The Free Consumers Association (Vrije Consumenten Vereniging) is a platform to exchange knowledge and experiences between consumers of the 21st century. A forum for active consumers and innovative initiatives.
Consumers who feel responsibility for their purchases, for the environment and for their relations with producers. Especially a platform for latest developments and new initiatives for sustainable products and services, fair trade and mutual respect in a globalising world, for 'consumer governance' in general! In the world economy there are producers and consumers, and traders and banks to connect those two. As a consumer we have twelve necessaries of life so we have to do with twelve groups of producers / traders / consumer associations (see below).
And in our choices we decide about seven aspects: quality (the most important), quantity, price, guarantees, form of payment, form of delivery and way of consuming. Every day we make decisions to which ‘producer’ our euro yen or dollar starts its new ‘round’. And when we ask the right questions, producers can give the right answers. So we ourselves as consumers have to work from an economy of supply and demand to an economy of question and answer!
PROJECT / Business Case
PRODUCT / Product Innovation
PROMOTION / Social Media
PRICE / Financial Reporting
PLACE / Consumer International
The human being has become a real manager! On our way into the 21st century, we see a mature attitude beyond independent thinking and judging now also increasingly willing to help and take part in "the future we want" in a globalizing world. A stronger interest in the world and with social media leading to better choices for better products and services to buy or to help by voluntary assisting or by financing.
From the observations and experiences working in different banks and after the start of the Triodos Bank the idea was born to investigate and to help with the development of new consumer groups but especially to investigate what the consumer needs for his or her own development as a player on the world stage.
In 1980 November 11 our first plan was written for a consultancy for consumers and starting consumerorganizations followed by seven years of research. In 1986 the Meander Foundation was established and in 2001 July 14 the Free Consumer Association as a platform for exchanging views and experiences. In 2009 in the context of the global trend of consumer education Consumer360Academy started with seminars and workshops and research for further development of consumer insights in consumer governance.
After the Rio+20 conference global society now seems to get from thinking to acting. Consumer education already prepared by many organizations will be used worldwide in schools in the fixed curriculum. Consumer360Academy would particularly like to help the next stage of lifelong learning in trial-and-error of innovative initiatives in the world of consumers, consumerorganizations, (world)trade and business, cultural organizations, politics and NGOs.
Because of this trend towards practical developments it now also means for our initiative a new way of working. From an investigative to a networking lobby / catalyst style of working now also much more focused on thinking and helping with new initiatives or developing initiatives.
The design of our project in all its manifestations was always focused to the individual consumer demand and only a single question, namely a sound management informationsystem. And as every manager works from the big picture and all the others go in the details, so too the consumer needs the big picture as a basis for all life situations and choices to asses properly.
So in the scheme of financial agenda book or website, but also every seminar workshop or exhibition we are always trying portraying the big picture and the consistency of all parts. So never a multitude of information, but themes and key ideas. So that the best possible insights, judgments and decisions can be developed.
NB: For the website, this means explicitly minimal size but complete. And as soon as possible referring/linking to other sites specialised on the area in detail.
To "catapult" a new initiative in the world we usually use brochures, word-of-mouth advertising and free publicity. An existing organization is much more based on networking, and we did so since 2004 mainly through writing reactions in the press, relaying important information to specialized consumerorganizations or others. In addition we developed a nose for (indirect) lobbying and therefore work much better as a catalyst to support other people and their activities.
Today's world is already upside down in a bottom-up where people can indicate what their needs are. Already six billion mobile phones indicate that everyone is now active in looking around and is able to know what's available and what is happening in the world. For companies and consumerorganizations as well it means that now that selling is changing into listening, and promotion into helpdesks.
NB: For the website as a working platform it means enough promotion side (search engines, home page, tags, links, reviews, networking, etc), but especially an active (educational text and inspiring video lectures) and interactive (forum and webinar) methods to allow the questioners at the level of a help desk like sitting (as IBM does) next to the customer at his/her worktable. Due to the worldwide audience, our website is the basis for all substantive information and information-exchange in the first encounters.
The price of the project covers all costs of purchase, maintenance, personnel and promotion. And because of the nature of independence it can only be financed with unconditional grants. This has never been a problem by working with volunteers, using existing infrastructures and subscriptions for all information, and participate in many networks and (international) conferences.
Especially the view that the message is more important than the organization itself made sure we were heard everywhere, but as consumer organization we could maintain the size of a small foundation. So as a little CATALYST we could help generate new ideas and help larger organizations to become bigger and more important.
To add a picture of our organization in financial terms: about 50 euros per month can be calculated for internet costs, ditto for literature and ditto for travel expenses. Occasionally a larger post because of a conference, a new website or a new secondhand laptop. In total something between 2000 to 3000 euros per year in donations.
NB: For 2012 and beyond, the same financial pattern is expected because indirect lobbying and networking remain the core business. The only additional cost this year relates to a technical upgrade of the website and the publication of our basic book and financial manager in an English translation as e-book and/or e-course.
Because all people are consumers, the world of seven billion (everybody is a member, free of charge!) is the market for our activities. In practice however we have mainly to do with the consumerorganizations and especially the general national consumerassociations represented jointly by Consumers International.
Because we are not promoting ideas or fighting for consumer-rights according to our statutes, we are particularly active as a moderator and a platform for exchanging views and experiences. And because that information and "best practices" are especially important for the next generation, we focus in particular on consumer education worldwide.
Therefore we focus our attention next to the ongoing lobbying especially thinking together with organizations that specialize in consumer education. As PERL, IFHE and Consumers International.
