By: Mathew Prior, CEO of TrustedHousesitters
Whether you have Pounds, Euros or Yen in your pocket, people and businesses have a strong relationship with these copper, paper or digital currencies as our only valuable asset for exchange.
But what if we were to evaluate the merits of a system before money was even invented? What would that look like today, and is money always the best offer for exchange?
I strongly believe that a value exchange between people – something we do with our trusted friends and family on a daily basis – is an effective and secure alternative model that, when applicable in a business environment, often brings about a better outcome than a monetary exchange. In today’s world this model appears revolutionary, but the concept of a value exchange has been around since time began.
Introducing the value exchange
Put simply, a value exchange is where two parties are able to provide what the other wants based on a mutual trust, rather than entering into a fiscal transaction. It is one of the great disruptive tech innovations of today, most prevalent in social media networks where users offer their content and data in exchange for free access to the platform. It’s also applied in consumer tech businesses such as Fitbit – we provide them with our steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, and diet in exchange for being able to monitor and improve our fitness.
But we have much more to offer than just our data and should look to harness this model much more widely. Let’s take the pet care industry as an example. Traditionally, a pet owner going away on holiday is left with the dilemma of how to ensure their pet is cared for while they’re away. So, typically, they find a sitting service that will care for their pet in exchange for an agreed fee. Yet, we know that there are millions of people in the world that would look after an animal for free because they too love animals. So here lies a clear value exchange: a person in need of pet care enters into an agreement with someone who is looking for pet companionship and the opportunity to travel.
What are the benefits?
This is seen as a radical model in today’s world because the merits of a value exchange model have largely been forgotten, but I can see multiple benefits.
Firstly, it creates a ‘win-win’ solution, benefiting everyone involved as both parties enter an agreement based on trust and mutual benefit. Importantly, unlike my Fitbit example where customers are generally unaware of the extent to which their data is harnessed and they lose awareness of the assets they’re relinquishing, a value exchange should strive to be totally transparent. The benefit to each party must be clear and direct to foster trust and deliver a true ‘win-win’ scenario.
A value exchange also celebrates and reinvigorates our sense of community, creating a kinder economy by uniting people over a common goal or shared love. By bringing people together in this way, we’re reminded that there’s a world of individuals out there like ourselves that need our help and can offer their own help in return. In our case, TrustedHousesitters unites people together through a shared love of pets and travel, but this could apply to almost anything else.
And practically, it seeks new ways of breaking down barriers to inclusion. Unfortunately, we know that financial inclusion is a huge barrier for a large number of people across the world, but a value exchange offers another way. By offering a means to accessing services for free, we can continue to solve everyday problems for everyday people.
A perfect fit for the pet care industry
Back to our pet care example, this is an industry that’s been crying out for disruption. Our pets are so dear to us, there must be a better way than taking them out of their home where they feel safe and happy, and putting them into a kennel. I believe a value exchange model is the answer – in creating a ‘win-win’ for both the owner and sitter, it also creates a winning solution for the pet involved.
Our customers, who take part in such exchanges globally every day, have told us that the thing they love most about TrustedHousesitters is that they view the exchange of their time and care for pet companionship and a place to stay as fair, accessible and reassuring – something that a fiscal transaction could never ensure.
So, while it’s often thought that money makes the world go round, I believe that the power of community and trust is a powerful currency that businesses should harness to deliver a truly customer-centric solution for all.