FairMarket

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Overview

FairMarket is an online multishop for all products and services offered by FairCoop members What is FairMarket?

FairCoop virtual market is the website where all products and services produced by members of the cooperative can be bought online.

It’s a tool that will display and provide coverage of needs in a market that is trading platform for the different productive projects run by FairCoop members.

Why is the virtual market necessary?

1. To give more visibility to all productive projects of FairCoop within the network.

2. To provide a commercial tool to all those producers who do not yet have an online store.

3. For contacting between projects that may offer products or services used by other projects. For example, a flour producer and a bakery.

4. To provide products and services to non FairCoop members, therefore a way of publicizing FairCoop so that more projects and individuals become more integrated within the cooperative.

5. To promote the use of Faircredit among members

6. To introduce Faircredit to those who are not members How does it work?

FairCoop virtual market is designed as a multi-store space where each collective and productive projects can create their particular store and different from the rest.

How is it different from other multi-stores in the network?

  • You can only exhibit products and services produced and / or served by FairCoop partners.
  • The multi-store space can not be understood only as a place of sale but also as a forum for communication between projects in order to share their knowledge, so this space will be linked to your account on the FairNetwork.
  • Another important operating characteristic of Fairmarket will help create an economy based on demand and not supply, ie facilitate from the self-organization of users demand to be prepared, affecting what is going to produce and fund it as Faircredit will allow. For this FairMarket will include tools to facilitate these cooperative and sustainable relationships.

Who will use it?

Members who have a productive activity or service will be the virtual market shopkeepers.

It is a market open to all. They will have access to shopping, partners FairCoop not FairCoop partners who need to stock any product or service.

Those projects may also wish to offer discounts to other members of FairCoop.

Payment: Faircoin will be the accepted form of payment for all public and FairCredit which will be used only among participants FairCoop allowing mutual credit relations between them.

A small fee of 0.5% will be charged to faircoin shopping in order to contribute to the sustainability of Faircoop and promote the use of faircredit for purchases and services.

FairMarket will be launched in two phases. In the first phase it will only work with Faircoin as it is launched Faircredit also be introduced allowing to generate mutual credit among all participants.

FairMarket Meeting Summary

The FairMarket meeting was held as part of the first FairCoop Summit, held around Winter Solstice 2014.

Agenda and general overview

Items for discussion included how FairMarket will work, in both the technical aspects and the overall implementation of the vision - taking the forum discussions into account. One main objective stated was to avoid bureaucracy. We discussed various examples of products and services, as well as FairMarket's relation with local nodes. We also talked about ideas for seller inclusion criteria, classification and verification, and the related topic of reputation. The technical work for payment and details about wallets were discussed, nothing that the technical aspect is still in a growing phase, and not yet integrated with Wordpress. At the end of the discussion, we also touched on the question of fees, and about timebanking as a precursor to FairCredit.

Expansion and inclusion

FairMarket must now determine ways to define criteria around who can participate as sellers. Clearly, we want to be open, but this must include having defined ethical criteria. While it's difficult to "play the judge", some kind of evaluation needs to be done.

We discussed having a categorizing system to determine different types of production processes reflecting a total picture of a seller: components + people + environment. One suggestion was to consider a system that evaluates and grades a seller (material goods producer or immaterial service provider) in a number of categories,which are rated by a number/letter combination. This would not be a fixed rating but rather a dynamic one which could reflect the changes a seller might eventually make in its processes. The problem with this is that it may be too much bureaucracy. An open question is how to find a way to create an automatic, user-participatory criteria review.

Sellers should be evaluated by a commonly agreed-upon standard by peer players in the market. Codes of ethics, conduct, customer feedback/ratings and making local connections for physical verification/checking and building trust relationships are all elements to include. The idea is to consider what is “good” about the company/seller being considered. Obvious things like working conditions are important to consider, but we should identify and evaluate some gradations of “goodness” or “fairness” – for instance, a privately-owned (non-coop, for-profit) company might have some “open” element (such as software or hardware) that increases their ethical reputation. Other possibilities include sellers who are using a form of open licensing, participation in a commons-building effort. On the other hand, a software company that claims to be open-source might only provide the most basic part as a commons: the best of it might only be available as a for-profit "pro" version. This sort of practice is important to evaluate and question. Reputation building will happen as part of the review process (although the “reputation system” is a separate discussion). With those things in mind, we want to find ways to incentivize ways giving feedback on "reputation".

Start simple, scale up to complexity

Another key topic was the need to start very simply at the beginning, and maintain the priority of developing FairMarket with coops and the global south in mind. First - simple participation, become successful – then scale up to complexity. One main idea that was stressed is that despite our having an interest in the commons, markets are for sales - commons are not part of a market, by definition, and the main point of a market is not commons building. But, with services (more than products) it's easier to do something via licensing in order to open a commons element. For example, with material goods, it's possible to offer instructions for buyers to create the goods themselves, opening the production to the commons. One idea that was repeated by several in discussion was to always have the entirety of the production process available to the consumer, inclusive of ingredients and method; to be open, but under CopyFair licensing to prevent exploitation.