The year 2016 was full of activities and conferences about education, THE most important Global Goal for making the future we want. Especially the education of the next generations in schools and universities for finding their ways to cope with all the worldwide problems now and in the future. But also of course for the adults of today, and for all organizations in business, government and non-governmental organizations.
On January 10 this year even President Obama gave us in his Farewell Speech the urgent wake-up call to become more and more active citizens to make democracy work! Freedom and responsibility are the two sides of the same coin!
July 18 we visited the United Nations Partnership Exchange conference in New York for the first year evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030 and for looking forward for the year(s) to come. About three hundred participants representing partner organizations from around the world reported about their activities and about the plans for the future. Looking toward the little green park outside the building we saw the great bronze statue of the archangel Saint Michael on his horse with a long spear fighting the dragon of evil. This could give us an image of hope that the Global Goals will be reached even if everything looks to be too difficult sometimes.
September 26 we were in Bonn Germany at the International Conference on Consumer Research ICCR for the latest results of researchers from around the world. Bonn is also the residence of the International Federation for Home Economics IFHE the worldwide organization for teachers and researchers in home economics.since 1912, Especially interesting was the closing keynote speech of Frank Trentmann author of the book just launched one month earlier about the complete history of THE consumer. His book The Empire of Things is already a bestseller from day 1 and a masterpiece for reading not only for researchers but for every consumer as well!
October 13 the International Conference on Financial Education was held in Auckland New Zealand organized by the OECD / INFE. Especially for research about financial literacy teached in schools. This time a little bit too expensive for us to go but we hope to join a conference in the future. It also triggered us to renew our contacts with editors for an upgraded reprint of our own financial agenda the Consumer360Manager.
At TedxAmsterdmED in March and TEDxNyenrodeUniversity in October we learned a lot about the latest developments in education worldwide not only related to schools and universities but also in lifelong learning and even in learning how to win the Olympic Games by accepting yourself and not only thinking about the top you want to reach!
And last but not least we were invited for the two day seminar at Nyenrode University organized by the Club of Rome in the Netherlands. A highly inspiring seminar about how we can really change our habits necessary for real change towards a better world. Professor Dennis Meadows who ws co-founder of the Club of Rome and the co-author of the Limits to Growth in 1972 introduced his latest bestseller to be The Climate Change Playbook! He presented all 22 games how to learn to change our habits for real change!
For the years to come education will be highest priority for all of us consumers young and old because WE are the change! And working towards an economy of question and answer we are the ones to ask better questions so that producers can give us better answers in delivering better products and better services. For that we need all kinds of platforms and activities to exchange needs and possibilities. Consumer organizations and inititiatives will be the game changers towards new business models of this new bottom-up marketing.
In 1980 November 11 our chairman started his research project about new consumer initiatives and consumer organizations and the role of the single consumer and the management information needed to be able to find relevant arguments to take best possible decisions, Working at the newly founded Triodos Bank for sustainable and ethical business finance he had the opportunity to meet many new initiatives in all kinds of projects in agriculture and food, healthcare, education, housing, transport, communication etc etc. After seven years of research and many newsletters he published in 1998 his sixty page book Consumer freedom and responsibility - towards the 21st century. Founding the Free Consumers Association in 2001 was the next step and the website Consumer360Academy in 2004 the final step to inform consumers and organizations worldwide. By ongoing research, following all the news in the world, helping many projects by lobbying and moderating, with brainstorms or a simple email about an interesting article or link, helping where possible in catalyzing change.
After twenty years of thinking since the Club of Rome (Limits to Growth1972) and another twenty years of talking since the conference in Rio 1992 now everybody have agreed in New York to start doing something about the world problems working on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2015 - 2030. And the Climate Summit COP21 in Paris a few months later was one of the biggest challenges in the history of mankind to decide! Only possible because in the last few years billions of people already learned to understand that change was necessary and that we have to pay the true price for products and services on the road towards a sustainable and responsible future! Read more www.globalgoals.org.
In a globalizing economy more differentiation of work in products and services also means more worldwide transport, travelling and tourism. But also more communication, including the shadows of economic development and all the problems of sustainability. But science and research can make things more and more transparent so educating people in schools and universities and lifelong learning towards responsible lifestyles can go faster forward. And the experiences of all people is that the world is really interesting to discover! To recognize that the world is one big economy where we are free to choose but also responsible for everything we choose! Consumer freedom and responsibility! The 21st century has begun! Read more www.ifhe.org.
Parallel to world trade we need most of all transparent and true pricing to be able to take better decisions! And of course not only a reasonable division of labour but also of income so that everybody can afford to pay the right prices for all necessities of life, of products and services. Then only then all our creativity can make it possible to find the best arguments, alternatives and best practices for a healty life, a healthy nature and a possible most healthy organized society. Read more www.globalreporting.org.
The better we have our own housekeeping in order the better we can also manage all kinds of issues between consumers, consumer organizations and producers. And so the sustainability of nature and the universe as a whole! Everybody has now to play his/her role on the stage called world and in dialogue with all stakeholders! Read more www.consumersinternational.org.
After the basic research (1980-1987) on which the book Consumer Freedom and Responsibility (1998) was based we developed the content further and more user friendly in our website (2004). According to the developments in the world from pilots towards best practices and even better we ourselves also changed our own business model from platform to co-operation in startup projects as well (2016). Read more www.consumer360.org.
Annual Report 2014 / Outlook 2015
Consumer360Academy and Free Consumers Association
People and organizations came into a current of actions more and more this year. Because of the Rio+20 conference there is a kind of basis now for mutual understanding about the roadmaps. Consumers learn to see better the importance of change in production, trade and financing. And as consumers themselves for more responsible lifestyles. To see where we can take responsibilty on our own and where it should be an issue for groups or organizations we can use our insights about the areas of our daily needs.
