Hungry? There’s seconds

Collaborative consumption has gained cache in part as a reinvented method to swap or share things on a large scale.  Generally new technology is the driver however the maker movement is achieving the same thing through personalized or customized solutions.  These two trends along with the effort to move toward a more sustainable society have conspired to produce a low-tech approach to hunger in Brazil that meets the hungry where they are.

The “Street Dish” initiative is the work of anonymous citizens going by the Makers Society, who have affixed labels onto trash bins reading (roughly translated) “Leave foods that are still in use for consumption.” The notices wrap around tubes jutting out from the cans, allowing individuals to hang bags of leftovers, say, or restaurants and markets to leave extra grub or produce in plain sight.

The idea is to give the homeless and/or hungry places they can go to find free food, without having to dig through trash to find it.

Leah’s Pantry in San Francisco and Feeding America San Diego and SuperFood Drive have taken food donations a step further by creating a holistic model for change –  providing both food and health to their clients.  The food pantries commit to offering healthier foods through their pantries and they’re given infrastructure support to ensure they can safely keep and distribute these foods to their clients. They commit to deliver nutrition education and cooking skills along with their food donations.  Finally, they provide their clients a toolkit that includes simple, seasonal recipes that incorporate food bank foods and nutrition messaging for their clients.

The model is managed through quarterly meetings, site visits, and ongoing training ensure the program continues to make overall health and wellness is a priority.

How did I get here?

That’s the question I have been thinking through today after I was asked to submit a speaking request form for a conference.  They wanted to know the range of topics I can speak on.  I thought it was as good a time as any to revisit my purpose for wanting to conduct research into the future of consumption in general and why post to a blog.

I’m looking to shed light on the future of consumption because I believe my insights will:

  1. Help businesses prepare and position themselves for the future.
  2. Educate and empower consumers to embrace the future of consumption with intention and awareness, and
  3. Inform policymakers and maybe influence policy.

I’m still forming my thesis, however in the evolving world of consumption, buyers and sellers still come together to exchange value, though the form of value exchange may look very different than traditional transactions.  The foundation for any value exchange between two partiers is trust, and trust is made up of identity and reputation.  The virtual communities and marketplaces are providing new ways of establishing reputation through observed behaviors, values, and skills reported to communities by influencers.

The lubricant of this evolving system of consumption is personal data – and this is what is very interesting to me.  While I have yet to articulate the questions I want to address, I know they revolve around personal data and the interplay of trust, privacy, reputation, and influence.

I invite to you reach out if you have insights or a perspective to share, if you would like to be interviewed as part of my research, or if you would like to collaborate on this project.

Take two and call me in the morning…

I’m feeling under the weather this afternoon and evening, so I went on to WebMD and some homeopathic websites in search of some medicine I can begin taking.  After describing my symptoms, it appears I could have any number of illnesses ranging from a cold to lung cancer.  Now I’m ill and depressed.  I’ll be back tomorrow.

Are you lonesome tonight?

Day 2 of my road trip to the east coast found me at a national chain restaurant for lunch where I noticed the majority of tables occupied by only one person.  There are times where I like some time alone, however there are many times when I’m travelling I would enjoy having a conversation with someone new over a meal.

That’s why I’m intrigued with The Living Rooms project Camerados, a non-profit that is committed to ending social isolation through cups of tea.

Crumbs and stripes of jam are left behind on plates, sitting on a polka-dot tablecloth. Clusters of people lounge and chat on sofas and armchairs sprayed with floral patterns or stripes. The space is cozy and unpretentious; it invites plopping down and staying put for a while.  Last spring they launched their first location in Blackpool, England.  Two locations are slated to open in New York City this winter: one in Manhattan, and one in Brooklyn.

Maff Potts, the founder of Camerados spent decades working in social services, and noticed a common denominator underlying the push to connect folks with concrete services: a cloud of loneliness and a harried pace. The Living Rooms offer a model where “You can come sit all day,” he adds. “It’s up to you to engage with it as much as you want.”

Camerados is teaming up with Kindness.org, a platform dedicated to encouraging people to do nice things for each other, to bring the Living Room concept to New York. This site, which launched this fall, invites users to tackle some easy challenges: leaving a sketch or hand-drawn card for someone to find, or dropping a copy of a favorite book, hoping that a stranger will connect with the story held in its pages.

