Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome to my World: The adventure begins. Stage 1. Mobilize.

Now that I've found a way to structure and test my ideas through Business Model Generation (BMG) and Customer Development, this is my first jump in the biggest pool I've ever been to until now. 

So the first stage of the BMG is to mobilize a team and sketch the first idea into a BM canvas (see below). This first canvas is only a set of hypothesis, so let's go through it:

Value Proposition

a) Background:  My value proposition comes from a visceral personal need that I believe is very common. I want to make a living out of what I love doing. And 'make a living' does not necessarily translate to make money. We'll uncover that sometime in the future. I want to work in what I love and I do not want to sell time that can be used to create awesome things, into inefficient and meaningless jobs. I am not going to sell my freedom!! But, I also have to be realistic, and I need to provide for basic needs efficiently in a world that is over-dependent on money.  Visceral!! I can't think of the possibility to work without personal, intrinsic, heartfelt motivation. Money as a motive is an illusion to me. Money as a tool is that, a tool and I welcome it as a temporary resource.

Now, if I project that need onto my communities, this is what I get. In groups like Transition Brisbane and BrisLETS, it seems that people want to do things but can't because they spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week 'working'. Then they go home, and the last thing they want to do is go to a meeting to discuss things that don't seem to go anywhere. The problem is, that these meetings of exploration and chaos must happen. The groups need to discover what are their members passions, ideas and more importantly, who are their members. I believe these connections need to happen before and while the groups deploy plans and actions. How can we set time aside to do this and not having 12 hours days?? Identify the needs of the community and create business out of them. 

Offer: Fun, inspiring, motivating and action focused workshops where the [specific] community or organization will explore their individuals passions and visceral needs, prioritize them, gather them together in clusters of possible projects and create their first business model for their ideas. With each cluster having a sketch Canvas, the community can now focus on the top priority project and launch a pilot project to test hypothesis and follow the concepts of BMG and Customer Development. Imagine the top priority project is 'local food production' and let's say that they finally have a business model and they start producing food locally. The members of this group can now make the decision of working 3 instead of 5 days a week in their official workplaces, because now they can make a living out what they love doing and ideally, in the future, the business will scale to a point where they don't need to mainstream-work anymore. Now they work locally. The local community is now certain that their community is producing food for them. So now the next project in the priority list can be addressed. This is not to say that various projects cannot be handled simultaneously, it just makes more sense to me to start with one pilot project and learn as much as possible from it so that lessons can be applied to the next one, rather than making similar or same mistakes at the same time in different projects, using more time from more people. In fact, if there is only one pilot project, lessons learned can now be applied to a couple of projects in the next level of priority, making it an iterative and scalable process.

In the end, the specific community or organization will have access to what they need, because they were the ones who discovered, prioritized and created the value to address their own needs. I dream of the day when, while needs are being increasingly and locally satisfied, the organizations and/or communities can start using local currencies and put official currencies to work for other purposes (redistribute them). A visualization to how this may happen is here, although the story needs to be reconfigured to the context of this post.

b) Background: Another personal need. I can't develop the contents for a workshop like this, and develop the whole idea, all by myself. Does anyone else share my visceral need and value proposition hypothesis?? Well, then you can come and be part of this whole thing and we'll learn through action and mutual support.

Offer: Co-creation of the workshop project and shared BMG learning. We'll follow the structure of BMG and will apply it to/test it in our own communities. I'm offering a community of practice for BMG.


a) This business model would ask Transition Brisbane and BrisLETS members. But my hypothesis so far, is that this model can be applied several times to all communities and organizations that have the same main need explained above. The common trait in this organization and communities is, however, that they have to be somewhat involved in re-localization movement. Why?? Again, it is a visceral and personal perception. I believe in re-localization from all its perspectives.

b) All possible co-creators. That is, those who share the (a) value proposition. I believe most of these members are within the complementary currency groups and those working on localization, open source anything and p2p initiatives.


