WorldBlu - Freedom at Work

WorldBlu Awards


The WorldBlu List of Freedom-Centered Workplaces™ 2017 is comprised of organizations from a diversity of industries including technology, manufacturing, healthcare, education, retail and professional services, with a combined annual revenue of over $32 billion. These organizations include public, private, non-profit, and educational institutions. They range in size from five to 87,000 employees and are located across the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, Malaysia, Haiti, Romania and New Zealand.

An organization makes it onto the WorldBlu List through a rigorous Freedom at Work™ Scorecard process completed by employees. The assessment evaluates the overall design of an organization along a fear-based to freedom-centered continuum in three core areas: leadership, individual performance and systems and processes. Assessment questions are based on the WorldBlu 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy™. Those organizations scoring 3.5 or higher on a 0-5 scale earn WorldBlu certification.

    ADECA – The Children’s Academy + Learning Center

    Bellevue La Montagne, Haiti
    Industry: Education  Type: Not for Profit
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2016, 2017
    Video: ADECA Scholarships

    The Children’s Academy and Learning Center (known as “ADECA”) is a vibrant primary school that serves as a model school in Haiti. It’s a place where educators from across the country come to see a quality, democratic school in action and discover methods of education and leadership that help them transform their communities.

    We choose to practice Freedom at Work™ at ADECA because we believe that it is the best way to achieve our mission of inspiring and preparing successful change-makers and driving school-based community development. Engaging ADECA staff through Freedom at Work leads to employees who care and are invested in their day-to-day work and the success of the school and community. At ADECA teachers and administrators have the opportunity to evolve and grow and to work creatively in collaboration with others. This allows them to grow personally and bring their best selves to work everyday. It also makes working toward our mission a meaningful and personally rewarding experience. As an organization, ADECA believes that Freedom at Work is the best way to guarantee long-term maximum impact for all the people we’re accountable to – including children, parents, partners, community members and donors.
    – Alex Myril, Coordinator, ADECA

  • Wb Azimut
    Azimut Happy Employees

    Cluj, Romania
    Industry: Education  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2017

    Azimut Happy Employees is a professional services company committed to developing happy workplaces through team-building, coaching and consulting.

    Freedom at Work™ is the right thing to do. People are meant to have autonomy and the chance to use all their talents in shaping something great, something bigger than themselves. We started this business with the idea of having a platform for talented people to bring a contribution to changing people’s lives and changing businesses through education.

    Freedom at Work practices are good for business. People are more engaged, more motivated, are more satisfied with their jobs, have an increased psychological safety and stay longer at the company. This all translates into higher retention rate, increased performance and productivity, more innovation, more flexibility and agility, better customer care and satisfaction, and increased revenue and profit.

    We are challenging ourselves to build a different kind of business, and demonstrate to the whole world that there is a better alternative in doing business.
    - Kacso Szilard, CEO, Azimut

  • Wb Boost New Media

    Wellington, New Zealand
    Industry: Media  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

    Boost designs websites, web applications, and CD-ROMS for a variety of clients including ACC, the Families Commission, and Telecom.

    One of the ways Boost practices the democratic principle of Transparency is by ensuring that all important information is displayed openly and updated daily. The company does this in a very physical manner by using post-it notes, string, illustrated posters and a range of charts to decorate their data room. Anyone can come into this room and view the performance of each of the leadership team members, the overall level of team happiness, staff retention rates, number of sales calls made, team absences and quarterly priorities. In addition, a huge board displays all work in progress, upcoming work, and projects that are in negotiation. Each area is reviewed weekly with the entire organization at a “Team Hui,” which is a standup meeting where everyone shares good news and team or customer feedback.

  • Wb CROS
    CROS - The Alternative University

    Bucharest, Romania
    Industry: Education  Type: Not for Profit
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

    The mission of CROS: The Alternative University, is to change Romanian education through autonomy and collaboration. This means that each student self-directs their own education and develops communities of practice based on common values and passions.

