Thomas Diener’s proposal for a FairWare system

From an extensive discussion about the possibility of a infrastructure for Open Hardware stores, at the p2presearch mailing list.

Thomas Diener:

“I’ll can send a more structured text within the next few weeks but it will be in my very simple English. If somebody would like to translate from German into English it would make my job much easier.

I just start with a kind of sketch:

We would like to design a new way to develop and produce products. The vision is:

Imagine all products we purchase and use contain the following quality features:

– functional – worthwhile – durable – fully serviceable – easy to keep up-to-date (acc. techn. products) – fancy – positive ecobalance

Imagine that in such factories, where above described products are manufactured there is also appreciation for workers – so we even would like to work there.

From there, we would love to use these products with clear conscience and a kind of pride as we consider it as “our products”. These products belong to us, because its developed from our pure needs and designed and made by us, potentially. More, trademark rights are owned by us in our roles as worker/producer and consumer, concurrently.

These are products whose design and goodwill is considered common knowledge.

In this sense there are already a lot of useful initiatives, e.g. Software relying on a range of striking Open Source applications.

But what about cell phones, sneakers, furniture, cars, solar panels, as well as many other products?

Lets call it the Open Source Physical Product side, not only electronic hardware, but all kind of different stuff.

Indeed, even here there are some remarkable projects launched, but didn’t made headway, so far.

In comparison to above mentioned initiatives today’s business mergers and affiliated corporations are more powerful, financially strong, and rather efficient, too.

Think about what will happen, if we combine efficiency of a large commercial structure, the capability of Open Source, IT options, and the vitality of Social Communities?

To concretize this vision we need:

– a form of organization which combines the efficiency of a global company with a deep democratic foundation.

– a clear structure which allows fast growth and the involvement of many different players

– a web 2 community-based communication between all the players which allows not only to brainstorm ideas, to crowdsource questions/solutions and to control the different players but also to facilitate and to visualize basic decisions making process.

The ideas to realize this dream are so far:

– the democratic foundation is possible through a special form of participation: Every person which is involved in the “Company” is automatically a co-holder of the company. Since as developer and designer of products, as producer or as consumer (any person can of course be a mix of all this roles). This model is proven by big and successful companies like for instance “Visa-Card” and maybe also some cooperatives like Mondragon, Migros etc.

– to set up a organizational form we call “Hybrid global company” it is a combination of basically 3 elements:

– – a foundation with legal capacity. The goal is:

– – – to assure that the “ethic” nucleus of the company will sustain

– – – to gather the precious parts of the company in order to keep them away from the greediness of some player inside or outside of the company (precious could be: the social community platform, the brand of the Compagnie and of each product, the design of the corporate communication and each product and so on.)

– – a limited company which is responsible for the operative part of the work (coordination, translations, marketing, and so on).

– – – This joint stock company is only responsible to provide the services around the “Hybrid global company”.

– – a social community platform which is

– – – the “newspaper” of the company (independent from the foundation and the limited company.

– – – the place where all the players are represented

– – – the place where the global direction of the company were discussed and basic decision were made (something like a online parliament)

– – – The place where crowdsourcing can happen

– – – and so on . . .

This 3 Elements are basicly independend but connected trough a structural coupling. In the best case that could grow into an living system, which stabilize itself in a very dynamic way.

An exemple of this interplay you can find here (in German only): “The history of a product” describes in full detail what would be a “democratic economic process”

Maybe someone could translate it to english and english pages could be added in that Wiki.

What could be the next steps:

There are of course a lot of unsolved problems around this idea. But best way to bring it into practice is to start. So I suggest to build a foundation for that project and we need a first striking product for the start of a cooperation between developer, producers and consumers.

I am willing to maintain the process of building the foundation. The Swiss law is very flexible and allows to start with a very small amount of money. Anybody who would like to help me with the formulation of the articles of corporation is kindly invited to help.”

More information via FairWork GmbH

Thanks to Franz Nahrada for the pointers.

1 Comment Thomas Diener’s proposal for a FairWare system

  1. AvatarLife long learner of Sydney

    It seems to me the pre-corporatised, pre-managerialist organisation of a university, which is still in the living memory of reasonably young academics, provides a role model.

    For what it is worth, here is my 2 pence input: A crucial element in the design is finance. One way or the other, the question on how to get the money to buy ‘things’ or ‘services’ has to be addressed. If I may suggest, there are at least 2 ways of conceptualising the problem.
    a) the current coroporate finance idea: Try to maximise monetary profits, subject to legal constraints.
    b) the proposed idea: Maximise your collective objective (short form for what you have outlined), subject to a financial constraint (ie being able to pay bills).

    I believe the distinction matters.

    Good luck with your endevours.

    There is also some interesting theoretical work in economics where the emergence of traditions is explained. But this is for another time.

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