The concept would probably work well for any group of small businesses that want to work together to provide a common brand experience to customers. I picked farming as an example, as farmers tend to have already organized themselves into collaborative networks. A few key challenges:
- Members of the network must share a common set of values. All of the members must be equally willing to give as much as they get from the network.
- Logistics coverage would initially be limited to local areas, as the involvement of a large logistics operator with national coverage would make the costs unattractive (delivery costs might even be more than the cost of the produce).
- There must be a facilitator who helps organize the network and be the brand steward.
In order to organize the members of the small business network, it’s probably necessary to identify the facilitator, and a cross-section of members who best represent the network. Through a series of small workshops, business analysis techniques like knowledge modelling and value network analysis can be applied to extract the optimal communication patterns. The important thing is to create a concept that people can see working as soon as possible, and the goal of these workshops should be focused towards producing a working concept within a few days. The implementation effort would then be around implementing the technological framework and backbone. The average time to get this all working, from concept to production, should be no more than 2 to 3 months.
I’ve been working with a bunch of other technological enthusiasts to make this concept work for the past few years. We recently got the concept working for a network of 50 farmers in the Netherlands. We’d really like to see it working in other places around the world, but we’re conscious of the fact that we might need some transformations to get there. We’d be happy to hear from anyone who would want to realize the concept in other forms, and help us bridge those transformations together.
Specifically for Caldas, we would suggest working together with existing agricultural cooperatives like Alto Occidente Coffee Cooperative of Caldas (CCAOC) to create marketplaces where consumers, restaurants, and cafés around the world can order directly from CCAOC. We believe organizations like CCAOC have a good understanding of the entire value network from grower to customer, and can tell us which participants currently create or reduce value. This value network must extend to the local communities in Caldas that directly or indirectly support agricultural cooperatives. Perhaps CCAOC already have an understanding of the nature of the value they want to create (better products, better relationships, better transparency, fairer prices for growers, etc.), and this value creation will create a better brand experience for consumers. The network should also understand its role in creating value structures in Caldas from the onset, so that the goals of the network aren't reduced to creating wealth opportunities for a few farmers. Good products are created in stable and supporting communities, and building a complete agricultural network would need to consider how the local community beyond the agricultural cooperative contributes, supports, and receives value.