One Way to Create Sustainability Now? Through New Relationships, Economies

Jerry Michalski, Founder of San Francisco-based **REX (**the Relationship Economy Expedition), helped to kick off Day 1 of Sustainable Brands 2015 San Diego with a workshop entitled, ‘Leveraging the Relationship and Sharing Economies: Innovation Potential and Strategies for Entry.’ The session provided context and comparison between the Circular, Sharing, and Relationship Economies. Michalski believes our relationships to goods, services, the planet, and one another are changing profoundly; design plays a key role moving forward.

Michalski opened the workshop with a poem written by David Whyte in the late 90s, entitled ‘Working Together.’ It was a fitting way to create context for attendees seeking to better understand the various forces at play, and to lead large-scale initiatives across their enterprises and industries.

Tools for Group Brainstorming

  • Shareable Assets Worksheet identify stuff, spaces (physical and digital), and skills that can be shared with businesses, customers, and organizations. Look closely at core competencies and then identify opportunities to leverage assets as sharing economy resources. “Other than very intimate things like a wedding ring, there’s not a lot that can’t be shared,” said Michalski.
  • Stakeholder Trust Assessment Worksheet — see your organization in the position of “Management,” then identity key stakeholders within and external to the organization. Map and rank communication and type of relationship with stakeholders to calculate a Stakeholder Trust Score.

There is good synergy between the sharing and relationship economies, given that both revolve around people and forming more collaborative experiences. One attendee said, “this is becoming more about the relationship and less about the product.”

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Shifting to a Relationship Economy

According to Michalski, however, there is a lot of historical mistrust between organizations and people given that the Industrial Age taught us all how to implement and live with systems that were designed for efficiency and scale, rather than personalization. Another way to look at the past – industry designed for mistrust. This mindset causes friction in a Relationship Economy.

To address this issue and build more trust, attendees discussed these five ideas:

  1. See your customers as peers (allies)
  2. Be honest
  3. Be open
  4. Understand social dynamics
  5. Design from trust

We’re now in the era of re-humanizing capitalism. In a relationship economy, sustainable business leaders are seeking new ways to become team players. It all boils down to creating and growing relationships that revolve around trust.

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