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Sender: millershed@EARTHLINK.NET
Subject: Re: A method in search of a question?
Date: Sun, Aug 17, 2014
Msg: 101115

Hello Michael,

Your article was excellent and basically I think your approach is sound. I'm not sure one has to look at values change and harnessing the market as opposites. I think values change could lend the general support that makes such harnessing possible. I've been teaching in a school of largely conservative evangelicals for the past five years and I've seen a great deal of change (amongst young people) in certain issues such as gay marriage. And I would say that these young people are pretty much totally bought into green values. That said, I agree that exhortation alone is impotent and I like the systemic nature of your suggestions. With a little caution in terms of, "I need to learn a bit more about all this," I am very supportive of your ideas.

Maybe, if this model can be made effective for environmental issues, it can also inspire work on social issues down the road. Thanks for weighing in!

John Miller

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Strong
Sent: Aug 15, 2014 6:18 PM
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A method in search of a question?

With respect to environmental issues, the most effective way to shift "business models" is to internalize externalities:  Incorporate the costs of environmental damage into the costs of supplies.  If one does that, then all accounting systems, all profit and loss statements, all projections of ROI automatically take environmental harms into consideration.  This approach is much more effective than is exhortation (e.g. "Business should care more for the environment") or the idea of B-Corporations.

Moreover, there is a LOT more transpartisan support for this kind of approach than is usually realized.  Consider the following approaches to internalizing externalities:

1.  Green tax shifts (revenue neutral shifts of taxes towards environmental harms offset by reductions in corporate or personal tax rates).

2.  Property rights solutions (e.g. tradable rights to a particular portion of a fishery).

3.  Environmental trusts (e.g. legal trusts set up with a specific fiduciary responsibility to preserve a specific ecosystem asset, such as an aquifer, a watershed, or a forest).

In each case, I know of many free market economists, including experts at Cato, Reason, etc., who would support some versions of such policies as well as experts from environmental organizations would would support such policies.  A transpartisan effort could work to get legislation passed on behalf of such policies.

It takes sustained work to pass the relevant legislation and most victories are small and piecemeal.  But many of these solutions, once established, providing long-lasting protections to the environment and permanently shift business models in all industries - because the fundamental cost structure for all uses has changed.

I've written about these approaches in some depth here,

I can provide more detailed references for anyone who is serious about such initiatives.  For a time I was working on various aspects of putting together transpartisan coalitions but found so little interest and support that I gave up.

Michael Strong
Chief Visionary Officer

On Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 7:49 PM, Steven H Johnson <> wrote:
Tom, you're instincts are right.  "Value chain" as used in the business world is much narrower in meaning.  

One can look at farming as a value chain that begins with a seed company at one end and finishes with a family eating food at the other, and then disposing of human waste.  If they have a composting toilet, perhaps the value chain loops all the way back around to the farm again.  

One can look at the energy industry as a value chain that begins with wells and mines and ends with consumers receiving value while residents of the planet must cope with global warming and climate change and extreme weather events and humanitarian disaster.  

In any end-to-end business model, every step along the way can be assessed for both its positive consequences and its negative consequences, as one would do in a triple bottom line context, or in a reappraisal of today's end-to-end business models.

When a business model causes important harm, then a wise civilization searches for a better business model, one that still delivers the desired benefits without generating the harm.    

All the industries that matter have great complexity.  The Energy Industry.  Agriculture.  Health Care.  Public Education.  And many others.  Vast business models will have vast consequences, and it is precisely the question of vast scale that draws our attention to them.  If current business models cause harm at vast scale, finding better business models is a dialogue challenge of considerable urgency.



Steven Howard Johnson - Civic Futurist
Book in Progress:  Thoughtful Patriotism

On Aug 10, 2014, at 7:03 PM, Tom Atlee wrote:

Hear! Hear! .... I think...

Not being connected much to the corporate/business world, I'm less conversant with "business models" and "value chains".  So I'll venture an intuitive broad definition of these to see if they work for Steven et al.

1.  A business model is a way of organizing an activity - a way of "setting things up" - to produce (and continue to produce) something of value.  In this sense, the U.S. Constitution is a "business model", as are a family and a tax code.