When we take the twelve necessities of life as basis for our annual report it can give us a much better overview of the history of the world and the worldeconomy untill today, the things that happened in 2014, the projects in which we were involved as examples, and last but not least the outlook for what has yet to be done to create a better world tomorrow towards Rio+30 and beyond.
When we think about who can do what then the first six areas are of course our own individual responsibility. Where do we believe in and what are our motives. How creative are we and what are we reading and studying and discussing to become a little bit smarter every day through science and education. And finally how do we manage our own life by choosing the best food and to avoid medicine where fitness-training could be a far better way.
The second six areas are to be organized together in our own family, or in groups, organizations, countries or perhaps worldwide. Those are the areas in daily life where we have to work together with others to achieve our objectives.
In all twelve directions we can have our dialogue with the other side of the economy. In casu the people who take care for all the products and services, for trade and advices, for communication, lawmaking and the bookkeeping of it all, named “money”. In those dialogues with all stakeholders we’re always talking about the seven aspects of production and trade. About quality, quantity, price, guarantee, payment, delivery and userguidelines.
Since all sciences became more transparent through internet, more and more people discovered that matter and mind are two sides of the same coin called reality. And that all human action always starts from a spiritual idea or ideal (mission statement) via a highly creative process towards physical and non-physical products and services. Everybody is an artist! (Joseph Beuys).
01 Religion and Humanism
During a very interesting lecture and presentation of the Humanist Association about humanism and spirituality somebody made the remark that everybody has to explore himself if and what’s more between heaven and earth to convince himself rather than being convinced by anyone else. Surprisingly we made the conclusion that that gave also the exact definition of the humanist: everyone who is standing between heaven and earth or in other words inbetween the polarity of spirituality and materialism. So not the materialist but the humanist is the one who can choose in freedom what reality can tell us. So humanism is in fact the basis for the freedom in science! To discover HOW natural sciences and spiritual sciences are the two sides of that same coin called reality (as we can see especially in the mathematics of projective geometry).
02 Art and Social innovation
During a week we gave short presentations about consumer governance in one of the rooms of the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven (Netherlands). It was during the exposition ArteUtil about art and social innovation and sustainability, about the 500 best practices worldwide where art and artists where involved in all kinds of projects working for a bettter world. Read more about the exposition: www.museumarteutil.net. Read more about Social Sculpture on Wikipedia (Joseph Beuys).
03 Science and More
It was Rudolf Steiner (1863-1925) who started to connect all sciences exoteric and esoteric as well. Because then only then both sides of reality could be researched. To be researched in the same concrete way as the natural sciences had proved to be scientific relevant and very useful since five centuries. The spiritual sciences proved to be even more clarifying reality than natural sciences alone! To underline these aspects the title of the great international exhibition about 150 years Rudolf Steiner was named The Alchemy of Daily Life (Allchemie des Alltags) which was in Rotterdam this year.
Looking forward to the years to come we already see a tendency of utmost transparency. Not only about what people say and do but even more about what’s essential in all problems and in the search for solutions. Since Rio+20 and especially since the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement people are asking why we should change ourselves and the world we create. And how we can find as much possible ways to achieve the world we really want. Protests and debates became dialogues and working groups. Another world is in the making!
The physical basis of every human being begins with good food and a proper worldclimate to live in. Then only then we can live on this planet. About food, climate, wildlife and biodiversity, about the oceans the honeybees and all animals, about landscapes and the search for commodities and the spoiling of the environment, there’s still a lot to clean up. Our food is also the basis for our health and wellbeing. And as experts now found out what parents already knew is that it is also the basis for education. To become responsible worldcitizens! (Lifelong learning).
04 Education and Change
Everyone of us is now in the 21st century the “age of maturity” which means that lifelong learning has gone to a higher level of individual conciousness and social responsibility. Because of the multitude of problems in the world caused by our almost “too little too late” reactions the need for more speed is becoming obvious. Consumers International has therefore started a new strategy 2015-2020 to give us some help in the process of empowering by “Unlocking Consumer Power on a Global Scale”. Read more www.consumersinternational.org.
05 Health and Selfcare
At the University here in Maastricht we enjoyed a very inspiring PhD lecture by Dr Machteld Huber who presented a new concept for a definition of health. The current definition used by the United Nations World Health Organization WHO is about 100% wellness and thus idealistic and thus unrealistic!. A far more better definition could be found when people should be motivated to be manager of their own health and healthcare. As with education also a kind of empowerment of the consumer.
06 Nutrition and the Sustainable Development Goals
Most discussions about sustainability are about nutrition. About food and water, climate and energy, oceans and fisheries. And about our ambassadors for change the honeybees! In 2015 the follow-up of the UN Millenium Goals will be the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) 2015-2025.
Especially nutrition health and education are our own individual responsibility! And so the climate and our own footprint. Although only producers and politicians can manage the process towards sustainability, we ourselves as 7.000.000.001 consumers have to learn to ask better questions and making better choices! Read more on our website!
During a lifetime we need a place for shelter, money to be part of worldeconomy, and an infrastructure for travelling to meet other people. Although almost everyone has some kind of home and some opportunities to travel, the transport and distribution of all products and services needed isn’t functioning quite well ... because of a staggering bookkeeping in the distribution of money (Read: citizensincome).
