DIY Economy

I have just returned from an incredible event in Asheville, North Carolina on the DIY Economy. I helped facilitate two sessions on building the coalition for the DIY Economy that Josh Middleman convened. Here are my notes and drawings with brief explanations for those who were not there.

Together, we are building a new, Do-it-yourself style economy. Or maybe a Do-it-ourselves economy. And some of us are taking up the work of building bridges from the old economy to the new economy.

A key, suggested Grace Kim, from GOOD magazine, to forming coalitions is a clear shared goal. After doing much of the work below, the draft statement of our goal is: Acting together to create ___ economic ecosystems grounded in people having agency. We coldn’t fill in the blank in the time allotted. Maybe you can help!

I suggested, reflecting on a values exercise from the first day, that there were three main camps attracted to the DIY Economy: those who value autonomy, those who value social justice, and those who strive for resilience. All of those camps share an interest in individual agency. Together, we discussed. (You could call autonomy the more libertarian or pro-business group, but the value they are honoring is autonomy.)

To encourage us to think beyond our own values to include others, I shared the following graphic from my work with Gerard Senehi on Evolutionary Philanthropy. The evolutionary change with the highest opportunity for impact includes all the other approaches, because it perceives them as pieces contributing to the health of the whole ecosystem.

Change chart

To work at this Evolutionary level, we must appreciate our differences while bonding over our similarities. Valdis Krebs of uses the phrase, “connect on your similarities and profit from your differences” to capture the idea that if we are too much alike, we don’t add to our creativity by connecting. My ideas are like your ideas. If we have too much difference, we can’t find common language, perspective, or understanding to be creative together. However, the middle range, enables us to use the friction of our differences to increase our creative ability. Thus, by coming together, whether from social justice work, resilience, or from autonomy, the creativity of the whole can be increased.


Creative Zone


So how do we get more creative together in building the DIY Economy? We can borrow from the strategies being employed by others and merge them – mashups –  with our own. Here is a draft map of some of the ways people are practicing and innovating in the DIY Economy.


To move forward together, we need to continue this conversation, building out our shared goal and the diversity of the tools and strategies. We have several audiences to reach – not just the general public. Here is the map of the spectrum of people for us to be speaking our DIY language with and to:

The next steps for coalition building from here could be:

  • organizing strategies by which camp and making a more exhaustive list
  • discovering and mapping specific examples of the strategies
  • creating a DIY Economy toolkit or game with selections from strategies
  • map the strategies across domains, for example, which ones are through the legal system and regulation?
  • inviting event attendees to tell stories on blogs and in magazines, answer DIY economy questions on quora, using the language of our shared goal and being clear which audience from the engagement spectrum they are speaking to.

Much gratitude for all who attended our session including: Josh Middleman, Caroline Murray, Robert Leaver, Rachel Berliner Plattus, David Brodwin, Grace Kim, Mark Frasier, and who else did I miss? Eli?


Some of this harkens back to the work I was fascinated with: Field Building – Digital Media, Play, Persuasion, and Field Building, Motivating Participation, and What is Field Building.


17 thoughts on “DIY Economy

  • Thanks Jean for this great post about the DIY Economy Event!

    Idea: “Acting together to create flourishing economic ecosystems grounded in people having agency.”

  • Thanks Jean! You did an amazing job and these graphics are absolutely stunning. You rock.

  • Jean, this is fantastic! Thanks for the report. The graphics really help flesh out the concepts.

    I’m up at the Hollyhock Summer Gathering this week and have been thinking about convening a discussion on the sharing or P2P economy with some folks here (like Jeff Leifer, Ahmed Rahim, Sheri Herndon, Jeff Vander Clute and Brett Horvath, among others).

    I’m wondering if there’s a specific line of inquiry or way of framing our discussion that you think would best contribute to deepening/expanding the dialogue you had in Asheville?

    • I think two of the major conversations to have are: What do we notice about the agency in the middle and the diferences between the camps. Get present to the overlap and the non-overlap. And if we are talkin about coalition building, start working through the spectrum of engagement. Who do you know that belongs in one of those rings? What is the language you already use with them? What works? And who can you reach out to and invite? And what way of framing it helps invite them? Keeping in mind that the closer you get to the center, the more compelling the story needs to be. The further out, the more practical the story needs to be.

      Thanks for asking. Wish I could have made it up this year! Say hello to all for me!

  • At the same time that this gathering took place, there was another gathering at the Essex Conference center in Essex, MA; named: Art of Humans Being, Explorations in the New Economy. Our approach was less strategic, and more energetic you could say… but the important thing was that we all knew that the other gathering was also going on at the same time.
    Before the gathering we opened a Facebook Group that holds many, many resources in this domain; and also some of the harvest from the gathering, although not so beautifully fleshed out as Jean did here. Here is the link:

    With love,

  • “the closer you get to the center, the more compelling the story needs to be. The further out, the more practical the story needs to be.”

    Thanks for that gem, Jean. Wish to discover all it holds.

  • Jean, these are compelling visuals and philosophies, but I have one concern: There’s very little role designated here for the state/government. Somewhere on the scale chart between Social Justice and Transformational Change has to be some role for a policy platform, no? Otherwise I worry that autonomy, resilience, and the DIY ethic represent marginalization of the state, which can implement justice based on normative values, and relying too much on a market ideology, which implements a rather shallower version of justice (or none at all) based on utility and value. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Thank you for the reply Amy. If you look at the change in the system image, I do not mentioned government, but I also don’t mention business… I come from a philanthropic background. And I lean toward a portfolio approach – we are working on shift through government, business, and the civic sector.
      I totally agree that a market state is not a just one, the incentives of capitalism (especially the particularly obnoxious version we see breaking down today) do not create fairness, justice, or even equal opportunity. I would love to know what you would add to the strategies image to include a greater sense of policy development. Much of the DIY economy and lifestyle depends on a major legal overhaul – from sharing (see on how regulation is inhibiting sharing) and for the resilience tribe – many people are fighting, legally, to get chickens or bees in their backyard. The autonomy tribe is battling policy around things like changes to invest/funding (new laws on crowdfunding) and lots of battles on IP (going in both directions, unfortunately).

      Would you like to co-create a graphic for me that drills into the role of government for each of these tribes around the new economy?

  • One possible value for the blank is ‘resilient’, but the backdrop for the entire discussion — the reason to be considering a DIY economy in the first place — is the failure of existing market-based approaches to managing our world. So, it might be better to use an adjective that represents a break with the past, like ‘post-normal’.

    • Thank you Stowe. I think resilient only appeals to a portion of the individuals interested in the DIY Economy. And I worry that framing it as new or too different doesn’t create the bridge I would like to see from the past toward the future. Maybe we need to do some actual A/B testing across the different groups to see what appeals?

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