2.  A value chain is an articulation of the value changes observable at each life-cycle stage of a product or service - or activity of any kind.  It includes increases and decreases in value, considering both the impacts people and systems have on the product (or service or activity) AND the product's (or service's or activity's) impact on the people and systems connected to it.  For example, competent labor adds value to a computer during its manufacture, AND a toxic work environment takes value away (or generates negative value) during that same activity.  Likewise, after its purchase, the computer adds value to a consumer's life while negatively impacting the value of the person's life who is salvaging its parts in a toxic dump after its disposal.  And creative volunteers would add value to a community celebration's value chain.

If we can accept these definitions - which I suspect radically expand the territory covered by those terms in normal business jargon - then everything you say about "business models" would apply to our social/political/economic systems and everything you say about "value chains" would embrace concepts like "triple bottom line" and "full cost accounting" and "internalizing the social and environmental costs of a product into its price".

Furthermore, these extended definitions naturally extend the concept of "value" to embrace meeting deep human needs and the functional needs of human and natural communities - as well as concepts like "natural capital", "social capital", etc.  So we're not just talking dollars here.

And with these concepts we can begin to replace "collateral damage" (and its twin concept, "side effects") with more honestly inclusive and consciousness-raising terms like "whole-system impacts".  (After all, a "side" effect is a real effect that we want people to attend to only as an afterthought, and thus is more of a PR term than a scientific one.)

Does any of this make sense?  If so, then a high mission of dialogue and deliberation could be seen as facilitating whole-system business models that nurture positive value (satisfy real needs of people and nature) at every step of the value chain.

Just thinking...



Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
site:  /  blog:
Please support our work.  Your donations are fully tax-deductible.

On Aug 10, 2014, at 10:14 AM, Steven H Johnson wrote:

Hi everyone,

In principle, I like Mark Gerzon's suggestion that those of us who want to explore individual issues in greater depth should seek volunteers to participate and work together - offline - to see where their dialogue takes them.  Perhaps they'll develop some breakthru insights.

But somehow I'm not fully sold, and here's my concern.  It's a concern that applies not only to Mark's suggestion, but also to some of the excellent comments of Tom Atlee as well.

We live in a time of bureaucratized organizations and industries and agencies.  We also live in a time of extraordinary scale.  Corporate behaviors at vast scale have consequences at vast scale - think fossil fuel consumption.  Government behaviors at vast scale have consequences at vast scale - think of the federal government's screwed up business tax code.

The future we will create for ourselves depends, therefore, on our ability to size up the business models that shape our civilization.  
Which ones are generally beneficial?  Which ones are harmful?  And - for those sectors that are shaped by faulty business models - how are we to redesign them?  How are we to envision new business models that become part of our well-being, rather than part of our chronic dissatisfaction?  

If the art of business model redesign is the key to our better future - as I think it is - what sort of dialogue will have the best chance of finding good redesign approaches?  

Will it be "transpartisan"?  Will it be one of Tom Atlee's suggested models?  Or any of several deliberative democracy models?

To my way of thinking, all those options miss an important part of the problem.  "Business model" is shorthand for something more complicated - the behaviors of an entire Value Chain, and the consequences generated by that value chain under Business As Usual scenarios.  

If we were to set for ourselves a platinum standard, what would it look like?

With respect to any particular business model and the value chain it affects, we'd want to be able to size up today's reality and recognize both its beneficial consequences and its damaging consequences.  We'd also want to be able to wrestle our way forward to new scenarios for how to shape those business models, and the conduct of the value chains they govern.

We'd especially want to be able to rethink our most problematic business models.  

To my mind, a platinum standard for dialogue is one that brings together participants who collectively have an end-to-end understanding of a major value chain.  Such a dialogue doesn't limit itself to modest adjustments; it's willing to explore paradigm shift scenarios too.  Such a dialogue will take on the scale question, with a special focus on its dangers:  "Is there a redesign scenario that protects us from causing collateral damage at great scale?"  A platinum dialogue presses forward till it's found one or more solid reforms to recommend.

So . . . when I think about "transpartisan dialogues" or "citizen juries" or "deliberative dialogues," I ask myself - are we ready to tune them up a bit?  So that some of our dialogues, at least, will operate at a platinum level?

'Nuff for now.

Steve Johnson

Steven Howard Johnson - Civic Futurist
Book in Progress:  Thoughtful Patriotism

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Michael Strong

Creating a World in which All of Humanity Flourishes

Co-Founder and CEO, Khabele+Strong Incubator
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