2015 was the first “real” year for the Imagined Economy Project. It was a year to get wet feet, figure out the landscape, dive into some research. Progress has been slower than desired, mostly due to lack of funds and the ever-presence of an adorable 2 year old not all that interested in letting Mommy get much done during the day. But, slow progress is better than no progress! I’ve been able to plan for four separate research projects, conduct several interviews with people doing the most creative and interesting things, attend two practitioner conferences held by the Ohio Employee Ownership Center and the Cincinnatti Union Cooperative Initiative, got one short article placed in GeoCoop, and release the Imagined Economy Project’s inaugural report accessible via this link: 3methods
There have been so many times when I’ve wondered why I’m doing this. It feels hard. I’m outside of any institution. I have no resources behind me, other than curiosity and hope for a better future world. I just put out my shingle one day and, sometimes, I feel like a fraud. But, along the way, I’ve met people who’ve encouraged me and seemed excited about what I’m doing. Some of these have been people I’ve interviewed. I am so grateful for the time people have given me and the trust people have shown me as they’ve told me about their successes and challenges. The Ohio Employee Ownership Center was especially kind, allowing me to attend their conference for free. Others have been people who’ve read something I’ve written and sent along a note telling me to keep on with it. That last one makes me feel how Popeye must feel right after eating his spinach! Those notes give me energy, make me feel less alone and like the work I’m doing might be helpful in some way.
2016 is my year to take this up a notch. In addition to releasing reports and analyses, the focus will be institutionalizing the Imagined Economy Project. This means figuring out the right organizational form to give this project the foundation it needs to grow, flourish, and contribute to a like-minded community.
The exciting part is, I don’t know what that will involve exactly. I have a lot of connecting to do and advice to solicit. I do know that my baseline investigations suggest institution-building is going to play a key part in facilitating more imagination about economic development, business, and entrepreneurship. I want to focus my attentions there– asking what institutions can help worker cooperatives or biomimetic design, for instance, become normal ways of doing business in the United States. I see the question of institution-building becoming a research focus for the Imagined Economy Project. And, I hope to become a go-to resource for practitioners who might have research needs but lack the capacity to get it done. I want the work I do to improve practice, not just knowledge. How I get there is an open question, but it’s a driving goal for 2016.
I have not been sure whether for-profit or non-profit incorporation would be the better way of growing a resource base for the Imagined Economy Project. My own background has been in academia and in nonprofits, and I have come to the realization that the nonprofit model is more comfortable for me. In the coming month, I hope to find some technical advisors that can help me understand whether a 501(c)(3) designation is right for the Imagined Economy Project, or if I should start with a fiscal agent. My preference is the fiscal agent route, but I am under-networked for that at this time. If any readers have ideas about organizations that are willing to be fiscal agents, please let me know. I can’t go on indefinitely without resources and income, and finding a fiscal agent would be a way to allow the project to mature and find its base supporters before filing with the IRS.
Institutionalizing the Imagined Economy Project feels exciting and risky and hard and right all at the same time. I am so looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone in 2016 and getting more people involved and engaged in this project! If you have an interest in getting involved, please let me know. Happy New Year!