished a 50% reduction in hours of care, improved quality of care and raised work satisfaction for employees.

While there are a number of organizational paradigms to work through before you can achieve self-organization, it is a concept that allows employees and entrepreneurs to have greater autonomy and satisfaction in their work. For an organization to be self-organized, people must be aware of one another in a way that allows each of their own strengths and weaknesses to shine so they can connect with one another and function efficiently like cellular structures within a living organism. Autonomy and community must both align. The person(s) with the most competence should be the one(s) to make relevant decisions. The people must come together with a common purpose. And profit is the fuel that enables the system to function.

While it can be challenging to implement fully, companies working with the ideals of self-organization include Patagonia, Spotify, Gore-Tex, and SBAB. The benefits of achieving various levels of self-organization include improved scalability, increased wellbeing of employees, more meaningful work, and greater efficiency due to the decentralization of decision-making.

When he’s not working at Coompanion Stockholm, Alexander consults and educates companies in achieving self-organization through Expanding Leadership. He recommends using a facilitator to hold space during the process to ensure that the right questions are being asked and people feel included from the very first step. His company is releasing tools that people can use to begin the journey towards self-organization on their own. Do you want to learn how you can adopt self-organization principles in your work? You can find out more from Alexander and his team at expandingleadership.se.


Alexander Ingster Hofgren is a member of Impact Hub Stockholm. If you are looking for free business advice to start a cooperative company, you can book a session free of charge at stockholmsregionen.coompanion.se/. Are you looking to join a community of social entrepreneurs and changemakers? Find out more on our website here.



Cathy Xiao Chen is the Head of Operations at Impact Hub Stockholm. With a passion for supporting social impact, she advises and connects changemakers with collaborators to maximize impact.


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