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News Stories -Background

Page history last edited by Paul Crosland 13 years, 7 months ago

This page is being overseen by the Networking Group


This page is sometimes cross-linked with the freelenders blog, which is also recommended for keeping in touch with the themes most relevant to freelending.



Dictionary definition of freecycle in Urban Dictionary




This week's Collaborative Consumption event



Collaborative Consumption (the new terminology for what we do)

-and this article nicked one of freelender's two straplines for the title of the article on collaborative consumption; that's OK because we like to share!


How to conquer the clutter

Guardian article (February 2010)


What can we learn from gift economies?

A useful piece of writing that re-assesses barter and states that gifting is what works best...


Unforeseen benefits gained by a family which chose to give half of what they owned away by moving into a smaller house

(Story here)


James Cameron's Avatar movie and the recipie for healthy change in society

Now that freelender.org has produced a leaflet on the connection between the trust-building creed of the Avatar Survival Guide and the trust-stats that you can build on freelender.org (as a new form of currency?); a lot more attention has been placed on the values expounded in the film Avatar. (NB Leaflet here -Avatar-Freelender.pdf)

As a place to record some of the richness of the discussion, we've created a new page: Avatar-film and book -Nonviolence and Freelender


"The ratio of adverts is 180:1 in favour of consumerism and against citizenship".

Andrew Simms, keynote news feature on Radio 4's the World Tonight (1st January 2010).

Andrew asked the question 'Why do we go on consuming like there is no tomorrow?'

One focus for the answer to this question was advertising and 'sterotype activation'.

In one day alone, Andrew recorded 454 adverts asking him to consume more, compared to just 3 'good citizen' messages.

Making various adjustments, Andrew reckons that "The ratio of adverts is 180:1 in favour of consumerism and against citizenship".

(Full transcript for this may be forthcoming once we contact Andrew)


As background information this is a former report by Limits to Property report (New Economics Foundation -(2003 report) Limits_to_Property.pdf; and a New Statesman summary of that 50 page document:


Former teacher Heidemarie Schwermer has lived without money in Germany for 13 years. Our writer finds out how she does it

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article6928744.ece )

Twenty-two years ago Heidemarie Schwermer, a middle-aged secondary school teacher just emerging from a difficult marriage, moved with her two children from the village of Lueneburg to the city of Dortmund, in the Ruhr area of Germany, whose homeless population, she immediately noticed, was above average and striking in its intransigent hopelessness.

Her immediate reaction was shock. “This isn’t right, this can’t go on,” she said to herself. After careful reflection she set up what in Germany is called a Tauschring — a sort of swap shop — a place where people can exchange their skills or possessions for other skills and possessions, a money-free zone where a haircut could be rendered in return for car maintenance; a still-functioning but never-used toaster be exchanged for a couple of second-hand cardigans. She called it Gib und Nimm, Give and Take.

It was always Schwermer’s belief that the homeless didn’t need money to re-enter society: instead they should be able to empower themselves by making themselves useful, despite debts, destitution or joblessness. “I’ve always believed that even if you have nothing, you are worth a lot. Everyone has a place in this world.”

But the homeless of Dortmund seemed not to take to Schwermer’s plan, few ever turned up to the Tauschring. Some, they told her angrily to her face, felt that a middle-class woman with some education would never be able to relate to the circumstances of the dispossessed. Instead it was mainly the unemployed and the retired who began, in snowballing numbers, to flock to the Tauschring, their arms full of things that had been lying around their homes unused for years, or skills that they possessed but no longer exercised: retired hairdressers volunteered to cut the hair of out-of-work electricians, who would wire their kitchens in return; retired English teachers gave language lessons in return for the services of a dog-walker. The point was, not a single pfennig changed hands.

The Tauschring grew exponentially, was written up glowingly in a couple of local papers and turned into something of a Dortmund phenomenon. Its success also prompted Schwermer to ask serious questions of herself and her way of life. “I began to realise that I lived with so many things I didn’t need. So I decided that I wouldn’t buy anything without giving something away. That’s how it started. Then I began to really think about what I needed, clothes for example, and noticed that I could easily get by with what I could hang on ten coathangers. Everything else I gave away. I had so much stuff in the house that was superfluous. Getting rid of it was a relief.”

