#Weeknotes w/c 25th Jan 2021

Every week I do a quick round up of what’s been happening in our world these past few days…

The official standard for measuring a kilogram

Ever wondered how the kilogram came about? It’s really quite interesting.

In the days immediately preceding the French Revolution, there was a famine.

People were starving. And angry.

Food was short, and it became standard business practice for bakers to gradually reduce the weight of their bread only to charge the same price.

So come the Revolution, the first thing the Republic did when it got rid of the Royals, was to standardise the measurement of the kilogram. And the official standard of measurement is actually a lump of metal under a couple of glass domes in a building near Paris. It serves as the global standard for the kilogram — making international trade possible.

This new standard for measuring the weight of something happened to coincide with the beginning of the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution came along fairly soon after. Along with capitalism of course.

I’m not saying that the kilo is to blame for our economic woes or our unequal society. What I am saying is that the standardisation of a measure that enables trade to take place, is quite some invention.

Which is precisely what 28 frontline community groups have done in Stoke and North Staffs.

Up until now, there has been no-one has bothered enough to consider the stored value that is unlocked when a person voluntarily chooses to give their time to a community activity that makes a positive difference. What we term ‘contribution-to-community’. Maybe that’s because no-one has bothered to measure it before. How can you value it (from an investment perspective), if you can’t measure it?

And in numbers, here’s what that measurement looks like:

The standardised measure for contribution-to-community

Measured in units of time, contribution-to-community has the potential to become the foundations for a new incentives and rewards system that matches contribution to entitlement. The more you give (to your community) the more you get. Nice and simple to discourage free-riding. The more you give to your community, the more you give to the common good.

That’s the first innovation: the fact that we the Ordinary People of Stoke and North Staffs (the starving revolutionaries) all agree what good looks like, and how to measure it.

The second innovation is to tokenise it. Hence the shares, four of which are generated for every hour contributed by our unpaid and voluntary work-force. By tokenising it, we can store the value of that person’s positive choice, and make it possible to trade that value for something else of value. In other words, the act of contributing is of value but up until now that value has never been captured.

In the sense that it is a tokenised unit of account that can also store value, It’s a bit like Bitcoin. But in the sense that Bitcoin is mined into existence by anonymous nerds and our Shares are earned into existence by people we know, it’s different.

Together, these innovations have the potential to bring a new prosperity to ‘left behind’ communities. If we can measure contribution-to-community, we can value it. If we can value it, we can invest in it and produce more.

Produce more community? Nice. If more community isn’t the vaccine to the disease that is Trump, then what is?

The exciting bit is that we have two universities in Stoke and North Staffs. Keele and Staffs Uni. If between us, we can create say a National Institute of Standards for Contribution-to-Community, then as a region we would be able to begin to monetise our innovations by developing technology, metrics and standards that drive further innovation and economic competitiveness at organisations from across our region. Proof of concept would include case studies that evidence how ordinary people begin to feel valued and better able to contribute to society (tackling mental health); how businesses can do the same in return for increased revenues, reduced costs and improved profitability (increased productivity); how the public sector can produce social outcomes that include reduced demand for services and better educational attainment (inclusive growth), and how our need to ship stuff in from China is reducing as we recognise and value the need to give back to our planet rather than extract from it (carbon reduction).

And all because we can measure contribution-to-community.

This might sound like a pipe dream, but it’s actually happening. Right now. You probably can’t see us at work. That’s probably because you are too busy in the business-as-usual world to see what’s going on in the world beneath your feet. The world that’s ignored and excluded by all organisations.

What fires us up the most is that we’re doing this with ordinary people. Ordinary people who have been excluded by a system that doesn’t value the choice we make when we give our time to community. It’s the only resource we have to give to community. The economy and society has stripped us of everything else. Including our dignity. But still we give. As it takes. Like a parasite.

Which brings me to The Square Mile. TSM is full of financial service providers — peddling financial capital that takes, takes, takes. Here’s an idea. How’s about taking Burslem — Our Mothertown — and transforming that with some of Rishi’s Levelling Up Fund money (£20m per place) so it becomes our own Square Mile, filled by social entrepreneurs and community service providers working together with the business community to tackle the biggest issues we face — debt, underemployment and poor mental health.

From “Brexit Capital” (as we were coined by the Metropolitan Press of London) to Social Capital. The Mothertown to become — once again — the Mothership of Innovation. Don’t just take my word for it:

In researching a book on the history of entrepreneurship, I have found no entrepreneur more innovative than Josiah Wedgwood. He pioneered world-changing innovations in six critical areas — multiple technologies, design, production, merchandising, sales, and marketing — against which you can measure other entrepreneurs and your own efforts, as well as uncover areas where you can explore potential opportunities.

Ask a northerner — where there’s muck there’s brass.

As a p.s. this from Bloomberg was published 30 mins after I published the above. (It feels like we’re ‘current’).

I’m a regeneration practitioner working in Stoke and North Staffs. People, place, tech — it’s all in the mix!