The micro-bioregion containing and surrounding Lansing, Michigan is to become the Mid-Michigan Mutual Aid Network (MMMAN). Lansing, the Capital City of the US State of Michigan, is home to a number of cooperative New Economy initiatives, including the Mid-Michigan Time Bank, the Lansing Maker’s Network, the Capital Village Trade Cooperative, the Greater Lansing Food Bank, and others. The region is ideally situated to conduct an asset mapping project with which to inventory and evaluate its considerable natural, agricultural, manufacturing, energy, transportation, intellectual, cultural, and social resources.
We plan on utilizing a number of existing local mapping databases and tools, including the Lansing Local Wiki and the Ingham County Health Impact Assessment tool, which, when coupled via the MAN Wezer platform with a local complementary currency currently in the design stage, will provide a conceptual and practical framework and methodology for measuring, mapping, and modeling the old existing and new emerging economy of the Mid-Michigan bioregion. It is hoped that the techniques developed by the project will be applicable and scalable to any economic entity worldwide.
Project Steward: Scott Murto
MID-MICHIGAN MUTUAL AID NETWORK CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN-link here
BACKGROUND/WHO WE ARE
Conventional wisdom says that successful crowdfunding campaigns are always positive and upbeat. We certainly are and will be here in a bit, but I cannot in good conscience begin without telling (or reminding) you what a horrid mess the global economy has become – – and it’s not getting any better. If that wasn’t true, there wouldn’t be a need for any of us to be talking about building a “New Economy”. Or for this crowdfunding campaign at all. So just a few moments of reality before we get to the good stuff.
Global military conflicts aside, if all you paid attention to was the mainstream media, you’d think that things were going pretty OK for us here in the US. The stock market, while occasionally bumpy, continues to climb. Official jobless reports are mostly looking good. Gasoline is cheaper than it’s been in a very long time. The shelves in our local stores are full of just about anything we want or need. And we are all connected with each other with the most amazing communications network the world has ever seen. What problems do exist can be fixed with the right tweaks to the existing system once we get the right politicians elected to office.
The reality of the situation, however, is that things are not at all OK. A global financial bubble is about to burst that is going to make 2008 look like a cakewalk. Income inequality has reached epic proportions. Our remaining oil reserves require nearly as much energy to extract as we get out of them. Global trade is grinding to a halt because, while we have plenty of goods, nobody has enough money to buy them. And as for those handy electronic devices we use (and are increasingly slaves to) every day, society is about as disconnected and polarized as it’s ever been. We may be talking more to each other, but few of us are having the kinds of conversations that lead to healthy communities.
Our current systems are broken, and no amount of tweaking is going to fix them to get them working right. We need a new system, one that works for all of us, and empowers us all to live fulfilling lives doing the work that we feel called to do.
Fortunately, since the crash of 2008, a small but growing number of people worldwide have been working on building just such a new system.
This new system is not one big thing, however. Nor is everybody who is helping to build it working together with a single direction in mind. The list of ideas and initiatives you saw scrolling up the screen in the video above gives you an idea of the number and variety of approaches. Some of these are highly theoretical and global and others more practical and local MID-MICHIGAN MUTUAL AID NETWORK CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
- We are all working on various pieces of this new system, depending on our individual resources, circumstances, and needs. And virtually no attempts have been made to purposefully bring together a multiple of these new system elements in an integrated practical way in a real physical community.
That’s where Lansing,/Mid-Michigan comes in!
Lansing and the greater Mid-Michigan region is uniquely positioned to be an ideal proving ground to see how a number of these various “New Economy” initiatives and approaches might be linked together to form an effective Mid-Michigan Mutual Aid Network (MMMAN). The proposed elements of this network are listed below.