a) It seems a bit early to say how exactly we may keep continuous communication with the community organization we'll present our workshop to (in my case, Transition Town and/or BrisLETS members).

b) How will I keep the work and communication going with co-creators?? I'll use BetterMeans because, to me, it has all in one place, it is like an online office. We can keep track of conversations, discussions, new departments can be created instantly...I want to explore the huge potential I see in it. So far, I have created the workstream called 'business model for community organizations', and I will create one subworkstream per step of the BM design process. So far, I started the first sub-workstream, which is the Mobilize step. You can have a look here, but to contribute you need to sign up (you can use your gmail account if you have one), and to join the team, I need to send you an invite to the workstream, so let me know (


a) The logistics of organizing and delivering the workshop 

b) All the material I/we need to immerse myself/ourselves in this project (research), and I would like to develop a membership scheme that would work as a revenue stream for the workstreams in BetterMeans. That is, co-creators may have to pay a membership fee which would not go to anyone's account, but to the NEH's account, and from it, anyone who belongs to the workshop workstream would be eligible to be compensated for their work as co-creators. More on how this membership system may work, here (look for the 'Funding' section of the post). The development of this membership scheme involves a cost.


a) The workshops
b) The co-creators membership scheme

Key activities:

a + b) Develop workshop contents and presentation
b) * Develop Membership Scheme
     * Management of the BetterMeans workstream

Key Partners: 

The Truthology Foundation has experience in setting up membership schemes in a similar fashion to the one I have in mind. Another key aspect of partnering with them, is that they have experience in helping out setting organization's bank accounts that can help to serve the purpose of what I am proposing here (using one account but being able to compensate others from it)

Here it is the synthesis of what you just read. This is the canvas of the first idea. Here is where, hopefully, the adventure begins.  You can make comments directly on the canvas if you want, but you need to sign up to the website, although you can have a look at the canvas without signing up, by clicking here

If this actually mobilizes a team, then I would amazed at how the BMG process started much earlier than I thought it would, which is pretty exciting. Also, I have to mention that the more I write, the less space for cost/price/revenues thoughts are left in this idea. I feel that this project may lead to communities that, if all their needs are addressed locally and passionately, then why would we need any type of money at all to do what we want to do?? It feel as if money as a reward can be replaced by a system for acknowledgement or community thankfulness. But I am aware that at the moment, a transitional step needs to be put in place, and nothing better than using a currency that is familiar to all to create this transition, that is why I am interested in the membership scheme, because I believe that a community, in this case the community of co-creators, can put money to circulate in different ways than the mainstream ideals of business.

Could it be that a system for acknowledgement and community thankfulness would be the next definition of money?? No rewards, no punishment, only thank you's....???

Next post will be the last of these series. What a journey. I'll talk about lessons learned from this commitment.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Welcome to my World: Back to business

So far 3 ideas: An online platform for social action and localization and, an educational program to turn passions into businesses, both within a financial organization that aims at redistributing existing official currency and fostering the establishment of local currencies....complicated. How to organize an idea into something tangible?, how to present that idea? how to put a team together and engage them? Kind of very late I realized that an entrepreneurial focus would give me quite a few ideas. I knew that talking about a new financial institution was an entrepreneurial idea and I did suggest to generate a business model for it, but little did I know about the implications of it and the amount of reading and confusion I would have to go through. So, I've been reading quite a bit about, yes, business.

I mentioned that the online platform and the educational component could be products of the organization. I have been reading Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, which asked me, among many other things: what is your value proposition?? For someone who is involved in business this question may be more than obvious, but for many of us who are trying to make a dream come true, this may be unfamiliar. You might have a very good idea, but if it is of no help to anyone, then it is only good in your head. Someone needs to find value on what you are proposing, it sounds obvious but I had never seen it that way. Not that your idea is not good or has no value by itself, but it needs to find someone who likes it in order to be good in practice. I found that this is the core idea behind business: To create value for a community (they call it market). Nothing to do with money. It is about creating something that we really need. I am convinced now that the intention of business is noble.

