Paris business school event, Bristol discussion and workshop


A quick report on the last two Community Economy events I participated in on this trip. Two great ones!

IMG_20130607_140556_589On Friday June 7 I accompanied Sybille Saint Girons and Christophe Cesetti of Les Valereux to a lovely business school campus, HEC, where we participated in a day of talks and workshops geared toward connecting social business practices with digital innovation.

First we were treated to a very nice lunch with faculty and other presenters. The presenters included entrepreneurs from France, Wiser Earth, Yooneed, Bluebees, ShareLex, mailforgood, miroDON, MakeSense, and of course Les Valereux.

Many of these groups have very similar goals to ours at Build for the World – connecting communities of practice to share what they’re doing and learn more quickly from each other. Several are also working to shift how projects are funded, tapping into crowdfunding models and more cooperatively distributed funds. The lunchtime discussions were fascinating and fruitful.

After a brief overview of the day we broke into workshop sessions. I videotaped the Les Valereux session and will share highlights after I get some editing time. Meanwhile I’ll describe the great game that Sybille led with the students.

Each student was issued 4 playing cards  from a regular 52-card deck. We were told that we needed to make complete sets of 4 matching cards, at which point we could go get a sweet from the big bowl of sweets, and trade in those cards for 4 new ones. The way to get the matching cards was to swap directly with other players who had the cards we wanted. That was hard! In that round I only won one sweet.

At the end of the 10-minute round our cards were collected and we reported on our experience. Around 20 sweets were collected in total, and participants reported that it was sometimes difficult to find the right swaps to make.

Next round Sybille informed us that she had solved the problem of needing to make a direct swap, by issuing some sheets of green paper that we could exchange for the cards we wanted. But she only gave the paper to some students and not others. Some got 2 sheets, some got one, some none. If we needed more paper we could borrow it from Christophe, who then recorded our name and the amount we were borrowing. Sybille informed us that since this is a good service she’s created, when we borrow two sheets we need to pay back three.

After another 10-minute round we came back and reported on our experience. I got much more candy this time, as did many others. But it was a bit stressful during the times we could see the cards we needed but didn’t have the green paper with which to buy them.

At the end of the round those participants who hadn’t repaid their loans were called over to the corner of the room and put in jail. We also saw that we had collectively about doubled the number of sweets we’d gotten.

Next round Sybille passed around a little mutual credit wallet. It was a loop of paper with numbers between -5 and +5 and mutual-credit-lva tiny clothespin we could use to mark our balance. The limits were -5 and +5 after which we’d need to buy or sell cards in order to trade more. Otherwise we could just mark our cards down or up one whether we bought or sold, and each participant would record their side of each exchange.  After this 10-minute round we had about as many sweets as the ‘money’ round but participants reported having a much more enjoyable time. Noone was in jail at the end. One of the workshop participants felt frustrated at maintaining a positive balance while others were in the negative, but other participants suggested that had the game not ended early and abruptly there would have been ample time to go back and forth between positive and negative, and that the early end was indeed the problem.

After the games in each of the two workshops I shared my experience of the Dane County TimeBank with the students. The questions were rich and wise, although we only had about three minutes for the discussion each time.

At the end of the day the entire group assembled again and students reported back on their workshops. The student who reported on ours gave a very detailed and thoughtful overview of the game (video here) and my description of my experience and ended by saying she’d like to do this in her own neighborhood. That was a happy moment! Again, I’ll share the video of her report-back and some highlights from the game when I’m able.

IMG_20130609_140823_634Next day I was on to Bristol UK which is my new favorite city. It’s very vibrant with lots of street art and many cooperative co-working and commerce spaces for local artists.

The Aro Ling Buddhist Center hosted a discussion/workshop on Sunday June 9, titled “Money is No Object – Build Your Dreamworld”.

About 10 participants gathered and I shared my experience with timebanking and other cooperative tools and we had a very rich discussion about how they could apply mutual credit to the continued success of the Buddhist Center, in its own sustainability and in its ability to connect with the broader community.

Carmen came from Bath – she had been at my talk at the Sunrise Festival and was inspired to talk more. She’s doing a PhD on timebanking and similar tools and is very interested in helping to fill the gaps in available research on the topic. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from her and hopefully working together in some way.

Daithi is in the green building trades and had tremendous insight into how these tools could bridge gaps there. We had freelance writers and artists, people working in the mental health field, and people very invested in the center. It looks quite likely that the group from the center will implement some form of timebanking or may simply take an approach to sustaining the center that taps into people’s individual skills more creatively.

At the end we were joined by Paul Baker, a wonderful man whom I’d met at the currency design course we took in Findhorn at the beginning of our Time For the World project, back in 2010. We had a great discussion focused especially on restorative justice work. He’s now introducing me to a friend in London who is very active in restorative justice in the prison system. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with them later this week.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading