Economic growth: inclusive, green, no-cost.

Inclusive economy

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Access to markets has lifted millions out of poverty. POEMs (Public Official E-Markets) would push tentacles of economic opportunity into the lowest levels of an economy.

 

Atomized Capitalism

POEMs is a neutral public utility, open freely to any legal entity; including corporates. But their benefits of bigness would vaporize in such granular markets. Take car rental. Avis, Hertz or Enterprise currently benefit from brand, purchasing power and physical locations. Sub-businesses like Avis’ Zipcar offer smaller, more localized, rentals. Where does that leave regular car owners wanting to monetize an expensive asset, they only use 5% of the time?

Getaround and others offer a platform with all the limitations of today’s “sharing economy”; huge marketing and acquisition costs to be extracted from each seller’s earnings, uncertainty plus lack of depth and breadth relative to the scale of demand and supply.

 

POEMs, successfully launched, would put a motorist with a Ford Fusion available this afternoon at least on a par with the nearest Avis branch. Market entry costs nothing and takes minutes. He may decide only provenly reliable renters can see his car as an option. And he could seamlessly tap adjoining markets for; people vetted to check his car out/back, micro-insurance, accessories a buyer may need, and delivery drivers. A map of such cars would show them on driveways and streets around a renter. Available Avis vehicles will be clustered in branches, Zipcar’s offerings on sporadic street stands.

On pricing, our motorist is immune from Avis/Zipcar’s costs of; premises, marketing and staffing. His capital costs are already sunk. And he doesn’t have overheads increasingly foisted on corporates by financialization. Avis has changed corporate ownership many times; passing on costs of lawyers, advisors and return-hungry new investors to its customers at every turn. How might corporates respond to POEMs? Focusing on airports and other high density venues away from residential sellers would seem logical.

POEMs also denudes corporates’ staffing efficiencies. The smallest mom-and-pop business can book, induct and nurture  their own pool of on-demand workers with proven reliability. A corporate may find its workforce declining to be at their scheduling mercy, hotfooting into POEMs from where the corporate software can buy their hours as needed; but in competition with other sources of income. Corporate political power? Potentially balanced by POEMs’ validated voting by users.

Where does this leave Coase’s theory of the firm; the long-standing notion that concentrated control of resources is key to business efficiencies? The optimal size of specialists like an oil company or defense contractor will remain large. But day-to-day services should become equally efficient if delivered by an individual or a behemoth.

 

Flexi-curity

It’s currently a challenging notion, but mono-skilled dependency on one organization – aka “a job” – may not offer the best security for life. If significant demand for your skills and other assets is unlocked, you could be better off working for a range of buyers; refining preferences while adapting to market trends. Come the next downturn, you could be much more resilient; able to prove diverse skills and tap a wide network. An organization seeking to buy 40 hours of your time for 48 weeks a year at any point might then need a compelling offer to tempt you into such a restrictive relationship.

Overheads, diminished opportunity, risks and lack of meaningful insights at the moment make personal “flexi-curity” a tough route for the low-skilled. But on-tap flexi-work, and new functionality in a successful POEMs could change that. It would create a safety net, constantly accessible by any worker wanting to; switch careers, exit from an unappreciative employer or juice short-term income. Benefits, access to financial services and tax or welfare administration could all be handled by the system. POEMs data could show what you would be earning if current skills were transferred to living elsewhere, or specific new skills were added.

A successful five factor market like POEMs should allow anyone to find their niche in the economy. Housebound by a disability? The market needs “holders” who store goods on behalf of neighbors, each priced into daily supply chains of items moving around their area. Worried about possibly dangerous visitors on the doorstep? Tell the system you only transact with locals who have a deep track record of reliability and ongoing identity validation. That instantly creates opportunity for more burly stay-at-homes able to command a higher price for dealing with less proven buyers and sellers.

Disability, family caregiving, parenting; there are many factors that keep individuals out of the economy. That marginalization is a huge drain on national productivity. POEMs isn’t a simple fix to these issues. But it would offer the plumbing for; new resources, options, data and interventions.

 

Lifelong learning

POEMs also breaks down educational openings. Take the case of Ah Wing, 43, singled out as a case study of poverty in Hong Kong. A garbage collector married to a fast food server, he works until midnight, 7 days a week. With high-priced housing, life is about survival with no time for progression. If Hong Kong was able to launch a robust POEMs system, how might his educational outlook change?