Normally, when I read a book, I try to search online for the websites that it provides and I find interesting. In that process, I found Steve Blank, author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany. He is delivering a lecture on entrepreneurship using Business Model Generation concepts + the concepts he developed in his book (which I haven't read yet), which basically say that the reason for failure in most start ups is that they develop a business plan but lack the actual customers, which happens because we develop products that we think people need, but we don't go out and validate with them whether they actually need them or would buy them as they are. I think this is how we ended up manipulating needs and making use of advertising, planned obsolescence and so on. If we create something we guess is a good thing to make money, without asking our potential customers if they need it or not, we end up doing whatever we can to make them buy (in).

From what I understand, Customer validation and Customer discovery (Steve Blank's concepts) are about developing your business model and 'getting out of the building' to test all the hypothesis you are making. The business model is just a set of guesses, is what you think would work. So you go out and test it on field, ask your potential customers if they would buy, and ask what they would change about it. Then you come back to the building and adapt the business model according to the feedback.  This is an iterative process, that is, a process that you do repeatedly and the outcomes retrofit the business model. It allows you to develop both a product and a business model that adapts to real needs while at the same time you are gathering your customers, letting them know that you are there working on something that they want, they will buy when you launch because you made it for them.  

But all this vocabulary...customers, is kind of dry and it doesn't really mean much to me in the deep sense. I then need to get back to 'who am I doing this for in the first place and, do they need it, really?'. This whole effort started because a need of my own. I want a world where we don't struggle for money anymore and I need a space where I can get together in action with others who, in the same or other ways, can contribute to that in anyway we feel like it. So the motivation is not the plain 'to make money', but to make of money a tool of abundance and a catalyst of social action, rather than the obstacle and promoter of scarcity that it currently is. 

Who has been in my mind all this time that I've been trying to develop these ideas? From general to specific: The entire world, 'developing' countries, Colombia, and because I don't live in Colombia anymore, the transition movement and LETS in Brisbane. I guess some would have said that Transition Brisbane and Brislets are my market segment. I think they are my communities. Other members are not my potential customers, they will be users and will have access. So when Steve Blank talks about customer discovery and validation, to me that really comes down to/means community trust building and co-creation. And the product(s) are not for them to buy, but for us to use.  From the old-school business way of thinking, it sounds like an outsider (corporation/industry/business and maybe entrepreneurs as well) comes and tells me that something seems wrong with us and they're trying to find out what it is so that they can make money and we can solve the problem they think we have. From my perspective, I am part of the community that I am trying to solve an issue for. I don't want you to buy, I want us to overcome our barriers and limitations to do what we are really passionate about. Whatever it is that we come up with to do that, will create value to our community. Then, we will have created a product and in the long run, we will be a business, or even a corporation if you wish, in very different terms to the current ones.

So back to step one pretty much, I have to structure my business model, which is, my needs as a member of Transition Brisbane and BrisLets, and my hypothesis/guesses of what can be done to create value, that is, what can be done to meet those needs. Once I have that structure, I'll 'get out of the building' and look for other members' needs and their hypothesis. I am not sure if the pool of needs and hypothesis will be too diverse, but I guess the pattern would be to group those who are in a similar path to mine, maybe posing question would reduce the risk of 'too much diversity=stagnation'. And from then, knowing that we have real needs, we would proceed to develop a product for our own use. Agreeing on how we can develop that product will be interesting but, the whole idea of this post is to indicate that  the business model generation + customer development approach, seems very helpful to tackle this issue. Can Transition Brisbane and BrisLets use a business approach as the method to bring ideas into actions to meet the needs of the community??

