Maia Maia: A Coupon Currency for Carbon Reduction Initiatives and the Failure of Micro-initiatives

A contribution by Ryan Lanham:

“A person inclined to follow P2P really wants to like the Maia Maia project, and I do, in principle. I really hope it works, but it won’t–in practice. The idea is fairly simple: Implement a carbon reduction club and thereby earn a standard amount of “booyas” which are a currency coupon to be used at local vendors supporting the (hopefully) viral movement.

In practice, there are lots of issues. First, there is no central source of legitimacy to the idea except the idea itself. It’s a nice idea, but it is hardly unique or bold.

Second, we don’t really need to standardize on booyas, and the network of booya takers is not yet a selling point based on established presence—like Facebook is. So there is really little reason to suspect the movement will catch hold and center itself amongst the many possible spokes of (potentially) participating groups.

More importantly, the site itself is clunky and the marketing and component names seem arbitrary–but not in a good way. In a sense it is a bit sad to see these little efforts form without building off of standardized technology or currency components, a base of shared intellectual umph, or links to important existing environmental or social groups. In short, Maia Maia is too small to matter—and that’s a painful thing for a P2P advocate to say about a well-intentioned P2P effort. But it needs saying. Just because you want to be in charge is not reason enough to clutter the world with yet another hopeful but ill-conceived project.

Most of us want to solve big problems—have big ideas. But the real value of P2P commons leaders is in integration—not entrepreneurship. Of course we need social entrepreneurs and big thinkers. But what is needed more are players who build commons—consistent and widely used component sets and linkages that encourage open standards—not hubs. That’s the future that will catch hold. Sadly, we’ll see 500 Maia Maia’s which will make a lot of people as cynical as my mother was when she was continually confronted with a new vendor value stamp (like the old S&H green stamps). Everyone wants to be the hub; what’s needed is components. Please find a group of partners to be in common with…don’t go it alone. ”

1 Comment Maia Maia: A Coupon Currency for Carbon Reduction Initiatives and the Failure of Micro-initiatives

  1. AvatarSam Nelson

    Wow! That is some great feedback. You are actually the first (we are very small) and I can’t thank you enough for your honesty.

    The reality is it is really very hard to get a new idea up and running. There are a million things to learn and if you don’t have a presence, even in a small school, it is hard.

    I have done it before in building a small company into one that performs a substantial proportion of the emissions accounting for companies in Australia. That took 12 years.

    One of our co-founders also started a oil and gas company and built it into a large value junior producer in a similar time frame.

    Not easy. No one on our team has the slightest experience in building this kind of community run organisation, we are learning the technology on the fly and laboriously building our networks.

    But that isn’t a deal breaker because the idea of an Emissions Reduction Currency System is so much bigger than we are.

    For an exhaustive discussion you can see our website (under construction in the odd hours I have available) and blog http://www.themaiamaiaproject.blogspot,com.

    But to be short.

    Greenhouse gas reductions have some inherent properties that make them the perfect basis for community run currency systems.

    1. They are easily measurable (a government supplied factor x your power bill, etc…)
    2. They have a real economic value that to the general community according to economists and scientists must be many times what any government has ever put on them in the face of opposition from vested interests.
    3. They are democratically accessible. Anyone can create value in one of these schemes (using the existing model of discounts given by local businesses to schools).
    4. They are an indicator of good will because a greenhouse gas reduction identically benefits everyone. The US dollar says ‘In God We Trust’ in an effort to acrue good will to the national currency. Emissions reduction currency embodies this good will implicitly, which also makes them universally convertible to other schemes on the basis of shared interest without any central authority.

    In brief, I believe emissions reduction currencies are the most powerful quietly subversive idea I have ever had the honour to be associated with.

    But we are realistic – as you suggest we are trying to work with others now that are more established. The idea is the important thing (which actually is fairly original – I have found few other examples in 2 years of researching and no ideas developed as fully in the way we have). That being said we would be very interested in working with P2P to develop it as a standard tool within your network.

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