New Economy Journal

Bioregions as Economic Neighborhoods

Volume 1, Issue 8

December 3, 2019

By - Andrew Ward

Piece length: 1,472 words

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[1] Disruption
[2] Not the Household, The Neighbourhood
[3] Renaissance in Local Economic Development
[4] Cosmo-Localisation
[5] Cosmo-localism and Economic Neighbourhoods
[6] What Defines an Economic Neighbourhood – Bioregions
[7] Boundary Fences
[8] Qualities of Economic Neighbourhood
[9] Trust, Transparency and Traction
[10] Impossible Until It's Inevitable

[1] Disruption

In a world, poised at the brink of disruption and with the Doomsday Clock at 2 minutes to midnight, the concept of "Economic Neighbourhood" is poised to be the biggest influence over how you get along commercially and in life more broadly.

People may currently favour urban centres. However, the city’s social and economic dominance over livelihood is predicated on everything staying as it is.

Things may soon change radically as outlined eloquently by Paul Gilding's Great Disruption.

It is also evidenced by the existence of groups like Positive Deep Adaption, Transition Towns, Extinction Rebellion and Ultra Rich Survivalist cults.

They are worried about sea level inundation. With good reason, 11,000 scientists ringing the alarm bells.

(Personally, what worries me the most is city-based food systems that are fragile and sensitive to climate change and ecosystem collapses (think fisheries collapses, beehive colony collapse disorder or drought for 3 years across Eastern Australia's food production areas).

Regional areas (I think) get a relative benefit in such a world and that's why I'm not moving back to a big city anytime soon.

[2] Not the Household, The Neighbourhood

The geographic place where you live i.e. the 'neighbourhood' will likely transition to a place where you live and co-create, co-work, co-own and co-govern. The Neighbourhood will become your 'Economic Neighbourhood'.

This new paradigm of Economic Neighbourhood will require better neighbourly behaviour and being a better neighbour is the best thing you can do to prepare for a future where your Economic Neighbourhood will determine so much of the quality of your life.

The English words "economy" and "economics" can be traced back to the Greek word for "household management".

Expanding one’s view of economic development beyond a single household, or single enterprise or single class of enterprise (startup tech companies) to include the all the enterprises in the same geographic area is really interesting.

This is made especially so when you make central to your decision-making the natural resources within an area and the power of civic, physical and digital commons to transform the local economy (more on this later).

There is an economic "sweet spot". Not too big, not too small, but just right for making a big impact.

[3] Renaissance in Local Economic Development

Localism has an economic advantage based on several factors:

  1. Some things are cheaper when the points of production and consumption are closer
  2. "Locals" over "out-of-towners"
  3. Startup costs are now approaching parity with incumbent maintenance costs

That is good news for there are many "essentials" that fall into this category. Like food, which if produced and consumed locally has less transport costs. Or energy, which if produced and consumed locally has less transmission costs and less transmission losses (more efficient).

At the same time the internet has created an environment where the best ideas, designs, open-source software and digital brains trusts can be accessed cheaply (or free).

At the same time Software as a Service business models, remote working and crowd-sourced funding has meant it's easier and cheaper than at any time in history to establish new-entrants in the economic neighbourhood.

In fact the barriers that once protected incumbents from new entrants developing the same "capacities" are rapidly falling away.

It may have taken incumbents like Coles and Woollies or AGL and Origin many millions and decades to establish their centralised systems - complete with logistics expertise.

A new entrant can do this in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the costs.

Distributed "Economic Neighbourhood" business models pose a massive threat to Centralised Oligopolies that dominate our markets.

[4] Cosmo-Localisation

CosmoLocalism is the work of Dr Jose Ramos (and please read more about it here). It's fascinating and important work.

CosmoLocalism can be best explained by thinking of things according to their weight. Are they light or heavy?

Light things: megabytes, data, designs, licenses, images, plans, processes, protocols.

The Digital Commons: Light things are free to move globally, improved constantly through application and re-shared for the benefit of all. You can see examples of this in Peer-to-peer environments like Wikipedia. This is the philosophy of Open-Source Computing and Open Source Software development.

Heavy things: people, food, manufacturing, processing and transport.

