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As the months have gone by, I’ve become more and more committed to the work I’m doing on this blog, and developing these ideas and relationships. It started as just a blog for ideas in October, and now has been my portal to the world for sharing my passion with others. Ideally, I would like to continue to do this as my career or life work. As the months have ticked by and graduation is visible on the horizon (December, woo!), I’ve begun to feel an apprehension about what’s next. I don’t want to have to “get a job” – (i.e. do work other people want me to do) – but instead continue to follow my passion and figure out a way to have a sustainable income while doing it. I’d like to think that what I do here – discussing the evolution of technology, communication, social dynamics, culture, business, and consciousness itself – is a valuable and worthy pursuit. From the constant positive feedback I receive here, it seems others would agree. So, based on these observations, and some helpful suggestions from people who advise and guide me, I have a proposal for a business model that I think could work for many of us who are committed to advancing humanity for a globally cooperative, collaborative society.

Ever since my Future is Networks post, I’ve been thinking about how we can better identify our inner strengths/skills/abilities/gifts and then share them with others. I’ve been thinking about what “value” means, and how we can exchange this information with each other that could probably be described as tacit knowledge or wisdom, and how you could quantitatively define something that is inherently opaque. (i don’t think you can, so i’m not going to bother trying anymore).

All I have discovered so far is that the most effective means towards helping people along their path of self-discovery, or helping them redefine their mission statement for their life or their business, or constructing a vision for their future, or transcending past hang-ups and fear and illusions, is all through conversation. I posted my first recorded Conversation a few weeks back, and I’ve seen a tremendous response, both in the comments section, through personal emails and communications to me, and in writeups on other people’s blogs. (i cross-posted two of them here – 6 Tips for Open Collaboration & Guidelines for Engaging in The Conversation). This leads me to believe there is value in these types of generative dialogues, in order for people to clarify their goals and intentions, establish plans and frameworks, and move forward with action.

The conversation is also about creating a vision of the future. The future I am interested in manifesting is about cooperation, and if you read the writings of people like John Hagel, Umair Haque, Seth Godin, and other progressive thinkers, it’s clear that this “Shift” is already underway in corporate culture. Those that want to stay in the game will have to choose to understand this shift and adapt their organization to it, or take responsibility for what will happen when the structure they operate within no longer fits the business environment.

My understanding of these shifting dynamics is that they really begin within, at the individual level, with the ability to shift between multiple perspectives and adopt new ways of operating and seeing the world. This shift in mindset can then be shared with others, and slowly a shared vision is formed, and a new culture can emerge. The shift to a new culture is about redefining the operating system – internal and external. So it comes down to values, morals, ethics, principles, and trust. How do we want to live? How do we want to be? By what means do we want to earn wealth? How can we be successful without being exploitative? How can we live in accordance with our physical and social environments, with Nature and with society?

These are all contents of “The Conversation.”

I’ve been thinking along these lines for a decade, and really working hard to refine my ideas more recently. I’m surrounding myself with a community of intellectuals that challenges my notions of reality, and so my own perspectives are constantly broadened. No one can predict the future or can know exactly what will happen, but I feel as qualified as the next person to discuss the kinds of values that would be necessary (or desirable) in order for a healthy global society to emerge.

In the past weeks, my time has been getting shorter and tighter, as more people want to Junto with me or skype chat or gchat or communicate in some way. I love it, and am grateful that I seem to offer people something that is beneficial. Now, how can I make this my living?

The Premise

I have an ability to speak with clarity, describe things from multiple perspectives, add in some intuition and insight, and at least make you say “huh. i never thought of it that way.” This is valuable for expanding consciousness and seeing a bigger picture, perhaps providing glimpses into opportunities that would otherwise have been invisible. So let’s talk about it.

I will reserve blocks of time every week where I will make myself available for ‘The Conversation.’ I’m thinking that 1 hour is probably a good upper limit time, as a lot of these ideas can be exhausting to work through mentally, and there needs to be time to digest and integrate them.

