I’m a fan of food supplies that are fresh, local, and ideally, organically grown. Unfortunately, the globalization of the industrial food industry has done a very effective job of chewing up and spitting out the family farms and cottage industries that tend to supply that sort of food. That’s why I like the idea of OOOBY (Out Of Our Own Backyards). You can learn more about OOOBY from the TEDx Talk ‘Hacking the Supply Chain‘ by Pete Russell, in which Pete mentions that OOOBY uses the ‘Food Commons‘ model, where growers, hubs, and customers all share ownership in a specially designed cooperative structure.

The ‘food commons’ model is an example of a growing approach to business called a “social enterprise“. This isn’t just corporations grafting “social responsibility” onto a standard, for-profit structure. The legally enshrined prime directive of a social enterprise is not to make a profit, but to service a social need, in the case of OOOBY, healthy, local food delivered to your door. It is more like a business though, in that its income comes from selling goods or services, unlike a charity or not-for-profit which gets income from grants or donations. Once external costs are covered, the remaining income is shared fairly around the people doing the work, not hoovered up by upper management or shareholders.

As Pete mentions is his talk, growers who supply OOOBY receive around 50% of what the customer pays for what they grew, which as most of us know is a much higher share than what supermarkets pay, so it’s “fair trade” applied to local food. The remaining 50% covers costs (fuel etc), and the wages of the people who run the OOOBY hubs; collecting, boxing up, and delivering the food, coordinating with the growers, maintaining the web platform, communications with customers etc. As with any organisation, money can be put aside for “capital costs” like replacing equipment or expanding the business, and this also comes out of the hubs 50% share.

Activists have spent centuries fighting back and forth skirmishes with corporations, their pet politicians, and their growing propaganda machines. The only way to avoid doing the same for centuries to come, is to replace the corporation with a better model. Social enterprises are an attempt at doing that, and one that gives me significant hope for a sustainable and caring future.

Filed June 28th, 2015 under Uncategorized

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