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I think that the chaos model of the wisdom of crowds deserves a chance. At least in the US we already have more institutes, study groups and the like then you can imagine.
Many seem to consist of nothing more than an office and a small dedicated staff. I know where many of the rightwing ones get their funding, but I'm not so sure of the leftist ones. There are also many astro-turf and front groups using the same model which makes it hard to separate the science from the propaganda.
The advantage of the blogosphere is that the maintenance costs are low and the audience both for input and output is potentially very large. I see our role as debating ideas and propagating those that are found most promising.
Now that many in academia and the media are starting to participate online it is thus possible to implant new ideas into their heads. I have seen several examples of this, where a "pundit" entered into a discussion and then gleaned some new perspective from the comments. This perspective then reappeared later on in the pundits later writings.
To use an agricultural analogy I think we should be breeding the seeds of new ideas and then casting them out. We let those with more influence nurture them and make them grow.
I've seen many of the white papers produced by present think tanks as just that - paper. Even the ones that get some notice in the media tend to fade away after a very short time. But getting some new ideas accepted means they keep getting repeated by the converts.
by rdf (robert.feinman)       

we love doing that... but I am not sure if Migeru meant that.. I think we are talking to something different because of the "the next level" meme...
I would say that LTE writers, media contact, or as you say, pundit contacts would reach a new level of sophistication in the framework that some people are proposing..
I personally thing that a small change  could do a lot for ht media contact world... if colman finishes what he has been talking about then we will probably have more  to think about.
by kcurie

I have quite a bit of free time as I intentionally keep my life pretty low key. Plus I put this in the "volunteering" category - money isn't expected, although I wouldn't turn it down if it was there.
by MillMan

I would say this, because it's the direction my self-employment is tending, but one of the things there is on ET that may have some potential is mining the extraordinary level of cross-cultural knowledge here.  No, I don't know how, but it just occurred to me as a different angle on "what makes ET special" as opposed to just AEI or Heritage style policy production, so I thought I'd throw it out there...
by Metatone

I am good for $100 per month, IF:
Migeru organizes this project;
Members choose to concentrate on a few of the topics that are discussed on ET during any particular time frame;
There is an end-product focus on the chosen topics.
From my standpoint topics have to be limited by funding, so that there are sufficient resources brought to the research, analysis, formulation, editing, and dissemination of cogent policy theses. My primary interest is in the use of the 'end-product' to move people and, therefore, history.
I'm not suggesting an isolated "intellectual", surrounded by books and perma-wired into the internet. Most of the research and analysis might well consist of the observations and facts supplied by the ET membership; but there will always be particular lines of inquiry, fact-checking, plus the drafting of reports and policy statements that require professional service.
In addition there is a need for full-time liaison work with existing research/policy entities, such as Energize America, PES, World Social Forum, and many others. Of course, there has to be prioritization in that aspect, too - maybe the current-topics focus would inform the current liaison work.
Is Migeru's suggestion elitist? Probably, but this is an elite blog in my opinion. There is plenty of need for leadership in this world. Why not tap into the education, experience, and skill of a group like this one? Even the polemics and rants on this blog are some of the best prose-poetry that I have read in years (hat-tips in particular to Melo and redstar from yesterday's postings).
The analytical pieces are first-rate, and the comments (as noted in comments to this diary above) are generally on-point and almost always help to develop the thesis. A few, such as Chris Cook and rdf, synthesize policy and program; and this is the penultimate need. This would be the goal of Migeru's organization, as I see it.
paul spencer

Could we earn some money by publishing?
I have some limited experience writing applications for EU grants, otherwise. Always happy to jump in and do a project timeline.
Traditional think-tank fare, I know, but as no-one mentioned an example so far...
by nanne

Unintended consequences?
by ceebs

It empowers people it was not designed to empower to do things it was not designed to allow.
by Migeru

example?
by ceebs

A short film  - "The Art of Flirting" - funded and created within an LLP framework
Acquisition of Chateau de Bambecq
Dozens of "Social Enterprises" - simply because it costs £20.00 and they can.
Plus a couple of recent City of Glasgow LLP's; SLIPE , IPM Eagle LLP (International Power and Mitsui) and so on and so on.
by ChrisCook

Among the unintended consequences are that the new LLP:
(a) makes "the Corporation" obsolete.
(b) allows the "Public/ Private" distinction to be dissolved.
(c) allows the sharing of risk and reward in entirely new ways.
None of this was intended.
The accountancy profession - who were crapping themselves about their increasingly exposed position as partnerships - literally blackmailed the UK government into implementing the LLP in the UK with the threat of taking themselves offshore to Jersey.
And the way they got the LLP through in Jersey is a story in itself.
This Anecdote is new to me on the subject while Prem Sikka's paper Globalisation and its Discontents
sets it all out.
by ChrisCook

