A name sure to be on everyone’s lips very soon, Actics is a brilliant new networking system that helps all companies and individuals to align their ethics with their actions. The first online ethical rating tool, and the first ethical system to implement feelings as an important gradient, the software enables truth and transparency throughout a company, highlighting its understanding of social responsibility far beyond any eco credentials, and further than that, helping align its ethical strategy to make the company better. The system works similarly on a personal level; offering anyone the chance to define themselves through their ethical values, state how they act these out, and then allow their friends to rate in numerical terms how true they are to these and help them to live these values more completely, in what has been dubbed ‘the ethical Facebook’.
With a background in macroeconomics specialising in monetary economics and the Euro, Actics founder Nicolai Peitersen has worked as JP Morgan’s Euro Area expert, creating new trends and vision-based formulas for the bank, and it was whilst working for the Central Bank of Denmark that he founded Kesera, a Danish Think-Tank for scientists, artists and philosophers. The aim was to find people with similar thought process outside of his own discipline, and what he discovered was that despite their different tools and languages they were all working on the same fundamental questions, and all had a similar outlook on life. Excited by this, Nicolai together with his Kesera colleague Jens Martin Skibsted decided to formulise one of these questions it into an academic theory, which gave birth to the three fundamental statements of what has become the Actics ethical system: Proximity, (understanding that ethical action is sparked by a feeling of emotional / personal closeness), Maximisation (optimising the ethical happiness of those in your proximity), and Expansion (actively caring for more and more).
Initially published as an academic working paper, Nicolai decided to pursue this further by establishing the Actics company with the aim of developing a system for people to implement and use within their lives. The Actics technology and software is the resulting system, which you can see as a social community on the web, but which encompasses so much more as well. I sat down with Actics founder Nicolai to find out all about it:
-Can you please explain the Actics system further for us?
The Actics system is about living your ethics in better alignment with your stakeholders. It gives individuals the empowerment to have an ethical dialogue and build a community around a business profile of values.
It’s not about environmentalism and sustainability, that’s just one way of living your ethics. Actics is about opening up for pluralism, you can do ethical good in tons of ways, and being nice to the lady at the counter is just as important as offsetting your CO2.
For us the Actics system is a multi-stakeholder tool which helps to optimise all stakeholders’ legitimate ethical demands on a company. Every stakeholder will have different demands on the company, so how do you as a company with limited resources optimize your own ethics with these different ethical demands? And how can you compare them? Because we have quantified ethics in numbers as a quality rather than a truth then that allows us to able to compare each ethical value and see how to improve a company’s ethical impact.
For the first time in history we will have empirical evidence of what works and what doesn’t work ethically. It will be extremely interesting to see the data we can collect over time once we can expand to millions of users across the globe- because then we can get extremely interesting comparative data and give us new understandings.
-What are the applications for Actics? How does it get integrated into the company?
The problem with company values is that people might have it on their website and it’s static, or they might have it on their mousemats or on the walls and then have workshops once a year on how to understand them, but it’s not really integrated into the operations of the company. Our software is a widget like a Skype application that each employee can have on their computer so they can, on an ongoing basis, now share their thinking and their values, and share best practise in living these. We do workshops to help our clients to understand the maximisation principle, explaining not to think of your values or ethics as something static, but as a quality around yourself and the company that you can improve on and optimize on.
What we are hoping is that companies use the Actics system internally first as an educational system into understanding the wisdom of the crowds. All research shows you win by opening up, but our role-out model with clients is to start internally with the intranet and once they get a successful feeling from that we suggest to include their trusted partners in the extranet- and eventually onto their website and into the Actics community online. So in the end all the stakeholders will be taking part in the Actics community.
This gives them a tenable feeling of how they are living their values- and a number to quantify it. With this companies can look at how to grow this number, and can see which stakeholder group has had the most impact on a certain rise or fall of a value, and even what type of suggestions they have given to the company. On the dashboard you can do all sorts of things with data collected- you can break it down into values, focus on brands, look at specific time periods, anything you want. I as a company can see if I reduce packaging what happens to my score? If I give more leisure to my employees what happens to my score? So I know exactly what I can do, to whom I can do it, and on which value to improve my overall score. I can look at the numbers and see what the ethical issues are, and can action them immediately.
-What are your aims for Actics?
There are two sectors in which we want to innovate: one is the CSR sector, we want to revolutionise the CSR sector; in fact our aim is to make the traditional CSR consultancy obsolete – removing the middlemen between the company and the people. We‘ve developed an algorithm and a system so all that feedback is structured, so why do you need the people in-between?
The other is the stock exchange, because the price of a company today is determined by one stakeholder- the investor. What we are saying is that actually all stakeholders ought to have a say in the price of the company through how much they rate the company, because the value of a company is very much determined by whether they can attract talent, and the understanding of employees, future employees and customers.
We are trying to say that it is not only the economic value of a company that is the real value of the company- so by drawing in all stakeholders and assessing the value, and by having quantified it, then it becomes as important an indicator as an economic one. By quantifying stakeholder value you can use it and make it part of your decision-making. Hopefully by quantifying it this way we can contribute towards replacing the mere financial indicator, and at some point we hope to become an actual value pricing of companies that will be on the Reuters monitor.
We want to be guiding consumer choices- so that ultimately when you stand in the supermarket and try to decide which brand to buy you could download the ethical rating of different options onto your mobile. We also want to be guiding jobseekers, guiding investors in which companies to invest in etc- we want to be the indicator that influences choices, whatever they might be. We are currently working on introducing a widget to job portals so as a way of finding a company, or the company finding a candidate they can use ethical values.
-The Actics widget you talk about for companies to have on their website etc- will this also be a widget for individuals to use on their social networking sites?
Yes, you can already put the widget into your Facebook page or blog easily just through a copy/paste of our simple code, and can then get feedback from those who know you or read your blog. You can also assign weights to people’s ratings, as within any situation some people matter more than others – so you can decide whose opinions and recommendations matter more. For example the public might not be as important as your partners or your employees or whoever it might be – so what you can do is assign people a high, medium or low weight which will affect how much their rating changes your overall score.
-What are the plans now for Actics moving forwards?
We are developing a whole load of new technologies- whilst now we only have the Actics.com and the widget/ plug-in, we are getting distributed applications through Facebook which you can use as a monitor to follow your friends and your chosen companies, creating a micro plug-in/ search box on your browser instead of Google, and offering a ticker, like the stock exchange; giving the company’s ethical quote alongside their financial one.
We’re currently making it so that Actics can be integrated with your company’s help, so on-the-spot whilst you’re getting help you can also give feedback, instead of getting an email 2 days later asking if you were happy with the service!
On a personal level we are also implementing zip code alerts so that if I put up an action then everyone in that zip code will get an email about it, telling you what people are doing in your physical proximity and bringing Actics offline too. Oh-and we’re talking about integrating Actics on your mobile so you can rate a service on the spot wherever you are, giving instant feedback to experiences. So we’ve got tons of things in the pipeline!
Wow- thanks, Nicolai!
To explain the system further, the concept founders also wrote a book around the theory- as a practical novel that they use for corporate clients, but which they hope to publish to the general public soon. Contact Actics to find out how you can get your hands on a copy!