Kindness.org recently conducted a literature review of 21 studies examining kindness—many of which didn’t stand up well to scrutiny. “Our research suggests performing acts of kindness will not change your life, but might help nudge it in the right direction,” Curry said in a statement. Lindsey says she’s hoping to conduct more research in the future, in an effort to tease out how kindness might have long-term reverberations.

On the Road Again…

I’m writing this from a hotel in Columbus, Ohio where I’m spending the night while en route to Washington D.C.  While it’s quicker to fly I enjoy a road trip because I enjoy watching the scenery roll by.

I used my smart phone to check the road conditions, determine the route, estimate the time of arrival, find a Starbucks, report a traffic incident, find our restaurant for dinner and book the hotel while in the car.

Some of you may take this for granted but for a dedicated roadmap collector like me, it’s amazing to reflect on the connectivity, functionality and convenience of the smart phone as a tool.

Deep Work

I devoured Cal Newport’s latest book Deep Work over the last two days.  He believes that in this age of technology knowledge workers, ones who make their living from creating value from the thoughts they think are increasingly replacing deep thinking through a problem with what he terms “shallow work”, logistical-style work that is not cognitively demanding with frequent breaks of distraction.  

I recognized myself for the untold number of times daily that I grab my phone to check my email, the stock and currency markets, and the latest news.  This led me to reflect on the following, “How do I consume the news?”  I love paper and when I can, that’s how I get the news.  Before the Internet that’s how I got all my news (except the weather).  Today I rely on newspapers and magazines for depth on the few stories I find interesting,  My go-to sites end up being the online sites of newspapers mostly – the NY Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Des Moines Register, and LA Times.

I really try to stay away from social media sites (more on this another day) because, frankly, I don’t trust those sites for news. The reporters at the major newspapers may have biases (after all, who doesn’t), but many of the feature stories are well researched and provide multiple perspectives on the issue, allowing me to think deeply about issues in a way I can’t with the information provided on social media sites.

For me, I need to have a perspective and think about the implications of what I’ve read to feel as though I’m performing deep work.

 

Fear of financial insecurity or financial literacy – why is it such a difficult choice?

Here it comes – every April since 2004 has been designated National Financial Literacy Month by the U. S. Government.  According to surveys that track this issue, U.S. adults are at best in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the world when it comes to understanding basic financial concepts such as compound interest.  Yet efforts to educate Americans is hard to encourage, as evidenced by financial literacy survey results.  According to the Wall St. Journal, only 57% of Americans passed a basic financial literacy test.  For the average American the fear of financial insecurity is very real and permeates their daily thinking.  It can affect their mental health and the stress  associated with financial insecurity can lead to physical health issues as well.

Financial-Literacy-1We owe it to ourselves to become educated on financial matters because we are our financial advisor.  From monthly budgeting and bill paying to retirement planning, we are our own best advocate to ensure our financial well-being both today and in the future.  It’s not that Americans don’t want to become starter about money. Most adults wish they had financial coursework. Only 5 percent say they were taught about money by a teacher, and 40 percent say they would give themselves C’s, D’s and F’s on their grasp of personal finance concepts. A full 85 percent of American parents believe that financial education courses should be a requirement for high school graduation. And 52 percent of teenagers want to learn more about money, and they’re most interested in budgeting, saving and investing.

How to get started on the road to better financial self-knowledge?

  1. List questions you have about your personal finances.  Making a list of things you’d like to know more about allow you to free your mind and get your fears on paper and out of your head.
  2. Start a financial journal.  If you don’t know where you are you’ll never get where you want to go.  Track your spending for a month.  Then total up where you spend your money and what you spend it on.  Ask yourself if your money is going to things you truly value.  Which expenses can you do without?  Which expenses can you cut?  Is there any opportunity to save a little money, even 10% of your take-home pay?
  3. List your financial goals.  Everything from this summer’s vacation to how much you want to retire with.  This list of goals is your financial roadmap.
  4. Meet with a trusted advisor to answer your questions and discuss your goals.  For most people, an hour with a personal banker at your local financial institution will be enough time to answer your questions and help you become familiar with the products and services they offer that can help you achieve your financial goals.