"But even if you can identify demand you still have to figure out how (whether) you're going to meet it. Who's going to be doing the work and what work can they do?"
We sell 'Strategic Services and Consultancy.'  (Or possibly like management consultancy.)
Why would anyone buy them - Because between us we have statistical analysis, business modelling, creative and media services, and IT abilities to offer.  This is the major 'Value Added' ET brings to the table.  There are plenty of single discipline, single POV consultants but none, to my knowledge, that can span the gamut from Anthropology to Zoology -- which we can.
by ATinNM

"Initially there's going to be no revenue," -
Not necessarily. There might be some selling involved initially ('Hi - this is us...') but that might not be too onerous if it's targetted sensibly.
There are also various online options.
The magical thing about self-employment is that you decide 'Today I'm going to be a...' and then you do it. You don't wait for someone to give you permission.
You have to be realistic about what you can do. At least a little. But I'm finding it hard to believe we'd be so very much less good at doing some of the things analysts and consultants do.
by ThatBritGuy

Spot on. Especially about permissions.  I guess quite a few of us already work the networks every day in 'strategic services and consulting'. ET has just become one strand of the overall network. For me it would be a natural extension if it became more than a strand.
All companies want fortune tellers. I was just meeting last month with a Swedish 'trendspotter' who does nothing else than just that - and gets paid handsomely for it. And he worked alone as far as I could guage.  A fortune teller is an aggregator, collating small changes in different environments into a pattern. It is multidisciplinary. The wider you can cast for bits of knowledge and insight, the better you perform as a predictor.
Companies know that all the information is out there - they just don't know how to bring it all together with meaning. It is work that is easily outsourced.
by Sven Triloqvist

This is an aspect I reckon is definitely a go and one I'd be up for selling to some degree (although no promises for my selling success.)
My view is we need to nail down some of these proposals and give it a go...
by Metatone

It would seem to me that the structure would be influenced to some extent by the "product" and the "market".  The aim of the meta-consultancy would be to develop economic, environmental and social policy proposals and options for Europe. But exactly who would use these, and in what form.
As TBG aptly notes upthread,
ThatBritGuy:

The magical thing about self-employment is that you decide 'Today I'm going to be a...' and then you do it.  But for that to work, you need to know who you are doing it for.  So: How do we get the "product" in front of the people we believe should have it?
by dvx

The aim of the meta-consultancy would be to develop economic, environmental and social policy proposals and options for Europe. But exactly who would use these, and in what form.
I think it's more about being what the New Economics Foundation call a "Do Tank". Policy in practice: don't talk about it - JFDI.
My own initial focus is upon sustainable development of renewable energy and property.
by ChrisCook

Fair enough, I'm just not clear on the "to whom": policymakers, the general public, media outlets?
For example: your focus is on sustainable development of renewable energy and property. To whom do you see yourself addressing your work? And how would you prepare your studies and conclusions to optimally influence these addressees?
The thought that occurs two seconds too late:
If your aim is to create a foundation or a knowledge base for others to build on and apply in specific situations, that is of course an important end. I'm just saying that such a determination of purpose needs to be made explicitly.
by dvx

There is another more practical way of looking at it. All of us are real world people. We have physical networks too. Some of us spend our time putting together projects and acting as producers, coordinators, catalysts and aggregators using our networks to put together a team to solve a particular client problem. Or to be pulled into another team network to solve their client's problem.
These real world networks already exist. What we can add is ET to the network as a kind of Living Lab ( a project I am working on at the moment - ENoLL - the European Network of Living Labs: http://www.cdt.ltu.se/~zcorelabs).
Would it not be powerful to be able to say to these clients "yes, I've already got the top graphic designer, the coders and the behavioural psychologist lined up, but I've also got a few hundred experts over at a Delphic oracle called ET that will give you insights you never thought about for x amount of the elusive spondulex (providing your project meets with their moral approval, otherwise they might just tell you to come back when you've stopped fucking all the goodness in the the world)".
It is quite clearly a value-adding service, the only question is how much value. How do you price it? Consultants charge by the hour. How do you evaluate the worth of multidimensional time-shattered ET?
I believe that Chris Cook has demonstrated how this might be possible. It is, admittedly, a long way to the piece of paper in which we agree how to share. But the raison d'être of a theory is that it be tested. I think the time has come to stop listening to those who say "No, never been done that way, can't work. Waste of time. Throw away hundreds of years of tradition? Pah!"
I'd like to know if it could work. And my experience in Finland recently confirms that there are many people coming round to the same way of thinking. Something's got to change. And new organizational models of government, representation, business, society etc are needed.
by Sven Triloqvist

