(CC image: "Distributing surplus commodities, Johns, Ariz.," 1940, Library of Congress)
Former BB guestblogger Marina Gorbis, exec director of Institute for the Future, considers how small groups/organizations can achieve scale and do good by sharing resources. Essentially every person (and every company) has a surplus of something that other people want/need:
Not everyone has a large house to trade or a large sum of money to donate but look around you -- we have excess of stuff, talent, ideas, information--in our homes , in our communities, and in our organizations. We are over-producing and under-utilizing resources all over the place. Witness the recent example of clothing retailers like H&M deliberately mutilating and tossing unsold clothes in the trash. Many experts in retail concede that the practice is not uncommon--for some unfathomable "economic" reason it makes more sense to destroy clothes than to release them into a local community. The situation is even worse when it comes to food. We over-produce and waste a lot of it. According to the USDA, just over a quarter of America's food -- about 25.9 million tons -- gets thrown into the garbage can every year. University of Arizona estimates that the number is closer to 50 percent. The country's supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores alone throw out 27 million tons between them every year (representing $30 billion of wasted food). This is why the U.N. World Food Program says the total food surplus of the U.S. alone could satisfy "every empty stomach" in Africa. How about empty stomachs in our own communities?
The list goes on an on. We have surplus of space--many commercial buildings, schools, corporate and government spaces are underutilized, while many small organizations and individuals are struggling to find spaces for their work. We also have excess of talent--musicians, artists, designers, educated unemployed people, young and old--needing audiences, venues to work in, or contribute ideas to.