After a while even her vast collection of books began to assume an excessive presence in her home and one day Schwermer marched to a second-hand shop with her entire library. “The woman in the shop was upset. But I felt that giving them away was a good thing. I love books but I knew I had to get rid of them. I didn’t miss them, which surprised me. I just wanted to pare things down to their essentials.”

What had, in part, led Schwermer to her conclusions about “stuff” was a year of psychotherapy after the breakdown of her marriage in the mid-1980s. It was a difficult year, she remembers: “I was in floods of tears nearly every session, but at the end of it I felt so happy and decided that I wanted to live more simply. I also wanted to pass on what I learnt in therapy to other people, and that’s when I began to train as a psychotherapist.”

Other things changed. She took up meditation and began to realise how dissatisfied she was in her job. “I was always ill with flu or had backache and never realised the connection between my physical symptoms and my unhappiness at work.”

In the wake of setting up her Tauschring, she began to experiment with other sorts of jobs on the side. “I was working in a kitchen for ten deutschmarks an hour and people were saying to me, ‘You went to university, you studied to do this?’ But I thought, well, every person has an intrinsic value, why should I be valued more for being a teacher or a therapist than for working in a kitchen?”

The more ascetically she lived, the happier she became. By 1995 she was deeply involved in the Tauschring, house-sitting for short periods in exchange for cleaning or light maintenance work. She was buying virtually nothing: “When I needed something, I found that it would just come into my life. My glasses, for example. There was an optician who was a member of the Tauschring and he gave them to me in return for some therapy sessions.”

It was in 1996 she realised that “I had to go farther” and took what would be the most radical decision of her life: to live without money. She gave up her apartment and teaching job and resolved to live nomadically, an “extreme lifestyle”, she admits, moving from house to house, in return for menial work. Her new way of life was intended as a short-lived thing: she had given herself 12 months. But she found herself enjoying it so much that it never really ended.

Thirteen years on, she continues to live according to the principles of Gib und Nimm. “Life became much more exciting. More beautiful. I had everything I needed and I knew I couldn’t go back to my old life. I didn’t have to do what I didn’t like, I had a more profound sense of joy, and physically I feel better than ever. Living without money was just the first step. I realised that I wanted to change the world and I wasn’t going to do that by looking after someone’s cat while they were on holiday.”

She still lives — a week at a time — in the spare rooms of members of the Tauschring, cleaning or working in return for accommodation. Only very occasionally has she had personality clashes with her hosts and she tries to resolve any tension within herself “by going for a walk”. She has emergency savings of €200 (£180) and any other money that comes to her she gives away. “I decided it was OK to collect my pension but I give most of it away, except for what I need to pay for train tickets.”

She has no health insurance because she didn’t want to be accused of scrounging off the state. Instead she relies on what she calls the “power of self-healing. When something hurts, I put my hand on it and say to myself I have the power to heal myself and the pain goes away.” What if she becomes really ill? “Cancer? Then I suppose I’ll die. I’ve already prepared myself for death several times — times when I thought, ‘This is it, it’s over’. But then I got up the next day and everything was fine.”

Her entire material world is now contained in a single black suitcase and a rucksack. No photographs because, she says, “I don’t need them”.

In the flesh Schwermer is charming and engaging as well as lively and youthful-looking with strong jutting teeth and eyesight that she says she has halfway managed to correct herself with exercises she has picked from the people she meets. She is well dressed, neat and tidy and, it may come as a surprise given her lifestyle, 67 years old. Her two children — now a music teacher and a therapist — support what their mother does although the family don’t spend Christmas together. Though single, she has relationships every now and again, but is adamant that any love affair will always come second to what she calls her ideological work with Gib und Nimm. “I can imagine having a serious relationship with someone who is spiritual and who believes in what I’m doing, but not one where I live in a nice big house. I can fall in love but I can’t imagine living with someone. ”

Given her constant roaming about the country, it is almost impossible pinning her down. We met in the Greenpeace offices in Münster, near Cologne, where she was to address a group of young people who had been inspired by her work to live without money for week (Schwermer spends much of her time giving lectures about her lifestyle). Accompanying her was an Italian/ Norwegian film crew and we watched as successive teenagers stumbled in and out of the office, having been given the task of bartering for food with the offer of work. “We already live in a barter economy. We go to work to get money. I want to go farther.”