There it is - the ET dialectic -  Sven has neatly summed one of the salient possibilities. And you have the passion, too. Excellent (hope that I don't sound like Montgomery Burns)!
I don't want to put words in Chris' place, but, ultimately, the fee could become a share of 'ownership'. For now, in terms of supporting staff, it has to be a concrete currency: euros or a house or groceries or some combination of real assets and money.
But with the appropriate 'bylaws', some marketing, and some luck, why not? Some interesting developments in the U.S. lately: 1) Ron Paul's contributions soaring due to his challenge to the status quo; 2) big-time bloggers almost unanimously applauding this development; 3) polls showing that the U.S. electorate is seriously disgusted with both major parties; 4) a poll showing that a large majority of electorate disapprove of Bush and his policies (not just 'not approving', but disapproving). Folks - it is time to prepare for change.
paul spencer

In the first stage I think any revenues should flow back into ET as an infrastructure, for the benefit of all. That means that the administration and maintenance, and site development should be rewarded. One commercial job should take care of that ;-)
In the second stage, revenues should flow into the development of the tools (possibly new software) for online consultancy and cooperation.
Only by stage 3 do I see any indivdual gaining financially. And I question whether that is really necessary. It will be essential to maintain ET as a public magazine of change. Given critical mass, ET could change public opinion. To be a member of it would mean value in the real world. Why not pool (surplus) resources to build what we believe in?
by Sven Triloqvist

As part of Complexity Theory development Reward Systems have been a subject of research and there are automatic reward/payment systems floating around.  I'm not up on the latest but I could become so with a trip up to Santa Fe and a couple of days in the SFI library.
Off the top of my head, pricing is a function of the perceived value by the recipient.  Time spent fulfilling the task is unimportant to the purchaser, tho' not - of course - to them that perform the task(s.)  Looking at it, again off the top of my head & IIRC, the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa paid $300,000 for the advertising slogan, "The City of Five Seasons."  (I have no idea what it means either.)  So 300 grand for a substantial answer to a serious question doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.  Perhaps the best way is to ask, "What's it worth, to you?"  Get the answer.   Do a bit of Cost and Time analysis and either do the job for the purposed fee or make them a counter-offer.
I emphatically agree "somethings got to change."  Any of us could swallow a bottle of ink and puke a better design than the bright, happy, gluttonous, money-grubbing Neo-Lib world we're all living in.  
by ATinNM

"Would it not be powerful to be able to say to these clients"
Yes, but which clients?
There is a lot of high-level creative discourse about how such an enterprise could be structured, how to direct the revenue streams, etc., but whenever anyone asks about the specific examples of target groups or types of services (or at least, whenever I do, which seems to me to be pretty much the same thing right now :-), the response is... is a lot of high-level creative discourse about how such an enterprise could be structured, how to direct the revenue streams, etc.
I'm not trying to be petty or destructive. I think identifying target client groups and services is fundamental - more so even than how to charge for service.
And I think that once ideas start getting put on the table, we're going to find that some are not mutually compatible.
Oh, and for the record: I haven't a clue - otherwise I would have posted my vision already.
by dvx

I tend to think about first identifying demand and then figuring out whether one can address it. But then again, I have never created a business. Someone once said "every successful open source software project scratches a developer's itch". Similarly, I think it would be fair to say that successful startups scratch their founders' itch. In other words, if I would pay for this, others must be willing to pay for it, too seems to be the best motivation for a start-up. If I remember correctly that kind of reasoning is what motivated techno to start his furniture company nearly 30 years ago.
by Migeru

I tend to do it the other way: come up with a list of things that would be fun to do and then qualify and purge the list as feedback (buying interest) from The Market comes in.  That way, no matter what one ends-up doing, it is interesting and fun.
The reason I don't approach the problem that way is that I have a hard time believing The Market can have any interest in paying me to do something I consider fun. Must be the result of years of peer conditioning, having the other kids mock me for being a nerd and stealing my lunch in the playground, so to speak.
by Migeru

I've been directly involved in 15, or so, Start-Ups and peripherally with another - gosh, 20?  30? - a lot, in any case.  Of that 15 one is slowly winding down, one is on-going, and one is a dream.  The rest were abject failures.  What I can say is those that were successful met a need perceived by the founders meeting a need with a large enough Market to pay for it all.  
In some cases the founders and Market agreed almost exactly on the need for the service - Google is a case, here - but the money flowed from the 'Add-On,' advertising in the case of Google.  In other cases money flowed directly from the product.    
One never really knows, in advance.
Then there is the situation where there is interest but nobody, neither the workers in the field nor the potential market has clue one as to what to do about it.  For instance, there is a small but growing interest in a re-investigation and re-development of Analog Computers to handle Information Processing in fuzzy, dynamic, environments.  The hardware for these machines is a slam-dunk.  All that is required, to get it off the ground, is the minor matter of a completely new, revolutionary, Theory and Techniques of Computer Programming.  
And I seem to be rambling, sorry.
Right now, at this stage, I submit we need to Think Big.  We need to be outrageously weird.  We need to Blue Sky and indulge our wildest dreams.  Screw the market.  
That's Step B.
by ATinNM

