The simple dictum is: successful localization of a business ecosystem demands widespread participation by community members. Easy to say. It’s another thing for community members to know what that means and what to do about it. This is where another kind of map — a “framework for localization” — comes in handy to help community members define their business ecosystem, understand its dynamics, and assess to what degree it is already localized.
During the course of my work on the USDA-SCRI and FFEF grants, I had the opportunity to develop such a framework. I documented it in two presentations available for view and download on Slideshare. The first, Framework4Localization – Overview, provides a graphic representation of a typical business ecosystem. It is the subject of this posting. The second, Framework4Localization – in Action, offers steps community members can consider as they develop a strategy for localizing their business ecosystem. It will be the topic of the second posting in this series. Together, these set the stage for community members to build a “portfolio” of business cases that attracts widespread participation and drives the localization process. The nature of this portfolio and how community members invest in it will be the theme of a third posting.
Let’s begin this overview with a general description of a business ecosystem. Like a natural ecosystem, the business version functions due to material and data flows from source points to use points. Again, as with its natural counterpart, sustainability depends on a continuous flow from sources to points of use.
As sources become scarce, costs go up and the search is on for a suitable alternative. For instance, businesses that require inputs that are unavailable locally at competitive prices, import needed materials from source points further away. And if suitable sources cannot be found, those businesses in the ecosystem that depend on them cease to operate because they cannot secure what they need.
The challenge for sustainability of business operations in their ecosystem is to draw upon their sources at rates that allow them to recharge, or slow their use so as to not exhaust them, or provide a window of time large enough to find suitable substitutes.
In the context of a community whose members have basic needs that must be fulfilled daily, the availability of water, food, housing, etc. becomes significant in terms of THEIR sustainability. The sustainability challenge is similar to what businesses must confront only with the caveat that the distance between life-giving sources and community members who depend on their delivery imposes another level of dependence and urgency. Localization, then, closes this distance gap and reduces dependence and anxiety levels.
With the general explanation of terms in mind, the purpose of this overview is to help community members “see” the various elements of their business ecosystem in relationship to one another as a first step in taking action to localize.
Slide 1 lays out the basics for a localization framework that, in effect, ties source points on the left to downstream use points and markets on the right.
Slide 2 outlines value-added (see USDA definition in italics below) functions that are central to the business ecosystem. This includes stages of production, processing, and preparation, installation, construction as well as the flows of energy necessary to make the conversions in each stage, and the waste management flows that seek to recharge sources with what is not used, repurposed, and recovered during conversions and consumption.
Agricultural product that has undergone a change in physical state or was produced, marketed, or segregated (e.g., identity-preserved, eco-labeling, etc.) in a manner that enhances its value or expands the customer base of the product is considered a value-added product.1
Slide 3 highlights a distribution and logistics system that manages the shipping and storage of material as inputs and outputs on their way to various markets. These functions are non-value-added given the USDA definition of “value-added” (see definition in previous slide).
Slide 4 targets those data-driven services that provide a virtual representation of the material side of the business ecosystem. Asset maps utilize a graphical user interface to capture all relevant data about participants in a business ecosystem so they are easy to see; ecosystem models readily demonstrate the dynamics among business ecosystem participants and generate likely scenarios about how to improve the efficiency, performance, and sustainability of the business ecosystem; information flows deliver real-time, continuous, detailed overlays and insights into the behaviors of preferred ecosystem models upon their adoption; and decision support provides an information-enriched knowledge commons for business ecosystem participants to access and apply in their decisions.
Slide five identifies the three main service areas that influence the larger context in which the business ecosystem functions. These three hold significant implications on the cost to adopt a different business ecosystem model, such as one dedicated to localization of the food system. The current globalized food system is held in place by entrenched legal, capital, and education institutions. To localize requires changes in all three. This means confronting major inertia.
Slide six posits governance as the backdrop for change in the system. Governance is the process by which laws, codes, rules, regulations, and curricula change. And that changes the legal, capital, and education institutions. And that expedites the localization of a business ecosystem. Governance provides fair and impartial incentives for community members to participate in localization by playing a diverse array of roles and exercising certain responsibilities, delivering value, and building on their reputations.
Slide seven illustrates the complete localization framework as a “map” that can be tailored to the specific circumstances of a community and its business ecosystem.
And that sets up the second posting in this series which shows how community members can use this framework to guide their localization strategies. Stay tuned…
Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development by Steve Bosserman on Saturday, August 18, 2012