Business Plan

You can read the full version of our Business Plan here.

A. The building blocks of our plan are technology and governance:

– a broad based technology platform for member-owned and controlled communication, services, transactions, businesses and data; and.
– a governance structure that keeps our values at the centre; ensures that control is local, wherever possible; and provides on-going safeguards against the ‘capture’ of our movement and institutions by the people who will help manage it from time to time.

B. In the longer-term, over the next 5-50 years (depending largely on scale requirements), we will establish the following institutions (this list includes those areas where there is a glaring and pressing discrepancy between current provision and our values):

Local hubs: suburb level, walking-distance communities that hold regular meetings and enable participants to develop practical mutual supports. We will invite existing groups – neighbourhood, faith, sporting and community service groups – to host local hubs of The Mutual Society.

Local hubs will develop their own priorities and projects. We envisage each hub will typically undertake a combination of:

– social activities, occasional shared meals, festivities;
– selected sharing economy activity;
– reading circles, group education;
– specialist mutual supports (lone parents, disability);
– public forums and engagement;
– mutual support fund (small weekly contributory scheme, with the fund  available for allocations to Hub members in financial stress, or with significant stage-of-life events, or life-style changes).
Scale requirements: local groups of 50 members minimum

Schools: We envisage building a network of independent schools offering a personalized learning program for every child, with a curriculum teaching 21st century skills in combination with age-old values and character-building insights. We will reshape the school-parent-teacher-student partnership so that schools cease to be an outsourcing of our children’s education and become a partnership institution that enables parents to co-create for their children the tools, skills and understandings that they need.

Scale requirements: regional groups of 200 families

Media: We want to rethink the delivery of news, information and entertainment. Current models deny both genuine diversity of opinion and genuine values-based content. We’re not sure what our response will look like yet, but we aim to create programming and content that meets our members’ needs, and to find ways to capture the economic value of our movement as a market to help pay for it. The precise mix of subscription and commercial information/lead generation that will enable this will be developed over time.

Scale requirements: national group of 50,000+ members

Finance: People need a safe place to save and store their money, access to credit they can afford to repay, and proper accounting of their spending so they can manage their budgets optimally. They need information and advice to enable them to invest their capital in appropriate risk/return environments based on their needs without corruption by incentive structures and distribution channels. We aim to create our own financial institutions or work with others that can meet these needs with much higher transparency and a lower risk profile than existing providers. We hope there are ways we can work with some of the long-standing existing mutually-owned institutions to build this broader capability.

Scale requirements: national group of 100,000 – 1m+ members

Property: everyone needs a home: we need to find ways to access or build the right housing to meet all our needs. Over time, we expect to have large scale enterprises in property development for new housing, and real estate buying, selling, renting, managing and investing. We see so much financial value extracted from the current system by the banks, developers, real estate agents and mortgage brokers that we are confident there is room for our member-owned enterprises to be financially strong. Members are entitled to a broader choice of housing type, and better information about costs (including construction, maintenance and lifetime costs, and energy efficiency). Members should have access to finance that reflects the lower risk of property as an asset class with finance that they can afford. Members are entitled to buy, sell and rent without a system that is ethically challenged, non-transparent, and hideously expensive.

Scale requirements: national 50,000+ members, and local groups of 50-200 members

Food: our members should be able to get cheap, healthy, fresh food from trusted sources. They should not be lied to about the health impact of their food or subject to ingredients or processes that have not been proven to be safe. We understand the role that certification can play in the food chain – such as organic, fair trade, Kosher, Halal and Vegan. We will work with existing, and/or enhance or develop our own certification processes to ensure our members know they are buying food that meets their needs and expectations. We will look to how we can connect the whole chain, from grower/producers to our members to ensure we understand where our food comes from and what has been done to it. We will build strong partnerships with primary producers to help them maintain viability on the land, and farm in the most ethical and environmentally sustainable ways. We will provide finance to our farmer members to enable them to invest in changing their farming practices to meet our needs in an economically viable form.

Scale requirements: national 100,000+ members, and local 100+ members

Child Care, Disability, Aged Care: we know that the cycle of life means that most of us will both give and receive care at different periods in our lives – this is the ultimate expression of inter-generational mutuality. We will build enterprises that enable all types of care in ways that maximize continuity in key relationships with family, friends and community. As individualized funding becomes more available, our members in receipt of individualized care packages will collaborate in developing care management platforms, support worker recruitment and employment tools, supported housing models, and micro-enterprise facilitation. We will try to strike the right balance between informal and formal care – the loving care and intimate knowledge of family and friends supported by the expertise of skilled professionals, in ways that strengthen relational bonds, rather than the institutional interests of care providers.

