While searching why some itches where scratching in my professional life, i came through conversations, towards a possible interesting economical model.
Before we go deeper into the model, i need to share a bit of my story. From when i was 17, for almost 13 years I’m creating or organizing lots of different organisations, communities, projects & even a company: An event bureau that became an art collective, an online cultural magazine, an opensource hardware project for cargo bikes, a temporary community space, a folkloric group, a tool library, a fermentation shop ,… Every time it was / is a passion project but every time it failed to become long term sustainable like i wanted.
While in the beginning it was more my anarchistic tendency to not want to work for the system, earn like the system, later it was more a difficulty to scale up, or to make it “economically viable”, or that it was legally not possible… There is still in me that part that doesn’t want to conform to a classic way of thinking, but at the same time there is that frustration of not wanting to be marginalized through the projects i’m setting up.
Lots of same like organizations that do great communal work have that problem like private but community based Fab Labs, organizers of temporary space occupation, art collectives,… I find it unfair that while doing impact-full work, the monetisation doesn’t follow. And when you conform to an economical viable plan, you loose the human centered project. So where do community based projects need to place themselves to be able to professionalize but not loose their values out of sight? That was the big itch that was scratching…
But then came a really insightful discussion with a friend and fablab manager who was struggling with the same questions. He started describing the principle of the long tail (90–9 -1) but was adding a second level of community involvement. What he was describing was what i was also searching to create in each of the project: inspire people to care about a certain topic, create vocations and give them a space to thrive while building up a certain income to make it viable for all people involved. When making a scheme of it it looked a bit like this:
I’m not pretending to re-invent the wheel here, but this suits my needs on how i construct projects, it’s a “best of both worlds”. So how does it work: looking at it horizontally you have three levels of possible income:
- Community: this can be in the form of a monthly fee, usage of the space. It mostly can cover some of the cost but isn’t the most profitable on its own
- Workshops: We’re in the age of knowledge, and sharing the knowledge is somethings searched for. This creates opportunities for members of the community and has a good profit margin,
- Jobs: these are classical economical transactions where a job is demanded and an income is received. It’s the most straight forward, but not the easiest to create from the start for community based projects.
On the vertical level we can define the different types of users.
- Client / Professional: These are the most far apart because the main transaction is one of money. They have a practical relation based on mutual needs.
- Participant / Tutor: Not only is there a monetary exchange, but also one of knowledge. Both get a bit closer to each other because of this double transaction
- Member: Finally there is the member of the community that is at the same time creator as a user and becomes therefor one. It’s the core of what makes a community based economical project.
The only thing missing is creating a motion for the user. Being able to start at any stage of the project and climbing up from client to professional. It’s an extra long tail, and we’re not inspiring to transform every client into a professional, but being able to build that road for many to try to walk is at its core the essence of what i thrive to create in any of my projects.
I see in this model a possible explanation of what i want to build: a space where people can enjoy their passion on different levels with the possibility to grow but also just act as the user they want or intent to be. It will not fit every kind of project, some will prefer straightforward job / client privileges, but with project looking into re-inventing the way we produce and consume in an urban environment like tool libraries, fablabs, foodlabs, bike bars, city agriculture, construction projects… it could maybe interesting to look further into this community based economics.
I will for sure dive deeper in the possibility to make this sustainable, and to look at the factors that are needed to succeed in the establishment of such hybrid non/for profit company/organisation/cooperative.