Heavy things are best done locally to avoid costs and emissions associated with transport.

Heavy things should be part of a circular economy.

Across the world example of CosmoLocalisation with "heavy things":

Examples in agriculture include the Open Food Network, Farm Hack, Le A’terlier Paysans and FarmBot. In manufacturing Maker-spaces, Fab Labs, Precious Plastic, Open Motors, AbilityMade and OpenROV. In housing construction, including Hexayurt and Wikihouse are great examples.

There are many more examples like the Open Insulin Project which takes head-on the Big Pharma racketeering around health/disease/sickness.

[5] Cosmo-localism and Economic Neighbourhoods

What would your Economic Neighbourhood look like if...

  1. a) able to access the world’s best digital commons (Cosmo);
  2. b) join Enterprises in a bioregion into a circular economy (Localism); and
  3. c) catalyse the power, money, market demand, labour pool of their population of rate-paying humans?

We'll return to this question later again in this post.

[6] What Defines an Economic Neighbourhood – Bioregions

It is important not to define an Economic Neighbourhood by arbitrary boundaries or by the names of organisations and individuals or the colour of the political party in power.

Instead, centre the Economic Neighbourhood on the natural resources of the "Bioregion". What unites a bioregion is the climate and natural resources of the local area.

This definition means that all Neighbourhoods differ because underpinning them is different natural resources, physical, civic and digital "commons".

Neighbourhoods have unique assets.

Each Economic Neighbourhood has a different context in which it operates.

Neighbourhoods do vary based on a myriad of factors such as urbanisation, population, demographics, soil fertility, access to water and year-round climate.

In the future, if the world disrupts unfavourably in terms of food systems these latter factors will matter far more than ever before.

[7] Boundary Fences

Bioregions do not have hard barriers. They are permeable. One "bioregion" may form the headwaters of a river system and another bioregion may form the down-stream community on the same river system.

For these bioregions that share resources, the matter of how well one bioregion behaves as an economic neighbour, can have a direct impact on the neighbouring neighbourhood.

[8] Qualities of Economic Neighbourhood

At one stage, such an Economic Neighbourhood would have been represented by a local-area Chamber of Commerce. These days, Chambers of Commerce play far less of role in civic, commercial and local governance issues. Nowadays they have a reputation of being "stale, male and pale" and not representative of the diverse businesses and populations within a place, but at one stage their mission was to support local economic development.

The Economic Neighbourhood as you would expect is complex, dynamic and in constant inter-play.

The Economic Neighbourhood necessarily adjusts for inter-company and intra-company wealth exchange. As employees for one enterprise become consumers for another enterprise in the same way as outputs from one enterprise become inputs for others via buyer-supplier relationships.

Economic Neighbourhoods are subject to the rule of Holism (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).

A larger view of Economic Neighbourhood also brings in the roles of the "Rate Payer" and "Voting Sovereign Individual" and unlocks the potentials of the Commons (commonly-owned public resources and natural resources that characterise the local area i.e employable people, pooled capital, soils, water, forests, access to minerals).

[9] Trust, Transparency and Traction

Viewing Economic Neighbourhoods as collaborations all bound by proximity is a completely different economic model to the conventional model.

It demands a different system to the conventional neo-liberal capitalist world-view.

It demands Co-operatives according to Evan Thornley (read full speech) instead of Corporations.

"We can start building member owned enterprises using the best of modern social commerce and shared economy platform technology. At 500 households we can play in property and real estate together, at 2,000 households we can build our own schools, at 10,000 our own retail outlets, at 100,000 our own media and at 1M or more, our own banks, telco’s and most importantly, shared data warehouses and member-controlled privacy infrastructure."

[10] Impossible Until It's Inevitable

This new idea of Economic Neighbourhood is emerging.

You may not have seen it personally. But it is hiding in plain sight. Powered by the uptake of CosmoLocalism and runaway climate disruption (already underway) it will be here sooner rather than later.

And the Economic Neighbourhood you are part of will hold an even greater influence over your life, commercial success and happiness than ever before. So choose your neighbourhood wisely... and be a good neighbour.

Follow Up

If you would like to discuss Economic Neighbourhood and how it applies to you, your organisation or your local area - get in touch via Ethical Fields website.

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