Monday, June 19, 2006

3 aspects of markets: Identity mashup conference Day 1

I always have such mixed feelings showing up at Harvard. On the one hand it's very familiar, having spent 6 years here--I learned to drive on Storrow Drive, for instance. On the other hand some of that time I was here I was rather unhappy, so it's always a bit startling to walk past familiar landmarks and feel the sensations of those years wash over me. But more on that later.

The biggest takeaway I got yesterday, not surprisingly, was from Doc Searls. He reminded us that markets have 3 complementary aspects (which he in turn attributes to Eric Raymond and Sayo Ajiboye):
  • transactions
  • conversations
  • community
I think this captures exactly what we've been groping towards at GlobalGiving as we keep talking about community tools and Web 2.0 on how to make sense of where to go next.

First, in my mind the 3 aspects, laid out in that order, sort of represent a Maslowian hierarchy of markets. At a basic level, markets have to support and facilitate transactions. I think we've nailed that at GlobalGiving if you think of the basic transaction on GlobalGiving as the transfer of funds to support projects and social enterprises worldwide. Going beyond transaactions to conversations and community begins to meet our higher order of needs for connection and identification--and is immeasurably richer.

Second, the 3 aspects also feel to me like a great "fit" with the whole proposition of giving. Giving is by its nature really suited to go beyond a transaction when done well, and I think it will help us stay out some of the problematic power dynamics that can emerge from the big asymmetries that exist in our space. (More on asymmetries later)

Third, I need to come back to the fact that Doc Searls cited Sayo Ajiboye in his presentation of the 3 aspects of markets. The fact is that the developing world is actually more in touch with the 3 dimensions of markets than the developed world is. So this opens up the possibility that because so many of the project leaders operate in the developing world, they can in fact play a huge role in teaching and leading us to understand the integration of these 3 aspects.

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