Protect the Seed

The first thing that keeps on stirring in my mind is this: you want to be as big as email? You want to change the model of Economy?

Well then start building on what you have so far, do all it takes to protect it and don’t take anything for granted.

  • Do not forget you're amazing: this is not about a scrappy start-up. The Economy App is THE winner of the EU Social Innovation Prize. This is really appealing. Play on it, use the contacts, keep the momentum and use whatever you can to get the best outcomes from the negotiation procedure with the hosting commnuity (whether it be Matera and/or another city or an online barter community).
  • Do not take anything for granted: you might be used to the Economy App because you're plunged in it for quite some time, but most people have never heard of it and in their eyes it's THE winner of the EU prize, and the first algorithm that figures out how to manage network barter.
  • You are giving the opportunity to host the first networked barter community, not the opposite: do not underestimate the appeal of this EU Prize, the interest of it being the first social prototype and the trend of social innovation. You are offering an existing platform an incredible chance to position itself in an innovative way or giving a city a great potential to solve issues linked to market exchange. Put all the chances on your side to negotiate all you need from your counterpart. Which means, first of all, figure out what you need very clearly.
  • Do not be scared to raise the bar of requirements, when needed: map out all the resources that are needed to seed and grow the local barter community. Another thing you do have on your side is that it's not about asking for money (although it's always welcome, to a certain extent). It's about services and human resources: that's stuff a city council can get you. Media partners, communication, service-design, visibility, recognition. It's about facilitation more than financial support.
  • Bear in mind the balance between revenue and social impact: bootstrapping is the 1st step, but is it sustainable on the long run? If it's not about fundraising (in the beginning), what is the mechanism to keep it sustainable not only for you (% of the turn over in barter + € which circulate) but for those who will collaborate and commit to this?
  • You can choose: Matera is not the only place. It is important for negotiations: you can go in other places. Keep in mind that developing the local barter community there will determine some of the choices. Scaling, when correlated to density, will be harder in an underpopulated region: What does your coutnerpart give you to counterbalance this difficulty? Internet penetration is limited, therefore you will have to develop a mobile application: this means time, skills and resources you will have to take away from something else. So, here again, what does your counterpart have to say on this? Also, you will be creating a new mentality, but this will need effort and translation (not only language issue): you could be doing this in London or infiltrate other existing online barter networks. This is the kind of negotiation I would go through, of course in order to get what you need. So, what do you need?
  • Network bartering is (also) about community sustainability: can you demonstrate the need? All innovations are disruptive in the value chain, but not all are capable of pinpointing whos toes the innovation will be trading on. These toes will be different depending on where you will seed the community: do you have a good vision of the local user community? If not, what do you need (in terms of community development and management) and what are the ways to understand from now potential end users?
  • Social prototyping is about impact assessment: do not be scared to change your strategy in function of what the data tells you. "Fail faster, succeed sooner": do not underestimate the importance of benchmarking and reporting. What tools are needed? What is the time sequence you are giving yourself? What are your objectives?
  • Community development is one of the steps of the growth strategy, not the final objective: what comes before, what comes after?
  • Who are your allies? Whith whom will you want to build a coalition? On what terms? Matera2019? Volunteers?

So here comes the time sequence, IF this is going to happen in Matera (as I said, I really wouldn’t take stuff for granted: this is about making the Economy App work)

  • From now until end September: CALL + NEGOTIATION + COLLABORATION FRAMEWORK. Work on the call as if nothing else existed : the Winner of the EUSocInn Prize Economy App is searching for a community to be embedded in. It's not about money, it's about finding the most fertile land possible to plant the seed and grow it. What do you need?
  • October: service-design, communication strategy, team building
  • November-December: soft launch
  • January: build on significance of subscribing during January (all the people who do it get something). They arrive on the platform and the softlaunch will already have created some traffic.
  • February - July: social prototyping