This is the process to design a business model that I'll follow and, as you will see, I am in the early part of stage 1 (Click 'menu' on the left hand side and select full screen so that you can read properly):

Also, this business model generation, suggests to use a MODEL CANVAS, which is a tool to use common language.  So that you become more familiar with my business world, here is a very easy to follow presentation, very visual and succinct about it all, and it includes the Canvas thing:

Creating Start-Up Success
View more presentations from Alexander Osterwalder.

It looks like I have the right material to work on a presentation and workshop to explore these needs/hypothesis and product development. Let's see how this keeps unfolding. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome to my World: My world II

Educational Component

Program Vision: Each human unfolds and develops his/her potential to use his passion as a tool for the betterment of the world, backed by a community that offers him a safe space, experience, exposure as well as emotional and financial support, through holistic educational means.

What's in there for you:

Economic crisis and pressures such us unemployment, mortgages, debts, rent, providing food and clothing for family, take people as far as to commit suicide. I believe this is non sense. 

The Open Enterprise Manifesto from BetterMeans reveals that "85% of people in America are disengaged from their work" and, that "70% of Americans have start up an idea but only 4% follow through with their dreams". What if you could use unemployment as an opportunity to unfold your passion, translate it to an idea, follow it through until it becomes a project and it lastly becomes the job you can engage in?? You are not unemployed and  already have a passionate idea but do not know how to overcome the barriers??

It seems to me that people's passions come out of the desire to solve a big issue. This issue hurts, it is emotionally painful. This fact normally makes their passion a social cause. A passionate idea is attempting to help the world in order to vanish the personal pain. Most entrepreneurs, including the so called social ones, seem to agree that the main barrier for them to work on is the monetary one. There is always the question of, it is a good idea but you need money to make it real.

Money may be a barrier but is not the only one, and certainly not the most important. For those who have no business experience whatsoever but have a good idea, just putting the idea down is a hard task. And how about you think you have decided what you want to do and a couple of months later you realize that the idea is moving somewhere else?? 

Others, the most experienced ones, have their project ready, business plan is done and they are ready to launch. Now they have to invest money in old school marketing, send flyers or cold-call people and then pray they'll come to their business. How do you ensure your product or service will be consumed?? You need to create credibility in your product, and to create it, you need to be credible yourself, that is, your customers need to trust you as a human being. How do you build that trust and reputation?? If it comes from your passion and your heart, it will care about your costumers. It is not about making money, it is about caring about those you are there for and money will come.

Mainstream way of doing business is becoming obsolete. New businesses are structurally changing the way we interrelate and trade, unemployment and entrepreneurship are a once in a life opportunity to learn about these emerging models. 

We will create a holistic (and fun!) educational program where you will be taken through all these barriers and will offer you the tools and knowledge to make them work on your favor. You will have access to key leaders on different aspects. 



I believe this project requires the generation of a business model, as well as the online banking platform that I talked about in the previous post. Whether they would be integrated in one model or separate I don't know. But maybe we may be able to ensure that we answer what people want to know by researching two groups of participants: 

  • Group 1) You are looking to unfold your ideas and passions and make them a business for the benefit of society, what would you like to know and why?? What questions do you have that would help you clarify what you need to do to get there??
  • Group 2) You are an experienced entrepreneur in any field, or you have experience in providing good advice, or you consider there is something you can contribute. What questions will you be able to answer?? (i.e. I would answer these questions: Why change is good? why don't we like change? what is money for?, others may be able to answer 'how to build reputation systems?' or, 'why do we need new economic structures?')

After or during this process, users will have access to our online office to see in virtual life how there will be a community ready to support them and to help them bring their idea to life.

How can we collect, categorize and organize the answers to the questions posed above?? 
How do we develop entertaining, creative and inspiring ways to deliver contents??


