Book Review: Co-Opportunity - John Grant

Aug 29

With Co-opportunity, John Grant wants to, gently and intelligently, kick some butt. We are confronted with a set of interconnected global challenges such as climate change, peak oil, depletion of natural resources and widespread poverty. And yet, most of us continue to do as if our noses bleed, hoping the problems will go away of themselves. Why this generalized inertia? Grant thinks we are being ensnared in a consumerist worldview, nourishing our sense of babyish omnipotence, reinforcing herd behaviour and eroding our skills to take care of ourselves and the communities around us. So how can we wean ourselves of this destructive mentality and bring ourselves to get our hands dirty? This sprawling book tries to formulate a multi-faceted response to that question. In doing so, Grant covers a lot of familiar terrain, connecting orthodox sustainability thinking to the latest happiness research, the psychology of flow, social innovation, alternative economics, ecosystem services, peer-to-peer, transition towns, cradle-to-cradle, the social media revolution, and more. The gist of his argument seems to be that putting co-operative responsibility into action hinges on creating more transparancy to enable us to diagnosticize what is really wrong with our world. The power of the web then needs to be mobilized to track and share these data, whip up customer education and engagement, scale participatory processes and support new value creation models. In his discussion, Grant modulates wildly between abstraction levels, letting the anecdotal rub shoulders with much more conceptual stuff (such as Open Source Hardware platforms, or steady-state economics). At times the book reads as a catalogue of funky, sustainability-oriented, open sourcey, web 2.0 supported business models, mixing usual suspects such as Grameen with some of the (emerging) ideas that Grant himself has been hatching. The book ends with a fierce critique of traditional economics, arguing instead for ideas such as co-operative craft guilds and alternative currencies. At the back there is a handy checklist to audit a world-improving co-operative idea in progress. All in all a fun and interesting read, giving a broad-brush overview of important trends in `beyond sustainability’ thinking. And an invitation to contribute to the groundswell, of course.

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