MODERN ACTIVISTS: FUTURE OF WORK

Work, Wellness, and the Future of Harmonizing our Workforce

How Dr. Vanessa Bouché, founder of Savhera, has created a business model that is audacious enough to harmonize the world we are creating.

photo by Christiann Koepke for

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

He spoke these words when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Earlier in that speech, he said, “I accept this award with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.” When I was growing up, I was taught of a different kind of faith; the faith of a mustard seed.

If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can say this to the mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move for you. “Nothing will be impossible for you.”

While I do believe that the tiniest bit of faith can have massive implications on an individual’s life, I am currently siding with Dr. King on the perspective that the future of humxnkind requires something more audacious.

This is strikingly true when it comes to the future of work, which has been discussed ad nauseum for the past nine months.

As businesses shut down and started figuring out how to continue operations with remote staff, what once were ideas left to millennial run startups became strategic planning sessions in hyperlocal accounting offices and insurance firms.

As womxn left the workforce in droves, we were inundated with calls for the future of work to include better support for working mothers — a mantra that feminists have been screaming for decades, and one that no longer seems audacious, optional, or even satisfactory.

It is also strikingly true when it comes to the future of wellness, a 4.5 trillion dollar business that is one of the few industries COVID-19 fueled, rather than trampled. (US Chamber of Commerce)

As people were required to shelter in place, telemedicine, for non-emergent medical visits, which many of us had been advocating for to ease the burden of healthcare costs, time, and transportation, soared in consumer adoption from 11%, in 2019, to 46% in 2020, (McKinsey)

As we move into the new year and the vaccine rolls out, mainstream HR firms are joining the previous outliers in urging businesses to rethink their corporate wellness practices and transition from onsite gyms and nap pods to things like wellness challenges and nutrition classes. (Zenefits)

The ease with which things were implemented and the mainstreaming of once maverick ideas is evidence that it was a faith equal to the size of a mustard seed that finally moved those mountains: only when there was really no other choice, did culture start to rethink how we work and how we get or stay well.

And none of the options implemented or being widely discussed, hold the audacious power to realize the dream of adequate food, education, dignity, equality, and freedom that Dr. King envisioned.

Dr. Vanessa Bouché, founder of Savhera. Photo courtesy of Savhera.

But that is exactly what Dr. Vanessa Bouché, the founder of Savhera, has implemented: a future where work and wellness are both intertwined and redefined. And it is her audacious faith that is transforming the lives of the womxn she employees, the communities they live and work in, and our planet.

At the base level, Savhera, which means new beginning, in Hindi, is a social enterprise and Public Benefit Corporation that employs survivors of human trafficking to create organic aromatherapy products. At its soul level, it is a company that is dedicated to the holistic wellness of their employees and every part of their ecosystem.

This is so much more than a people, profits, planet business model, or even the people and planet over profits model, commonly cited by social enterprises. It is a new, bold model that accepts, as fact, that taking care of people and the planet = profit. Like many more progressive social enterprises and social impact businesses, they see profit as the vehicle by which they get to keep providing jobs to survivors. What sets them apart is that they are completely defining what profit means and implementing that new definition right into their business model.

And it’s based on her definition of holistic wellness: a wellness that encompasses physical, restorative, emotional, financial, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual wellness. If all of that sounds a bit undefined and woo-woo for you, let me put your concerns to rest: she has created an actual model, with real KPI’s, to implement and track it.

It is a Humxn Flourishing Model, called PIES, which stands for Physical, Intellectual, Economic, and Spiritual Growth and Development. Just like you would any other KPI, they start with a baseline assessment and then monitor their employees growth and development.

PIES is based on the understanding that as employees continue to grow and flourish through their work at Savhera, they will move through the three defined levels of growth: personal, communal, and societal. Put simply, they will become more confident in their own ability to sew back into society in their own unique way, creating a cycle of wellness.And speaking of a cycle of wellness, they are also applying the How can we go above ‘do no harm’ and create a benefit question to their interactions with the planet, going beyond offsetting to analyzing their inputs and thinking strategically about how they interact with the planet.

Vanessa isn’t stopping there, either. As Associate Professor of Political Science, she teaches and conducts research at the intersection of public policy and political psychology. She is a principal investigator on federally-funded human trafficking projects with USAID and the Department of Justice.

She is also strategizing ways to take this business model to larger systems that perpetuate a capitalism that has led to extreme disparities in wealth, the destruction of the planet, and the valuing of some humxns over others, always looking for ways to push the envelope and make people uncomfortable. She lists examples like creating a different tax code for public benefit corporations, creating a new class of investors for people who want to invest in public benefit corporations, and even creating an entirely new kind of stock market where the return on investment is measured in ways other than strictly financial with exactly the level of confidence she works to bestow on her own employees.

And, in case you are wondering what kind of audacious faith would lead someone to create and implement a model that focuses on how business can bring benefit TO living things, not just extract benefit FROM them, that’s pretty simple too:

A person’s worth and value comes from simply being, not from doing.

Images courtesy of Savhera.

This is what the future of work and wellness must look like. And, it is the only way we can ever have any chance of harmonizing the new world we are creating.

The Modern World needs Modern Activists.
Modern activists are thinkers, entrepreneurs, protestors, writers, readers, teachers, and innovators. We are putting everything we’ve got into creating solutions that live at the intersection of gender justice, racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice. We are radical, audacious humxns who lead and create with moxie and devotion.

We are inspired by rebellion and fueling a revolution.

LaKay Cornell is a writer and creator on a mission to change the world through changing the narratives. Modern Activists is a series in her newsletter. Learn more and subscribe here.

I expand in the words written by others and write words to change the narrative.

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