Local communities are organizing to become stronger together. Described by Allison Arieff as “Extreme Neighborliness” - a concept “so old-fashioned as to seem innovative” - this movement is gaining power as scalable local initiatives are applied to the social web.
Carrotmob.org from San Francisco, and WannaStartaCommune? from LA are leading the way in community organizing for local economic, social and environmental benefit.
Carrotmob uses the power of the crowd to effect sustainable change through local shopping. By harnessing an action that people are doing anyway – grocery shopping - and organizes in a way that uses the power of the group to demand sustainable action. One customer, buying one carton of milk, may not be able to influence their local retailer, but 500 customers, buying 500 cartons of milk, have a combined buying power that would make any local store pay attention.
At no extra financial or logistical cost, customers are secure that their purchases are working for local sustainable good. Carrotmog explains it well: Carrotmob simply asks people to coordinate and plan the purchases they are already making. This model is not threatening, not expensive, not time-consuming, not uncomfortable, not “radical,” not confusing, and not negative. It’s the perfect level of involvement for most people.
How Organized Consumer Purchasing Can Change Business from carrotmob on Vimeo.
SoYouWannaStartaCommune? is providing tools for small groups of neighbors to organize the sharing of local resources to save money, time and energy. They provide a downloadable pdf http://www.wannastartacommune.com/store/cart.php?m=view guide that gives instructions for Getting Started, What's in a Commune, a Resource-sharing Guide, Potluck & Workshop Planning Tools, Simple Organizational Documents and Technology Tips to help you manage and grow your commune.
They too harness the assets available at a small community’s disposal when they work together – Linked back yards or disused land? Room for a vege patch. Limited car parking? Try car sharing. Combined energy usage? Solar or wind power becomes a viable option for a group of housing. Varied work schedules? Potential for shared child minding. These assets are already in the community. All it takes is to come together in an organized way to take advantage of them.
win + win = WIN
Carrotmob challenges businesses to compete for consumer loyalty. As a result, these stores get a ready made fan base willing to support them. Though they pledge a percentage of their profit to sustainable improvements, they increase their customer base and increase total sales. By implementing sustainable improvements to their stores, they will also reap the reward of long term cost savings from increased energy efficiency.
Carrotmob can put rewards in place that will make environmental responsibility the most profitable choice. Companies will do what we want, not because of negative pressure, or morality, or a boycott, or a petition…there are enough sticks out there. We need a big juicy carrot. They will do what we say because they won’t be able to resist the profits.
SoYouWannaStartaCommune? challenges neighbors to pool their talents, assets and expenses to find sustainable and communal solutions.
Carrotmob have big plans. They are using the power of the local to effect small changes in family owned businesses. The power of their movement now is firmly rooted in a block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood engagement. With a little organization, they see potential to move up from local grocery stores, to big shiny corporations. As the consumer communities they create grow larger, the more power they wield.
SoYouWannaStartaCommune? needs to be based in smaller local groups. As a community grows, and the less personal contact you have with each other, the less likely you are to go out of your way to compromise or help someone out. Working in groups based around culdesacs or apartment blocks defines a community and connects them with a strong bond of locality. That said, the suburban commune concept is infinitely scalable as communities form block by block, apartment complex by apartment complex.
Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.
Using the power of the group requires an organizer. Someone who is willing to lead and schedule and mediate. As demonstrated by these two initiatives, there are an increasing number of people out there willing to teach you the tools to organize. To enable you to harness the power of your local groups and challenge communities to effect change. In the words of Carrotmob – to “do it with the carrot not the stick”.
(PS. thanks to Will for the heads up on Carrotmob. x)