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The social business of bee keeping

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Bees are arguably one of the most important creatures on the planet.  Their pollinating work contributes to around 1/3 of all the food we eat.  Yet they are in a pretty parlous position as a species.  Indeed, because of climate change some experts believe that bees could be extinct in England by as soon as 2018.

An innovative solution to this problem could come in the form of Bybi, a Danish social business that was founded by an Englishman.  He saw a number of problems converging, including the decline in bee numbers, and the difficulty Copenhagen had in helping their homeless population.  With the urban environment regarded as a healthy, pesticide free environment for bee colonies to flourish, the Eureka moment was had.

Founder Oliver Maxwell created an ecosystem whereby businesses in Copenhagen could apply to house a bee hive on the roof of their office building.  The homeless in the city could then apply for training to become a bee keeper and tend to these hives on a daily basis.

Thus, the disadvantaged were given a new career, the bee population began to thrive again, and a local cottage industry was born selling delicious honey to the people of Denmark.  What’s more, it even gives organisations something to add to their own triple line reporting as they provide safe house for this thriving ecosystem.  Oh, and of course all of this is done without tapping the tax payer for a single krone.

Bee keeping as a profession is centuries old, yet Maxwell gave it a new twist by collaborating with a wide range of groups.  For instance, local groups such as Urbanplanen, who manage one of Denmark’s largest housing estates, were involved in ‘sourcing’ the labour for Bybi.  Local businesses were consulted with to provide the workspace for the bees on their rooftops, whilst Bybi brought the bees, the training and the tools to the party.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that collaboration can only occur via technology.  The Bybi example shows however what can be done with nothing more than an open and creative mind.

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