POEMs’ operators and local intermediaries using the platform would be incentivized to increase his hourly earnings because they get a cut. An intermediary might start by credentialing his life experience: he has raised children, lived rough, proved tough enough to do heavy lifting in all weathers. Each of those can be formalized in POEMs’ uniquely granular datapoints, with the intermediary putting their brand behind his now de-commoditized hours offered in a wide market.

Assuming he proves reliability with whatever bookings first come his way, he becomes more attractive to buyers of labor and can set more selective filters. POEMs knows which sectors and geographies need more workers. It knows today’s times when he is available for work but hasn’t been booked, this downtime is when he could learn without losing any income.

Educational institutions might use POEMs for “fluid faculty”, markets for localized classrooms or supervised peer-educators. They  could exploit this downtime for thousands of Hongkongers each day.

Credentials, designed around local market needs, could each be gained in a few hours, but assembled into formidable qualifications. With his reliability a given, companies have every incentive to fund inductions so he is ready for their peaks, or they might try tempting him out of POEMs into a job. Assuming he stays in POEMs, this rolling re-education need never stop.

 

Pulling up the left-behinds

Too many social computing projects are limited to the digitally capable. POEMs’ legislation should mandate proactive efforts by operators to bring in the non-techno-friendly. The system could feature sectors like Peer Navigators for this. Imagine a pool of 250 local workers with a track record of successful customer-facing work in POEMs. They are trained as navigators who support the ex-incarcerated, digital strugglers, innumerate and other disadvantaged groups. Public agencies and qualified charities can allocate perhaps 10 one-hour sessions to a client, POEMs then matches them with a navigator responsible for the next steps.

Meeting in a café or library, the navigator starts by getting a life story. A second session might look at how to access a computer, a third registers the client on POEMs. A fourth is at the offices of a supportive intermediary ready to endorse and support the client. Hours 5 and 6 have the navigator go with their client to a first booking and so on.

Navigators might complete a pro-forma within POEMs at the end of each session and be trained to refer someone whose problems were above a navigator’s paygrade. Cost of taking someone from the margins to their first work bookings could be around $350. Savings on public services; much more.

Once someone has a toehold in POEMs, there’s much the system can offer. Public access kiosks, Guaranteed Work, protective ringfenced sub-markets, parallel economies, tool libraries – for anyone offering home renovations for example; markets that monetize currently empty buildings as accommodation for the homeless, targeted volunteering by the better off; all there for anyone assembling support for a client.

POEMs supports incremental interventions. A charity may want to boost workers identified by a credible intermediary as single parents, aged 18-30, in Springfield with Utilization (ratio of hours offered to hours booked) less than 50% and average hourly pay that hasn’t climbed in three months. There may only be 25 such people. It may only take $6,000 to see what impact subsidizing 4 hours of childcare a week has for a month. If it boosts Utilization and pay, re-investment takes seconds.

All the above would be magnified if a “First Rungs” strategy is baked into the POEMs concession. This deploys funds generated by undesirable – but unavoidable – large transactions on the platform to push new activity deep into the bottom of the economy.

 

Quality of life

POEMs should be uniquely empowering. And it pushes local people together, unintermediated by the business model of a global brand. FedEx, Uber, Walmart or Marriott are welcome to offer their resources and services to POEMs’ buyers of course. But in POEMs, they might be competing – on a level playing field – against local people.

So, Bob might deliver parcels with a van, linked into a sophisticated supply chain of trucks and drop-of points by POEMs. Yolanda may want to cultivate a pool of local rideshare customers and use POEMs-generated vouchers to attract members of nearby social clubs with discounts.

Likewise, teenage Nikki might deliver shopping under supervision from her school while Aaron provides accommodation with business facilities to provenly reliable POEMs’ users.

A world of localized interactions with individuals directly working for themselves, retaining almost all their earnings, free to innovate and form off-platform relationships is likely to see enhanced social cohesion. This could reach through barriers like urban “enclave economies”; geographic clusters of businesses united by ethnicity. Someone may chose to remain working in, for example, Chinese restaurants; but if they do so through POEMs and keep their system settings open, the wider world should soon start offering to upskill and widen their options.

By empowering downtrodden “gig workers”, POEMs should benefit all workers, just as unionization is reported to lift even those who aren’t members. Unchallenged for-profit hourly labor markets commoditize and devalue workers, which drives down the value of all labor. POEMs reverses the commoditization. There will still be minimum-wage workers available, but they’re on a ladder and the willing ones will move up quickly.

Although funded and owned by multinationals, because few others have the resources and robustness required, POEMs’ individual markets could be run by local franchisees. It’s hard to quantify, but the new facility might engender a fierce regional pride much as Britons share a sustained enthusiasm for their National Health Service.

 

→ Precision government