Saving money as the doorway to community

There are a plethora of "communities" online. But the notion of online or virtual communities has been mocked by those who consider community a more intimate group of geographically local individuals working together for a common local good. Traditional holdouts miss the point that common good does not have to be local. Nonetheless, for cooperative buying it's better to be local.

Non-local collective buying power works for ipods and car parts - there are many online apps encouraging suppliers to bid to supply groups of buyers interested in the same item. Most of these applications have gone out of business for reasons I'll try to reference in a future post. Local collaborative buying is far more powerful:

  1. local groups can split ownership of durable items, getting full use out of dozens of quality items for a tiny fraction of the price,
  2. local groups can buy goods in huge bulk directly from suppliers by pooling money and splitting up the delivery as soon as it arrives. Needless to say, huge bulk means huge savings, less transportation, packaging and waste.
  3. local groups can negotiate as groups for better deals on local items, services and community improvements. Think gym memberships, babysitters, instructors and classes, community projects, local political change, etc.
My previous post outlined a major psychological and practical hurdle: expanding from solitary efforts to more powerful group efforts. How does one get past this hurdle? Traditionally, one can organize neighborhood meetings by posting fliers and knocking on doors, or one can build a community center or a physical co-op and let people come to you. There is a far better way that I'll talk about in my next post. In our case, we were already attending neighborhood meetings due to an unrelated neighborhood crisis. The topic of collaborative efforts to reduce expenses and save money was raised at these meetings and the collaborative mindset evolved very slowly from there.

Saving money was our initial motive, but today we are also much greener and far more involved generally. Our children are growing up within a real community, thinking of themselves as individuals but also playing an important role in a greater good. They don't display nearly as much of the consumerism and selfishness common in other neighborhoods and towns that look similar to ours from the outside. I feel blessed every day that my family and I are part of this new frontier, this grand experiment in human nature that gives me hope for the future.


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