Since the early days, ways of broadening the scope of Synergy beyond that of just organising parties which people would attend more as consumers than as participants have been discussed and explored. Some within the community were particularly keen to encourage a greater sense of participation and involvement on behalf of those attending the parties, enabling them to undergo a transition from passive consumers to be both beneficiaries and stakeholders.
Other considerations which have informed the development of ideas behind the Synergy Community include recognition of the wealth of ideas within the community about potential projects within the broad field of healthy, conscious and ethical living that they could run. More often than not, however, people are not aware of how to go about setting up and running such projects and do not know where to turn to for the necessary advice and support. Sometimes, members of the community are alienated from orthodox patterns of employment, associating many of the disciplines and methods of the corporate world with the values of mainstream consumer capitalism, to which they seek to offer an alternative. Synergy seeks to bridge this gap, applying some of the methods recognised as ‘best practice’ in the public, private and voluntary sector so as to enable members of the community to gain meaningful self-employment and advance the wider cause of the alternative and progressive community.
Various ways of facilitating this have been considered.
The idea of a skills database, listing all the skills and talents possessed by the members of the wider community has been broached, which would enable people running events or projects and needing support with a particular task to enlist the support of those in the wider community with the necessary skills.
For certain kinds of skills and services, the employment agency role of the community can evolve into one of a Synergy Consultancy, providing advice and support for a wide variety of clients varying from people wishing to set up their own non-profit company or project and needing advice about incorporation, fundraising, administration and so on or to corporate or public sector clients seeking expertise about innovative ways of generating much needed social capital through the innovative use of social networking and community engagements / outreach event management.
Recognising that while some members of the Synergy community are time rich but yet cash poor and others are cash rich and time poor, the idea has been raised of creating a Synergy Membership as a means of enabling people to support Synergy and its progressive aims and values, much in the same way that concerned citizens become members of an NGO such as Greenpeace or Oxfam.
The benefits of membership would include access to the Synergy skills database when members need a particular job to be done, with the ability to pay for such services at least partially in Synergies. Members will also be eligible for support by the employment agency, helping them find work both within and outside the community. A small commission would be charged on each transaction, enabling Synergy to harness the wealth embodied in its community networks to raise funds in support of the Project and Centre, as well as covering the costs of administering the economy. Services provided by members of the community will come with a Synergy stamp of approval confirming that such service providers ascribe to the values of ethical and sustainable living promoted by Synergy and can therefore be relied upon to deliver an effective and fairly priced service. By adopting systems to audit each transaction and to give clients the opportunity to provide feedback about the quality of the service, Synergy will act as a social auditor to maintain standards and provide administrative support to facilitate the smooth operation of the system.
The Synergy Community / Economy will therefore adopt characteristics of a number of different virtual communities in its efforts to leverage the value of social networks to promote economic, social and cultural regeneration:
- Facebook – the classic social networking sites enable people to use the internet to join a variety of communities and make friends and contacts, many of which can have an employment generating role.
- EBay – the social auditing component of EBay is a characteristic that the Synergy Community / Economy will seek to replicate – allowing members to feedback about the quality of a service or product will keep standards high.
Other benefits of membership will include reduced entry to Synergy Events at the Synergy Centre, which will emerge as a meeting and networking hub for people wanting to become more actively involved in social, community and environmental projects.
The Synergy Community / Economy therefore becomes a progressive instrument of social and economic cohesion – promoting and facilitating employment in a broader sense that will generate personal and collective social returns as well as immediate financial returns. Recent events have amply demonstrated that if sustainable and holistic development is to take place, a balance between social and financial return must be struck. The Synergy Community / Economy seeks to pioneer new structures and instruments of community development that deliver balanced, equitable and sustainable development as an alternative to the uneven, inequitable development that arises from contemporary financial and economic instruments and structures. PFdzG