Not just a business model… a value system

A few weeks ago I attended the University Project event at Hub Westminster – led by curiosity about how the Remakery might fit into the “giant wave of ‘new learning’ spaces… co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators” described by John Geraci (referenced in Dougald Hine’s TEDx talk about the University Project). Geraci predicts that such spaces will radically disrupt the world of higher education, and while the Remakery is primarily a workspace it is also going to be an educational one in many ways – through formal training courses, self-directed learning by members, and partnerships with academic institutions – so it was good to get different perspectives on what that might look like.

I also made some great contacts at the event – one being John Parman, a professional fundraiser setting up a project called Activation Institution, who has subsequently volunteered to run a 7-week fundraising training course for the Remakery’s emerging Development & Funding Team.

It was also a great pleasure to meet Habib Lesevic and Benedikt Foit of vicventures, a pair of “pirate venturers” (their words) whose approach to “avant-garde venture philosophy” caught my attention when Habib told the story of a jazz bar in a less than swinging area of Berlin, whose business suddenly took off when they stopped charging an Eintritt (entry fee) and substituted an optional Austritt (exit fee). The local population, with little knowledge of or interest in jazz, were enticed inside by the free entry – but having heard the quality of the music, most were happy to pay the Austritt, and sometimes even a bit extra.

I chatted with Habib about the Remakery and he liked the project enough to want to come down to Brixton and check it out! He and Ben kindly offered a couple of hours of their time to help me think through what they call the Remakery’s “value system”, which means a kind of expanded version of a business model. While a business model typically focuses on financial transactions only – modelling income and expenditure in monetary terms – a value system is a map of all the different types of value that an enterprise creates, with the inputs and outputs including money but also (for example) workspace, materials, other people’s work, support, experience, access to networks, opportunities… Basically, whatever forms of value the participants recognise as valuable, which motivates them to participate in the system.

This idea is interesting to me, partly because for most of us participating in the creation of the Remakery, the primary motivation is not financial. Two of us were paid as part-time project managers earlier this year (and thankfully, I’ve recently secured a second round of project management funding which will see me through until the Remakery opens); but I’ve also done several months on a voluntary basis, and the Steering Group all attend meetings, design sessions and occasional volunteer days (when we cleaned out the garages, for example) with no payment. While this is partly because they see the Remakery as an opportunity that will help them to establish or grow their businesses (reaping longer-term financial benefits), most are not purely profit-driven companies but social enterprises – focused on reducing waste and cultivating skills and opportunities in the local community.

While it is clear that in order to sustain themselves as businesses, they need to make enough money to cover their costs and have some in reserve, there are also many other types of value that they stand to gain by being involved in the Remakery – the value of participating in a community, accessing networks of expertise, innovating through collaboration, gaining a track record, being appreciated by others, making a difference. To design our “system” wisely, it seems to me that in the same way as we are designing our business model to be financially sustainable, it makes sense to account for these other types of value and make sure we can keep sustaining them over the long term too.

With that in mind, I diligently carried out the homework set by Habib and Ben – to map the “value system” of the Remakery with all the “sub-systems” it’s made up of, and for each sub-system to answer 3 questions:

In the interests of being transparent and inviting the possibility of some open-source contributions, I’ve decided to upload this document here. It’s in tabular form with brief bullet points, and was written mainly for my own use, so please excuse if some of the notes are too brief to be understandable! Most should be quite clear. If you have experience or interest in either traditional business planning or this broader framework of “value”, and are interested in getting involved with designing the Remakery’s value system, please do have a read and get in touch.

Remakery Value System (pdf)

This exercise has already helped to shape the emerging team structure of the Remakery – if you’d like to know more check out the page Co-Creators Wanted.