The Life Cycle of a Credit Card

Credit card use has a life cycle with three distinct phases, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study of Equifax data, which plotted out how credit card debt and credit limits change over time for Americans ages 20 to 80.

Youths start out with not much credit, but they quickly gobble up most of it. From there, credit card debt starts rising, but credit card limits rise even faster.

A cardholder’s late 40s see the start of phase two, where median debt begins tapering downward. Because credit limits continue rising to a peak in people’s mid-60s, credit utilization — or the percentage of available credit being used — drops from 16 percent at age 47 down to 8 percent by age 64.

The third and last phase typically begins in an Americans’ late 60s, when credit limits stop climbing and begin to descend. With debt declining as well, credit utilization falls below 5 percent around age 74.

The study, “Consumer Revolving Credit and Debt Over the Life Cycle and Business Cycle,” by Scott L. Fulford and Scott Schuh, drew from a 5 percent sample of every credit account in the United States from 1999 to 2014 from the credit reporting agency Equifax. Demographics of the sample were determined to match the overall population very closely since the vast majority of Americans over the age of 18 has a credit bureau account.

 

The Internet of Things and Auto Insurance

It is becoming familiar to read about the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and how this will increasingly impact our lives.  If you think the impact will occur sometime in the future, think again.  Twenty percent of Americans participated in a usage-based auto insurance (UBI) program, according to a recent Nielsen survey.   Usage-based insurance involves using IoT devices to monitor and assess a customer’s driving activity — i.e. how likely it is that an insurance company will have to pay out a policy to a client. With this extra data, low-risk customers are rewarded for their good driving habits with lower insurance premiums, whereas high-risk customers are sometimes charged higher premiums.

My son was offered one when he insured his auto through Progressive Insurance and he took it.  Among other thing it measured his acceleration rates, speed, and braking patterns.  He said having it in the car made him more aware of his driving habits and if that made him a safer driver, all the better.  While not mandatory today, UBI auto insurance coverage will become the norm over time so that your future auto insurance rate will be primarily driven by your driver rating, as well as your neighbors’ driver ratings and the ratings of the drivers who frequent your commuting routes.

For today however, if you’re a safe driver or wish to become safer, it may be worth your time to look into a policy of this type.  Your safe driving could translate into real savings.

Other highlights from the survey:

* Between 2013 and 2015, US adoption of auto UBI rose from 13% to 20%.
* 27% of Americans say their auto insurance company does not offer UBI policies.
* 41% of American consumers still do not know if their auto insurer offers UBI policies. This was slightly up from 40% in 2013.

My time at Harvard

Last week I attended Karen Webster’s Project Innovation 2016 conference held at Harvard University.  It was first time visiting the campus and I must say I was impressed with the history the campus preserves so beautifully.

The theme of the conference was Payments on the Edge and there was much discussion among attendees about financial inclusion; the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to disadvantaged and low-income segments  of society.  The attendees heard again how difficult it is for traditional banks to serve these segments profitably due to the low dollar amount of the accounts (whether deposit or loan accounts).  They claim that compliance costs are a large part of the cost structure that makes these accounts unprofitable and unattractive for bank and customers alike.

There is a way to address regulatory concerns and increase financial inclusion, but it will take a collaborative, systemic approach to innovation and regulation.  When it comes to financial inclusion, existing regulation can hinder access to financial services.  Existing KYC requirements drive current account opening procedures at financial institutions that could be considered overzealous for a given situation.  How much verification is really required to obtain a $300 loan?

Further, existing regulations can hinder the emergence of alternative financial institutions more suited to the needs of lower-income consumers. From 1990 to 2008, over 2,000 new banks were formed, however from 2009 to 2013 only 7 new banks were formed, according to a 2014 Federal reserve Board study. In addition, high minimum capital requirements, limited funding structures, and heavy supervision further suppresses new entrants..

Fintech companies and financial institutions that partner to solve a particular problem need to prototype an end-to-end solution that addresses the risk presented to the financial system.  They also need to include regulators early in the process to educate them on the solution.  Regulators need to shift from regulating the individuals to regulating the systemic solution so the compliance burden is born only once in the system by the appropriate party.