    Working in a freedom-centered workplace is incredibly empowering for me because this has, at its roots, the premise that each of us is unique, so everyone works and learns in a different way. I have learned a lot about personal initiative, about how to be an intrapreneur and a valued participant in a vibrant democratic team. Since becoming a part of this team I have learned how to work in an engaging and participatory environment, how to contribute in shared decision-making and how to experiment with self-directed learning and working. Most importantly, this university has nurtured my self-determination and encouraged me to cultivate my own values, to enjoy working for a cause, for the students and, ultimately, for my own growth.
    – Andreea Gospodariu, Learning Experience Designer, CROS: The Alternative University

  • Wb Davita

    Denver, CO
    Industry: Healthcare  Type: Public
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: DaVita - Our Story
    Video: Kent Thiry on Freedom at Work at DaVita
    Video: Kent Thiry on Building a Company Culture

    DaVita is a nearly $13 billion Fortune 400® healthcare company with over 70,000 employees.

    As a large organization with over 70,000 employees worldwide, the democratic principle of Decentralization is a vital aspect of DaVita. The DaVita Village consists of 50 divisions organized into nine geographic groups. Those in the field and working day-to-day with patients are some of the most knowledgeable teammates regarding process changes. This is why decisions are often made in the field rather than at corporate headquarters. Aligning with clinical standards and operational effectiveness, teammates are given the autonomy to make decisions since they are the ones who most understand how those decisions will directly affect colleagues and patients. This was exemplified in 2016 when teammates had full reign in determining if they wanted to shift their profit-sharing option from the established “Triple Crown” program to an employee-matched 401(k).

  • Wb Dreamhost

    Los Angeles, CA
    Industry: Internet  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: A Day at DreamHost

    DreamHost is a leading web hosting and cloud services provider with over 300,000 customers and 1.2 million domain names hosted worldwide.

    The first time I heard about the concept of a Freedom-Centered Workplace, I immediately wanted to learn more, and quickly started thinking about ways for us to adopt organizational democracy at DreamHost. When we founded DreamHost, we knew we wanted to do things differently, and that meant questioning every approach to running key parts of the business. We took a lot of inspiration from the underground techno and punk rock music scenes back then, and the democratic, community-focused nature of open source software has always had a huge influence on all of us. The concept of a Freedom-Centered Workplace was a natural progression of ideas we built into our DNA.
    - Dallas Kashuba, Co-Founder + Co-CEO, DreamHost

  • Geonetric

    Cedar Rapids, IA
    Industry: Internet  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Videos: How Geonetric Refocused Their Core Values

    Geonetric helps healthcare organizations develop web strategies that engage consumers. VitalSite®, Geonetric’s content management software, is the foundation of websites, portals and intranets for more than 500 hospitals, physician groups and clinics around the USA.

    The democratic principle of Choice is core to Geonetric’s workplace. The organization uses a process called “Impact Mapping” to help keep everyone on track and give more choice. By definition, Impact Mapping is a strategic planning technique that prevents organizations from getting lost while building products and delivering projects. Impact Mapping clearly communicates assumptions, helps teams align their activities with overall business objectives, and helps teammates make better decisions overall.

    Each quarter, teams review the company priorities and determine how the team will work together to achieve their priorities. This becomes the team’s Impact Map. Individuals on the team take their team Impact Map a step further. They also get to choose how they will be involved in each of the team’s goals. The team meets and the individuals determine if they want to lead the initiative, provide support, or provide advice during the process – and to what level. This becomes an individual’s Impact Map. This process gives everyone on the team – and in the organization – choice about how each individual contributes to the organization’s priorities.

  • Wb Haiti Partners
    Haiti Partners

    Port au Prince, Haiti
    Industry: Education and Community  Type: Not for Profit
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: Education, Democracy and Development
    Video: We Believe in the Power of Education

    Haiti Partners is a non-profit organization building schools and training thousands of teachers, leaders, and students in the principles of organizational democracy, social enterprise, and education.

    The democratic principle of Individual + Collective has helped the staff at Haiti Partners through a particularly challenging period. Over the last year the organization undertook a thorough evaluation of how they present their work and increase revenues. In most organizations, this process would be handled by top leadership only. In Haiti Partner’s case, the directors worked closely with the board to not only rely on their wisdom, but to also thoughtfully incorporate the perspectives and experiences of staff members both in the US and in Haiti. They used a survey, but also held extensive conversations with each staff member, bringing what they learned to the board discernment committee and integrating it for the benefit of everyone. As a result, staff members felt appropriately included in the process and significantly invested in the eventual outcome.

