Last February as I was heading to a meeting at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I crossed over the road and passed a cardboard sign attached to a bicycle. Later that day, as I sat on the plane home, protests against austerity and government cuts in Spain would turn to violence in those very same streets.
MWC2012 was my third Congress, and after nine years working in mobile-for-development I was already planning ahead. Means of Exchange was in its early stages. I’ve always been interested in local economic empowerment, and how technology could help reconnect people with local businesses, local resources and each other. Over recent years we’ve seen a breakdown of community as globalisation has strengthened its grip.
Millions of people around the world have lost jobs, homes, businesses, independence and purpose. Millions more face growing uncertainty and insecurity. Many hard working people have been hard hit. In the greater scheme of things they’re simply collateral damage in the rebalancing of a larger, broken world economic system.
Means of Exchange is all about helping people build resilience into their communities so they can buffer themselves from future shocks. We can’t remove ourselves from the world economic system entirely, but we can be more creative in how we trade, share and interact with one another. In short, we need to bring meaning back into our exchange.
Seeing my two very different “worlds of work” collide last year in Barcelona made me realise – for better or worse – how interconnected everything really is.