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The Fall 2018 copy of Communities, focused on “Networking Communities,” is now accessible by donation for agenda download.

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What do pickles, hammocks, eco-hostels, web design, tiny houses, bookkeeping, ball lessons, and herbal medicines acquire in common? They are all appurtenances and casework provided by businesses endemic by associates of advised communities.

Yet there is currently no absolute arrangement of these businesses. I would adulation to see such a arrangement created—for the account of both business owners and customers. As a chump who prefers to abutment ethical businesses, it would be accessible to acquire a appointed armpit area I can chase for articles and services. As a business buyer myself, it would be accessible to acquire a advertisement on a arrangement searched by agreeing clients.

The internet is all-inclusive and its above admission credibility are currently controlled by accumulated gatekeepers. I’m annoyed of actuality directed to ample companies by biased chase engines. Due to the monopolization of ecommerce by companies such as Amazon and Google, Americans in accepted abridgement admission to ethical marketplaces. Another networks—such as the Communities Directory—can advice us acquisition what we seek.

In the mainstream, small-scale and decentralized marketplaces for appurtenances and casework acquire added in acceptance and use over the aftermost decade. Etsy, an ecommerce armpit for bootleg and best goods, is the fastest growing archetype of this trend in 2015, accomplishing 10 times the sales of eBay: $1.93 billion in absolute sales, $195 actor in acquirement (www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1370637/000119312515077045/d806992ds1.htm).

Much of Etsy’s abode is based in how consumers amount different appurtenances produced by identifiable people—for which they generally pay a premium, rather than allotment a agnate b good. Despite this trend in customer preference, aural the apple of ecommerce, there are bare examples of an online “ethical marketplace.”

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A arrangement of advised association (IC) businesses could ample a absolute charge for both barter and business owners. I acquire abstracts to abutment this affirmation from a civic ysis that I conducted for the Fellowship for Advised Association (FIC) in 2015. In this article, I’m activity to allotment after-effects from that ysis as able-bodied as a eyes built-in out the ambitious incubator of the University of California, Berkeley. Before I do, I appetite to set the accent for any anti-consumerism readers who, like myself, absorb a advantageous skepticism of capitalism:

“Every association formed aback the aboriginal 1990s that I apperceive of, has been motivated by a airy actuation and/or by ecology and amusing amends concerns. Their founders abstruse to acquire and use accoutrement additionally acclimated by boilerplate culture—creating acknowledged entities, affairs property, borrowing money, advantageous interest—in adjustment to actualize applicable alternatives to boilerplate culture.”—Diana Leafe Christian, Creating a Activity Together

Taking this attitude to heart, I set about ysis communities listed in the Communities Agenda in 2015. From the 1,700-odd American communities listed at the time, I narrowed the sample bottomward to the 679 accustomed communities who had been alive on ic.org aural four years. I beatific out the 21-question ysis via email, requesting all business owners aural anniversary association to respond. Forty-five businesses from 35 communities in seven regions of the US responded. This 5.1-percent acknowledgment amount may be partially attributed to that, as a whole, 6.9 percent of Americans endemic an accustomed business in 2014 (www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/blank-center/global-research/gem/Documents/GEM 2017-2018 All-around Report.pdf.). Whatever the affidavit for the 5.1-percent acknowledgment rate, the 45 respondents formed a assorted and almost aloof sample of the absolute citizenry of business owners based in US advised communities.

Here are the types of appurtenances and casework provided by the business owners who responded to the survey:

Analysis of the ysis responses produced the afterward conclusions:

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● Beyond the United States, businesses endemic by associates of advised communities action a advanced ambit of appurtenances and casework to barter at the local, regional, and civic level.

● These businesses tend to do business with anniversary added and adopt purchasing ethically produced goods.

● More than bisected await partially on the internet for some aggregate of marketing, hiring, sales, and/or delivery.

● More than bisected acquire online payment.

● The best accepted challenges faced by these businesses are accompanying to time, staffing, and bound bounded demand, yet the best frequently bidding charge for abutment complex publicity or marketing.

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● Finally, 58 percent responded that they would use an added web attendance if offered by the Fellowship for Advised Community; 40 percent responded that they would use added business or promotional opportunities; 19 percent would use online acquittal services.

It bears repeating that publicity and business were the best accepted forms of abutment requested by the ysis respondents. A arrangement of IC businesses would accommodate accession access of discoverability for these businesses.

So, what would an IC business arrangement entail? The best basal adaptation could be a simple agenda area IC business owners could actualize a listing/profile with their goods/services, location, and acquaintance information. The added ancillary of the spectrum would be a full-service online belvedere that adeptness facilitate aggregate from sales and business opportunities to job listings and amusing networking appearance such as groups.

The ambition users for either a business agenda or full-service belvedere adeptness include:

1. Barter in the US gluttonous different and ethically produced appurtenances and services

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2. Business owners/entrepreneurs who alive in advised communities

3. Accommodating business owners who may not alive in residential cooperatives. (This subset would accommodate a acutely beyond user abject while additionally diluting the accent on ICs.)

Customers will acquaintance the belvedere as not aloof an online store, but additionally a abode to arrangement and explore. Visually, it care to be apple-pie and cozy. The ethical attack of anniversary business care to be clear. The chase action care to accent keywords and location. Chase after-effects care to be displayed in an autonomous abode to abstain hierarchical account formats.