07 Housing and Geometry
Houses in the last century were cubes only even untill complete areas of flats like container terminals. Without any form on their own only by composition of different blocks some sculpture was possible. Since the end of the century however architects became more and more creative in all directions out of the cube and we can see more and more buildings and sculptures nowadays of real beauty! Interesting to know is that we can see before our eyes the growing forces from the physical world of the crystals towards the “etherical” world where growing forces let plants grow. And therefore the new architecture is called organic architecture especially when the growing principles are followed best. Read more about tangent lines in the mathematical science of projective (perspective) geometry (See especially the magnificent book of Olive Whicher – Projective Geometry).
08 Means and Money
When looking to the world of money we can recognise that everybody is more and more looking for better ways of bookkeeping reality. Since the new accounting rules (IFRS, GRI, Trueprice) for producers also consumers are learning to think about what really matters in their daily expenses according to quality, fair and true pricing including sustainability and responsible lifestyles.
09 Travel and Tourism
Traveling becomes more and more a way of exploring the world. Not only for pleasure and culture but also more focussed on getting to know the other people in their economic and political development in connection to the globalised world in which we are one big family. Technical innovations in the use of green energy will make travelling accessible for everyone.
Especially the developments in accounting (GRI reporting) will be most important to give us a real picture of the real world. To facilitate in asking the best possible questions in an economy of question and answer (products and services based on true price).
As individuals we need communication with the world around us. We need justice in laws and politics for living together. And we need all kinds of opportunities to meet each other in all kinds of settings: in sports, restaurants, all kinds of associations, friendships and families. Home economics therefore has to do with living on our own and living together with others, working together, and so sharing together everything one way or another. (Read more in Common Wealth written by Jeffrey Sachs)
10 Communication and Dialogue
Communication has become more and more professional where consumers and producers are meeting each other during open days, consumerpanels and annual meetings. Connected by internet for all background information, annual reports and productinformation. And even moderated by a modern press worldwide. Be it nutrition, travel, housing and energy, or medicare or education etc etc. consumers have become part of the chain “from farm tot fork” in all areas. And after all the years of questioning, protest and action it becomes more business as usual in a new economy of question and answer.
11 Justice and Fairness
The new Nobelprize winner for economic sciences Thomas Piketty and his worldwide bestselling book Capital in the 21st century was the most interesting development in all kinds of discussions! Because he did the most comprehensive research about inequality he gave the discussions about basic income (www.citizensincome.org) an enormous boost. And with that all other discussions related to that such as fair trade, true pricing and the social systems. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are from eradicating poverty to sustainability and an economic growth based on true pricing. Here in The Hague as a guest of Parliament we heard him say exactly the right words: it is too important to leave this question to economists only! It were these words that gave us the hope that “a reasonable income is a (human) right” will become the very basis for all further discussions!
12 Association and Organization
Associations are there to meet other people. To talk, to travel, to play games and all kinds of sports, to organize all kinds of activities. But the very new form of association since the 20th century is the consumer organization. This was in fact the biggest innovation of all times! This was the change from an economy of demand and supply towards a free but responsible economy of question and answer!
Consumer organizations, consumer education and dialogue are the most important trends in the 21st century to become more and more professionalised. In a globalised world we need all stakeholders involved now to make better choises for the futures we want!
Annual Report 2013 / Outlook 2014
Free Consumers Association
This first year after the Rio+20 international conference in Rio de Janeiro last year worldpress could show a lot of action and many many initiatives working out now how to go on working for another world!
No more why's and when's and who's but more and more about the how's! After twenty years of thinking and another twenty years of talking the time has come to start taking action, making agreements, doing realistic research, reporting true prices, delivering the best qualities of products and services. In dialogue with consumers towards an economy of question and answer! And although trial and error is also the basis of lifelong learning including the world as the biggest enterprise of all, more and more people are creative and active then ever before.
But from now on it will be daily practice for ALL seven billion consumers to follow the information and discussions to be able to take the best possible decisions in their daily consumption patterns. Or ask better questions to get better answers i.c. products and services. For all the twelve necessities of life there are now consumer organizations and also all kinds of systems for communication, delivery, payment, guarantees etc. Plus annual meetings with producers "live" at open visiting days. And because there are twelve and only twelve kinds of producers cq consumer organizations we are dealing with, we only have to read twelve and no more than twelve annual reports every year. That's one report and/or one meeting every month to have hundred percent (or call it a 360 degrees horizon) management information!
To be well informed from the beginning of our lifetime there is a lot of consumer education on all schools now worldwide or will be implemented in the school curriculum of home economics. Consumers International together with United Nations Education for All, EU Consumers Classroom program for teachers and the International Federation of Home Economics IFHE have promoted these programs in all countries worldwide. Many teacher training programs were developed by the Partnership for Education and research about Responsible Living PERL an international group of more than hundred teacher trainers and academics led by Prof. Victoria Thoresen in Norway. The same country where in 1987 Brundtland was prime minister and chair of the UN commission which introduced the word "sustainability"!
As a small organization we're only able to help "catalizing change" by working together with others, by writing for the press and online, and networking in the flow of ideas, best practices and all the many people we talk with at all kinds of meetings, workshops and conferences. For instance the first year we were invited to join the discussion about the review of the international ISO 26000 guidelines for good governance was interesting while experiencing that in these guidelines really everything comes together! And in the end of course in the annual sustainabilty reports of more and more companies worldwide working with the new international financial reporting system IFRS and including the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative GRI.
On October 10 the Day for Sustainability we wrote our press release that our archive is now open for researchers and everyone who is interested in the social history of consumers, consumer movements and consumer organizations and the world economy as a whole as seen through consumer-eyes. November 11 which is St Martin Day we celebrated our initiative in 1980 to research and disemminate all necessary consumer management information for consumer governance which is now Consumer360Academy!
