We have some major news to share, so we’re taking a brief pause in our ongoing series of Saturday posts on Stoicism at Work (the theme of this year’s Stoicon). Earlier this week, Modern Stoicism officially became incorporated as a company. More specifically, Modern Stoicism is a private, limited by guarantee – and most importantly, not-for-profit – company.
This has been in the works for some time. The Modern Stoicism steering committee discussed the matter in detail in a meeting preceding Stoicon 2016, and continued conversations about incorporation through 2017. Christopher Gill (pictured there above, along with John Sellars, at a 2014 Stoic Week event) took prime responsibility for seeing the many different steps through – a significant amount of work, for which we are all very grateful – in consultation with the entire steering committee.
The last several years have seen a number of changes for the Modern Stoicism organization, not least of which was the shift from being a more loosely structured working group to an actual organization, and now the official incorporation as a company. The consolidation of the various websites and functions into the Modern Stoicism website was another major step. Behind the scenes, there have been many conversations and a lot of work by all of the members of the Modern Stoicism team, to bring things to this point.
It may come as a surprise to some of readers to learn that all of the work carried out so far by the members of Modern Stoicism has been on a volunteer basis. Every member of the team puts in many hours for free to further and fulfill the mission of the organization. This doesn’t mean, of course, that money doesn’t get spent on a number of legitimate expenses, (for example, booking event spaces, travel and lodging for Stoicon speakers, hosting the website online classroom spaces, an editorial assistant’s wages for the Stoicism Today volumes). But all of the time that the Modern Stoicism team devote to the work of the organization is uncompensated.
Why incorporate? That is a good question, and it was one whose pros and cons we examined and discussed at length, before arriving at that decision (in Stoic terms, collaboratively exercising the virtue of prudence!). The simplest answer is that doing so allows the Modern Stoicism organization to much more effectively engage in and even expand its distinctive and valuable work.
This includes developing resources and running a class each year during Stoic Week – but also engaging in a lot of outreach about Stoic Week, encouraging organizations to participate, publicizing events, and so forth. Putting together all the elements required for the annual Stoicon conference – securing a venue, lining up a set of excellent speakers, coordinating a myriad of details – that is another major endeavor (which this year also involved setting up a Stoicon-X the following day in Toronto).
Hosting, building, and updating the Modern Stoicism website itself. Producing, redeveloping, and leading the 4-week Stoicism Mindfulness and Resilience Training course each summer. Assembling and analyzing the data we gather into reports about correlations between Stoic practice, well-being, emotional states, and outcomes. Soliciting pieces, working with authors, and producing weekly content for the Stoicism Today blog. Editing the best pieces – often requiring substantial rewrites by the authors – for the Stoicism Today volumes. Networking and collaborating with partner organizations also focused on promoting Stoicism worldwide. These are just some of the many things we do. And for a good many of them, that work is made a good bit easier by having an actual company structure.
Every company has a set of purposes, and for not-for-profit companies these are particularly important. They provide an ethos, a mission, a direction, and accountability. The steering committee collaboratively worked out these for Modern Stoicism, listed among the “objects for which the Company is established”:
- to disseminate knowledge and encourage discussion about Stoic philosophy and practices and their applications to modern living
- to reach as many people from around the world as possible with our work and provide opportunities for them to explore Stoicism, whatever their orientation or interpretation with respect to Stoicism
- to provide accurate and reliable information about Stoic philosophy and practices, and in doing so to maintain continuity with classic forms and sources
- to focus on the application of Stoicism to everyday problems of living in the modern world
- to conduct philosophical inquiry into, and empirical research on, Stoic philosophy and its applications to modern living, in order to advance our knowledge of its benefits
- to represent a broad spectrum of views on the subject by including people who approach Stoicism from different theoretical perspectives, personal backgrounds, and religious, political, or cultural commitments;
These points encapsulate what Modern Stoicism as an organization is all about – and will continue to focus on going forward. On that note, there are two last things that I think bear saying.
First of these is that when it comes to the sort of organization that Modern Stoicism developed into, an important matter to keep in mind is the need for continuity. Although each of the individual members of the team make important contributions – drawing heavily upon their particular talents and energy – the Modern Stoicism organization is indeed a whole greater than the sum of its parts. And, fate permitting, we all hope to see it continue its vital work past our own capacities to contribute. In a period of less than a decade, Stoicism has become a widely influential and adaptable philosophical approach in the public and practical spheres. What started with individual projects, came together in those early gatherings of philosophers and psychotherapists at the University of Exeter, then developed into a constellation of publicly available resources (like the Stoic Week handbook and course), and gradually became consolidated into an entire organization. Modern Stoicism is far from the only group, organization, or institution that played a part in the growth of Stoicism in the present day, but it has clearly had a central role in it. This formal incorporation as a company will help assure a continuity to the ongoing work of the organization.
The second (and last) remark I will make is a personal one. I am a relative newcomer to the Modern Stoicism organization, having onboarded into the position as Stoicism Today’s editor (and with it, a seat on the steering committee) a bit less than two years ago. A vast amount of work had already been done by the original and earlier-joining members of the organization by the time I came on. A perhaps equally vast amount of work has been done since then as well, much of it involving collaborative discussions and iterative back-and-forth work by professionals whose time is always in short supply, but they give generously to Modern Stoicism and its activities. What I’ve been privileged to observe is that the other members of this organization – when it comes to the Stoicism they speak, write, and teach about – are the “real deal”. And that consistency of ethos should place this new company on a very solid footing indeed!