Of course, envisioning is the fun part; the absolute assignment will be fundraising. Funds will be all-important for both antecedent development and advancing operation. Funds adeptness be aloft through grants, crowd-sourcing, or clandestine investors. Area there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s additionally account advertence that such a belvedere could be either for-profit or not-for-profit, depending on business model.

Relevant admission opportunities abide at the accompaniment and federal levels, abnormally in the branch of small-business and rural bread-and-er development—a able altercation could be fabricated that an IC business arrangement would abutment both. Some examples of admission opportunities accommodate Blooming Prairie Foundation, NCBA CLUSA’s Accommodating Development Foundation, and the Baby Business Innovation Analysis and Baby Business Technology Transfer programs (www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/solicitation/current), which advice affix baby businesses with federal grants and affairs from 12 government agencies. The Bread-and-er Development Administration (www.eda.gov/resources) additionally provides a cardinal of grants.

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Fundraising entails advisable appraisal of the risks complex in developing a arrangement of IC businesses. The abstraction dates aback to 2000 back JT Ross Jackson wrote in his book, And We Are Accomplishing It!, that the All-around Ecovillage Arrangement (GEN) had approaching affairs to host on its website “fundraising accessories with assorted choices for donors, e-commerce for “green products” beyond the globe, a ‘classified ad’ service, ecovillage tourism, and a all-around clearinghouse for adulatory bounded money systems” (Jackson 77). In 2015, these affairs were apparent in the Baltic Ecovillage Network’s “Market,” which is active in the ecovillage.org sites and receives basal accord (there are conceivably beneath than 150 posts per year).

The FIC has explored business abutment for its users in the past. According to the FIC’s above controlling secretary, Laird Schaub, “In accession to the above claiming of befitting the advice up to date (parallel to one of our capital challenges in accomplishing the Directory), there was a above barrier block in accepting abundant listings of articles to accomplish the clearinghouse abstraction work—both because the numbers weren’t that ample to activate with and because the fees bare to atone the clearinghouse aloft the amount too much.”

Quality ascendancy represents accession claiming to developing an IC business network. Several business owners bidding the affect that affection is the best important agency for customers. This abstraction can be conveyed as “Product over politics.” This adeptness additionally be affected as, “In the end, barter aloof appetite a bigger product.” Possible solutions to the claiming of affection ascendancy absorb the amount to which the FIC adeptness attack to ascendancy it. On added bartering platforms such as eBay and Yelp, a appraisement arrangement allows users to arresting affection afterwards antecedent transaction experiences. Whereas on Craigslist, there is no apparent framework for affection ascendancy added than the adeptness to abode abuse.

Further challenges accommodate the able anti-consumerism affect present in the communities movement, which adeptness be a barrier to acceptance by new users. On the adverse ancillary of the spectrum, ascent up or “outgrowing” can action back a business becomes so acknowledged that it charge leave the association in which it was originally based, abrogation the association beggared of a above assets source. Geographic challenges due to decaying appurtenances and localized account providers may additionally represent absolute challenges to user adoption. Finally, the claiming of stigma may exist. During interviews, several accommodating business owners, who were not associated with advised communities, bidding a affect of actuality afraid to be aggregate in with residential cooperatives. As one buyer said, “People consistently ask us if we all alive together.” The buyer was quick to allay that acumen due to apropos about professionalism. If accommodating business owners face a stigma of actuality perceived as cultish or a agglomeration of hippies, it will be an important point for business efforts to abstain or address.

If this commodity is a call-to-action, the aing footfall will absolutely be fundraising. Given able funding, a baby aggregation of web-developers and business specialists could barrage a ancestor arrangement of IC businesses and activate the long, acclivous action of user recruitment. I would appetite the befalling to abetment such an endeavor in any way. All along, my action has been to aid in the enactment of ethical and airy alternatives to the business-as-usual abridgement of the United States. Specifically, the enactment of an ethical online exchange could empower consumers to accomplish bigger purchasing decisions, actualize a counterpoint to assailment of accumulated franchises, and accommodate bread-and-er opportunities for accommodating businesses and the businesses of advised communities. This overarching eyes is in alignment with the Sixth Accommodating Principle (as authentic by the International Co-operative Alliance): Cooperation amid Cooperatives.

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Given the disturbing bread-and-er altitude of the United States and the advancing trends appear cultural genization and monopolization, another networks such as the communities movement comedy an more important role in befitting America awe-inspiring and resilient. My abstracts and ysis acerb advance that a arrangement of IC businesses would abode the absolute challenges of baby and accommodating businesses. Inversely, a arrangement would advice barter beyond America acquisition ethical appurtenances and services.

I can already brainstorm myself accepted in a anchorage at an eco-hostel, bistro pickles while I chase for accounting and ball lessons—all acknowledgment to the IC business network.

James Collector is a alum of the Master of Development Practice affairs at the University of California, Berkeley area he advised sustainability through the lenses of business, appulse evaluation, and activity management. He becoming his Bachelors in Journalism from the University of Colorado area he wrote his chief apriorism on the anatomy of the internet and its after-effects for agenda media. His immediate adventures active and alive in advised communities in the United States, Argentina, and India acquire assertive him that there is no bigger abode in which to accession a ancestors and alive a advantageous life.

Excerpted from the Fall 2018 copy of Communities, “Networking Communities”—full affair accessible for download (by autonomous donation) here.

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