The Mid-Michigan Time Bank (MMTB). The MMTB, created in 2013, currently has around 175 members, who exchange services with each other using time as the basic currency unit. The MMTB is currently seeking 501(c)(3) status. For more information on how timebanking works in general, see the Wikipedia link here. To see our first update video, click here (that’s me on the right hand side of the rake-guitar duo. 🙂 }
The Lansing Makers Network (LMN). The LMN, also created in 2013, currently has around 20 members who rent a shared space containing donated tools and equipment to fabricate a wide variety of items. Their current capabilities include woodworking, metalworking, ceramics, fabrics, electronics, laser cutting, and 3-D printing. Through these tools LMN members become empowered to take control over the technologies that are so integral to our daily lives, instead of allowing those technologies to take control over us. The LMN has 501(c)(3) status. For more information on makers spaces, see the Wikipedia link here. Also, I should add that on Saturday 12/19 the MMTB mobilized to assist the LMN in moving from their existing building to their new facility a few miles down the road.
So our collaborations have begun already. We need your help to nurture and grow this budding relationship between our two New Economy initiatives!
CAPITAL VILLAGE TRADE
The Capital Village Trade Cooperative (CVTC). The CVTC was also born in 2013 with about a dozen members whose trades involved organic gardening, woodworking, pottery, music, and various other arts. The group’s activities have become rather moribund recently due to lack of funds. A MMMAN would thus serve as a perfect catalyst to revitalize the group, as the interest in having a functioning coop has not lessened. What they need is a MMMAN to help make that happen – which is why we’re asking for *your* help!.
The Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB). Established several years ago, the GLFB serves as a distribution hub for a number of Community Supported Agriculture operations in the greater Lansing area, and operates as a typical CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) organization. Local food production and distribution *must* be a core element in any New Economy initiative which hopes to provide resilient community infrastructures.
Resource Recovery Corporation (RRC). Established two decades ago, this not-for-profit corporation is a cooperative whose member foundries utilize this centralized waste recovery services to facilitate efficient metals and other residual materials recycling. The author conceptualized and designed this facility for his MSE and would like to use it and its member foundries to investigate interfacing the MAN concept with the metals manufacturing and recycling industry sectors, which are also essential to building resilient community infrastructures.
Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC). The City of Lansing is geographically situated at the intersection of Eaton, Ingham, and Clinton counties. The TCRPC serves as a regional political body to facilitate effective planning activities, and is noted for its award-winning sustainability strategies. MMTB members receive time dollars for attending all regional and local planning meetings, made possible by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the TCRPC. Involving local governmental entities in the creation of the MMMAN will enable us to grow the network with a minimum of government roadblocks and a maximum of their support.
All of the above groups are currently operating mostly autonomously with limited collaboration. The basic idea behind forming a MMMAN is that all of them would form a mutually supportive network enabling their individual members to leverage the resources of other member groups to enable them to achieve their goals more quickly and efficiently (and with fewer US Federal dollars) than they would individually. The MMMAN would also be able to establish and maintain shared savings and mutual credit pools to provide members access to financial resources to capitalize initiatives that they might not otherwise be able to obtain through mainstream banks. The MMMAN would thus become a cooperative of cooperatives, a Mutual Aid Network.. This model was created by Stephanie Rearick of the Dane County Time Bank in 2013.
The Mutual Aid Network (MAN). The MAN framework was formally established in August 2015, with adopted Core Principles, ByLaws, and Working and Advisory Boards. Among the Advisory Board members include Charles Eisenstein, Bernard Lietaer, Michel Bauwens, Vicki Rogers, Edgar Cahn, and The Yes Men (bio links for all these folks are at the end of this page). There are currently eight approved pilot sites located in Allentown, PA, St. Louis, MO, Providence, RI, Waterville, KS, Madison, WI, Hull, United Kingdom, Bergnek, South Africa, and, of course, Lansing MI. 🙂 This will enable the MMMAN to leverage the resources of these other MAN sites, as well. A global cooperative of cooperatives! To watch a great Donor’s Briefing video on the MAN click here. Also, here’s a link to the MAN Core Principles, which are based on our own investigation of various core principles held by cooperatives throughout history – – with a few additions of our own that reflect the global ecological crises we are facing (We’re rather proud of ‘em, especially here in Lansing, cause we’re the folks who did the research and wrote up the first draft. W00t, Go Lansing! 🙂 ).
