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Making Place for Abundance

Wolfgang Hoeschele

1. Abundance, Art, and Place
How can we build an economy of abundance, that seeks to create the condition of abundance when all people, regardless of their background, now and in the future, are enabled to thrive ² and numerous animal and plants species can likewise thrive?I present here a strategy that seeks to literally make place for abundance. Countless initiatives that promote abundance already exist, but they seem hopelessly small in comparison to ´the economyµ which pushes us toward ever-increasing resource consumption, competition, and conflict. It is therefore essential that numerous abundance-supporting ventures be networked in order to gain strength. One of the most important ways to build networks is to focus on places where they are already strong and have potential to grow. ´Placeµ in this context refers not just to some area that can be defined on a map or marked on the ground, but to a place with cultural significance, where people have a sense of identity and of home connected with that place, and where people continue to work together and with the natural environment in order to enhance its desired qualities. ´Making placeµ thus refers to enhancing these qualities of place, as opposed to allowing them to become ´non-placesµ (in the words of the anthropologist Marc Augé), that appear bland and indistinguishable from similar numerous other non-places. Every place in which abundance is built will therefore have its own unique features, and its own unique historical growth path. To convert a dream into a reality requires a visionary image to inspire us, which is detailed enough to give a sense of practicability, yet also sufficiently flexible in order to accommodate the contributions of diverse people, and to unforeseen contingencies. The following proposal should be read in this light, keeping in mind that the path will be created by walking it, and there will be a lot of experimentation, leading to the rejection of some of the ideas presented here in favor of better ideas. Creating abundance is not about creating a vision and then implementing it, but of bringing together many people·s visions, and periodically revisioning together in order to prevent ourselves from getting caught in a rut, and to keep our project alive.

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2. The Abundance District
Numerous human activities benefit from being clustered together ² this is why there are such things as bazaars, pedestrian shopping areas, shopping malls, research parks, universities, financial districts, industrial districts specializing in one or a few related economic sectors, and so on. Likewise, the people involved in creating a new economy of abundance will be able to generate more ideas and momentum by clustering together. As a first step, the strategy proposed here will declare an abundance district where there is already a concentration of abundance-supporting ventures, with the aim of helping more such ventures to get established and to further develop the linkages among them. The area would best be zoned as a multi-use district, allowing a mix of residential and commercial functions, as well as some types of manufacturing compatible with these uses. It should be well-connected to public transport, as well as being easily accessible to a large number of people by walking or cycling. The outdoor spaces, streets and parks and the like, should be inviting to pedestrians; the size of the entire district should be similar to that of a medieval walled city, allowing people to easily walk from one end to the other. An abundance district as envisioned here can be compared with existing business improvement districts (BIDs), where businesses in a defined part of the city agree to pay for enhanced services, such as better policingand improvement of a park or other outdoor facilities to make the place more attractive for shoppers. However, an abundance district will serve the needs of the community as a whole, and will also be funded by a wider variety of people. The funds will come primarily from what I have already referred to above as ´abundancesupporting ventures,µ which I will refer to as ASVs. These are ventures, for-profit as well as non-profit and governmental, formal as well as informal, individually owned as well as cooperatives, that help to create abundance in some way while trying to avoid adding to scarcity. The spirit I am talking about is excellently summarized by this statement by Karen Heisler, co-owner of Mission Pie in San Francisco, whom I interviewed in the summer of 2010: ´We want the activity of this business to be beneficial to all parties involved, to make a profit that is not based on a power imbalance. It·s ridiculous that businesses should first make a profit by creating all kinds of problems, and then turn around to fund non-profits to try to solve them. Our idea is not to contribute to those problems in the first place. We want to build relationships through fair commerce and trade. And it feels good to participate in such relationships; it·s empowering.µ 2

