GeoTagging with Google Earth – Put What Your Community Has on the Map!

Every community area has unused and underutilized assets such as vacant lots, empty buildings, blighted properties, discarded equipment, even unrecovered waste in the form of lost heat, materials, by-products, etc. Take your camera phone, snap pics of what you see, and map what’s there. It’s worth more than you may think.

Originally posted to Open for Consideration on Tumblr by Steve Bosserman on September 4, 2010

Does Your Community Meet the Needs of Its Members?

Everyone needs food to eat, water to drink, air to breathe, clothes to wear, a house to live in, and energy to heat and cool it just to survive. And to assure sustainability, add safety, health, and education for good measure. Communities where people live have the same imperative. Either they provide the means by which members can meet their needs or they outsource the responsibility to others some distance away. In the former, communities are on a sustainable path whereas in the latter community survival is put at risk when needs cannot be met.

Needs met is the universal measure of success and sustainability of any community. Does your community meet the needs of its members? To find out, take a quick survey of your community by considering the following three questions:

  • Any community members hungry; homeless; living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions; or are they confronted with no paid work; illness; limited healthcare, and inadequate life skills to influence their circumstances?
  • How do you and your community keep score on needs met?
  • What are you and other community members doing to impact the scorecard?

The answers to these questions speak loudly. If your community is like most, the answer is “Yes” to the first one. It’s almost impossible to eliminate these conditions. However, the next two answers tell the tale as to whether your community is on track to sustainability.

Their order is important. Tom Peters is quoted as saying, “What gets measured, gets done.” As a community addresses the issues identified in the first question, the answers to the second question are calories of food, gallons of water, kilowatts of energy, cubic feet of fuel, units of housing, tonnage of recovered waste, etc. Those metrics shape answers to the third question in the form of infrastructure projects and business cases that deliver outputs according to the scorecard.

In effect, how a community responds to these three questions highlights economic choices made by community members. Those responses can be mapped onto a flow diagram, such as the one below, to give an overview of the local economic system for the community.

In the local economic system above, the drive for local economic sustainability precipitates flows of community assets and work functions that increase in their range of application and depth of value-add as they proceed to a community investment portfolio loaded with infrastructure projects and business cases that, when launched, generate calories, gallons, kilowatts, units, etc., in an effort to meet the needs of community members.

By placing their emphasis on how to meet their needs, community members take ownership for their sustainability. This commitment frames opportunities to charter projects and develop businesses. It also establishes a local economic context for business models that are based on widespread participation.

So, what’s the scorecard for your community? Calories in meals or community gardens? Gallons of water or number of water meters? Kilowatts of power or utility bill assistance? Housing units or vouchers? And so it goes… How does your local economy rate in terms of progress toward community sustainability? Are unemployed and underemployed community members engaged in paid work through local businesses and organizations whose outputs help meet local needs?

These are topics for further consideration in future posts. Stay tuned…

Originally posted to Sustainable Local Economic Development on Tumblr by Steve Bosserman on Wednesday, September 1, 2010

At the Bottom of the Pyramid, It’s Looking Up

A simple application of the Pareto Principle suggests that 20% of the world population controls 80% of global assets, wealth, or resources. Certainly the report entitled “Wealth, Income, and Power” by sociologist G. William Domhoff supports this notion as does the United Nations 2005 Report on the World Social Situation: The Inequality Predicament. The following graphic conveys this notion:

The 80% that have access to only 20% of the resources make choices about their survival and sustainability within a different economic system than those in the top 20% of the socio-economic pyramid. The diagram below offers further definition of these two economic systems. The 80% participate in a “needs economy” that focuses on delivering the essentials of a life: food, water, air, energy, fuel, housing, clothing, safety, security, health, and education.

Because a needs economy strives to meet the basic requirements for quality of life among people in a given area, it is deemed a local economy in that the participants have extensive social relationships among family, friends, and community members. It is the strength and scope of this social fabric that provides the platform for self-sufficiency and sustainability of the body politic and keeps the door open for a wide range of choices.

In contrast, 80% of the world’s assets are marshaled into the design, production, and delivery of products and services that attempt to satisfy an insatiable demand for everything and anything. A “wants economy” is a most apropos label. And because no place on earth is exempt from the compelling effects of its all-consuming nature, it is truly a global economy.

Choices in a wants economy are limited by the means available to act on those alternatives. The lack of self-sufficiency and sustainability garnered from a global or wants economy requires a heavy political investment—a constant feeding of the bureaucracy—to exercise a level of diplomacy sufficient to assure an uninterrupted supply of essentials. At times, the burden imposed upon society to maintain such a complex and bloated political system becomes too much and a sorely-needed adjustment ensues. But such decline and renewal is inevitable in the cycle of life.

Despite these changes, the basic social units that give our humanity expression—family, friends, and community members—persist. They are the foundation upon which civilization is rebuilt and rejuvenated. In effect, these relationships constitute a vibrant local economy, which becomes the bedrock of survival, sustainability, and quality of life. So at the bottom of the pyramid, it’s looking up!