What is farther and how far is far enough? Ideally, Schwermer would like to lead by example and give other people courage to change their attitudes towards money and how they live in and contribute to society. The pressure to buy and to own, she feels, has intensified in recent years. Consumerism is essentially about “an attempt to fill an empty space inside. And that emptiness, and the fear of loss, is manipulated by the media or big companies.” There is a fear, she says, that in not buying or owning an individual will fall out of society. The irony, she claims, is that material goods can never plug a spiritual hole and shopping and hoarding are more likely to isolate people than bring contentment. Does she intend to start a revolution?

“No, I think of myself as planting the seed,” she says. “Perhaps people come away from my lectures or seeing me being interviewed and decide to spend a little less. Others might start meditating. The point is that my living without money is to allow for the possibility of another kind of society. I want people to ask themselves, ‘What do I need? How do I really want to live?’ Every person needs to ask themselves who they really are and where they belong. That means getting to grips with oneself.”

Does she really think that she can convert other people to her life philosophy? “Yes, that’s our future. One day we will all live without money, because we don’t need it and because it is only a burden. We’re the way we are because it’s how the system allows us to be. We can buy everything we want but we need so much less than we realise. If you think that the capitalist system we live in now is the only system, well that’s just ridiculous.”

Though she no longer owns any of her own, she has written two books on her adventures (and has given away her royalties). The first, My Life without Money, turned her first into a minor hero in Germany in some quarters, the kind who, last week for example, was invited on to a late-night TV forum to discuss whether Money Can Make You Happy. Surrounded by dot-com millionaires and lottery winners, she spoke while the other guests peered at her, visibly disconcerted to meet a woman who had given up everything and who claimed to be happy. “I live completely normally, only without money,” she said. “There are people who do so in Siberia. And in Africa there are many people who survive only because they all help each other.”

Schwermer knows from experience that not everyone will take her seriously. When she began with her project, “I was attacked frequently by people telling me that I wasn’t living without money at all, that I was just being provocative or scrounging, which made me cry! But then I realised it isn’t just about giving and expecting something back, or about giving and allowing oneself to be taken advantage of, or becoming a victim. It is about the possibility of having another life, of letting go of the stuff around us and examining our deepest fears.”

She tells me about an episode three years ago when she became convinced that she was going to starve to death: “But I really asked myself what that was about and realised it was about my childhood, and it had no bearing on reality.” (Schwermer is the child of refugees who lost everything after the war). Her only real terror now is appearing in the media. “I hate being on TV because it makes me so nervous but I know I reach a lot of people that way.” The people she does get through to, judging by the demographics of the lecture halls she visits, tend to be women. Why? “Because women are more open to new ideas.”

Is Schwermer a lunatic? Certainly she has been called “naive” and “idealistic” by the author of an article in the right-wing Die Welt newspaper, who asked her whether she was pursuing a communist-lite agenda when communism has been proved to be a failure. “It’s true that communism didn’t work,” she says, “but human beings need to learn to be a little bit different before we can learn to share what we have. We are going to run out of oil in ten years. We don’t have infinite resources. That just isn’t sustainable.”

Is her own itinerant lifestyle sustainable? She thinks so. She feels young but, in the event of death, she has organised her own funeral. She’s “paid” for it by striking a deal with an enlightened clergyman, who agreed that she would cover the costs of the burial by offering counseling sessions for the bereaved. Such deals are a regular feature of her new existence: only the managers of the German rail network seem to be immune to her formidable powers of persuasion, hence the few euros she still needs at her disposable to travel long distances.

Schwermer often talks enthusiastically about “the new world” she is in the process of discovering. She is esoteric but not mad or prone to ranting. Most people find her to be engaging and likeable: there are now many members of her Tauschring. What about those who live without money but not through choice? What about the poor and the homeless? Has she ever converted a homeless person to her way of thinking?