Fair pricing

Another question in discussion was fair pricing, and whether (and how) we can have a clear understanding of the cost/benefit ratio in a price, or whether that's a market function that we can't regulate artificially. Yet we do want to be sure that fair pricing is established or implemented; in short, how can we avoid price gouging in the absence of competition? Could a rating system help regulate prices? The problem with the current economic system is that cheaper goods are a result of large-scale corporate manufacturing. One idea was that open-value accounting could encourage people to buy from smaller players even if the prices cannot be competitive with the cheapest goods available. Transparency is the key to empowering consumers to be informed community participants, and not merely self-interested individuals only interested in getting the “best price” – using the idea of inclusion as a solidarity mechanism. In this way, buyers can see that a fair price is a reflection of an entire criteria, and we call the buyers' attention to other values. “Good” products often cost more than mass-produced, so the cost of buying/being healthy is antithetical to inclusion for people of lower economic means. This brings up class issues around how only those with “disposable” income can afford certain types of goods.

Collective buying

Our proposed solution is to facilitate collective purchases in order to gain the benefits of fair/good products at a bulk price (good for both the seller and the buyer), while also building stronger communities through FairMarket. The advantage to sellers/producers is that their established minimum production runs can be fulfilled with collective purchasing, and so better prices can be offered to the collective buyers. We talked about specific products and services to collectively purchase, including Fairphone. Practical goods and services that attract and encourage participation are important; we should have precise and concrete things we can do as pilots for eventual replication. We also talked about an idea for combining fair pricing and raising buyers' interest was using a type of auction, based on lowering the price per unit by raising the volume of purchase (rather than raising the price, in the style of a “normal” auction) - eg, by Friday at 5pm, if we reach goal of xx kg, the price goes down as the collective purchcase increases. This could be heavily influenced by social media promotion (like crowdfunds).

Another idea discussed was allowing buyers to make a gift to another buyer (or group of collective buyers) in the form of pre-payment (in whole or part). One buyer making a purchase could choose to pay a higher rate in order to support participation by others who cannot afford to buy at that same price. Reputation points could then be accrued for this overpaying (contribution), and automatically recorded on a global scale of participation. This could also establish cooperation between countries within regions participating in the same collective purchase, where the north or more economically proserous sector could have a price set at a higher rate than the basic price for the south. A factor to consider would be keeping this within established bio-regions, to maintain a lower carbon footprint – start with local nodes within continents, and try to conserve shipping costs (with this in mind, the idea of FairPartners was discussed, perhaps we would work with a transportation collective for trucking ethical provisions).

Payment, wallet and software considerations

To set shop openings for one month from now, we must prepare the shops, even if not payment yet. If the backend is complete, all that's missing is the interface and integration with Fair.Coop. Front end exists, we need to see if the Wordpress login will be in the final version or in the initial - could be later, or could be its own thing (whether users can login direct to FairMarket or through the Wordpress login).

All sellers should be members of FairCoop, but not necessarily the buyers. Beneficial for sellers but buyers simply need to have the easiest access to buying faircoins in order to participate. Make it simple for people to buy with credit cards, etc., to set the participation bar low enough (other systems in discussion – cashpoints/machines/ATMs, etc. worldwide)

Some things must be sorted out about use of Faircoin and wallet creation – could be a virtual wallet in the Faircoin wallet, although that is more complicated (centralization, security). Maybe temporary wallets, time-based? A point was raised about SMS messages, attractive for global south (less tech dependent). Scam prevention - temp wallets, when purchase is completed/received, release faircoins. Offline escrow is possible but who manages this escrow? Is this to be user/reputation-based, FairCoop managed, or what exactly? Note: escrow isn't multi-signatory, it's trust-network based. Maybe "smart contract" on the blockchain/ethereum, server-based...

Then, the question of fees, which is an important ideological question for the coop. A 1% fee could be collected from the seller when transferring their payment amount. A portion could be allocated for coop management (so, to the Ecosystemic council), and the rest would go to sellers as distrbuted gains in Faircoin. Open accounting would be important, in order to show how this is part of the building of the project. Related to reputation, the shops who participate are part of the distribution - if you are registered, with transaction ratings. Could replace minting, eventually. 50% distributed/50% to the building of the coop, as an initial proposal to be evaluated. Consumers/buyers who are members maybe can also be part of the discussion on distribution.

FairCredit and timebanking

Another item proposed: something like “fair-timebanking”, perhaps as a pilot for FairCredit. FairMarket could choose to accept Faircoin OR timebanking hours, for services (obviously this is very hard for products), and would most easily be used locally. The process would be opt-in., and could encourage cross-participation with other sellers. Technically, this has already been implemented, soit would be easy to do without much technical development. Two currencies would then be in use – Faircoin, and time. Time is time, but there are parameters already in place for reference. The existing Survey (to be updated) establishes references between 1 Faircoin and 1 hour. A work group could be formed to interface with existing timebanking groups to ask for input, remembering that this is only meant as an initial easing into the use of FairCredit (perhaps the balance of timebanking would eventuallly be converted into a FairCredit balance).

Conclusions:

Short-term solutions/actions:

  • Call for participants in market to prepare their products/services prior to market opening
  • Manage pilot projects, prioritizing immaterial products/services first, then collective purchases, then individuals (as far as promotion).
  • Find a way to create an automatic, user-participatory seller criteria review.
  • Make guidelines for how to describe one's shop:
    • Criteria for inclusion: what is their production process, justifying their price by describing their procedure in their seller profiles.
    • Information about the shop should be descriptive - tell the story.
  • Open FairMarket to shops and users, begin rating, invite feedback, so the process begins even before an official opening of the market, and the information collected in the community can be opened and published in advance, to generate transparency.

Our starting point is open; we need participants to build this, at both the technical and political level. We can't fix this without community, we need to work together, write up the shops, discuss the different layers.