Imagine you contribute to the development of this educational program. We'll use the estimates/reputation/compensation system of BetterMeans. Once the course is ready, we launch it as a membership based course. Revenues will go straight in to the stream to pay contributors. The surplus will  stay there to support the rest of the development. The idea is to create a membership based educational program that would exchange knowledge for members credits (official money) to support the project and its contributors. 

The Truthology Foundation has a tell a friend program where you pay a certain amount for your membership and using internet cookies, you invite people to join. All memberships paid by the people who join through you, go to your account except for the second person, whose payment is received by the person who introduced you, that is, by the person above you, so to speak. It is a good idea and the money is redistributed within the community of members. My proposal is: everyone who joins, including contributors, pays the membership, which goes to the organizations account. We use internet cookies to invite people. The difference is that those who join because of you, would not credit your account but the organization's one. The third person to join thanks to you, will credit your account, which means 2 things:

1) Your membership will end up costing you nothing if you can get 3 people to join. 
2) We need to create a very good program so that people do not have to convince friends with an old style marketing strategy, but it would be natural for them to talk about it.

My assumption is that not everyone will be interested in getting their money back if the program completely satisfies them, and also, that it will take a while to get the others to bring 3 people to the program. That would give us time to use the funds to cover costs using the built-in system of BetterMeans.

I envision this program as a tool to share our knowledge and inspire people to act, not against anyone, but for the betterment of the world as a whole. Observations no judgement, perspective not formula. Forgiveness. A program that takes us from fear and hopelessness to love and confidence in ourselves and our potential team members. The program would widen our community of contributors and ideally, give all of us, tools to engage in action and prepare us to launch branches in our own communities. 

This is how retrospective/reputation/compensation system works.

I am excited about the next post!! The first two (My world I and II) have been about my ideas, the next one will be about using business model approach to get to the heart of them.

Until next Monday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Conversation on the Need for a New Financial and Monetary System.

I am in red ;-)
 Hi Tatiana,

I can understand your position and point of view; and yes it is a HUGE step from where we are today to a time in the future where we live without money. But, as they say, better the devil you know then the devil you don't...How can we ensure that a world with no money will not be a devil we don't know?? We can become as obsessed with more technology in the future as we are with more money in the present. Let me explain why I believe an alternative money system can't work, and why it will only slow down our evolution;

Whether you’re dealing with credits, dollars, gold or anything else it ALWAYS lends itself to corruption. Simply because the more you have, the more you get. If you design your currency to do so, so it will do. To me, the problem is not so much that the more you have the more you get, it is that the more you have, the less someone else has or, in other words, the more someone else loosesThis is why we are where we are today. The system wasn't intentionally built corrupt but became corrupted by those who wanted more! Technology was not intended to do harm and here we are in a polluted world. I think you are talking about 'money was not meant to be corrupt' and I agree with that, but the monetary system we have today was built corrupt. When people put their gold and got pieces of paper in exchange, there was nothing corrupt with gold, nor with the piece of paper or the banking system. It was when the banking system got corrupted [by us humans] that the whole thing went wrong. And the banking system was corrupted with the purpose of getting more money (for the sake of getting more money). It was the corruption of the banking system what made money a corrupting tool, not the other way around. It doesn’t matter what alternative the currency system is replaced with monopolisation will eventuate. What about the system who cannot be monopolized but that belongs to the commons?? Just by simply having a currency of any standard, you are providing an incentive for corruption. You may have a system that is fair and equitable for a time but eventually it WILL morph into what we have today!

Currency also encourages segregation between people, not everyone can contribute! You can design systems for all sorts of communities. Even the ageing population may be able to use one, and the homeless have immense potential with these tools. Or you can design a system where your elders are protected economically by the community without regrets or complaints. Also with currency comes property and ownership, this is exactly why people become alienated and elitism occurs. You cannot have one without the other! Again, it depends on the definition of money you have. Under the current definition, which basically says that money for the sake of money is what we need, what you're saying is true. But if money is defined as a tool to measure the, let's say, health of your community, then ownership, property, elitism and alienation become non can that be good health?? You could say that the less 'units' in circulation,  the healthier your community or vice versa, depending on the design of the currency for your particular community. Money will mean access instead of ownership.