What expertise is needed to manage the innovation? The heavy way…

  • 3 developers
  • 1 service-designer
  • 1 communication & marketing expert
  • 1 translator
  • 1 community development
  • 2 community managers
  • 1 accountant
  • 1 fundraiser
  • volunteers

One could start testing Matera in the following ways:

  • post a mission on the community and push through SM to get answers to question on what community could best be the end-user of the Economy app: what is the need?
  • Facebook can be another good way of asking the question (if this is done by someone with a good reputation)
  • Letter written to Committee: this is not about the unMonastery, this is about the Economy App. It has, in my view, a different procedure.
  • The community mt2019 has already 200 users. They could be the first to test the Economy App: but I find this premature, and I don't believe that there is a strong need (organizing events, yes but...)
  • Allies such as Angelo Tosto (the Berlusconi guy that owns both football and local TV)
  • Think about small companies
  • Old people which could get some care by swapping what they don't need anymore. However limitation with the Internat penetration.

1 Like

New scenario

Ilaria, this is such a blend of your own perspective and things we heard at Nesta – many thanks for the writeup. After you proposed that Matera might not be the ideal place, I have started to rethink the whole launch strategy. The intermediate outcome is the following scenario, and I’d appreciate your honest feedback for it:

The reasoning is that the ideal first users (Internet-savvy, resourceful persons similar to “makers”) are quite scarcely dispersed. But the application includes bartering of immaterial, digital goods and services (and Fiverr proves that a trading platform for digital services can work great). So it becomes an attractive idea to start the first community non-locally, pulling together the first users from all over Europe. This can provide a critical mass already, and avoids the problems and long-term obligations of starting at one specific location.

Step by step it might look like this:

  1. 2013-10-01: Start to build a web-based community. We would start from our pre-launch list, reinforced by press work on sharing economy sites, and it seems to me that Edgeryders could also profit from bartering digital goods and services (web dev for translations, anyone?). Growth will be slow at the start (good to work out remaining issues) and this way of scaling might top out at 200 users after 2 months.
  2. >2013-12-01: Scaling through the networks. According to the feedback of Wingham Rowan at Nesta, this (and not approaching individual users directly) is the fast mode to scaling. At first, we want networks of Internet-savvy resourceful persons, then more and more moving to networks with economically excluded people who potentially need some encouragement and instructions to start providing own products and services for barter. Practically, I am willing to travel nomadically between European and Nothern African cities ... with the truck :-) ... to introduce and demonstrate the platform to network representatives in person. Where applicable, I would also do physical outreach actvities, which can have amazing results at times (German maker platform DaWanda has a story about handing out flyers at a university, getting 100 users in an afternoon even though they did not expect it to work with students at all ...). But going through networks is better in general, which means travelling between European metropoles.
  3. 2014-02-01: 500 users reached. For bartering digital goods and services.
  4. 2014-02-01 to -05-31: unMonastery interface project (optional). The main purpose is to gather gather feedback and real-life usage experiences from Materans (esp. valuable because it's a not-so-fertile place for its usage, it seems) and to demonstrate the potential to the citizens. The idea is to trade goods and services between unMonasterians and Materans – and since the unMonastery would pose as a single unit and can use and offer a lot of things and services, this is an ideal way to make barter work in a small local group. After unMonastery is over, I would not stay in Matera, but those in Matera who came to like the platform would be welcome to use it further, of course: since there are some hundred other users from all over Europe, it will be basically useful to them even when the unMonastery is gone. Reaching 200 people in Matera would be a nice success already.
  5. 2014-12-31 Sustainability reached. With our current business model, the lower bound for a team of three would be for example 1000 users who trade for 300 EUR monthly each.
  6. >2015-01-01 Focusing on educating potential users. This would still happen "through the networks", but is a slower process, as it's basically about educating people so they can become users. Like by integrating with makerspaces, which help people to abandon a consumerist mindset and focus on what they can provide in Economy App for barter exchanges with just the resources they have at home. While this is clearly needed for making an impact on unemployment, it is much easier to focus on this after reaching financial sustainability than before ...