For businesses (including coops), being supportive of abundance means taking an approach that takes the ´triple bottom lineµ very seriously, that is, the business must be concerned not only with making a profit, but also with being socially and environmentally responsible. The specific criteria for inclusion in the term will need to be discussed, but abundance-supporting businesses may be drawn from many different economic sectors; within the abundance district it will be especially desirable to have a grocery store selling organic and locally produced foods, a variety of retail stores, independent restaurants that seek to source organic and/or locally grown food, a variety of services (including consultants, law firms, health care and others), a hotel and bed & breakfasts, and some small-scale or artisanal manufacturing. Non-profits and government agencies that seek to promote social justice and/or environmental sustainability also count as ASVs, remembering that these ventures should also observe a ´triple bottom lineµ approach as just outlined for businesses (with the attainment of their own core objectives taking the place of profit as the first bottom line). Criteria for what constitutes an ´abundance-supporting ventureµ may be adapted from criteria used for defining the solidarity, social or community economy, or for socially responsible investing, with the latter being modified to reflect that we are talking about small enterprises, nonprofits, government agencies, and even informal groups rather than corporations. The organization running the district will function as a cooperative of all its members, that is, it will be an ´Abundance Coop.µ The members will be all the individuals working in the member ASVs. In addition, individuals living in or near the abundance district (for example, within the same city or county) may become individual members, paying an annual membership fee. The membership as a whole will make the strategic decisions, while a management board elected by the membership will run the daily business of the abundance district.The precise workings can be modeled on successful cooperatives.

3. The Abundance Network
The Abundance Coop will build a supportive network that begins to create an economy of abundance. Its first task will be to assess the amount of networking that is already present, and then further enhance mutual support. A well-developed abundance district will use means such as the following to promote networking: y Informal meeting spaces, including a café and a bar or two, restaurants, outdoor spaces such as a plaza with benches, a pond etc. where it is nice to be in good weather, as well as semi-enclosed areas open to the public that are good for more inclement weather, and finally a place for contemplation, meditation and prayer. 3

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Information exchanges via electronic and physical bulletin boards, a listserv and the like through which members can tell others about what they need or what they have to offer. A parallel currency (abundors) which encourages members to buy from each other; in addition there can be labor and goods exchanges within the system, or coupons may be issued and distributed among members so as to incentivize the initiation of new relationships. A library and reading room that will call for contributions (books, CDs etc.) from all members, provide another informal meeting space, and host book talks, poetry readings and the like. Special events, such as theatrical, musical, and dance performances, gallery exhibitions, public talks, celebrations, festivals, fairs, and conferences that bring members (as well as non-members) together.

Sharing is vital to the goals of abundance because it allows us to reduce waste, to make better use of the things we have (such as rooms and other spaces, machinery and tools that no individual constantly uses), and to provide access to goods and services to people who would not otherwise be able to afford them, or who wish to leave behind the rat-race and earn and consume less. The Abundance Coop will thus foster methods of sharing resources, recognizing any such projects that already exist and adding new ones. This can involve the sharing of surplus food from groceries, cafés, restaurants, or bakeries that would otherwise be thrown away, community gardens, freecycling facilities, bookshelves with books that people want to give away. On a more commercial or organized level, it can include shared office spaces (like the Hubs in Berkeley, San Francisco, and elsewhere) and workshops (such as a bike workshop, a ceramics studio, or a hacker·s space), bike and car sharing, and shared use of facilities that can be used for lectures, workshops and the like. Such sharing also includes housing coops and community land trusts, which work to keep housing costs affordable.

4. The Abundance Arts Center
To further promote the goals of abundance the Abundance Coop will proceed to found an Abundance Arts Center (Abarcen) within the abundance district. The Abarcen will be a single building or complex of buildings rather than an entire district, and will be occupied exclusively by ventures involved in the arts of abundance, rather than by a mix of abundance-supporting and other ventures. The arts of abundance comprise the skills that are needed in order to create a more abundant life both for oneself and for others; the ventures within the Abarcen will be explicitly geared to fostering these arts both within the ventures themselves and among their clients, customers or beneficiaries. The goal is to create a recognizable 4

