What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Big Picture

Given a comment that I received on one post it seems that I should bump up in order of importance a post about what the ultimate goal of this whole scenario is in terms of meaning and methods.  Some of this was touched upon in 'Why Sierra Leone?'.  But to elaborate, the ultimate goal with this project is not just about Sierra Leone, it is not about child soldiers, or human trafficking, or any other specific micro issue that one might put their finger on.  The issue here is humanity.  Take a step back and look at the world in broad terms.  Less than one billion people live in 'the West', yet this area dominates the world and its socio-economic directions.  The rest of humanity has been forced/enticed into following our ways based on the material outcomes of our society.  The problem with all of this is that in order to maintain our level of dominance we in the West have had to expropriate numerous resources - both raw, manufactured, and human - from less 'developed' areas of the world.  We are doing this at great cost to the local populations and society at large.  We need to rethink our way of living together and the way we produce and reproduce things.

This project in Sierra Leone is not just a hiking project, it is not just a non-profit project for Sierra Leone, it is the foundational element in working towards finding an alternative way of doing things.  One that finds a balance between the individual and the community.  Communism focused on the community, and it failed for a myriad of different reasons.  Capitalism may have 'out produced' communism, and all other systems for that matter, but when I look at the world right now I do not see a blissfully utopian scenario.  I see a place where, according to the HIIK Conflict Barometer (for interactive map click here) for 2009, 365 countries maintained active conflicts: 108 latent conflicts, 114 manifest conflicts, 112 crisis, 24 severe crisis, and 7 wars.  Where the world has billions of people in need of clean food and water and estimates at the percentage of people living in 'poverty' usually starts at 25% (thats over 1.5 billion people or 5 United States - picture the entire country in poverty, x 5 !!).  The rich areas of the world and countries push around those with less and they do this by militaristic and economic bullying.  

It is very difficult to look at the world as a whole and say that it is a good place and that the Capitalist direction - based on supremacy of the individual - is going to make things better for more than a few.  We don't do much for other places or communities, because our system does not directly reward it for ourselves or our communities.  This is specifically the longer term goals of this project, to work towards finding a way for society to develop and excel in a way that favors a balance between both the individual and the community and creates a motivational and reward system from within the localized system.  When an individual does something to benefit themselves the system should also provide rewards for it to benefit the community, and vice versa.  A symbiotic relationship.

We plan to do this in practice by creating a business structure that will work to balance these rewards and motivations.  The initial entity of ownership in a business/production scenario will be the non-profit (later to be named).  This separate business entity will then grant ownership and/or controlling rights to its workers (as part of their pay or a similar scenario) and also to the local community via buy in.  Non-profit "x" would maintain a stake for a time as well and act as an incubator of sorts.  But not solely as a business incubator, but as a structural incubator designed to initiate and then maintain this symbiotic balance between company, individual, and community.  

It is an elaborate concept, that I won't get wholly into yet here.  But the outcome should be a company that is   controlled in equal aspects by the community, its workers, and the 'investor'/'incubator' (though not permanently).  The company itself would function in a manner similar to a non-profit in that profits would not go to enrich the individual stakeholders.  All proceeds would be reinvested into either the company or the community.  The stakeholders benefit is more in regards to an aspect of control than financial gain.

The principle is to create a non-governmental organization based in a specific locality that would work as an engine for the local community.  The business itself would function as any 'typical' business, working to maximize efficiency and incentivize employees in a way to be competitive in the marketplace, but its 'shareholders' (though there would be definite restrictions on transferability, etc) would not be motivated by individual profit seeking, but in terms of individual professional and subsequent local community gains.  The profits would go to provide many things considered today to be public works or 'state' provisions - sewage, roads, security, parks, clean water, etc.  The community will have a huge stake in what the company does as it is their ticket to better public works, yet it is a private entity run locally by the workers, community and external and/or local investors investors.  The business will be set up to sustain business operations, employ local people, and to facilitate local infrastructure and socio-economic development on all levels from roads to parks.  A symbiotic relationship between the business, the community, and the individual.

I am not sure that this makes a great deal of sense as I have only brushed the surface of it and there is still a great deal of work to be done on this concept.  But I believe it is a positive pathway to continue down and one that perhaps in time could eventually work as a starting point or even societal model for sustainable and productive socio-economic development.

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