Finding People to Make a Living With: A Methodology, Take One

finding people
For some time I’ve been thinking about ways we could more effectively find ‘like minds’ to make a living with or even just to work on projects we have a shared passion for. Too many of us are working alone, and if we’re going to make a real difference, and experience the full joy of Natural Enterprise and Intentional Community, we need to start working with others whose talents complement our own, and who we can come easily to love.

This search for partners need not (indeed it must not) involve compromising what we want to do, or our values. It should enable us to do what we do best, connecting and collaborating with others, on our own terms, in our own context, developing our own plan of action, doing our own thing in sync, in community with others. Though it does require knowing yourself: What your personal Gift, Passion and Purpose are!

I concluded quickly that the mechanism for finding others won’t be a website, database or other online technology: It needs to draw on a broader pool of talent and passion, including those on the other side of the digital divide.

Likewise, the mechanism for finding others cannot be one of agency, because person-to-person connection agencies are fatally flawed by their intrinsic conflict of interest. As James Surowiecki has explained, the agent gets rewarded for making connections, and for that reason s/he will always be tempted to exaggerate the potential of every relationship, and to accept bribes to favour some parties over others.

So what we need is a low-tech, peer-to-peer mechanism. That had me stumped for a while, but now I think I have a first iteration (illustrated above) of a method that might work. Here’s a walk-through; tell me what you think:

  1. Articulate Unmet Needs (That You Care About): Regular readers will not be surprised that the mechanism starts not with solutions, but with deep, unmet human problems and needs. This is the exact opposite of the usual approach, which starts with ideas, solutions, proposals or manifestos. The idea is to approach a problem with an open mind and as much data as possible, and engage others to help solve it. The need needs to be probed, substantiated with evidence (especially stories), and discussed extensively. Students of complex systems know that an understanding of the problem co-evolves with the emergence of possible solutions, so what is important is to articulate the problem or need, and not rush to solutions. Who needs your gift now?
  2. Appeal to People’s Sense of Purpose: Your purpose is what you were always meant to do, why you’re here. It’s personal, and the articulation and discussion of needs will draw in people whose purpose is aligned with solving that problem or filling that need. This is not a persuasive process — you’re appealing to the latent interest that people already have in the subject. Those who respond will bring additional stories and additional research to improve the articulation and substantiation of the need.
  3. Craft the Invitation: You already have part of the solution team by virtue of having appealed to people’s sense of purpose. Now the invitation, Open Space style, is crafted to draw in people who have the gift and passion to come up with solutions.
  4. Complete the Solution Team: Now you bring together people who share your purpose, and those who have the genius (the gift and the passion) to help you find approaches to address the problem or need effectively. When you find people who have both (the shared purpose and the genius) you’ve found the partners you want!
  5. Brainstorm & Innovate: Using an Open-Space type technique, now you put it all together, and brainstorm innovative and adaptive approaches (like biomimicry) collaboratively. You’ll end up with the raw material for a host of experiments. Some of them will work, others won’t. But now you’re working with people who share your passion and purpose, and whose gifts complement your own, you won’t stop until you’ve found a set of solutions that make a difference. And in the process, you’ll learn more about the needs and problems you’re grappling with, and evolve even better answers.

OK, I know you’re asking What’s the Business Model? How can anyone make a living off this? Well, in the first place, this solution co-development process will give those who want to make a living a huge amount of research and ‘qualification of need’ at little or no cost. And if some of the experiments need some additional investment of time or money to get from the successful experiment to the ubiquitous product or service stage, it should be pretty easy to find partners to provide it, since the risk has been largely eliminated. The network that has been immersed in qualifying the need and brainstorming solutions will provide ready-made viral marketing for commercial solutions. And ultimately this is a reputation system: Your involvement co-developing both the articulated needs and qualified approaches and solutions will give you instant credibility to partners and customers alike. Yeah, it’s an open source co-development and the intelligence is all out there. But you have the inside track because you’ve been immersed in the details since day one, so you (and your new partners) can do what even the richest and cleverest outsider can’t: implement first and best.

No, you won’t make a million from this approach. There is an element of the Gift/Generosity Economy here. But there is no reason you can’t make enough, easily, with minimal risk, to let you keep doing what you love, what you’re uniquely good at doing,with people you love, and make the world a better place in the process.

That’s all I’ve got so far. Additions welcome. Let’s co-develop this thing.