For the years to come we shall be more visible in lectures and workshops, an upgraded website, and we invited some experts to help us with their expertise and advise. We will continue to work together with Consumers International, IFHE, UN and EU Classroom, PERL and of course with everybody and every organization who is thinking talking and acting for another world!
For the year(s) to come we can only expect a lot of new initiatives worldwide, professionalizing of existing organizations, and of course always some stones on the road! Looking around the twelve areas we hope that religions will find each other and globalize too, that art will help stimulate people's creativity, and that the science will go on also discovering that the world is more than matter alone, that mind and matter are two sides of the same coin called "reality".
The biggest issues are educating ourselves and the new generations to become responsible consumers and world-citizens, working on their own health instead of leaning on healthcare alone, and of course taking care of good nutrition, on real good food! Our ambassadors the bees and the beekeepers can tell you all about!
And if houses and buildings will become more vivid and tailormade, when financial organizations will become better bookkeepers of our worldeconomy, and worldtrade will be based on fair and true prices, things will go into the right direction. We think!
With a free press worldwide, good information and real dialogue the world can go forward, an economy of question and answer will be possible. If culture, state and economy work together with their unique expertise good governance in all directions can become the best possible. And people meeting each other in all kinds of relations and organizations will give the feeling that we are all part of one "developing" world! Life(s)long learning is a most exiting way of living!
New Mexico, USA
In the first half of 2012, there were some interesting conferences where we tried to get a picture about what might be changing in the world. Following the major UN conference Rio +20.
Dutch development organization NCDO existed for 40 years, but also Consumers International, the European Consumers Organisation BEUC and the international organization of home economic teachers IFHE celebrated their 50th or 100th anniversary!
Following the Springtij Festival on Terschelling Island there was in the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam a great Preparatory Conference for Rio +20. About what the Dutch people wanted to give to all the representatives of our country and all organizations to take to Rio de Janeiro.
The United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro, where some 50,000 officers and dozens of heads of state participated, was impressive to follow! Via internet all the politicians called it a great success, the green organizations called it a big dissapointment. But the reality is of course that all of humanity has now become involved in both the world's problems, and now form the platform of support on which politicians, companies and NGOs can start working now! Much more focused on action than talking alone!
In September, Ban Ki Moon took the initiative for a new UN website, now not only for the millennium goals to get all children to school but also to educate them becoming responsible and active citizens of the world! ( www.globaleducationfirst.org ).
To prepare ourselves for a more active role in developing innovative organizations, we participated in two conferences on consumer education in Berlin and Oslo of the Partnership for Education and Research for Responsible Living PERL (www.perlprojects.org ), in which we are partners and also helped organizing.
In the summer, there was a seminar in Dornach Switzerland ( www.goetheanum.org ) of Christopher Budd about John Maynard Keynes and the financial crisis.
Recently we were asked to join the committee about ISO 26000 ( www.nen.nl/iso26000 ), a global directive for social responsible organizations.
On December 12, we were at the meeting of the Club of Rome in the Netherlands. Forty years after the starting conference in the impressive auditorium of the University of Delft, where the first signs of yes/no sustainability were heard!
We are living in the middle of an interesting time! Worldwide the post-war generation is going to retire. Especially the students that protested for a better world in the sixties and have done their jobs in business, politics or culture have now a lot of time to get creative on another level! Especially ceo's, politicians or the chairman of some cultural or scientific organization who have a lot of experience are now free to speak about their real thoughts about society. And because of modern social media more eager then ever to join the problem-solving in the 21st century!
But even more interesting is that almost everybody is going into a higher gear of activism! Not only the movements of the Arab Spring or the Occupy (together with Adbusters Magazine of Kalle Lasn who also started the Buy Nothing Day years ago), but also many people as members or not-members of organizations in public transport, medicare, food, education, politics, housing etc. etc. are more and more talking and acting towards more sustainability and responsibility!
We have entered the 21st century of maturity where the human being is starting managing his or her own life and all kinds of relations in society together with other people now also in all kinds of economical/financial, political and cultural issues. As consumers, citizens or cultural creatives we are more active in dialogue and decision making including the responsibility of what our money is doing in the world. Towards an economy of question and answer where we are learning every day to ask better questions to get better answers (sustainable products and client-oriented services).
Our activities this year were more and more changing from research, writing and catalysing towards co-operation with other organizations. A few examples:
1. We helped organizing the PERL (www.perlprojects.org) conference about consumer education at the Maltepe University in Istanbul.
2. Instead of a workshop/paper we had this year a small poster-presentation of drawings in projective geometry as a teacher tool to show economic processes and relations on a innovative way for better understanding.
3. We were co-writers with 400 other people of Our Common Future 2.0 (www.ourcommonfuture.nl) as follow-up of the 1987 Brundtland report of the United Nations about sustainability.
4. In Wageningen/Holland and Munich/Germany the first students graduated for the new EU Masters in Consumer Affairs (www.eureca-online.eu )! They will be the future ceo's of consumer organizations, marketing managers or politicians, or chairs of ngo's or hallmark institutes. (At a conference in 2007 we were partner in a working group drawing the first lines of a first proposal).
5. We also joined this year the oldest organization in the world working on consumer issues, the International Federation of Home Economics (www.ifhe.org)
6. And with our three years of lobbying for the honeybees we could help a little bit that even the EU and UN are now also working on the issue and that hundreds of people are interested in organic and biodynamic beekeeping in the Netherlands alone! But this was only possible because many research was already done and published by the American organization for beekeepers and the German researchers for biodynamic beekeeping (www.mellifera.de). Why help these little girlfriends and promote to buy organic honey as a consumer organization? Because without honeybees no fruit no consumption no consumers!
