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Capital Ideas

The thoughts of Matt Olson, a systems thinker, hacker, and social entrepreneur, on retooling consumer culture

The Dirty Kids


The increasing size of the homeless population downtown has become a hot button political issue for Chico, and one that divides the candidates for the City Council election tomorrow. At the League of Women Voters forum on October 15th, I saw two very distinct points of view represented.

The first was best illustrated by the comments of Sean Morgan, perhaps the most plain spoken conservative of the group advocating for new laws against objectionable behavior. In response to a question about what the city should do about the homeless “situation” downtown, Mr. Morgan replied, “My take is to give the police department the tools it needs—the misdemeanor vagrancy and panhandling laws they’ve asked the council for before and been denied. We have terrific resources for the disabled—the Jesus Center, the Torres Center, that help people get traction as long as they’re making progress, and they do a great job. To the others, I would like Chico to send a clear message, if you want to come to Chico to learn, add value and make progress, you’re welcome here, but if you’re here solely to party or bask endlessly in the generosity of our nonprofits, we ask that you move along.” That’s how you say “run ‘em out of town, boys” in 2012. The audience reacted with hushed gasps of shock on one side and beaming pride on the other.

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Collaborative Consumption and the Emerging Reputation Currency

Collaborative Consumption

One of the most exciting trends in the web startup world—for me, at least—is the growing number of companies in the so-called “collaborative consumption” space. These companies are using technology to reinvent market behaviors that are as old as human civilization itself—sharing, bartering, and trade.

Let’s get specific: I’m talking about tools that let you share your car with your neighbors (Getaround, Zipcar), tools from your garage (Streetbank), or your couch or guest bedroom with visitors from around the world (Airbnb, Couchsurfing); tools that let you raise support for your next venture directly from your customers (Kickstarter, Indiegogo); online markets for handmade or restored goods (Etsy); tools that revolutionize education by enabling experts outside the university to teach courses online (Skillshare).

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