center, that will attract people from outside for the goods, services, innovation, and general liveliness to be found there, while also providing a fertile ground for growing the economy of abundance. The Abarcen will include ventures such as the following: y A library, with a combination of donated books and books bought by the Abarcen. y Research and consulting services in such areas as green architecture, establishing worker coops, community development, and the like. y Retail businesses selling products produced in environmentally and socially sustainable ways; a bookstore specializing in relevant books.In order to qualify as fostering the arts of abundance, these businesses must foster the active engagement of customers, for example a fabric shop offering instruction in sewing, or a bike shop organizing group rides. y A café, bar, and one or more restaurants offering local, organic, and fair trade foods as well as a place where people can meet; a grocery offering similar foods as well as cooking classes and other opportunities to learn about food. y A community garden. y Culture and the arts, including a theater for performing arts, studio spaces for artists and artisans, and a gallery; these will particularly promote groups or individuals exploring socially critical and environmental themes, or using recycled materials, or providing opportunities for marginalized groups. y Services such as installation of renewable energy equipment, retrofitting buildings to become more energy efficient, legal services for non-profits, yoga lessons, massage, and other healing practices. y Non-profits devoted to environmental, social-justice, or civil liberties causes. y Shared office spaces for any and all of the above, along the lines of the Hub in Berkeley, San Francisco, and elsewhere in the world. y A credit union. y Workshops to repair bicycles, to do wood or metal work or ceramics and the like, open to the use of Abundance Coop members for a fee. y Equipment sharing or rental, where people can borrow or rent things that they only occasionally need (for example, lawn and garden equipment, equipment needed for repair work in the home, workbenches, sewing machines). y Party rental (tableware, cutlery, table cloths, etc.); these items will also be available for use for special events on the premises. y Car and bike sharing. y Freecycling facilities, such as a space where people can leave things they no longer need and others can pick these up (books, household items, clothing. etc.); a place where the food businesses put food that they have to throw away but which is still good to eat so that anybody in need can pick up some of that food. y Provision of space for sleeping and showering for free or at extremely low cost. y A place for meditation, contemplation and prayer, open to all people and unmarked as belonging to any religion. Many of the sharing activities mentioned as part of the abundance network can take place at the Abarcen. In addition, the Abarcen may allow spaces used for a variety of purposes during the day to be used for spending the night, both in the open air (particularly when the weather is good) and inside, for the benefit of homeless people and other visitors. The Abarcen may be owned and managed by the Abundance Coop, as a subsidiary, or it may be a coop of its own. It will initially require high investments in order to buy or lease the buildings, and to make any renovations that may be required. Subsequently, the costs will consist of the ordinary costs of maintaining a set of buildings plus the non-profit services that the Abarcen will decide to engage in as part of the center as 5

a whole (some of the activities that support networking or sharing mentioned in previous sections). The ordinary operating costs should be covered by the rent paid for the facilities by the various member organizations and businesses, plus dues from individual members. The main challenge will consist of obtaining the investment financing, which may consist of a mix of innovative methods (such as crowdsourcing) and more traditional ones.

5. The Abundance Arts Academy
Integrated within the Abarcen, the next project will be to found an Abundance Arts Academy (Abaraca) which educates people in the arts of living abundantly. The aim will be to cover all the major aspects of living life as art individually and working to create greater abundance on a social level. The arts of life include understanding oneself and one·s relationship to others in order to establish stable, loving relationships. Knowing oneself also includes knowing one·s body, and mobilizing one·s own healing powers in the case of sickness (the ability that is often dismissed as ´placebo effectµ but is actually central to healthy living). The arts of life further include many skills of producing things for oneself and friends, providing custom-made items that precisely fulfill the needs of the users and are unlikely to be thrown away, while providing the makers a way to express themselves through craftsmanship or art. The arts of living include working for social change, and finding ways to work together on a social level to address the fundamental problems of our society. Finally, the arts of life include the biological arts of living with nature, both in the small scale of a garden and the larger scale of natural parks, landscapes, all the way to the biosphere and atmosphere, learning ways to observe living things in an empathetic rather than distant way and seeking to live in a mutually beneficial way with those other living things. The aim is not to provide certificates in order to get jobs, but for people to obtain skills and knowledge that they find personally useful. The skills and knowledge they acquire may be useful professionally as well as in other aspects of life (including self-provisioning), but it is primarily the people attending lectures or workshops or taking courses who will assess the usefulness of the education they received. The Abaraca, analogously to the Abarcen and abundance district, will be collectively owned by the permanent faculty and staff as a cooperative. In the spirit of sharing, rooms may be rented out to outside persons or groups.

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6. Beyond One Place
A single abundance place, consisting of an abundance district, coop, center, academy, and a general supportive culture, will make little difference in the world. However, if this vision proves successful, similar seeds of an abundance economy can be established in many places ² there can be more than one abundance district within a city, and the abundance places of many different cities and towns can be linked through flows of information, people, and goods and services. The experiences and insights gained in numerous places of abundance can be shared for mutual benefit. Global trade can occur among abundance places. As abundance places become more interconnected, they and their networks will continue to evolve.Ultimately, abundance districts may become as numerous as business improvement districts are today - or even as common as shopping malls!

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