From business plan to sustainability plan
CheFare requires a business plan, but many of us (I, for one) are not sure this is an appropriate concept for the unMonastery, which is not a business. Plus, business planning is hard. Nobody except me has even gone near it in the whole CheFare story. In the case of the unMonastery, it is made even harder by (a) the fact that there are several project going on in an unMonastery at any given time, each with its own different costs, revenue streams, assets and potential markets; (b) the fact that the unMonastery is a model, a template, meant to work for 10 people in Matera in 2014 as well as for 500 in Wroclaw in 2076 ; and © the fact that there is a metalevel, the network of all unMonasteries, in charge of replication, documentation, tranferability etc.
So, we make a sustainability plan instead – just as hard, but at least it does not feel like lying to yours truly unScribe here. You can find the first iteration here – sorry for using Big G’s stuff, but there is no way I can do this without good spreadsheet software optimized for multiple authors. It’s view-only with the link, request access if you want to work on it with me. I have made the following semplifications:
- I am ignoring the meta level (the network of unMonasteries). Reason: the meta level is what the CheFare grant would pay for. We take care of it in this document.
- I am assuming unMon Matera to be roughly representative of the whole UnMon spectrum, in the sense that (a) yes, all unMonasteries will be different, but (b) the conditions of inventiveness, humbleness, vision and hard work for Matera to be viable are more or less the same as for other instantiations. Plenty of instantiations will fail, but if we can make one stay up we will have started to climb the learning curve, just as it was in Monte Cassino for Saint Benedict 14 centuries ago.
Two moves for building sustainability
Now to the meat.
The strategy towards sustainability in the unMonastery, and depicted in the plan, is twofold. One side of the coin is reducing dependencies from the monetary economy: obtaining the use of buildings for free, growing food, reducing energy consumption etc. A major part of this is that unMonasteries have no employees, but only unBrethren, and therefore no labor costs. unMonasterians spend time and effort, and are compensated by the joy of making meaningful and beautiful thing, and by developing new skills. This is accomplished by:
- for each service, estimating the money costs that would be incurred by simply buying these services on the market, and writing them down as actual costs. For example, if the building would normally cost 10K euro a year, I have written "rent: 18K"
- then, estimating how much of it is saved by using non-market ways of provisioning, and writing these savings down as a revenue. For example, in the case of the rent, I have written "stewardship services: 20K". This means the city of Matera is letting us use the building for free, foregoing its market revenue, in return for us taking care of the building, opening it to the citizenry and deploying it for public use – something that the city has neither the money nor the manpower to do. The 2K extra are for small repairs.
This way of showing things has the advantage of highlighting the many sustainable activities carried out inside an unMonastery, while making explicit “hidden” costs like rent.
Once this is done, unMonasteries will still be in the red. Even if they grow most of their own food and produce most of their own energy, they will still need hard cash to meet some necessities. So, they need to produce something that others want and exchange it for what they can’t produce. I submit that unMonasteries produce services for Community-Owned Assets (COAs). These could be playgrounds, makerspaces, mesh networks, geodata like OpenStreetMap’s (which can be used in preparedness for natural disasters). Helping local communities to produce and deploy them is how unMonasteries fit in the social innovation movement. Making money out of them would work something like this:
- a prototype is built. The key resource for this is skilled labor by unMonasterians, care of the unMon itself. Additional (cash) inputs could come from grants (like in [Matthias]'s Economy App), donations or even small investments diverted from the unMon's revenue flow. We know from [CommonFutures] that some countries, like the UK have solid policies to support this. We expect more countries to follow suit.
- once it works, it is demonstrated, deployed and maintained.
Example: farming machines from OpenSource ecology and other sources. The unMonastery could procure and build, say, a mill, and then turn it over to the near-subsistence farmers in Matera, who have no access to credit. This would give farmers the opportunity to transform some of their produce (wheat to flour, and possibly the famous Matera bread), and selling a higher added value product whereas they are now struggling with the ultralow price imposed by agro-industrial buyers. Farmers can’t pay cash (other groups can), but they can pay in-kind.
How you can help
- Look over the sustainability plan and help make it clearer and more realistic – request access to edit the document.
- Check and improve data (many numbers I have inputted are sort of ballpark, just to test the model) on food, energy and utilities. A
- dd more COAs, following the scheme of capital costs for the prototype, and thinking of how the unMonastery could raise revenue with them.
- Do this by February 28th 2014.