Bringing an original product idea to market should always start with ethics, social beliefs, values, hopes and how can these be translated into material expressions.
How might we counteract precarity, which is everywhere now: in the work environment (unstable employment, low wages), in the foods we eat (we can’t trace the source of the ingredients, their production methods and their impact on our health), in the housing conditions and costs, in growing wealth inequalities, discriminations, racism and xenophobia.
What if we could counteract the effects of capitalism, and start ideating for products that are sustainable? Here are my top ideas:
Products and services that support collaboration and community
Capitalism teaches us competition instead of solidarity. We compete over jobs and positions. We compete with workers in other countries, or as races, classes, genders.
Under capitalism, everyone has to play in a competition, in conditions of ever increasing resource scarcity.
Success is not defined as unlocking of one’s full potential, but as winning, being better than others.
An alternative system would sustain communities, that are sharing resources and governing them, through horizontal commoning.
The collaborative economy, for example, is based on sharing or exchange, between individuals, of goods, services or knowledge — with or without a financial transaction — via a digital platform.
Take Shopopop — a collaborative delivery service between individuals. Individuals can take advantage of their daily commute and earn some money on every delivery.
How does it work? A customer does his shopping, then posts the reference of his shopping list on Shopopop. The deliverer can then pick up the products at the “drive” of the store and drop them at the client’s home.
Products and services that are environmentally friendly
The profit driven capitalist mode of production is destroying pretty much every life system on Earth. All that we have, we have taken from the earth; but we return little. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth. Capitalism’s grow or die imperative is in conflict with ecology’s character of interdependence and limit.
What if we could rely more on goods that can be produced by recycling at home, rather than goods from abroad, and utilise more of local resources, instead of wasting?
Karma is a Stockholm-based startup that offers a marketplace to let local restaurants and grocery offer unsold food at a discount. Restaurants post when they have meals that would otherwise be thrown away; Karma users receive push notifications to let them know a meal is available. The food is almost always available at half price or less.
Products and services that don’t widen existing inequalities
When society’s main resources are produced and distributed by private businesses through exploitation (extracting as much labour from workers at as little cost as possible), inequalities appear. The wealth produced from the work usually goes to the owners of capital, even though workers produced it.
In a more just system, people would be empowered in their workplaces, their communities, their homes, to control investment and production.This is partly done today through worker cooperatives and participatory boards.
Fairbnb.coop is an ethical alternative to Airbnb, which aims to bring much needed fairness to the vacation rental markets, focusing on giving communities a voice and a stake in the process.
Fairbnb gives back 50% of its revenues to support local community projects such as social housing for residents, community gardens and more.
Products and services that give back people’s time
In the capitalist system, work and life become inseparable. We are witnessing a degradation of our time- our productivity is higher, and our accessibility to the employer, too.
Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace, ran an advertising campaign called “In Doers We Trust”. One of the ads featured a woman staring at the camera with determination: “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the ad declared. “Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
Companies like Fiverr “make it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system.”
How might we create products and services that give back people’s time, that are respectful and mindful about our resources and attention?
Spire Mindfulness Tracker works with your iPhone or Android to bring peacefulness to your day. It measures your breathing, provides feedback, and reminds you to breathe in the moments when you need it most.
Our key metrics must change
If yesterday’s models were built for efficiency and productivity, tomorrow’s should be built for gentleness, truth, humanity, and warmth.
Maybe we should organise our key metrics not around ads and profit, but around positive impacts- products that can sustain human happiness, meaning, trust, well-being, closeness.