A business model for peer learning based on complementary currencies

A proposal by Mark Frazier:

How ” to promote resilience in his community, especially relating to education?

… Some ideas for a sustainable, self-organize learning initiatives. …

The approach involves mixing established ingredients – including alternative currencies – in new ways.

The key elements are:

1) (Re-)Introduce the founding idea of European universities ( http://j.mp/ijB7Wa )– whereby students themselves were the ones to hire teachers – to accelerate mastery of middle and high school skills;

2) Identify a network of well regarded offsite and onsite tutors, Internet-savvy homeschools, virtual charter schools, etc. that are willing to offer high quality courses; and

3) As outlined in Douglas Rushkoff’s “Radical Abundance” keynote at the 2009 O’Reilly Conference (http://j.mp/4nvDf7 – video & comment #1), set up a system of auctionable personal currencies (hour–denominated personal “gift certificates” of time).

Student–issued time vouchers could specify the number of hours of that the student committed to provide indicated services (eg research, keyboarding, digital photo captioning, raking leaves, etc) they deemed to be of value.

As an example, a self-organizing group of students seeking to gain competence in a given skill – say Spanish language, animation, or Google Sketchup – would go online to a web site set up by resiliency supporters in the community.

At the site, the students and their parents could review a network of onsite and offsite learning providers, their quality/proficiency guarantees (including validation of student skills via independent tests such as Brainbench.com), and their compensation terms.

Students, again in consultation with their parents, would shortlist the most promising of the candidate providers. In turn, shortlisted learning providers could review the aims and the existing skills of the interested student(s).

Responses by the shortlisted learning providers to the students likely would hinge upon the anticipated value of what the learners proposed to offer in exchange in boosting their skills.

For example, students could offer a bundle of their personal currencies, specifying a certain number of “service hours” – redeemable in specific telework or onsite community services – for the benefit of the learning provider or mutually agreed third parties.

Once an agreement had been reached by the students and the learning providers, the learning could get underway.

As soon as independent tests confirmed the new skills gains, the learning provider could opt to directly receive the services, assign them to agreed third parties, or put up for online auction by for conversion into cash by organizations in good standing with the community.

A benefit of this approach is that it could result in students obtaining valued skills without adding to local tax burdens, and help each student build a track record of service delivery, with feedback-based reputations and project references. The new skills and credentials would help them find jobs in the future – and add value to any time-based personal currencies they chose to issue individually or on a group basis in the future.

I’d love to see something like this take hold in Beacon and other communities on a proof of concept basis. As fiscal strains grow and public school systems falter in communities across the country, seeds from initial demonstrations may take hold and spread.

Down the road, such a system might tie in with challenge offers by philanthropies to encourage new land grant endowments for education in communities. Scenarios for this – and for awakening the value of the sites through targeted policy reforms – are described in “New Catalysts for Sustainability” at http://j.mp/ec8LOK ).

Stakeholdings in such community land grants might grow for students whose skills improved under the new system. This could provide them with assets in proportion to their success.”

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