Is your company ready for the ‘Beyond Peer Economy’? (blog)

Peer to peer (P2P) is a growing movement where ‘peers’ co-create new services and goods with each other outside the regular economic system. Well known examples are Wikipedia or the operating system Linux, both developed for free by  ‘peers’. Closer to home, think about online platforms where people exchange second hand children’s clothing or old bikes. Recently, a group of peers even started to work on a co-created car: The OSCAR

One of the thought leaders in P2P is Michel Bauwens, founder of the Peer2Peer foundation and recently on the list of 100 of the most inspiring persons worldwide:

The basic principle of the ‘Peer to Peer’ economy is a voluntary collaboration between individuals that are equal and work on a common cause. In almost any sector in business, parallel systems are being developed based on this P2P principle, at apparently no cost, without any specific business model and driven by a random community of likeminded individuals that are driven by a desire to improve the current system.

If you think about the community around your organization, does it also exist of likeminded individuals? Is that a good or a bad thing? Should you follow P2P principles in rethinking your own organisation or should you move to the  ‘Beyond Peer Economy’?

The ‘peers’ for your company are not always ‘the usual suspects’ such as employees, unions, suppliers, government,… Beyond your usual stakeholders others do influence your organization more than you could imagine. Think of professors who comment on your sector in the media or bottom-up movements such as the Indignados & Occupy Wall Street who doubt capitalism. And what about non-profit organizations that strive for a better environment, children rights or other societal issues?

Do you know what they think about you? What their priorities are? The challenge is to search for those issues that you have in common with these stakeholders and to work together around common goals that help all involved to grow individually. That’s our idea of the “beyond peer economy”.

A great example is what the brewery Duvel Moortgat recently did. Night busses were about to be suspended by the local transport company in Belgium. Duvel Moorgat decided to finance the night busses, that were repainted in the colors of ‘De Coninck”, one of their brands. A structural agreement between 2 stakeholders, not each other’s peers but with a common goal: to keep the night busses driving. The transport company keeps its itinerary, the brewery has extra visibility: on the busses and in huge press coverage. And the traveller/consumer keeps the transport it needs at night.

Would you like to try it for you company? First, try to find out what issues in society can be linked to your organisation’s core business. Then, identify your ‘Beyond your Peers’ stakeholders. Sit down with them and find a common value and finally create a plan of execution with all your –very diverse- stakeholders.

Before you start, be aware that this is not exact science. You will learn by doing but you will all benefit from it.

Cato Léonard & Elke Jeurissen.


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