MLD-836 Class 8 Workshop Questions Grey Lee 9/26/17
- How do you operationalize your value proposition and unique attributes into your service delivery chain?
Our value proposition is meeting a gap in a niche market of housing. Two spectrums are intersecting: One is related to recognizing and rewarding people who are devoted to social benefit work through subsidizing their housing. The other is creating new and dynamic synergies and connections for these professionals through a new (old) model of group living where people internalize deep learning about communication, patience, service and compassion.
We operationalize it by performing some market research, some philanthropy testing (which could involve finding an in-kind facility contribution/licensing), then implement the prototype. From that we learn how to better manage a given node and learn ways we could scale.
I am trying to determine how my concept fits with issues around privilege, affordability, gentrification, and interventionism in general. While there may be a lot to debate, I am going to side-step a lot of it. I believe that right now, there are a variety of social problems that can be ameliorated by social work and social benefit professionals. Again, while there may be a debate about how much to pay these people, like teachers and health care professionals, regardless of how to influence take-home pay, reducing rent for these people will benefit them, and potentially lengthen the duration in their life that they want to do this type of work. Further, while people of any means make choices around housing, and people have traditionally “doubled up” or lived with groups of others in an effort to reduce their housing cost, I think it is reasonable to build this out for people who “could” choose otherwise. Many people choose to work for social benefit who come from places of economic privilege. There may be a way to seek a type of social finance bond from networks of privilege to directly support a scion of privilege who chooses to work in this realm and who chooses to live in one of our nodes.
We have to procure the nodes in our network of “social benefit lodges” and identify the main partners who will underwrite the real estate side of the equation. There will also need to be partners on the social structure – the governance, the selection/attraction of residents, and general facility and node operation.
Another part of the service delivery chain will be to engage residents as part of the marketing and sales team – to recruit subsequent residents and/or new node groups.
- Can you think of ways to innovate and make it better?
One thing that we may want to do is look at a replicable design, for instance, some kind of pre-fab structure that could scale like some of the “shipping container” housing that has been developed. One model is Bjarke Ingels’ (Danish architect of the firm BIG) “Urban Rigger” floating dorms. This may be appropriate in some locations – for instance, to locate a node in a place like San Juan, Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a disaster – but this is a departure from the expected priority location targets of repurposable group living facilities like old fraternity houses, religious community housing or otherwise.
Another innovation to improve/expand this model is focusing on the software for improving small learning communities. Slack is an obvious model to create spaces for communication and project management. There are other platforms like WeSpire (corporate employee community engagement gamification) and Habitica (to-do list gamification which can be linked across different people) which can link small teams who may have a common purpose.
There are circular economy platforms for sharing resources and time banks like Neighborrow and Yerdle which don’t quite work because the parties are too unrelated. Within the bounds of the pre-qualified community in each node or even throughout the nodes in this network, a sharing platform could be more successful for sharing tools and other seldom-used but useful items.
The peer-to-peer education platform E-180 (“Brain Dates for Learning Humans”) could see a materialized “in situ” option in the nodes in the network of sobene (social benefit professional) housing [pronounced “sobenny”]
There are a few places to go with just the real estate – scaling to different sizes, repurposing specific challenging properties, tweaking the level of quality/amenities offered. A lot depends on the early engaged philanthropy or partners and what they want to see/who they most want to support.
- Are you truly “delighting” your beneficiaries/stakeholders and solving their pain points?
One of my major challenges is trying to determine a true “pain point” for my target customer. Over time I am seeing that my customer is the individual resident, not the employing agency. The party motivated to find housing is that sobene. As we create a highly differentiated product, we will delight that specific customer. They will have a subsidized housing option, which has superior features and connects them to a social network of similarly socially committed people.
- How do your staff and volunteers contribute to your service delivery excellence?
The staff for the central organization will be mostly involved with network organization and the build-out/project management of the nodes. We will recruit residents with some form of vetting for expected in-kind contributions of time and wisdom. Each node will have individuals in certain roles to support that community – a “house government” as it were. Central office staff will design models and guidelines and facilitate (train the trainers) to get nodes up and running. There may be ways for local supporting philanthropies or hosting employer agencies to supply guidance into nodes to ensure they are executing on the intentions around smooth group functioning, strong peer synergies and community engagement.
- What are the core elements of your solution and delivery model that will fit together to create your high impact enterprise?
Core elements include the acquisition process, and the modeled house node governance process – the systems around resident communication, role & responsibility management, and community engagement. We will have to find the right balance between a centrally-planned and administered real estate operation and a locally-focused community engagement process. The nodes will have to have significant autonomy to meet the local resident market and best connect with sponsoring employer agencies/organizations. The definition of social benefit, and the selection process for residents, will have to be managed by local parties to ensure the best fit with that locality.
- Are there others in your eco-system whom you can draw in to create or sustain value?
Indeed, these nodes for social benefit professionals will connect with employing social agencies and other service entities who have already engaged with the housing question. We are different in that we will house people from a variety of employers – that cross-fertilization is part of our value proposition. But entities like the Episcopal “Life Alive” and Catholic Worker Houses will be allies. They may even host a node. The cooperative community will also be a strong partner – the Cooperative Fund of New England and North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) Real Estate fund residential cooperatives and we may be an attractive investment for them. The Slow Money community and entities like RSF Finance may also see the cash flow of residents as a good “patient capital” investment. Community Development Corporations which have built affordable housing may be able to see this model as a useful type of asset to have in their service realms (perhaps even to house their employees), although they generally produce housing for a different type of selection criteria.
- Can you create a virtuous circle of benefits based upon your value proposition(s)?
There will certainly be an emergent virtuous circle of benefits as the nodes multiply and the overhead per node diminishes. Each node will be a marketing tool to encourage more funders, more employer agencies and more residents to join. Over a few years, an age stratification may emerge where longer-term, “lifers” become more permanent house residents (within the bounds of the management structure and governance processes (no curmudgeons allowed!)) will manifest social capital more strongly to guide each node and to engage with new and shorter-cycle residents. There may eventually be nodes designed for families and groups of people who will plan to live long-term in the social benefit professional space. The nodes could each create relationships with academic institutions, municipal and state agencies, and even become their own type of community development entity or social enterprise incubators. People living together, working toward a common purpose of social betterment, will evolve new patterns and solution processes. It will be exciting to watch.