Well, there's actually 2 ways to go about this, imo: either you develop a product and look for somebody to sell it to, the approach you're describing. Or you identify a group that has a problem and you develop a solution for them.
Both are valid in their own ways. But in my experience you need either the one or the other as the first step. Everything else will develop from that - and to a certain extent organically.
As regards your footnote, maybe I'm dense but I can't think offhand of a product or service that an ET virtual consultancy can offer either more cost-effectively or in higher quality (though I'm willing to be convinced).
by dvx

My operational preference is matching products to markets.  But my preference shouldn't, and doesn't, preclude your or Migeru's preference for the other way 'round.
We don't have diddly until both products and markets match-up.
As regards your footnote, ... "I can't think offhand of a product or service that an ET virtual consultancy can offer either more cost-effectively or in higher quality."
We do a pretty good Scoop blog.  Now all we have to do is find someone desperate or dumb enough to pay us for it.  ;-)
by ATinNM

The next level you mention goes along the lines of Colman where small inputs will be needed to take  ET to a new level (basically in using the easier platform to debate and an easier platform to reach the mass media that Colman wants to develop).. or are you thinking in a more "high level"...?
by kcurie

No matter what you call it, you're starting a economic entity.  As an economic entity it will require all the apparatus, functions, inputs, and outputs of a 'business.'  As a Start-Up economic entity, to be successful, it will need to 'Ack' - at a minimum - the various little hoops Start-Ups need to twirl.
by ATinNM

I only have my free time in which to blog but I'd still like to be involved in think tank activities.
Which is what my half-assed discussion of opportunity costs of involvement is all about.
by Migeru

My job isn't unfulfilling and I don't want to quit it.  But maybe in a year's time I'll be somewhere different.  "opportunity costs of involvement" means nothing to me and I'm trying to process it within the context of your discussion there.
by In Wales

"My job isn't unfulfilling and I don't want to quit it" is an opportunity cost of involvement.
not everyone has to be involved. If your job is fulfilling, by all means continue doing it.
by Migeru

ET Think Lab
I like this name very much indeed.
by ThatBritGuy

Living Labs
by ChrisCook

What I was trying to say - and I think you'll agree - was that we cannot compare the potential of new forms of organizations with existing organizations because the circumstances are changing. As you say - it would be difficult to persuade companies to take on some mysterious group called ET as a consultant in the traditional sense, just as it would have been impossible to sell an OR multidisciplinary group pre-1939.
But there came a war which changed the whole context of business and problem solving, with new types of organizations (like OR) proving better at finding solutions faster - especially technological and logistic ones. This was to influence the development in the Fifties onward till the present day, of a logistic linear based hierarchic system of management and transaction wisdom. W*stern management and organizational structuring (a personal view, of course) is a direct descendant of those dark days in Europe of WWII - because our dads were there, and they were still running the show until a few years ago. And they trained the following generation well in their methods.
Now I look at organizations like Nokia and the overall average age is under 30. Yes, the senior management is still born of the immediate post-war period, but the upcoming management is very interesting. They maybe know their history, but it is not tactile. In Finland at least, I get a strong feeling from this group of current middle management that there are some deep questions about the sustainability of business today. There's a kind of search for what we should do about it, but nothing concrete yet.
It is interesting that several business schools in Scandinavia now study culture, including the Arts, as much as business. Or rather study the Arts, eg as alternative organizational types. And that is one of the reasons why ET CAN be an agent of change. Science, politics and culture not only exist side by side - they interact.
To have a recommended diary list starting with 100 dollar oil, with the next item being one of RGs amazing visual extravaganzas, then shoes, then Chechenya, then politics in Belgium is precisely the type of OR actvity that we need now and will need in the future, We are looking to change the system AND IT DOESN'T NEED TO WORK in the old world. That was my point - but I suckered myself into a virtual organization rap, mon ami. Forgive me.
Sven

Words have been coming out like fireworks here and there are excellent ones that feel better than think tank: Stewardship, collaborative, cooperative, community, thought team, group, living, sustaining... really are already part of an ET brand.  Some members are already tank and consulting level and that helps us all, so I´m supportive of additional networking relationships around the blog. I have to agree with dvx in having a clear vision and purpose, as the ET community.  Are we here to influence European politics to a more progressive and sustainable level, or are we seeing the crisis and wanting to save ourselves?  It may be both for many of us, just as I feel I am a producer and a client, but the approach would be very different and it must be stated clearly to avoid divisions, or misunderstandings. This is a very exciting and thought-provoking concept and I´ll keep reading!
Metavision


paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:13:16 AM EST

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