In this year the Free Consumers Association also celebrated her 10th anniversary! Founded on the 14th of July 2001 to remind us to the ideals of the French revolution about freedom equality and fraternity. Especially chosen because these words can be recognised as basic principles respectively in culture, human rights and world economy.
The year 2011 was also in the press worldwide because of the 150th birthday of Rudolf Steiner (www.rsarchive.org) who further researched these principles of "threefolding" in their relations to the human being and society as a whole as the scientific basis for analysing all possible "social contracts" which we want to create in society for a more sustainable and responsible world.
Free Consumers Association
(website will be updated soon)
The year 2010 was again full of surprising and challenging questions, with meetings in Rome, Malta and Istanbul plus an international conference at the Nyenrode Business University in Breukelen near Amsterdam to help prepare for the next three years conferences of the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living PERL . This is an advisory group of 90 teacher-trainers working for the Marrakech-project about consumer education 2011-2020 of the United Nations in collaboration with Consumers International www.perlprojects.org
We have participated in the Dutch national project Our Common Future 2.0 where 400 people together wrote the follow-up of the Brundtland report on sustainability for the next 25 years www.ourcommonfuture.nl
In Maastricht we started to discuss possibilities for a small multimedia exhibition with workshops Consumer360Experience about everything related to sustainable and responsible consumption i.e. consumer governance. Research and education are now also better reflected in the name of our upgraded website Consumer360Academy. For all work areas and specific issues we also began to start new research to expand our expertise on a higher professional level.
Since 11 November 1980 where we started from the experience at Triodos Bank and consultation with Lex Bos our research in the development of modern consumers and consumer-organizations and in particular the innovations, the Free Consumers Association now exists already 30 years. Especially since 2004 (State of the World of Worldwatch Institute was also all about consumption and consumers) we are a very present catalysing player in the world partly because everything globally in this field accelerated and came into a current worldwide.
Consumers and their organizations were asking ever better and more critical questions, even including the financial aspects of their choices. Trade organizations and banks as translators of the economy became more and more aware of their responsibility in the whole process. Producers and service organizations, including governments and ngo's are in the middle of transforming towards holistic ways of research, product development and guarantees, involving nature and all stakeholders. Towards corporate governance, government governance and consumer governance, or in other words: all parties are playing their role in the world economy more and more based on good governance!
The new standards for sustainable production and trade ISO / DIS 26000 were published this year and will be introduced in 2010. The fair trade organizations transformed their common goal into the new World Fair Trade Organization WFTO this year. Ethical banks decided to work together in the new group called Global Alliance for Banking on Values. Consumers International started introducing consumer education on schools worldwide.
Also our organization was fully involved in all these worldwide developments, although on a small catalyzing scale of course. We were asked to give our comments and suggestions for the new ISO 26000 standards. We joined the discussions with World Fair Trade Organization and Consumers International about harmonizing sustainable hallmarks worldwide. And we presented our workshop about consumer governance at the conference of Consumer Citizen Network CCN for consumer education together with Consumers International and United Nations Decade of Education in Sustainable Development DESD 2005-2014. The CCN in which we are partners as well will continue as an advisory organization, now called Partnership in Education and Research about Responsible Living or PERL.
The Free Consumers Association still works more like a foundation and as a small catalist organization. The whole information flow is managed by only one person, especially to indicate that every consumer can manage his/her own information 360 degrees! THAT was the initial question asked in 1980 at the start: how can i myself as an individual consumer become an overview and enough insight in the complex world economy around me to work for what later would become a world wide slogan of the World Social Forum: "A better world is possible!" The one who triggered this research project was the Nobel prize winner for economics professor Paul Samuelson, writer of the most famous handbook for economy. He died this year at the age of 94 and will surely be very interested how the world goes on!
Our office is now in the beautiful south of the Netherlands, in Maastricht. The city where in 1992 at the Maastricht treaty the decision was taken to introduce a new coin: the Euro. Our activities in the years to come will be more and more international. Not only by writing and catalyzing and lobbying, but also assisting in e-learning programmes. Parallel to that we will go on in developing our research and expertise together with others in the newly started Consumer360 Academy.
Looking360... Jungfraujoch (Sphinx Observatory 3571 m)
Most important development in the world was the OECD conference November 2007 in Brussels "Beyond GDP". Followed by a conference at the University of Tilburg in The Netherlands January 10 about the neccesary trend in thinking from Wealth to Well-being. If this is the breakthrough in our thinking about disconnecting labour and income, now in a current since the last three years, then we may have hope for another world! Because thinking about the quality of life - of ourself AND of all the others - is in fact our everyday starting-point in decisionmaking! See our publication / contribution to the conference "About the quality of life". Also the actual financial crisis and the solutions discussed are pointing in the same direction. YES to a free capatilist market in the economy, but then also say YES to a social system of dviding the wealth in a reasonable way. The same as the dutch accountancy professor Limperg always said that creating wealth is one issue (economic), dividing it is another issue (justice). The next international conference will be in 2009 January 16 in Antwerpen, Belgium.
But even more urgent is of course the present foodcrisis worldwide! Although the development in the quality of food and organic foodproduction is booming (Michelin-star top restaurants and their top cooks are switching to biological/biodynamic), the quantity-problem is even getting worse! Hopefully the experience of world politics in problemsolving will be strong enough to overcome the foodcrisis as well as the financial crisis! Hopefully WE CAN! Also this problem is not a question of production but also in the first place of the dividing of wealth to be able to buy your food and water etc. Especially now becomes visible that ....... "a reasonable income is a right" ! And in fact it's a consumer problem how six billion consumers divide the production they made together. Interesting discussions ahead!