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10 Responses to Finding People to Make a Living With: A Methodology, Take One

  1. Kay Dayss says:

    We introverts have a way of building a scenario in our head, and then stepping into it to see if it will work. Then we propose it. As always, I love your ideas, Dave. However, the premise of “problem solving” is flawed. It places the focus on problems and therefore severely limits us. We need to move away from 20th Century problem solving. It doesn’t work. we need to be creators creating a new world that we want. I recommend “The Path of Least Resistance” as a model. However, even if we went with problem solving, your methodology fails to identify HOW we will find our partners. Instead of putting focus on the people, you again place it on “needs” or “problems”. People are NOT their needs and problems. People are so very much more!

  2. Hi Dave, I love your idea. I am actually, writing my thesis on something very similar. It is about first finding a passion, then share your passion with others and out of this synergy some kind of value for society is created. If this value is worth money, the persons responsible for this value creation may expect temporary employment (or create their own employment). If you are interested, my very ugly wiki (sorry, I have to improve the layout and install some plugins) on my thesis can be found on, then go to report and chapter Two. I can let you know when I am finished, please drop me an email.

  3. Ashley Cecil says:

    I was just discussing this last night with my boyfriend who looks at business plans pitched to his firm all day. What I like about your illustration is that it’s cyclic, because as my boyfriend said, “Entrepreneurs who aren’t willing to adapt and change to their audience’s need, are the ones that fail.” This means constantly re-access your work (without making changes that compromise your passion).I’m very much in the middle of this process and what a learning experience it is!

  4. Dave,I love your vision and your thinking on this topic.I suspect your model is both too complicated and too simple.It is too complicated because at heart the process is very simple. Listen to your heart to find your interests and passion. Speak your truths and state your interests clearly. People will find you.On the other hand, the model is too simple because that’s hard. On the personal side, maybe someone is scared of showing their real self, of what people will think of them, of other people’s opinions of them and what they care enough about to say. But also on the practical side, there are issues of intellectual property, copyright, commercial sense, etc in sharing ideas with others.I think blogging and social networking sites like LinkedIn are part of the answer. The other part is just get going doing what you want and see what happens, who you meet along the way. And that takes courage.BTW, if you get the chance could you drop me a line by email to talk about that Jefferson High School study diagram you posted – I don’t understand why that big loop would form, rather than different parts of the loop connecting each other to make a more complicated 3-dimensional shape.Kind regardsLauchlan Mackinnon

  5. Coy Ison says:

    Dave,I too always enjoy reading your blog.As I read your “Finding People to Make a Living With: A Methodology, Take One” entry I was struck by the following two paragraphs.”I concluded quickly that the mechanism for finding others won’t be a website, database or other online technology: It needs to draw on a broader pool of talent and passion, including those on the other side of the digital divide.” and “So what we need is a low-tech, peer-to-peer mechanism…”Lots to think about here and I’m interested in watching what others have to say about the nuts and bolts.Thanks for making us think, this is an important question and idea.(Coy Ison)

  6. DaveWalen says:

    What about architecturally? This is what I think about often.Anyone heard of Arcosanti? Or megastructure?I studied this in school avidly and determined that political and financial ramifications are keeping us from developing this kind of City.For example: All of Chicago could be fit into a “building” 300 stories high, withpassive heating and analemic sun orientations, it would focus the human nestsinto a balanced harmony…BUT: who builds it holistically? Who controls it, and who finances it?

  7. Earl says:

    Dave, just came across your article and it kinda blew me away. It seems as if you were reading my mind since this is part of the philosophy behind the business model of the e-Biz Co-op at I couldn’t have articulated better myself. Would love to help co-develop this thing. Count me in!

  8. While I understand the need, I think this model is not adaptive enough given the uniqueness of each human mind and the need for people to COMMIT before any real progress is made.For a model that seeks to meet these requirements please see “Achieving Sustainable Development: The Integrative Improvement Institutes Project”. A copy is online at: project seeks catalysts who are prepared to make a commitment to advancing Integrative Improvement.In brief, Integrative Improvement is an adaptive, science-based, demand-centred, technology-enabled, practical approach to meeting the governance and other challenges we face in our world, our organisations and our economies. It is applicable to individuals and all business, government and civil society organisations and is culturally neutral.

  9. Aaron Agassi says:

    Kay Dayss got it right first, by pressing the question: HOW?

  10. Earl says:

    I’m inclined to agree with the sentiments of Lauchlan Mackinnon that the model is a bit too complicated. We need to use the “Keep it Simple” approach. I think that once “like minded individuals” gather together and make a commitment to brainstorm/discover a way to make this happen – it will happen. As Lauchlan also states, “The other part is just get going doing what you want and see what happens, who you meet along the way.” I agree that one needs to step out/take action in faith/conviction and see what happens. That’s precisely what I’m attempting to do at the e-Biz Co-op at

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