There will always be those who will find a way of acquiring more than others, whether that’s by way of hard work (in that case deserving), steeling, or via exploitation (the current methods by which businesses operate), if it’s a way that allows the purchase of goods or services and whoever has more gets more than it can be corrupted. How about the systems where you are encouraged to keep your account balanced to zeros?? Like most LETS?? 

I believe we are far better off spending our energy on the logistics of how a system without currency can work. What are our basic needs, how can we automate the production of these in a safe and sustainable manner? Once that’s taken care of, then you can kill the currency, the luxuries and everything else we have will find its own way into the system! We won’t have to work them out as people will want more but will acquire it in a very different manner…
Here I think we need to go into deeper aspects of humanity I guess. My interpretation of your words is that people only want more money. To me, people want more of everything and anything. I believe that we are trying to fill an internal gap with external stuff. Thus we relate happiness to money, clothes, toys, shoes, bags, this food or that other, name it. Zeitgeist is very clear that money is not related to happiness. Is technology? is clothing?? I believe that what makes us happy is the ability to correlate with each other but more than that, what makes us consistently and unchangeably happy people is the ability to not to require anything from the world in order to be happy. 

Zeitgeist says, and I absolutely agree, that if we change the environment, we can change behavior. The project I work on, attempts to tackle that by offering a space where you can use money in a structurally and completely different way. A way that apparently has not been presented yet in the way I envision it, therefore it is hard to say that it will or won't work. But I also believe that when you change, your environment changes. When you stop looking for happiness in your surroundings, when you stop looking for culprits, when there is no one to blame for the world not being how you want it to be, then you realize that you can create the world you want. If we change the environment, we can change behavior. Yes...when who changes the environment?? We, therefore we need to change in order to change the is a reciprocal and permanent feedback. We can create economic systems that promote different behaviors, the behaviors we want. All what we have now in the world, has been our invention. Corrupt money is our invention. Prisons segregate people from society because they were designed [by us] to do so, education creates economic slaves because they have been designed to do so, advertising and marketing create zombies/consumers because they have been designed to do so, a software does what you want it to do and you are the programmer,  and our economic and monetary system foster corruption and a more because it has been designed to do so. 

I want to leave this question on the table: If it is so hard for us in this Zgroup to imagine a completely and structurally different monetary, economic and financial system, can you imagine how hard it is for the general public to imagine a world with no money at all!!??

If you remove currency then you remove property and ownership, if you remove property and ownership then you remove the incentive for corruption!

The only incentive left is the incentive to contribute for the benefit of all!!! How about those who kill without monetary incentives but still think they are right?? where is the benefit for all?? How about those who have collections of shoes, pens, books, you name it, without monetary incentives?? There is no money, but I can see ownership and property there. How are we going to tell this people not to believe in ownership and property?? 

Again, my core believe is that we need a system that takes us back to the platform of economic transactions. That platform is social relationships of trust and cooperation. When we recover that deteriorated social membrane, then we, as in, the majority of our civilization, will be able to foresee a world without money. 

This is not about convincing the other about who is right or wrong. I think we all have valid points, I really see that my vision of the world fits into the one that ZG proposes. But I must say that my concern is about too much technological focus. To me the issue is us, it requires an immense deal of social cohesion and cooperation to build the ZG world. Humanity seems to be far from the conscious and cohesive state we need to get there. I am working on removing the fear to a new and different future and rebuilding the social membranes via new economic and financial structures, so that we have the social capital and, individual as well as collective motivation to get there. This is just one of the many possibilities and is one that I can see happening. We'll see what will happen in the future. I rather try and say 'it didn't work' than living with the annoying doubt of 'what would have happened if I had done it'

My 2 cents ;-)