Originally posted to Open for Consideration on Tumblr by Steve Bosserman on August 19, 2010

Adding Value and Receiving Fair Compensation

There are three ways to add value: make something others need / want; provide a service others value, but not enough to do it themselves; and, deliver a totally satisfying experience around a package of something(s) made and services provided.

When I entered the business world in the U.S. some forty-plus years ago, it was all about exploiting natural resources elsewhere and making things in highly, vertically-integrated production enterprises. Over the last 25 years, there has been a distinct split between making things and providing services others would rather not spend their time doing, vertically-integrated firms were decentralized and distributed, and U.S. businesses have “gone global” in an effort to exploit human resources elsewhere. During the last 10 years, there has been a significant uptick in melding a particular desired experience with things and services to provide an integrated, experiential package. The work I currently do with businesses and non-profit organizations focuses on helping them take advantage of this shift and get more efficient and effective at doing the integration and promoting the anticipated experience with customers.

The process Andrius Kulikauskas followed in the Chocolate Project to collect and compile information about the chocolate industry yielded a potential goldmine of business opportunities. These include:

  1. Making things – beans, nibs, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, finished chocolate products ready for retail – up and down the value chain
  2. Providing services such as logistics, inventory management, quality assurance, traceability, trading, etc.
  3. Developing integrated, experiential packages using chocolate as the centerpiece -a posting from Idziak Waclaw outlined ways to think about such possibilities

For that matter, the process, tools, and techniques Andrius used for the project can be replicated in other projects where there is a similar opportunity to merge openness with the proprietary in ways that “do no harm.” Some of the approaches Andrius used in the Chocolate Project include the following:

  1. Working openly / working in parallel wiki where all the information gathered was categorized and posted for the world to look over the participants’ shoulders and see
  2. Focused moderation to keep collaborative energies and efforts in the spaces where the value would be greatest for the sponsor
  3. Direct correspondence with the sponsor to assure that proprietary boundaries are honored

No doubt there are more. The point isn’t to be exhaustively philosophical in what they are, but to apply the ones we can do elsewhere for broader benefit. As an example, currently, I am floating the concept of a wiki to a private sector client wherein key questions related to the business are posed by the moderator. The wiki is organized to “catch” the responses in ways that prompt more questions and accelerate the exploration of those strategic spaces where the client’s business will be heavily influenced over the next 5-10 years.

As another example, several colleagues and I are completing a grant proposal which will be submitted later this month that explores characteristics of leadership in institutional contexts where the key objective is to prompt a higher rate of adaptation and responsiveness within non-profit organizations. One of the major elements of the strategy we are proposing is the use of a moderated wiki a la the Chocolate Project. Our intent is to create an extensive library of information on the wiki about leadership that is open to all, yet we are able to extract and compile specific content into publications that target particular audiences within the non-profit arena.

The bottom line is that this approach can be leveraged / applied over and over again to generate an enormous amount of information on a particular subject, identify potential candidates to participate in a supportive broad-based network, and develop opportunities to add value. However, adding value is only half of the equation:

On New Year’s Day, there was a posting on the Yahoo! Group, Cyfranogi from Stephen DeMeulenaere, about the organization he represents – Complementary Currency Resource Center. It makes a strong connection between adding value and receiving fair compensation. When people are compensated, in part, with a complementary currency that remains in the local community where it was earned, its expenditure continu to benefit the community. The bulk of mainstream financial systems used to compensate people for value-add are extensions of hierarchical and global political / economic systems. They are organized to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few. As a result, when people are compensated solely by these global, federally-backed currencies their expenditures remove the purchasing power from the community to a place far afield from the point of value-add.

Unfortunately, there is no system we can devise that escapes this reality – inequalities among people drive inequalities in access to power and wealth. What we can do, though, is experiment with more locally-based, complementary currency systems that mitigate the forces of concentrating wealth on the global level from draining creativity, energy, and resources from local communities. Andrius’ approach to blending federally-backed compensation with home-grown complementary currency compensation on the Chocolate Project is a start. As this blending is pursued on other projects, the experience base will be broadened and the mettle of the emerging complementary currency systems tested so the combination between the two becomes more robust, scalable, and, ultimately, effective.

Projects born in a social network are only as good as there are participants representing a wide and comprehensive set of perspectives about the topics under consideration. People are attracted to these efforts within a social network by a variety of reasons: alignment on the values the project leader and other participants hold dear and readily espouse; affinity for and commitment to the cause being advanced by the project; recognition for performance which can be carried into other opportunities where more compensation is available; and, fair compensation for value-add. Obviously, the more of these a project offers the higher the likelihood of widespread participation. For this reason, if an alternative to federally-backed currencies can be offered which fairly compensates people for the value their contributions add then, the chances are substantially increased that the creative talent, skill, and expertise in the social network can be tapped. The challenge is to know that we are nowhere close to where we need to be and to keep trying!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday, January 3, 2006