The following diagrams show our plan for what we hope to build (made possible with the generous support of your contributions, of course – – and thank you again in advance! 🙂 )
Figure 1: Current Disorganized Network Connections. Connections between the various cooperative New Economy initiatives C are currently haphazard. Resources flow between them inconsistently (solid vs dashed lines) or not at all. Some initiatives are dependent on very formal relationships with banks B.
Figure 2. Organized Mutual Aid Network. Cooperative New Economy initiatives C are organized around a central cooperative Mutual Aid Network hub M, where member groups manage savings pools, mutual credit, and other resources and assets that the network members decide are important to them. This lessens the network’s dependencies on the banks B.
Figure 3. The Main MAN. Individual Mutual Aid Networks M are linked together into a central cooperative hub called the Main MAN (renamed to HUMANs – humans united in mutual aid networks – in January 2017) enabling resources to be shared between and among individual MANs. MANs shown above are the current eight Pilot Sites (MMMAN in green).
As you can see, the basic idea behind MANs is pretty straightforward, and in fact, quite ancient. Being able to coordinate our actions in cooperative ways is what enabled our species to survive and thrive on this planet. Today our complex industrial civilization, driven mostly by greed and competition, makes implementing that principle a lot more complicated than the threats to survival that we faced millennia ago. But as the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And with your help, Lansing and Mid-Michigan will be able to take that first step into a cooperative resilient future.
All too often when people get together to try to find solutions to pressing community economic problems they begin from a place of needs and weaknesses. What is a far better approach is to begin from a mindset of identifying our strengths and resources in a strategy called Asset-Based Community Development. At the outset of this project we’ll be applying this process first in individual meetings with all of the groups described above. Then we’ll all come together a couple of times to discuss how we might best share and leverage those assets to address the needs that we have in common, and individually. At the end of this process we’ll have a pretty good idea of where and how to proceed to construct a Mutual Aid Network for Mid-Michigan.
This process should take about three months based on the modest goals of this campaign (we’ll be able to improve the timetable if we make it into our stretch goals, more on those in a moment). We’ll write a final report that will describe our findings and how well the whole process worked. The report will also include a roadmap of how we plan on proceeding to the next stage.
A quick note on the budget. The funds raised will be used to partially pay for my living expenses during the three month period of the project, as well compensate other team members for their time (everyone will be getting paid in time dollars, too, which is why we are able to keep these costs so low). Once we reach that goal we have a number of stretch goals at the ready which will enable us to utilize more of our community members, accelerate the process, and engage the larger community who is not yet aware of all these New Economy initiatives. I won’t go into detail on the plans, deliverables, and enhanced perks and rewards that will come along with these additional goals, but I think you’ll be as excited by them as we are. Speaking of perks and rewards…
PERKS AND REWARDS
We’ve got what we think are some great perks and rewards to thank you for becoming part of this groundbreaking initiative! They’re listed over to the right there, but i’ll give you a bit more of a description below:
Level 1: $1.00 and up: Our endless copious thanks to you! Expect to receive periodic email updates on the project as it progresses.
Level 2: $25.00 Same As Above (SAB) plus a signed copy of the final report describing our findings and recommendations. Yes, signed by the whole team. Because this is going to be an historic document!
Level 3: $50.00 SAB plus you get access to my daily logs and the report on the cloud as we are writing it. And you get to make comments and tell us how wonderful our writing skills are (or not!).
Level 4: $100.00 SAB plus you get access to the raw video footage we’re going to be taking of the meetings we’re going to have exploring this idea. That should be fun!
Level 5: $500.00 SAB plus you get to have Skype calls with the team at the end of this project. Looking forward to that, never done one of those before!
Level 6: $1000.00 SAB plus one of the vacuum tubes below mounted on a cool base and lit with LEDs, made at the LMN. These came out of one of the old Scanning Electron Microscopes I used to own (long story). It’s also a lead-in to the next set of rewards if we make it into our stretch goals. Which, I am not going to tell you about just yet! (except to say it involves cool SWAG!)