“I haven’t managed to reach the homeless,” she says. “I did hold lectures for the homeless but only six or seven showed up. They didn’t want to hear it. One of the men there accused me of having ‘connections’, that I’d only been able to do what I have been able to do because I knew people. I do have contacts, that’s what this new world is all about, forging links and contacts. Otherwise it wouldn’t work.”

She never managed to convince her interlocutor and not long after their conversation he had resumed his place outside on the pavement begging for spare change.


Ooffoo Newsletter update (25th November 2009)


Yes, it's that time of year again!  And we'd like to give you an early present that will hopefully make it a little bit easier...

Admittedly, its a bit of a recycled gift (a practice we all thought was in the spirit of things!) - its the Ooffoo Marketplace!   One of our newer recruits, Amanda, has spent the last three months making sure that its really up to date.  So, after a really good scrub and wash up and a good injection of loads of cool stuff we are now ever so proud to formally present it to you, our wonderful ooffettes, as an early Christmas present.  We've highlighted just a handful of the products below, and we really hope that you find the Marketplace useful. 

It is a formal presentation because we realised last week that we had never really introduced it properly to you.  The marketplace is populated with products from over 125 retailers - those retailers are all members of Ethical Junction CIC (our very close relation) and are listed there because they strive to operate according to ethical policies.  The marketplace itself is an evolution of the original ethical shopping portal " Get Ethical" that was launched in 2001 by the Big Issue.  We took over its operation in 2007 and have since done our best to revamp it - we really hope you like what you find.


Saturday the 28th November is 'Buy Nothing Day'


"Ask yourself these simple questions:

Do I need it?

How many do I already have?

How much will I use it?

How long will it last?

Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?

Am I able to clean and/or maintain it myself?

Will I be able to repair it?

Am I willing to?

Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?

How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?

Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?

Is it made from recycled materials, and is it recyclable?"



An Earlier article on the importance not just of 'the selfish gene' but also the 'cooperative gene'



Life for Rent (8th November 2009)

Life for rent

Published Date: 08 November 2009

OUR obsessive desire to own things is stifling the drive to create a leaner, greener world, but could a new 'borrowing' culture yet save the planet, asks Dani Garavelli

WE ALL have them. The impulse buys, worn once, and then left to languish in the back of the wardrobe. Or the DIY gadgets that looked so useful on TV, but which are now lying underused and rusting in the garage. Bought during the boom years, these fripperies are testament to a decade or more's conspicuous consumption; symbols of our long-term love affair with our possessions.

Now, in a bid to tackle global warming, we are being challenged to change our materialistic ways. Last week, the government's waste watchdog the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said the "secret weapon" in meeting climate change targets might be overcoming our obsession with ownership.

With many products used for only a fraction of their lifespan, the report says we should stop buying so much and start renting instead. The quango identifies five categories of goods suitable for renting: high-end clothing; glassware and tableware; tools and equipment for house and garden; vehicles; and telephone, audio-visual and recreational equipment. It says shifting a fifth of household spending from purchasing to renting would cut emissions by about 2 per cent – or 13 million tonnes – of CO2 a year.

In a sense, Wrap is tapping into a cultural shift which is already underway. Driven by a combination of the recession and a growing environmental awareness, people are already becoming more receptive to sharing. Where once, wearing hand-me-downs would have been frowned upon, clothes-swapping parties have become all the rage. Car clubs have taken off in a big way, with almost 100,000 people having signed up across the UK (although only 3 per cent of them are in Scotland). And last year, Zilok.com, a rental eBay set up in the US, started operating in the UK, although, at present, it is difficult to get hold of more obscure items if you don't live in a big city. In London, it is even possible to "rent" your pet by the day, instead of buying it. For an annual fee of £50, plus a monthly subscription, time-poor dog- lovers can buy themselves four days a month with their dog.

When you think of how little some purchases are used (clothing is only used, on average, for 66 per cent of its potential lifespan), and how much storage space they take up, paying by the day for the use of them does seem like an attractive proposition. But how economical and practical would it really be to live a life for rent?

When it comes to high-end clothing, I'm sold on the idea: how fantastic would it be to slip into a new dress, knowing your children won't have to eat beans on toast for the rest of the month as a result, and that it won't end up gathering dust when you put on a few pounds at Christmas?

