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IN THIS SUMMARY
The earth today suffers from many problems ranging from climate change, insufficient food, dwindling energy resources, biodiversity, and poverty. Although the vast majority of human action is based on competition, many of the challenges faced by society could be solved through cooperation. In Co-opportunity, John Grant describes different cooperative solutions to sustainability problems. He focuses on five “bottlenecks” to sustainability, including representative democracy, how people define the “good life,” the relationship between buyers and sellers, the current free market model, and using return on investment as a measure of productivity. Through case studies of different people and organizations, Grant illustrates how social innovators can implement cooperative solutions.
CO-OPPORTUNITY Join Up for a Sustainable, Resilient, Prosperous World AUTHORS: John Grant PUBLISHER: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2010 337 pages
FEATURES OF THE BOOK In Co-opportunity , John Grant presents a sourcebook for social innovators.
THE BIG IDEA In Co-opportunity , John Grant describes different cooperative solutions to sustainability problems.
INTRODUCTION The earth today suffers from many problems ranging from climate change, insufficient food, dwindling energy resources, decreasing biodiversity, and poverty. Although the vast majority of human action is based on competition, many of the challenges faced by society could be solved through cooperation.
A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE? The risks associated with global warming have been well documented by scientists. These range from rising sea levels that will threaten major cities to increasing frequency of extreme weather. In addition to the public’s apathy about global warming, the business community has placed a low priority on responding to climate change.
A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE? Grant believes that people must see their peers reacting before any meaningful change will occur with regard to global warming. One solution might be to invite individuals to participate in “ citizen panels ” where they can hear about the issue and provide feedback about possible solutions. These group forums would reinforce the point that climate change is a collective problem that requires cooperative responses.
RELOCATING THE DREAMS Although most companies think about sustainability in supply side terms, businesses would have a greater positive impact if they enabled consumers to live less wasteful and greener lives. Unfortunately, very few companies have spoken on the issue of whether selling more stuff is sustainable. One possible path forward is to redefine consumerism. Today, consumerism focuses on individualism and isolation. However, it could be refocused on seven unmet human needs: (1) community, (2) reconnecting with nature, (3) lifelong learning, (4) play, (5) crafts, (6) citizenship, and (7) giving back to society.
COOPERATIVE RESPONSIBILITY Many of the problems worldwide occur only because people are not aware of them. Greater visibility into sustainability issues often motivates companies to “ do the right thing .” For example, under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, a Toxic Release Inventory database was developed that disclosed the quantity and type of toxic chemicals different companies released in the United States. When this information was made public, the recorded emissions of toxic chemicals dropped by 40 percent.
COOPERATIVE RESPONSIBILITY Grant believes that greater visibility into corporations’ role in global poverty is needed . Corporations defend exploitative wages by saying that it is not their role to interfere in local economics. Society’s lack of responsibility with regard to poverty is caused by the split between consumers and producers. When companies are under pressure to produce results at lower costs, they often do bad things to get those results.
ECONOMIC RESILIENCE One of the contributors to the earth’s problems is economic growth. Most economists and politicians believe that growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) is central to healthy economies. However, GDP measures economic throughput rather than the quality or value of the economy. Grant suggests that interest rates are the underlying reason why GDP is so alluring to world leaders. To pay back interests on debts, the overall pool of money must grow—otherwise, some organizations will face bankruptcy. One alternative to measuring economic growth is the General Progress Indicator. This metric adjusts GDP to account for the negative wellbeing impacts of different factors. As a result, it focuses on evaluating quality, not quantity.
ABUNDANCE The way we define productivity from a financial and business point of view today is very different from abundance . Modern agriculture turns land into factories that are dependent on petroleum-based chemicals. This intensive approach to crop growing depletes the soil and uses high energy machinery. In addition, large scale industrial agriculture produces less food per hectare than small farms. This is attributable to the fact that small farms raise many crops, making more efficient use of space and grow food during the entire year.
ABUNDANCE In contrast, permaculture is a forest garden approach that promotes the growth of edible and useful plants. Permaculture specialists in Malawi have trained people to grow indigenous plants that do not require expensive agrichemicals. Unlike narrow monoculture techniques, the goal of permaculture is to manage a diverse system for abundance. Nature is abundant and resilient, while profit-driven agribusinesses focus on short-term financial profit at the expense of abundance and sustainability.
A CHECKLIST FOR COOPERATIVE IDEAS <ul><li>Grant has developed a 13 point checklist for people developing cooperative projects. This list enumerates features that are common to cooperative networks and promote the common good. </li></ul><ul><li>Directed . Cooperative networks assume a group goal or ethic. </li></ul><ul><li>Distributed . Cooperative networks have no center or chain of command. Instead, they are led by local interactions. </li></ul><ul><li>Democratic . Systems exist in cooperative networks which enable participants to shape and choose outcomes. </li></ul>
A CHECKLIST FOR COOPERATIVE IDEAS <ul><li>Deliberative . Forums exist so that cooperative network members can share ideas and make commitments. </li></ul><ul><li>Designed . The cooperative network’s rituals and rules are designed for abundance, low energy input, and responsibility for any waste that is generated. </li></ul><ul><li>Developing . Cooperative networks offer learning organizations for participants. </li></ul>
A CHECKLIST FOR COOPERATIVE IDEAS <ul><li>Division of brilliance . Cooperative networks draw on individual contributors, benefiting from their talent and enthusiasm. </li></ul><ul><li>Detoxified . Cooperative networks should reject toxic thinking that works against the common good. </li></ul><ul><li>Decent . All cooperative networks are based on values that are recognized as decent. </li></ul><ul><li>Disarming . Cooperative networks meet other parts of society in a spirit of cooperation, rather than criticism. </li></ul>
A CHECKLIST FOR COOPERATIVE IDEAS <ul><li>Decelerating . Cooperative networks focus on a longer view, rather than the speed that characterizes society today. </li></ul><ul><li>Durable . Cooperative solutions are built to stand the test of time. </li></ul><ul><li>Devolved ownership . Cooperative systems belong to the people who build them, work in them, or buy from them. </li></ul>
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