RISKS AND BENEFITS
Risks: Probably the biggest risk of this project is that I am biting off a bit more than I can chew in just three month’s time, especially if the weather finally decides to turn nasty. As long as it doesn’t, I am nearly certain I can meet the goals as i’ve outlined them above, however.
Benefits: At the completion of our primary goal we should have a pretty good idea of where and how to proceed next to create the MMMAN. Besides that, we will have done something that (to the best of my knowledge, anyway) no one has ever done before: conducted a preliminary social engineering design specification for an alternative socioeconomic system/network. That in itself is going to be amazing!
After we reach our main goal and head into our stretch goals, those specifications will be further developed through 2016, more staff will be coming on board (so you’ll be providing needed wages to some very talented and beautiful peeps, you are going to love them, I can’t wait to introduce them to you!), and the entire process documented so that other communities can learn from our successes and roadblocks we encounter. In the end we not only hope provide Lansing/Mid-Michigan with a functioning and resilient MMMAN that will help us weather the coming economic transition that I discussed at the start here, but we will also be able to provide anyone interested with a model for constructing such a network in their own communities.
Throughout history people have faced times of systemic crisis, and ours is no different. In such times the more confrontational of us have called for the dismantling of the existing systems which threaten our well-being. And then there are others of us that prefer to follow the advice of Buckminster Fuller:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
We choose the latter. Will you join us?
Thank you again for visiting our campaign and thank you thank you thank you in advance when you decide to contribute to this campaign, whether by making a donation and/or by forwarding it to people on your preferred social media.
Thank you again!!! 🙂
~ vasudhaiva kutumbakam ~
scott murto/lehman scott & the rest of the MMMAN team
Me, scott murto, aka “lehman scott”: I’ve been involved with New Economy initiatives, both theoretical and practical, my entire adult life. After getting my B.S.E. In Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1982 I worked in the solar energy industry and then in 1984-1985 helped organize the North American and Great Lakes Bioregional Congresses. I obtained my M.S.E in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University in 1991; my thesis developed an innovative new approach to cooperatively managing metals recycling waste products resulting in this business cooperative based on my design. I then spent the next two decades working for General Motors in many different capacities, from building ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems at the plant level to serving on Federal Advisory Committees in Washington, DC, working with the EPA to develop best practices for managing non-hazardous industrial solid waste. I also had the opportunity to be part of the Global Reporting Initiative network in its early years of developing International Sustainability Reporting standards. After leaving GM in 2009 I have been working full-time to research and develop new economic conceptual frameworks and practical tools to support various communities’ resiliency efforts in the face of the global transition to a steady-state economy. Starting in 2014 I have been working extensively with the Mid-Michigan Time Bank to successfully expand their membership base from around 70 to now approaching 200 members. Most recently, I presented a paper on one of my new economic conceptual frameworks at the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto, Canada.
Past/Present/Future MMMAN Team Members
Besides myself, a number of folks here in Lansing have been working to varying degrees on the MAN concept. Others not yet actively involved have expressed interest in exploring the possibilities of building a MAN here in Mid-Michigan.
Edge Brussel, Founder of Mid-Michigan Time Bank, videographer
Ken Orlich, past MMTB Board Member, community organizer, GLFB, videographer
Dena Sanders, MMTB member, GLFB staffer, community organizer
Christian Smith, past MMTB Board Member, founder, Lansing Ecological/Economy Park
Rachel Berzak, past MMTB Board Member
Kirk Green, founder, Capital Village Trade Cooperative
Jody Applegate, Lansing Makers Network
In 2014 Christian, Ken, and Edge and I attended the Global Exchange Gathering in Warwick, RI, where the flame of creating a MMMAN was initially lit. Since then, we’ve been focused on building up the Time Bank, which will form the backbone of our initiative. We’ve also been assisting in constructing the Main MAN/HUMANs, which culminated in Dena, Edge, and my attendance at its formal launch in Madison, WI last August.
Links to some Advisory Board Members