Renting clothes for big nights out allows you to wear designer names you would not otherwise be able to afford and to sport a different outfit on every occasion. And why stop at the frock? There is now a plethora of websites offering designer handbags, shoes and jewellery for special occasions.

If you pay £7.50 a month to join Handbag Hire HQ, you can rent a red Balenciaga brief worth £1,200 for £35 a week. "There are a lot of people who spend £1,000 on a handbag and then it sits in their wardrobe," says Jo Trafford, who owns the company. "Others may feel incredibly guilty about spending money they know should be going elsewhere. Renting makes it easier. But we try to capture the experience of buying for our customers. We put each handbag into a lovely leatherette package, so when they open it, they still feel special."

For women, then, renting their finery has real advantages. But less so for men, perhaps. Hiring a fairly ordinary tuxedo will set you back around £40, but you can buy one for £150-£200, so you would only have to wear it four or five times to get your money's worth. And for many Scottish men, buying a kilt is a rite of passage; it's a luxury item that's supposed to last a lifetime.

Gardening and DIY tools are obvious contenders for the rental market. Few of us want a backpack sprayer or wallpaper stripper lying cluttering up the house and the jobs they are required for are likely to take a day or more, making the cost and palaver of hiring them worthwhile. But mowing your front lawn and digging up your borders are likely to be spur-of-the- moment chores, carried out on the one dry day of the week. Would you really want to plan your grass-cutting in advance and – unless you have an enormous garden – £13 a day seems a lot to pay to be able to do it.

On the other hand, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't rent tableware and glassware for house parties. Few people these days have more than 12 matching plates, dessert bowls and sets of cutlery – and picking it all up on the day saves you worrying about locating every last fork.

When it comes to swapping ownership for renting, cars are probably my biggest sticking point. Although I know car clubs are increasingly popular (Edinburgh has the most successful one outside London, with 110 cars; and one is being launched in Glasgow's west end later this month), I just can't imagine ever being organised enough to make it work.

Former Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland Clive Fairweather says he always rents (through a rental company rather than a car club). Some weeks he doesn't need one at all, other weeks he rents for five days on the trot. But, he says, the very fact he has to plan it in advance encourages him to be more disciplined about his car usage.

"I think you just get to a stage where you think: 'I've got a car, which I'm having to pay insurance and tax for, but which spends half the time sitting in the garage,'" he says. "When I haven't got a car, I walk more which is good. And when I am renting, I make sure I pack a lot into a small amount of time. Renting makes me drive more carefully – I don't want to bump someone else's car and it even makes me drive more slowly because, believe me, it's embarrassing to have to tell the girl at the rental desk you've got a speeding ticket."

I know I could use my car less. My children could travel to school by bus, though that would cost me. And I could do the bulk of my grocery shopping online. But what about their after-school clubs? Are we really going to hire a car, every time we take them to the cinema, swimming or football training? And what about those many nights when I suddenly realise we've run out of bread and milk?

Among the biggest, bulkiest purchases many families make are those related to camping. But there are already websites which allow customers to rent everything from tents and airbeds to car roof-boxes and lanterns. The upside of renting is that sleeping bags will no longer drop on your head every time you open your wardrobe. The downside is that impromptu guests will no longer be able to crash on the floor and you won't be able to sling everything in the back of the car and drive off whenever you fancy.

Renting your in-home entertainment is also very much on Wrap's agenda. For years, a large proportion of the population rented their TVs and VCRs, but gradually it went out of fashion. Now, however, it is possible to do so again, the advantage being that when it breaks down, you don't have to spend hours wrestling with unintelligible instructions, you can just phone the rental company.

The idea of hiring a portable DVD player for long car journeys, or a Wii for a couple of weekends when you've got children staying, also seems appealing. As for DVDs themselves, there's something obscene about owning piles of discs which have only ever been watched once. That's why Lovefilm.com – where customers can sign up to have DVDs of their choice sent to their home – has proved so popular.

Iain Gulland, Wrap's director for Scotland, holds up Lovefilm.com as an example of how the whole renting market can be transformed. "It has taken an old concept – renting films – and made it work for the digital age," he says.

