In this particular article I aim to build on my previous article on collaboration, and explore the still delicate subject matter of money in the sharing economy, specifically who gets rewarded and who does not. I still see very little discussion of this in the current discourses on the sharing economy, and so I hope that you will find this article stimulating, important and a valuable addition.
This photo was taken just after a visit to Green Books in Dartington when Maria came to Schumacher College in 2010 to do the short course The Economics of Happiness. She is holding the book Money and Soul: The Psychology of Money and the Transformation of Capitalism by Per Espen Stocknes who was one of the course teachers.
The book is a fascinating journey through the history of money from the perspective of both economics and psyche and how these two concepts have always been opposed throughout humanity, for example money or soul, finance or feelings, markets or common humanity.
Per examines the great question of our spiritual and emotional relationship with money, and asks if we can find a new way of looking at, using and thinking about it, allowing us to develop new ideas of finance for the future.
This was five years ago and in this period we have seen a major shift towards the creation of co-creation, collaboration and the sharing economy which I explored in my previous article (A Meditation on the Meaning of Collaboration).
The dynamic way of seeing which we explore and describe in our own book Holonomics: Business Where people and Planet Matter is extremely applicable to this shift into the sharing economy. An understanding of the dynamic relationship between the whole and the parts is an absolute necessity, otherwise you just sink back into ego, command-and-control and what I am terming ‘knotworks’.
It is only when you actually live your values that you can gain an intuition of how the essence of a project comes to presence in the parts. I see a huge amount of ego, people often acting from ego in a way in which they are not aware of how their words and actions and body language are being perceived by others, revealing themselves as counterfeit.
Counterfeit in this instance for me is claiming one objective or purpose of a project or initiative when in fact the true objective is either deliberately withheld, or hidden down in the subconscious.
So bearing all of this in mind, we come to the main question for this article – what is the first question you should ask someone who is asking you to collaborate and share? As you can imagine, as authors Maria and I receive a huge number of invitations to collaborate and share, and so the first thing we look to in the person is the way in which they live their values.
This is not judgmental, but discernment. Discernment is a necessary precaution for protection before accepting offers to collaborate, and the one question we ask, in a gentle manner, not hostile, is where are the funds coming from to support the person who is asking others to collaborate and share?
Let me be clear here. If there is just one person, or a small number of people who will benefit financially from a project which is based on the input and involvement of a larger number of people, then this particular project may not be viable or sustainable in the longer term. People still do need to earn money in the new economy, and so the concept of volunteering and “sharing” has to be examined, otherwise we will just have a more exaggerated economy of the few project leaders and platform owners receiving both an income, adulation and credit at the expense of a larger silent and invisible majority.
If a person is operating not from ego, but from a deep position of lived human values, then they will understand the need to ask this question about the source of their funding. In order to ask this question, you need to have your own understanding and relationship with money fully worked out.
When you ask this question, really be mindful, be present, and look at the reaction of the person you are asking. Much of their reply will be in non-verbal cues. If they twist and turn in awkwardness, then this is a huge signal that all may not be OK, not as it seems. If they chose not to disclose who is backing them, who is providing funding, and what their personal business model is, then it could be a strong sign that you need to walk away from that particular collaboration.
If all parties concerned have a shared set of values, then the next step should be in agreeing a contract, even a small document which outlines the expectations and responsibilities of everyone concerned. Even when the collaboration is one of volunteering, a contract for me represents the embodiment of shared values, and is an important part of the process of developing a joint understanding of the project or venture under consideration.
Contracts do not need to involve lawyers, they could be termed a written agreement. As someone who has had a long career in business development, I am extremely comfortable around the notion of contracts, non-disclosure agreements and memorandums of understanding etc. But many people especially in the area of sustainability do not have a functioning relationship around the development of agreements and indeed money, and I already see this causing problems in the sharing economy.
So while we are seeing major technical developments in relation to electronic money, such as blockchains etc, we need to be mindful of the need to develop our psychological and spiritual relationships around money. If those who are asking others to give up their valuable free time, and contribute ideas and intellectual property that have taken years to form and evolve, are not able to be transparent in their business models and sources of funding, then you need to be cautious before deciding to jump in.
The new four Ps are People, Planet, Platforms and Purpose. The new economy is emerging, but for true collaboration to take place, there have to be both shared values and shared value. Be discerning, don’t let others take advantage of you, and go do some magic.