Read more: Consumer360 Outlook 2009...
As Free Consumers Association we are now more and more active in workshops, seminars, and in innovative projects such as "professionalizing" consumer-trade-producer dialogue and of course the ongoing conferences on consumer education of the Consumer Citizen Network, this year in Tallinn Estonia, next year in Berlin - see our publication in concept for a paper "Consumers and Consumer Organizations in Action".
Although we're a very small player in the field, our way of networking however is special in a way that we only send messages to people or organizations who are on the knots, the roundabouts or the crossings of some most essential networks in the world. Especially those who are working in categoral consumer organizations, or in specialised research activities, interested papers and journalists, interesting people saying interesting things, etcetera. Working from a white agenda into the colourfull world of daily history in the making That's why we call it "indirect" lobbying. Helping other consumer organizations to lobby by giving good arguments, warm support and as a think tank in helping to develop new initiatives, so called pioneer projects. As the World Social Forum calls it "Another World under Construction".
But the most important reason is of course that we are working on consumer governance of the individual consumer! He or she has to be able to survey the whole picture as a manager! Therefore the information for consumer governance has to be compact, to the point and highlighting the items which are really important. At least give a systematic informationsystem to find the way in the big google wiki wood of websites. So that every single consumer can learn to become a consumer360 !
The year 2007 was full of activities and new developments. A new website, again hundreds of small catalist-actions such as comments, articles, networking, lobbying, joining discussions at many seminars and congress workshops, and last but not least following the world news to serve our members looking 360 degrees around the horizon to all twelve working fields in the world!
Strategically we worked more and more on priorities as quality of life, new ways in science, innovative initiatives and helping in the search for solutions in different problem-situations. And we started seminars and masterclasses in different cities in Holland and abroad! In Sofia Bulgaria we gave our first workshop in the Consumer Citizen Network CCN where teachers are preparing programmes for consumereducation on schools and universities worldwide, in connection with the UN Decade for Sustainable Development. In our workshop we worked on the issue "Consumer, Arguments and Producers".
In the world around us a lot of positive developments are going fast forward! Al Gore showed us the way in handling the Climate. Cradle2Cradle (see Google) is the new way for 100% sustainability. And Professor Pralahad wrote his famous marketing bestseller The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid about producing for the two billion poorest consumers as the new emerging markets! Globalising is going on!
Our plans for 2008 are to complete the english pages on our website and to globalise also! Our new (extra) name is consumer360.org to be remembered more easily, but especially to show the essence of the consumer-management-information-system. The image of the twelve daily needs produced around the horizon of our world!
PS For the bees who cannot speak for themselves we want to cry out for them that the global problem of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is a problem for us all! The bees are dying of too much efficiency in bee-keeping, in the US and also in Europe up to 70% have died instead of the normal rate of 20% in winter times. And so we are loosing our girlfriends AND the basis of our agriculture!
So: buy more biological honey! (See also the breathtaking bestseller Phanomen Honigbiene - not yet in english - written by professor Jurgen Tautz and with 180 color photos isbn 978-3-8274-1845-6 and go to www.beegroup.de and watch the trailer video of BeeMovie!) Or Google to CCD Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD BEES in english or your own language. Save the bees!
The new subtitle of our association is: "forum for active consumers and innovative initiatives"!
The smallest website about the biggest issue: consumer governance!
After 5 years we're still a small organization but that has everything to do with the character of our association! Catalyzers ARE always small by definition, they only try to help forward the bigger issues! But in 2007 we will introduce our new website and start with more lectures and seminars. And of course also continue in writing comments, joining discussions and social forums, indirect lobbying via consumer organizations, and networking by matching information between organizations, press-agencies and individuals.
In 2006 we gave seminars in consumer governance at the Dutch Social Forum and at Nyenrode University. We joined conferences about consumer education in Hamar/Norway, Berlin/Germany and Utrecht/Netherlands. And we were listening and discussing at several meetings with lectures of ministers and members of parliament. Plus seminars about microfinance, about alternative moneysystems, (Lietaer), and the introduction of his book Globalisation that works by Joseph Stiglitz in Amsterdam.
Comparing with other general and special consumer organizations we are focussed on management information as a tool itself. How can we as individuals oversee and understand the whole worldeconomy and ourselves in the middle of it? With the 360 degrees overview of consumerorganizations we all have to deal with, it has become much easier to find our way and to prepare our decisions. With the different pages of our website with "open courseware" information, search-options and a newpage in which we try to analyse the main issues, daily information becomes easy to read! In working out these things during lectures and seminars we experienced how everybody became aware of that as an eye-opener.
To write about all 200 actions this year would take pages. To get a broader insight of our activities see our former annual reports. An overview of the developments in consumer governance worldwide over the last few years is also given in our newspages.
The Free Consumers Association was in 2005 particularly active in exchanging information on innovative producer-consumer dialogue. In a way we call "indirect" lobbying we fulfilled in more than a hundred cases the role of catalyst, transmitting information or think along in the search for appropriate knowledge or good arguments.
Last year there came an increasingly global consumer momentum as we said already in our last annual report 2004. It was mainly very visible this year in September at the expansion and participation of civil society organizations within the United Nations in December, and at the participation and recommendations of Consumers International at the WTO in Hong Kong ("Say NO to GMO"). But it became clear that people worldwide increasingly wish to be involved in new developments in (direct) democratization, debtrelief developing countries, conscious investing, untill ethics of science and its applications. Consumers / citizens movements also grew more and more towards an increasingly broad support for businesses and politicians to continue work on "good governance". Towards an economy of question and answer!