In his book Affluenza, psychologist Oliver James identifies the cult of possession as one of the main blights afflicting the West in the 21st century. If this cultural attachment to ownership is to be overcome, people will have to be won over on cost and convenience as well as by a desire to save the world. And the rental sector will have to expand so everything you need is more or less on your doorstep. After all, it's difficult to see how carbon emissions would be cut if you had to drive 25 miles every time you wanted to use a spade.

Nevertheless, Liz Goodwin, director of Wrap, believes we need to kick our consumption habit to create a greener, leaner world. "Why would anyone want to own that many things anyway?" she says. "We need to have the confidence that we can get things when we need them, but we don't need to have them sitting beside us every day."

(From Scotland on Sunday)


From The Times (4th November 2009, page 27) "Stop shopping, rent your wardrobe and save the world"


( NB Related reports here:


Ending an obsession with owning goods could be the secret weapon in meeting climate change targets, a report says

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) claims that overcoming our obsession with owning goods could be a “secret weapon” in meeting climate change targets. It has called for a fifth of all household spending, £148 billion out of an annual total of £732 billion, to be converted to renting by 2020.

In a report published today the watchdog calls for the transformation of a large part of the retail sector into a service industry specialising in renting goods, with each item used by many different people during its lifetime.

Wrap identifies five categories of goods suitable for renting: high-end clothing; glassware and tableware; tools and equipment for house and garden; vehicles; and telephone, audio and recreational equipment. On clothing, the report proposes that hiring should replace 10 per cent of the retail market within ten years.

Liz Goodwin, Wrap’s chief executive, said: “It could be quite liberating and free our homes and garages from all that clutter that we rarely use. By hiring, we can also get better party dresses and handbags or a better drill to do some DIY than we would be willing to buy.

“Why would anyone want to own that many things anyway? We need to have the confidence that we can get things when we need them but we don’t need to have them sitting beside us every day.”

Ms Goodwin, who said she owned only one evening dress in her “pitifully small wardrobe”, said people needed to understand the environmental cost of ownership. “I hope that, in the future, we will look back and be glad that we have moved on from the day when we felt we needed umpteen pairs of shoes,” she said.

The report, based on research by York University, calculates that better use of resources could deliver 10 per cent of the carbon dioxide savings that Britain has legally committed to making by 2020.

Shifting a fifth of household spending from purchasing to renting would cut emissions by about 2 per cent, or 13 million tonnes of CO2 a year, through a fall in manufacturing and lower consumption of raw materials.

A Wrap official said that there would be no net loss of jobs in Britain because most goods were manufactured overseas. He said that positions lost in retailing would be balanced by jobs gained in a greatly expanded rental industry. He also said that there would be additional greenhouse gas savings — not calculated in the report — from reducing the size of homes because people would not need as much storage space.

The report says that 20 per cent of the market for tools could shift from purchasing to hiring by 2020 and up to 90 per cent by 2050. On vehicles, it says renting could account for 20 per cent of the market by 2020 and 50 to 90 per cent by 2050.

The report identifies £143 billion of annual expenditure on goods that could have been used for longer. It says that clothing is only being used, on average, for 66 per cent of its potential lifespan. Using items for their full lifespan would save consumers £47 billion a year, it claims.

Wrap also calls for changes in diet to reduce emissions from livestock. Its report says: “The UK diet is currently too high in meat, dairy, high-fat and sugary foods and too low in fruit and vegetable intake.” It suggests that households could cut consumption of meat and dairy products by 25 per cent by 2020 and by 50 to 75 per cent by 2050.

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, will attend a Wrap conference today at the Royal Society in London, where the report will be published. He said: “In the UK, we have just over 3 per cent of the global market [for low-carbon goods and services]. This will grow as consumers become increasingly environmentally aware and companies realise that waste is just a resource in another form and that sustainability is the key not only to the environment but to business success.”


LetsAllShare.com  (would-be collaborators?) -Survey results

Summary of Survey on sharing   (NB For our 11th November letter to LetsAllShare.com, and other news stories that we generate, see the freelenders blog)


Not interested in the Freecycle/Freegle 'bickering'

-from 'Money Saving Expert' correspondence


Freegle has nearly a million users; all voluntary?