  • Wb Happy
    Happy, Ltd.

    London, UK
    Industry: Computer Services  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017

    Happy, Ltd. helps individuals use their desktop software more productively, creates interactive online learning workshops, and helps create happier workplaces.

    At Happy the concept of “Pre-approval” is a key and vital element of practicing the democratic principle of Choice at work. Instead of asking people to solve a problem, come up with an idea, or produce a report or proposal, and then bring it back for approval, staff are given the power to make a decision on the way forward. They call this process ‘Pre-approval.’ Under pre-approval, the guidelines are agreed upon – as well as any metrics or budget – and the individual is then empowered to deliver without needing to check back for approval.

    Applying this concept to the bidding process has been particularly beneficial to the organization. Overall, bids are the source of over half of the organization’s new business. Submitting proposals used to be the responsibility of the CEO, who achieved a 40 percent success rate. However, realizing that Happy needed to submit more proposals, responsibility was passed to a different staff member. Training, guidelines and support were provided and the new staff member made some changes to the process. This has resulted in a 20 percent increase in successful proposals.

  • Wb lewesfc
    Lewes Community Football Club

    Lewes, UK
    Industry: Sport + Leisure  Type: Not for Profit
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2016, 2017
    Video: Lewes FC – Join the Revolution!

    Originally founded in 1885 as a private entity, the Lewes Community Football Club transferred to a mass-ownership Community Benefit Society in 2010 and is now owned by the football (aka: soccer) fans.

    Most soccer clubs are privately owned with investors ploughing investments in with their own cash – a model which is often unsustainable. Lewes Community Football Club has done things differently and now have some 900 owners worldwide. In the spirit of the democratic principle of Decentralization, each owner owns a maximum of one share. The rights and opportunities afforded to each owner are outlined in the club’s constitution, which also details the guiding principles of the club and how it should operate. This ensures that everyone understands to whom and to what they are responsible.

  • Wb Menlo
    Menlo Innovations

    Ann Arbor, MI
    Industry: Software  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: Speaking Up at Menlo Innovations
    Video: Extreme Interviewing and Menlo’s Social System
    Video: The Benefits of Our Workplace
    Video: Menlo’s Special Walls
    Video: Rewards and Promotions
    Video: Pairing Programming at Menlo

    Menlo Innovations is a software development company with a vision to end human suffering as it relates to technology.

    Menlo operationalizes the democratic principle of Accountability by using processes that promote teamwork and interdependence. Team members work in pairs; no one works alone and pairs stay focused on adding client value. In pairs, team members are also held accountable for their time by reporting their time spent on projects each week. Project managers balance timesheets each week to ensure each pair reports time consistently. Additionally, team members are accountable for personal improvement through feedback lunches. From a client perspective, team members are held accountable through a weekly process called Show and Tell where the client is given a live demonstration of work that has been completed.

  • Wb Mindvalley

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Industry: Publishing  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: A Day in the Life of Mindvalley
    Video: The Mindvalley Team Retreat
    Video: How to Transform your Company Culture and Attract Brilliant Talent

    Mindvalley is an Internet incubator that shares its management and business practices freely through an online university.

    As a personal growth company, Mindvalley takes the principle of Purpose + Vision seriously. Employees go through an exercise called ‘The 3 Most Important Questions’, which asks:
    1. What are the things you want to experience in life?
    2. How do you want to grow as a person and who you need to be to do all those things?
    3. How do you want to contribute to the world?

    By making this list of questions and answers public, teammates are able to support each other and are better able to guide each other in their careers - even if that means moving to another part of the organization or seeking other opportunities outside of the company to truly fulfill their dreams. Ultimately, the leadership of Mindvalley understands that when people are in a workplace that aligns with their own personal vision, the entire organization will be more happy and freedom-centered.

  • Wb Mindvalley

    Hermosillo, Mexico
    Industry: Software  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: Inside the Nearsoft Culture
    Video: Not a Regular Office

    Nearsoft is a product software development service.

