Disruptive. Small-d democratic. Transparent. Tech savvy. Design savvy. Local and global. Nimble. Values-driven. No matter your gut reaction to what has sprung out of a seemingly sketchy September landing on New York’s Zuccotti Park, the Occupy movement is spiritually akin to the innovative companies we laud elsewhere on this list and in each issue. Square, for example, is working to disrupt an established trillion-dollar payment infrastructure that puts the little guy at a disadvantage. Occupy, meanwhile, is challenging a political, financial, and social establishment that has resulted in income inequality and puts most Americans at a disadvantage. Both attempt to make a more fair future. Click on the slideshow above, then for another slideshow of people arrested at Occupy movements, click here. Even as a fledgling startup, Occupy has meaningfully changed the global conversation on austerity measures, putting greater focus on how these initiatives may disproportionately harm the bulk of a populace. Like a startup employing technology as a competitive weapon, the Occupy movement has used tech tools to support, amplify, and connect participants. It’s also a model. “My playbook is from the development of the Internet, harnessing the energy of the web, managed chaos,” says Shen Tong, Occupy Wall Street’s philosopher-in-residence. “That’s the new organizing principle. The Internet really helps shape a dominant culture that makes this kind of thinking much easier.” The venture capitalist Fred Wilson has written that entrepreneurs are likely onto something big when they’re mocked and misunderstood. It’s but one measure, but Occupy’s initial public offering, if you will, puts it in very good company. Facebook and Twitter, to name but two examples, are still ridiculed in some corners as frivolous time-wasters, even after the significant role they’ve played in innumerable political, charitable, and business initiatives. It’s telling that tech companies–or any socially responsible firms that try to balance values with profits–are noticeably absent from the organizations that Occupy attacks. These pages showcase a handful of the frontline innovators in the Occupy movement and how they’ve employed creative means to advance their cause. Fast companies aren’t perfect, of course. But far more often than not, they’re part of the solution, not the problem. Just like meaningful citizen protest.
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