-story here


What went wrong with Freecycle UK?

-story from the Ecologist (30th September 2009)

NB This article informs us that the UK is the country with the highest proportion of freecyclers in the world.


Persuading us to be good?

(Radio 4 -15th & 20th September 2009)

Link here

On the programme, Steve Martin (from the consultancy 'Influence at Work') said:

"There are six key universal principles of persuasion. They are:

  1. Reciprocation -the idea that people are more likely to want to give back to someone who has given something to them first.
  2. Liking -the idea that people are more persuaded by people that they like.
  3. Scarcity -we are more influenced by something that is less available or that we stand to lose in a given situation.
  4. Authority -the idea that when we are often overloaded or uncertain of the correct decision ourselves, we'll look to credible experts to guide our behaviour.
  5. Consistency -The idea that when we make a small stand we'll encounter interpersonal pressure to be consistent with that in the future; particularly if our views are publicised.
  6. Consensus -the idea that we follow the lead of others around us in a given situation; it's a phenomena that's also referred to as 'social proof'"

....In a study of what information would change behaviour, we found that "it was only the information about what the neighbours were doing that produced a change in behaviour."

 Dr Lucy Reynolds  (working for Dept of Health funded research centre) describes peer pressure and cognitive-dissonance theory:

"the sense of unease you get if your attitudes and behaviours are out of line. One way of re-enforcing that is by making a pledge. If I say that I am going to do something, then I become uncomfortable when I don't do it. So pledges are important, and making a commitment to a group makes it much more likely to achieve your commitment because of that group and social pressure. Private internalised pledges are, of course, important and goal setting is very important, but if you can get that in some public setting...it is witnessed and verified by other people and the pressure to achieve is increased in that way."


Volunteer Vision (from Radio 4's 'Something Understood' website)

Mike Wooldridge celebrates the role of the volunteer in the company of Glyn Roberts, whose own voluntary organisation has sent over two million reconditioned tools to help poor craftsmen and women in Africa and Asia to help themselves.

Buying and Selling (from Radio 4's 'Something Understood' website)


Something Understood: Buying and Selling

This programme was written and presented by Mark Tully and the readers were Simon Tcherniak, Imogen Stubbs and John Sessions.


"The Constant Gardener", original soundtrack, composed by Alberton Iglesiaas, Higher Octave 3368872, track 13 "Kothbiro", performed by Ayub Ogada.

Henry Purcell, "If Ever I More Riches Did Desire", off CD "Hark How All The Wild Musicians Sing", Hyperion CDA 66750, track 12, Parley of Instruments. cond. Peter Holman.

"The Markets of Provence", from the single ‘Salut les Copains’ by Gilbert Becaud. EMI France, 7 EGF 284.

Wild Swans, Elena Kats-Chernin, Wild Swans Concert Suite, ABC 4767639, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Cond. Ola Rudner, Tr 2.

Memphis Minnie, "Selling my Pork Chops", Document records BD CD 6008.

The Peanut Vendor from ‘Omara Portudondo and Martin Rojas’ 1975, Love Records, LRLP 130 (Finland).


Story of Rabbi, from "The Jewish Ideal of Business".

Rumi poem, "We are three", published by Maypop Books.

"The Roof of All Evil", D.H.Lawrence, from "Chapters into Verse", Poetry in English inspired by the Bible – ed. Robert Atwan and Laurence Wieder, Oxford University Press 1993.

Martin Amis, "Success", Cape 1976.

Montaigne, "One man’s profit is another man’s loss", from "The Complete Essays". published by Penguin.



End of consumerism?

Over at the marketing consultancy Added Value, talk is of a “consumer tipping point” that will profoundly alter our attitudes to consumption. “It’s already happening on the fringes and in niches. People are sated with consumption,” says cultural insight director Cate Hunt.

She points to phenomena as diverse as the way organic produce has gone mainstream, the rise of vintage and recycled clothing, the growth of urban vegetable growing and the demonisation of 4X4 cars as early evidence of a trend that is still largely restricted to the western middle classes, but will become far more widespread. “People are embracing this change,” she says.