The only conditions: With your permission, I would like to record and post these conversations, and do a writeup about the highlights and insights I gained from them, so that others can also learn by viewing them. (This again is part of the premise of Junto – when the platform is functioning at that capacity, all conversations will be recorded, timecoded, transcribed, and summarized, so that anyone can have access to the knowledge and wisdom that is shared through conversation.)

The Payment

I charge nothing, and here’s why:

There are two things that I have to offer: time and attention. Both of those, to me, are priceless. And so any money I receive is a gift.

You donate what you feel the value of the conversation was FOR YOU. This is based on your judgement, and your means. So, if you can only afford to give $10, there is no shame in that, just as there is no pride in being about to afford $1,000.

Paying It Forward

Now, here’s the beautiful part.

Because I believe that a cooperative society involves gifting, I think a Pay It Forward system of wealth distribution is beneficial for the entire society.

So, at any given time, I will choose a person that is on the path to empowerment – people who are serious about wanting to follow their passions, have identified what resources they would need to make it happen, and are willing to take the risk of going for it, even if it results in failure. (failure, in my mind = temporary setback, learning experience, opportunity for readjustment of methods for achieving goals).

I will make the amounts of the donations I receive transparent (if the donor wishes to remain anonymous, I will respect that. otherwise I will list their name/organization). I’ll then donate a percentage of each of those contributions to my Pay It Forward Person, and continue to help them financially until they have the basic resources they need to get their business going. Kind of like Kickstarter, but peer to peer. I would then only suggest that the person I have helped would eventually do something similar for the next person, once they are stable. They don’t have to, of course, but that is how this chain of trust and resilience would grow.

For me, the people I will choose to pay forward to will have to also be interested in a business proposition that is “for the greater good.” For instance, the person I have chosen is a local friend, Dean. He is interested in developing a sustainable handmade furniture business. He has been in contact with local tree businesses, and is collecting wood that has already been felled, and is transforming it into unique pieces of art – from benches to end tables to chairs to custom pieces. He has identified a variety of tools and equipment he needs, the largest expensive being a portable sawmill that goes for nearly $12,000. We’ll work towards that, but just helping get the other basics going, as well as a website and an education on how to use the web to highlight these products will be huge. And not only do I help a friend, but I also support the local economy by helping him help himself.

Here’s a pic of a sweet endtable he made for me to show what he’s been up to. Love it!

Modify The Model

So, that’s it. In its simplicity, I think this model has tremendous flexibility to be customized. There are many, many intelligent people who are Organizational Change Agents or work on personal development or coaching who could adapt this model for themselves. A part of this also blends beautifully with the ideas we’ve been discussing about growing our trust networks. When I am unavailable to have a discussion, I can have my list of trusted allies and colleagues whom I can recommend as an alternative to myself. We’ve also been toying with the idea of multiple participants as facilitators and participants of these conversations. So far, I’ve been speaking with Bernd Nurnberger (@CoCreatr) and Michael Gusek (@mgusek555) about the possibility of this, and we’re still on the front end of exploring what this might look like. The more conversations we have, the better informed we’ll be about what each of us has to offer, and what the most productive mix of people might be to have emergent, creative, innovative dialogues.

Anyone who adopts this model can choose what their Pay It Forward part looks like. Maybe for you, it’s not an individual, but an initiative. Maybe it’s a local nonprofit. Whatever it is, is your choice, based on your values of what is important. I like the idea of empowering individuals, because I can directly see the impact. And how gratifying to know that you are doing something that has the potential to change the life of a person you care about?

The percentage you offer is also your choice. 10%? 30%? 50%? Perhaps it varies based on each donation. Or maybe for you, the idea of a donation model is too risky, and you want to have at least a baseline charge for your time and services. I get it. Then do that. But pay some forward!

This takes a leap of faith and some trust in the greater good, but I see genuine people all around me who are trying to create something better for themselves, and all they need is some resources and a support network. I offer both. I know many people who do also. I think this is one model that could quickly make significant change in the lives of people all around us, and I’d like to at least give it a shot. It’s a form of wealth redistribution that works in tandem with the “old system,” while creating opportunities for people who are ready to stop talking about what needs to change, and instead be the change they want to see.


Image designed by the awesome Gavin Keech!