    We've been a part of the WorldBlu community since 2009. With WorldBlu’s help we've grown more than 12x since then. Our growth and success is a direct result of our culture, which is guided by the democratic principles that WorldBlu represents. The Freedom at Work Scorecard has helped us measure and improve various aspects of our culture, and their events give us access and exposure to other like-minded organizations which has given us many inspiring examples of great practices that we've adopted at Nearsoft.
    – Matt Perez, COO, Nearsoft

  • Wb New Belgium
    New Belgium Brewing Company

    Fort Collins, CO
    Industry: Brewers  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: New Belgium Brewing Company | Alternatively Empowered
    Video: Fat Tire Ale – Want a Beer?

    New Belgium Brewing brews artisan beers and is known for their popular "Fat Tire" beer.

    Jack Stack’s book, “The Great Game of Business” has been instrumental in how everyone at New Belgium Brewing practices the democratic principle of Transparency through open-book management. The decision to open the books came early on when co-workers were asked what percentage of every dollar they thought was profit. When they answered around 50 percent, the team decided some financial literacy training was needed. Today, there are financial classes and updates at each monthly all-staff meeting. Anyone in the packaging department, for example, can look at how the branding department spends its money. Co-workers are taught how to read a profit and loss sheet and the organization conducts a co-worker led ESOP 101 class for all new employee-owners.

  • Wb Piktochart

    Penang, Malaysia
    Industry: Software  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2016, 2017
    Video: Piktochart Culture

    Piktochart is an intuitive, easy-to-use infographic platform that helps non-designers create beautiful visuals.

    In the spirit of practicing the democratic principle of Accountability, Piktochart implemented a ‘Getupgraded’ plan. The plan is designed to hold people accountable to results especially if they have not been performing or have been causing issues within the team. As part of the process, the team leaders use the “GROW” framework (Goal, Reality, Options and Willingness) to have conversations with team members so that they understand the criteria on which they have been evaluated. They then come up with a plan together to work towards improving performance within one to three months.

  • Wb REV Asia
    REV Asia

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Industry: Internet  Type: Public
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2016, 2017
    Video: REV Asia Team Retreat

    REV Asia is publicly listed on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad (ACE:0173). As one of Malaysia’s leading digital media groups, REV Asia owns and operates top authority brands with an extensive distribution platform that reaches approximately 14 million people each month through the power of social media marketing and exceptional content.

    A lot of modern workplaces adopt designs that end up looking more like modern slavery. We do not want to be part of that broken system. We do not want to enslave creative minds. We get more out of life and work when creative minds are liberated. Freedom at Work is the source of our continued success at REV Asia.
    - Sam Wee, General Manager, REV Asia

  • Wb Start With Why
    Start With Why

    New York, NY
    Industry: Education  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2017

    Start With Why is a professional services company that inspires people to do the things that inspire them.

    At Start With Why, people are encouraged to practice the democratic principle of Integrity by breaking the rules. Instead of being held accountable to a list of things they can’t do, employees are provided with a list of things they’re encouraged to do, and rewarded for their actions.

    Here is a list of things employees at Start With Why are actively encouraged to do:
    1. Make the decision you think is the right decision to make.
    2. Start something that needs to be started to help advance the cause.
    3. Ask for help whenever you want it.
    4. Help others whenever you can (even if they don’t ask for it).
    5. Take time off to do something that inspires, excites and energizes you.

  • Wb Sweetriot

    New York, NY
    Industry: Food Products  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

    sweetriot is a social enterprise producing chocolate-covered cacao nibs and bars.

    One of the ways sweetriot practices the democratic principle of Reflection + Evaluation is by the use of a recognition system called Shazam! When a teammate does something positive and great at sweetriot they deserve a Sha-Zam! Sha-zams are done at weekly “sweetings” as a team, but can be done whenever teammates feel the timing is right. Each Sha-zam is followed with small claps. Continuous feedback is crucial to the growth of the team/company. When there are checks and balances it adds an important support element to the company culture and it also eliminates uncertainty. It’s not about dwelling on an error or managing with fear, it’s about learning from every experience, and moving forward stronger, confidently, and more efficiently.

  • Wb The BW Leadership Institute
    The BW Leadership Institute

    St. Louis, MO
    Industry: Education  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2017
    Video: Everybody Matters Trailer

    The BW (Barry-Wehmiller) Leadership Institute inspires people on their journey toward better leadership through a variety of training programs.

