Rachel Botsman: Collaborative Consumption

Access is better than ownership.

-Kevin Kelly

This recent TED talk is a great primer on collaborative systems and their potential to change our approach to consumption. It's now possible to increase the dignity of our Christmas presents by boosting their use exponentially!

On Human Security

As I hone the mission statement of Trustocracy, I realize how well the term human security captures...maybe 60 percent of my interests. Wikipedia defines human security as,

an emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities whose proponents challenge the traditional notion of national security by arguing that the proper referent for security should be the individual rather than the state. Human security holds that a people-centered view of security is necessary for national, regional and global stability.

I might expand on that definition, but not now. All I would add at this time is a talk about security given by Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues. I think her point of view is wise and worth hearing.

Dean Kamen Saves the World

Dean Kamen is an inventor and a great man. I call him great because he intentionally puts his efforts into changing the world for the better.

After 12 years working on these two problems, the engineers at Deka now have their solutions on show at the workshops in Manchester. The first is the 'Slingshot', a large box about the size of an office photocopier, sheathed in black protective foam, that can cleanse water of any contaminant from radionuclides to sewage, and run for years at a time without maintenance. The second is another metal box, five feet square, connected to a bottle of compressed gas, which emits a low murmur of humming energy. This is a Stirling engine, similar to the one installed in his electric car, but large and efficient enough to electrify an entire village, which can be driven by any locally available source of heat. Both devices have already been proved amazingly effective: one six-month test has used a Stirling engine to provide electric light to a village in Bangladesh, powered by burning the methane from a pit filled with cow dung; Slingshot has undergone similar tests in a settlement in rural Guatemala. But Kamen has yet to find a commercial partner to manufacture either of the devices for the customers that need them most. 'The big companies,' he says, 'long ago figured out - the people in the world that have no water and have no electricity have no money.' He's tried the United Nations, too, but discovered a Catch-22: non-governmental organisations won't buy the devices until they're in full production.

Here's on of the things that's broken in the world. Kamen has world changing devices that can't get funded under present systems. Now, that's not totally the case. I've thought of three different vehicles for capital that might work. Anyway...

Just wanted to point out that there's a lot of potential out there in our world. We just have to make it potent. As Kamen puts it, "if you include all the money we've spent on Stirling, and all the money we've spent on the water project, it probably is in the area of $50 million. And I'm a little company, and that's a lot of money. But I believe in it. I just believe in it. It might fail, but you've got to try. Look at the state of the world,' he says. 'It's a mess. What if we can fix it?"

The Article

Empowering Women and Pooling Resources

You may have noticed my Twitter post about Jeffery Gettleman's NYT article Rape Victim's Words Help Jolt Congo Into Change. It was a follow up to an older story, Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War. These are powerful and gut-wrenching pieces that I seriously believe you should read. I do not say this because I think that everyone has to be steeped in the details of the worst atrocities on earth simply for the sake of knowing. I do not believe that impotence is very inspiring. I post these articles first, because they show that concerned individuals do make a difference and second, because I believe more can be done.

Gettleman's latest article speaks of the various efforts being made to address the rape crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some of these efforts are government driven, some local. In the United States, V-Day has an active campaign going that both places pressure on the government and helps traumatized women on the ground. V-Day could use your donations.

All of this is important, but so much more is necessary. The Congo is politically and economically unstable. Also, like so many other places in the world, women have little say over their own lives even in the calmer times. Studies have shown time and time again that societies improve when woman are empowered and that the foundation of that empowerment must be  economic. Personal income equates to personal control. That's why I believe in microlending, and that's why I choose to lend exclusively to women when I use Kiva.

If you do not know about Kiva, please check it out. I had planned to write an article about it today, but this took precedent. In short, Kiva allows you to become a financier of entrepreneurs around the globe. Microlending is a potent force for change in the poorest regions of the world. I know that Kiva has already loaned to businesses in the Congo. Here is my question. Would Kiva lending be that much more potent if it focused on the traumatized regions of the world?

Here is what I would like to do. I want to ask Kiva to send its people into the Congo to set up contacts with the microlending organizations there. I believe in what Kiva is doing. I think their efforts could mean more here than elsewhere.

I am going to draft a letter asking Kiva to focus more attention on the Congo. If anyone has ideas on how best to shape this letter, or has reasonable objections, add to the conversation on the Discussion page. Also, if anyone knows how to create one of those online petitions that multiple people can sign, let me know. Thank you.

Superstruct: Join Me in Creating the Future

Superstruct is the world's first massively multiplayer forecasting game. Developed by Institute For the Future, Superstruct projects a future (2019) when multiple crises are beginning to harm the globe. Players are asked to develop solutions in order to prevent the potential extinction of humankind. Superstruct is running for six weeks.

This project is interesting for multiple reasons. First, as a means for advocating a long term mindset, it is top notch. The interactive aspects of Superstruct do a better job of presenting the human consequences of global change than most of my International Security professors who are teaching courses on the subject. Second, and most promising, this game harnesses the creativity of the player community. It makes brainstorming fun and rewarding.

My idea of the day: I want a Schoolhouse Rocks version of this game. Specifically, I'm Just a Bill. Present the difficulties of governance in a compelling way and make developing solutions engaging. Then get actual Congresspeople to sponsor the solutions.

Alright, off to play Superstruct.