In 2005 we took part in seminars on the history of finance (Colors of Money), alternative money schemes (Lietaer), ethics and sustainable business (Club of Rome, the UN Earth Charter), new forms of marketing like MultiChannelManagement (Nyenrode seminar Wells Fargo Bank ), and about taking initiatives as a process (Triodos Bank). Furtheron a one-day training about lobbying plus a visiting tour through the European Parliament buildings in Brussels together with consumers from the new European countries. We also worked actively in the preparations for the next Dutch Social Forum 2006 that will take place 20-21 May in Nijmegen.
All these seminars and conferences helped us to go on to be informed about all the latest developments. But they also offered opportunities to direct discussions to think and to argue. From our experiences and know-how plus the great information that flows through our association was often possible to go further, to help structuring or to provide arguments for further innovation.
Vrijeconsumenten.nl is on the map!
The Free Consumers Association is now in an accelerating world of consumers increasingly participating. This year, more and more questions we could answer in the form of interviews, delivering articles and participate in seminars and debates.
Interviews published in Nyenrode VCV Magazine (producers) and the DO Sustainable Business Courier of the Dutch Council of Women (consumers). For Driegonaal, a magazine about the threefolding aspects of culture, law and economics, we wrote the history of our association. At BEUC the European organization of Consumer organizations in Brussels we followed four days in training for consumer legislation, consumer rights. In Delft, a small lecture and a final debate on the "new consumer", together with Unilever, and Club of Rome. (The same place where we were in 1972 when the Dutch branch of the Club of Rome was founded during a big congress).
In Amsterdam we started with our own workshop at the first Dutch Social Forum in Amsterdam. In December we participated in a seminar in Stuttgart with the writers of "Another World is Possible" by the International Forum on Globalization IFG. Participation in two Internet discussions of World Watch Institute on consumption. Their yearbook State of the World in 2004 was fully dedicated to the consumer! Similarly the special December edition of the Courier-DO of the Dutch Council of Women.
Consumers International launched in South America on a large scale consumer education in schools. And in Switzerland, Demeter Konsumenten designed a special training course for consumers of organic / dynamic food. The European Commission drew even 72 million euros for management training for new consumer organizations! In England, an international standard was set for companies that integrate producer-consumer dialogue (associattive economics).
Although we ourselves have only a few club members are now clearly on the map! But in 2005 the course will really show which role we can play as an association, a platform, a catalyst for innovation. Besides the development of many networks which now take place may perhaps give more opportunities, plus seminars, active discussions and challenging articles helping others in the "maturity phase", the professional phase of the consumer in the 21st century! We call it consumer governance!
The main plans for the 2005 are renewal of the website, and especially active participation in innovation through writing, discussing and networking. At the annual meeting April 2, we have completed this review of developments in the first quarter of this year: English summary on the website, group participation preparation Dutch Social Forum in 2006, press release distribution, many other network-activities and e-mails. (Instead of a flip-over with a marker we made drawings on the parquet-floor, as lines in the sand. An idea that arose following the example of the artist Joseph Beuys when he spoke about "Social Art").
Article in the magazine Driegonaal, September 2004
Free Consumers Association on the Web
vrijeconsumenten.nl as a guide in associative economy
by Peter Daub
The Free Consumers Association is since February this year on the internet. The website vrijeconsumenten.nl is also an innovative search-engine for all currents in consumer activity, a brief introduction in consumer education, household expenses and a new style (manager). In short a complete set of management tools for consumers. This article gives an overview of its content and development in conjunction with threefold society (culture/justice/economiy) and globalization.
Driegonaal published in January 1979 a special number about consumer-producer associations. Together with many others we wrote about how the economy should be addressed differently in this world. Now 25 years later we see that in all areas of consumer associations arise consultations with manufacturers and service providers. To subscription forms and annual meetings. The last direction to get under way was the one most connected to the earth: food (agriculture) Via vegetable packs, open days and "Pergola-associations" came into motion only the last ten years.
Recently there are even many new initiatives worldwide! In Switzerland, a conference launched a consumer education course. In England, the Institute of ae-label for associative working companies. The EU provides training for developing consumer-organizations. And the Worldwatch Institute dedicated the 2004 State of the World and its website this year entirely to the consumer. And with the major conferences of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre on ethical globalization, and this year India the world was one village at last! And even a festival of globalization on June 28 and 27 in Amsterdam ("I am a World Leader") was a great success! On 26, 27 and November 28 as the first Dutch Social Forum takes place in Amsterdam.
For further orientation in the global economy and in the laws to recognize there is now also our new website. An extremely convenient ordering of managementinformation based on the 12 necessities of life and the 7 trade issues. Through news, seminars, forums and of course the help desk can be an interesting focal point for members and website visitors. We are a statutory association for the exchange of insights and experiences. A platform for discussion between consumers. Research and advocacy, we therefore deliberately left to research institutions and interest groups.
The initiative originated in 1980 when I took the decision to move from advising innovative companies at Triodos Bank towards helping consumers find what they could further 'professionalise'. From my managerial background, I then searched for the economic laws for consumer transparency. Years of "phenomenological" research in various consumer groups, but particularly in my own position as consumers ultimately yielded a clear picture. After several publications, courses and lectures it appeared finally in 1998 all in one book "Consumer freedom and responsibility". The website is actually a brief summary of it plus a search engine.
But what about the thoughts of threefold social order and how can we recognize those laws? Without writing on now in this article the main aspects of liberty equality and fraternity are coming into sharper focus more and more in the global debate. Including the four major subjects associations, forms of money, property and income distribution. But we also see so many trends, things again to reverse or to confuse! But to all those "fronts" so much discussed in the world does indicate that the time is now!