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Citizens can make a valuable contribution to a more sustainable society, through so-called Community Enterprises that arise from a bottom-up approach.
Editorial office / Groningen

Researchers Derwin Schorren and Egbert Dommerholt of the Research Centre Biobased Economy at Hanze University of Applied Sciences state this in a booklet published earlier this year: “Citizens provide added value to business”.

According to the researchers, citizens should be involved in regional economic development from the outset. This is about more than making a profit. Adding social and ecological value is also important. The researchers are convinced that citizens not only focus on the money, but also know how to judge what is valuable in their environment. Think of tranquility, space and the natural and social environment.

They have therefore devised the so-called Bottom-Up Business Opportunities (BUBO) method to detect and further develop new forms of business together with citizens. By citizens they mean all inhabitants of a certain region. These can be housewives, but also farmers, schoolchildren, students, workers, managers, government officials, teachers, professors, religious leaders, supermarket owners; a colorful collection of people involved in their environment.

Room for experiments

According to the BUBO method, (groups of) individuals determine a desired future and from there consider what needs to be done to achieve that future. In a number of incubators for radically innovative new ideas, there is plenty of room for experimentation in the broadest sense of the word. Citizens are also at the helm of the development of a value proposition (what are we going to offer and for whom) and the ultimate business model. Falling down, getting up and trying again is allowed. The most impactful and best feasible ideas are further developed into a Community Enterprise: a community-supported company that adds multiple values in a sustainable way.

These Community Enterprises work together within an Innovation Workshop (IWP), share experiences, gather and share knowledge and develop new business models. In a virtual (digital) community, a Beehive, they work on developed business models. Professionals from different fields, together with lecturers/researchers and students, can exchange ideas about those business models based on the concept of the inclusive, circular economy.

The KCBBE researchers developed their method as part of the international Interreg project Periscope. The first copy of the booklet “Citizens provide added value to business” was presented in May to the National Programme Groningen (NPG). The booklet can now also be downloaded as a PDF on the website of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, in both Dutch and English.

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