Hyperlocal economy

There is a growing awareness about the importance of having strong local economies. They provide resilience and richness to our lives.

What has not been part of the conversation is hyperlocal economies. Economies that involve people on the scale of 150 people and less e.g. a gift circle economy.

Questions :

Why might hyperlocal economies be important?
Do local economies grow out of hyperlocal economies?
What might local economies do that global economies can’t?
What might hyperlocal economies do that local economies can’t?


3 thoughts on “Hyperlocal economy

  1. I have been wondering about small scale economies as well.

    My impression is that we will see a new type of economy emerge which shares the characteristics of a hyperlocal economy, but which will scale beyond the confines of a traditional Dunbar-number sized community.

    Gift economies work within small-scale economies because it is cognitively feasible to keep tabs on the reputation and reciprocity of individual participants. In this sense, the gift economy works like a complex adaptive system, allowing value to flow by rewarding reciprocators and ‘punishing’ free-riders.

    This model doesn’t normally scale to bigger economies, because the inter-personal relationships which regulate a gift economy in a small social context no longer exist. I can’t afford to gift people I don’t know goods and services, if I have little confidence that they will reciprocate, even indirectly.

    This constraint may be being overcome thanks to technology and new forms of ‘trust’ currency. Consider that whereas before we had to keep ‘mental tabs’ on a Dunbar-sized community, now we can track participation and reciprocation of value with metrics, or currency systems. As a result, gift economies could scale by making reputation more explicit and measurable.

    The advantages of a gift economy over barter or a market system are that they are rooted in a concept of abundance. Specifically, they enable the potentially unlimited creation of value as a gift. Since no money is required, there is no limit to the value I can receive as a gift except the community’s capacity to create and willingness to give. This lowers the threshold to value creation.

    The challenge for the hyper-local economies of the future will be too devise metrics which allow scaling of these principles to larger spheres of participation.

  2. perhaps, just as the reputation of the individual becomes their social credit within a hyper-local gift community, so too does the reputation of that hyper-local community become its social credit to the larger local community. and so does the local community to the world, at large.

    i think this is really all about building relationships between groups and individuals. facts and numbers can help inform the opinions of individuals and the consensuses of groups, but it’s ultimately those consensuses and opinions which are the lens through which all those relationships are first scene, then formed.

    the hurdle we encounter lies within the natural process mentioned in the last paragraph, about forming opinion and consensus BEFORE embarking upon any kind of relationship. People are just too guarded and not used to allowing gift economy to have a more dominant role in their lives.

    perhaps the key to bridging the gaps between groups is the same as what we’ve discovered (via the gift circle) to be the key that bridges gaps between individuals: simply reaching out, even if only as an opening gesture. allow at least some connection to arise on its own, rather than wait to first form our judgements of one-an-other.

    the natives in this land brought gifts with them where ever they went, as a way to establish rapport with the neighboring tribes who’s land they were traversing. eventually, full trade relations would be established between far-flung groups of people.

    maybe what needs to happen is for groups of varying scale to offer gifts, in the names of its members, to the members of other groups. any number of gestures could be appropriate. the members of group “a” could all pitch-in for a theatre ticket, to be raffled off to one of the members of group “b”. some members of group “c” could take a bike tour through the localities of groups “d”, “e” and “f”, accumulating tour participants from the various groups as they went (much like the groups that traveled through gift circles from marin to LA). there are any number of things that groups could do, which we could all learn about once we start doing them.

    eventually, there could be a list of best group-connecting practices, very similar to the ‘best facilitation practices” list that the gift circles continues to amass.

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