At Henley Headlightvision, another WPP consultancy, director Michelle Harrison agrees that “people are aspiring to a post material society.”

Meanwhile trend spotter Marian Salzman, marketing director of US PR agency Porter Novelli has also noticed a less materialistic bent in society. “The push away from mega consumption is the mega trend of the moment. There are no bragging rights in acquisition anymore. There’s a horrible glut of things and we are moving towards a zero acquisition society.”


Citizen Renaissance

All these strands are pulled together in an open source ‘wiki’, ‘Citizen Renaissance,’ published online this month by Jules Peck director of the UK Conservative Party Quality Of life Policy Group and Robert Phillips, CEO of the London office of PR agency Edelman UK.

It deals with precisely these issues of social change, attitudes to consumerism and the role of business, especially the marketing services industry, in what they say must be a new world order.

If it were only an altruistic concern for the environment at work, the move away from what they call “relative consumerism” or “keeping up with the Joneses” might not be quite so profound they argue. But it is the result of what Peck and Phillips call “a perfect storm” that makes a period of rapid and radical social change inevitable.

Three seismic shocks are combining to completely reshape our world, they say. “ Firstly, climate change has profoundly affected all our lives. We have awoken to the fact that we are over-consuming the resources of our planet and threatening ourselves in the process.” Problems like ‘peak oil’ -the expiry of global oil reserves, plug into this.


Age of Wellbeing

“Secondly we are entering a Wellbeing Age, matched by a more selfless and non relative-materialist and non growth-obsessed ecological economics. Individualism is out, individuation and community is in. Finally, the digital revolution means we are undergoing a metamorphosis towards a new age of Democracy and resurgent citizenship which could threaten the nature of corporate consumer-capitalism itself.”

All this needs to be distinguished from the current cyclical problems of the world economy, they argue. Says Peck “The financial crisis and commodity price inflation are sharpening the current feeling that doomsday is imminent although they are not in themselves the cause of change.”

But combine all these factors and they say: “a reordering of the current model of mass marketing and consumption is inevitable”. Tune-in to this or risk all they warn.

Marketing consultant John Grant, former planning director of UK advertising collective St Lukes and author of ‘The Green Marketing Manifesto’ suggests that two more forces will come into play making consumer change a certainty: Government and price. “In the near future there will be all sorts of legislation that will directly affect consumption. For instance a rule that all cars have to meet very stringent fuel efficiency standards will mean that sports cars disappear, almost over night. Similarly, if the price of raw materials such as cotton reflects their environmental impact, the idea that you can wear a shirt once and throw it away becomes untenable.”


Consumption vs energy consumption

The real issue however is not consumption, but energy consumption he says.

Although counter-intuitive, it may just be that brands, being purely intellectual constructs with low carbon footprints, fit in perfectly with this ethos of energy austerity. The ability to conjure value out of nothing at all could be ideal for this green new world.

Perhaps. But not only will consumers shift their spending to more low–energy goods, (local foods, training, education and courses are just some examples), new forms of consumption will probably arise. “We are looking at a complete redesign of modern life,” says Grant. So the trend to ‘fractional ownership, where products are pooled and shared will explode. Another consumer strategy will be ‘treasuring’ where people buy high quality artefacts and look after them and repair them when they wear out rather than throwing them away.”

His best guess is that some time in the next five to ten years we will move into a long period of austerity in which the factors already mentioned conspire to make conspicuous consumption not only unfashionable but almost impossible. “Culture is moving into a time of restraint and simplicity.” [article extract from off the grid]



Extracts from Douglas Rushkoff Interview

"When push comes to shove and our corporations fail us we begin to look to our peers for support," he says. "We're going to have to start doing favours for each other, working with each other ... and then we'll start to see that it's more fun, more meaningful and cheaper."

Life Inc [Douglas Rushkoff's book] supposes that the only way to eschew the corporate world is through communal action. People need to reconnect with each other to create real value again. "The part I'm optimistic about is people who genuinely want to get back to doing something. It's OK to just make a living. Why is that wrong?"

Full interview at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/16/douglas-rushkoff-life-inc


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