    In the spirit of the democratic principle of Dialogue + Listening, the team at BW Leadership Institute regularly engage people across the organization in “Listening Sessions.” Employees are trained in how to lead these sessions through a listening training program. Through a three-step process of asking questions and listening, new levels of possibility and understanding are uncovered, providing an opportunity for everyone to engage on a deeper level.

  • Wb The John Lewis Partnership
    The John Lewis Partnership (HONORARY)

    United Kingdom
    Industry: Retail  Type: Employee-Owned
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2017
    Video: The John Lewis Partnership

    This year, for the first time, WorldBlu is honoring an organization that has made a significant contribution to freedom and democracy in the workplace. The John Lewis Partnership has a reputation built on the principles of organizational democracy and freedom. The organization has made a sizeable democratic “footprint” on the world through its substantial influence and positive impact on others. Finally, they have been in business for nearly 100 years, proving that freedom and democracy in the workplace leads to sustainability and resilience.

    The John Lewis Partnership's 86,700 Partners own the leading UK retail businesses - John Lewis and Waitrose.

    The John Lewis Partnership aims to deliver a culture of advocacy, trust, empowerment and engagement, where leaders encourage, listen to and act upon Partner opinion to create a better business. Democratic vitality is at the heart of the Partnership. Although not a strategic objective in itself, it anchors our future aspirations, so it is important that we place focus and energy behind it.
    – Jane Burgess, Partners’ Counsellor, John Lewis Partnership

  • Wb Linkschool
    The Link School

    Buena Vista, CO
    Industry: Education  Type: Not for Profit
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: The Link School
    Video: Questions and Answers With The Link School Director

    The Link School is a private, experiential learning high school.

    The Link School is a democratic community because we feel that it is imperative that students learn to choose to engage in their academics and activities – to “do school” rather than feel as most students do that school is “done to them.” As a democratic community students have a genuine voice in all aspects of the operation and are able to shape their own life preparation. As a democratic community students learn that school is more than just preparing oneself to make a living in the future, but rather school ideally is combination of preparing oneself and giving of oneself. They also learn that it takes work, it’s messy, and can be remarkably rewarding. One of the things missing in the educational landscape right now is students really feeling needed. Democratic practice shows students that they are needed every day.
    – Bobby Lewis, Founder, The Link School

  • Wb Wd40
    WD-40 Company

    San Diego, CA
    Industry: Non-durable Household Products  Type: Public
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: The WD-40 Tribe
    Video: Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 on Helping People Win at Work
    Video: WD-40 Positive Lasting Memories

    The WD-40 Company is the publicly-traded maker of the WD-40 lubricant, with over $380 million in annual revenue.

    The democratic practice of Integrity is a vital part of the WD-40 Company’s way of doing business. Teammates believe in building economic value for stockholders by growing and staying true to the company’s values, which are their roadmap. Their values guide every teammate so that they can each make autonomous decisions and yet still act as one. The values are ranked by priority. The first value that trumps all others is, “We value doing the right thing.”

  • Widen

    Madison, WI
    Industry: Software + Computer Services  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: About Widen
    Video: Digital Asset Management and The Widen Experience

    Widen is a marketing technology company that assists organizations in managing their digital assets.

    Widen has operationalized the democratic principle of Fairness + Dignity by establishing deeper community relationships and opportunities for people with developmental challenges. A local organization has partnered with the company to integrate people with developmental disabilities into the workforce. By creating jobs such as “popcorn delivery” and “straightening up after lunch.” Widen employs five people with developmental challenges doing various tasks throughout the building, assisted by their job coaches. While the intent was to assist with the social and occupational wellness of the new employees, the project has impacted the social and emotional wellness of the entire Widen team. Learn more about this practice by watching a recent TEDx Talk – Empathy in Business – by Widen CEO, Matthew Gonnering.

  • Wb Zappos

    Las Vegas, NV
    Industry: Retail  Type: Private
    Years on the WorldBlu List: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
    Video: Zappos Company Culture
    Video: Zappos Family Music Video

    About: is the #1 seller of shoes online by emphasizing customer service, with over $1 billion in annual sales.

    Our goal at Zappos is to deliver the very best customer service and customer experience. When customers call us, instead of giving our employees scripts to read, we believe that trusting our employees and giving them the freedom to do whatever it takes to make our customers happy ultimately will result in happier customers.
    - Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

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