Starting with Empathy
During my time in AmeriCorps NCCC, working in underprivileged communities in the Southeastern US, and while traveling in developing countries in Asia and Africa, I met many people who were smart, ambitious, hard-working, and who cared deeply about their communities. Much of their time, however, was spent seeking paid work just to survive, taking whatever positions they could find. Whenever I asked “what would you do with your time and energy if money wasn’t a concern?” people overwhelmingly talked about making the world a better place, and about spending more time with their families and communities. However, they lacked the access to economic power and proximity to wealth that would free them to do what they thought would make the world a better place. Instead they had to think only of how they would make it through the next day/week/month, distracting them from their larger purpose in life.
Having these personal experiences with many people in various countries led me to a conclusion that the scarcity of money within these communities was responsible for many community projects never being started, many relationships not built, and many dreams ignored. Worse yet, people starve or go homeless today not because there isn’t enough food or housing to go around, but because they don’t have the money to pay for it. In our age of abundance this is unacceptable, I thought. We are far from living in an economic system that is worthy of our full potential as human beings – there must be a better way.
The Open IDEO Experience
When I saw the Financial Empowerment Challenge on the Open IDEO website, and a category for circumventing the system, I thought this would be a great opportunity to engage the online community to rethink money and our dependence on an institutional monetary system. I was a little wary at first – would people think I was too far outside of the box? Was my idea ridiculously naïve? What if 100 other worries proved to be well-founded? In short, it wouldn’t have mattered if anyone thought the original idea was a little out there – the point was to find a perfect-world solution, then fine-tune it through creative collaboration and mutual support. The Open IDEO team and online community were supportive, open-minded, and always looking to offer improvements or ideas that led to a better solution in the end. Everyone’s objective was to find a great solution to an important problem, and to help each other in any way possible.
Through the refinement phase many people from around the world suggested ideas for improvement and provided hypothetical examples that helped everyone to keep the idea focused on the real-world human experience. This supportive environment made me feel much more comfortable sharing ideas, incorporating other people’s feedback, and iterating on the idea. It also taught me that our communities are no longer dictated by geography. Instead, because of platforms like Open IDEO we can build globally-connected communities of ideas and action.
Thanks to all the people who collaborated on the idea, Community Coin has become an idea with desirable features and great potential impact. Next we need to make it feasible and viable by working out the nuts and bolts of how to architect the solution and build an organizational or business model around it. Then we can move to beta testing, launch, and real-world impact!
How Can You Help?
Help Build It - Developers who want to help take community coin from idea to reality.
Corporate Partners - Introductions to corporate partners or people who know corporate giving groups that would be interested in donating their points to community organizations that use Community Coin.
Non-Profit Partners - Introductions to organizations that would be interested in using Community Coin to empower their local community.
Community Pilots - Want to start using Community Coin in your community? Let us know!
Ideas for Impact - Tell us how you think Community Coin could be used to help your community!
How Can Community Coin Be Better? People with ideas on how to improve the Community Coin concept, shoot!