Scale requirements: national 1,000+ members; and local 20+ families

Bandwidth and Communications: internet access at maximum speed and minimal cost is a core need for most of our members – and this will become more important over time. We don’t expect we will have sufficient scale to build our own physical networks immediately, but we believe the market power of a large membership group should enable us to negotiate price levels and service quality guarantees from external network providers. We suspect that the technical and customer service functions may need to be internalized to the membership of The Mutual Society so they are focused on genuine teaching, learning and service uptime rather than cost minimization to the provider. There should be sufficient expertise within The Mutual Society to enable members to access skilled people who can troubleshoot. There should also be, wherever possible, learning opportunities to create greater control for individual users.

Scale requirements: national 10,000+ members

The Sharing Economy: we think the central idea behind the sharing economy as it is emerging is totally consistent with our ideas of mutuality. We all have things we can share with our neighbours – cars, houses, financial resources, care and support, advice and expertise – and we can benefit from a large scale platform that enables the efficient sharing between members. What this should NOT involve, however, is a large amount of the economic value of this process sucked out to external investors, the valuable but often private data of members being misused or used against them, or the inherent monopoly power of the platform ownership abused to a point where many of the sharers on the network are deprived of fair compensation for what they contribute. The platform needs to ensure social trust and we should all be accountable for the honesty and quality of our dealings. Those who abuse this trust should be required to redress any wrongdoing and amend their behavior in order to retain their membership. This will require, as all elements of our movement will, localized mediation and, where necessary, arbitration and appeal mechanisms.

Scale requirements: national 10,000+ members; local 50+ members

Conflict Resolution and Justice: access to legal redress is often restricted by financial capacity and can take years. This means that many injustices are unaddressed. We cannot and do not wish to replace the current legal system, but we can supplement it. The ultimate sanction we have is expulsion from our movement – reserved as a last resort for those who refuse to respect the community and its members. We believe that a sense that justice can and will be done is important to a sense of well-being and is also a helpful incentive for people to behave well towards each other.We will look to existing models of civil mediation and arbitration to build an internal dispute resolution mechanism. In addition to this, we will look to the causes of irreconcilable conflict, and endeavor to teach interpersonal conflict-resolution skills. This is a core function of The Mutual Society – helping people get better at getting along. We envisage a role for the mainstream judicial system in cases where there is a significant power differential between the disputing parties and the potential for abuse of power.

Scale requirements: national 1,000+ members

Health care: most parts of the health system have a vested interest in illness without an incentive to keep people well. Health economists around the world have grappled with this problem for a long time, and many have ended up re-discovering the 19th century health mutuals, often known as ‘friendly societies’, which contracted with practitioners and providers on behalf of their members to keep them well. We will develop a health care enterprise that aims to keep our members well, with partnerships with practitioners and providers who support our philosophy of mutual well-being and support. An essential part of this enterprise will be a member-controlled electronic health record and member-control of personal health data, which will enable members to collectively leverage integrated and personalized care. We will try to partner with some of the long-standing existing mutually-owned health funds to build this capability.

Scale requirements: national 10,000+ members; regional 500+ members

Energy: changes in technology will soon make it feasible for communities to supply their energy needs ‘off-grid’. We don’t expect we will have sufficient scale to build our own generation and distribution networks immediately, but we believe the market power of a large membership group should enable us to negotiate price levels and service quality guarantees from external providers while we develop our own. Technical and customer service functions can be performed internally by The Mutual Society members, so that they focus on genuine teaching and learning about energy use and conservation rather than cost minimization to the provider.

Scale requirements: national 10,000+; regional 500+

Natural Disaster Prevention and Emergency Response: bushfires, floods and cyclones are a part of life, and are becoming more intense and frequent with climate change. Emergency services and governments can only do so much in the way of prevention, coordination of responses, and recovery. The most effective prevention is always done at the micro-local level, where residents facing similar challenges are able to share information, minimize risks and develop peer-to-peer arrangements. Recovery from natural disasters is always easier and faster in communities with high social capital. We think our members in at-risk areas can develop their own insurance pool, perhaps in partnership with existing insurance providers.

Scale requirements: national 10,000+ members insurance pool; plus local 20+ members

C. In our efforts, we will only give political action the proportion of our energy and resources that we deserve in the wider society – if we are 5% of the population, we will devote 5% of our energy and resources to political change. The other 95% of our efforts will be split evenly between building the communities we want and the businesses we need. If our movement grows to be 10% or 20% of the population, our political focus will increase accordingly.

This Rule serves to check the tendency for politics to eat up energies and resources at the expense of relationships and enterprise. It also reinforces our focus on building a holistic, socially grounded, transformation movement that starts with our own voluntary efforts to better our own lives, not force change on others.

You can read the full version of our Business Plan here.