Social Supply and Demand

Stop seeking external validation by buying disposable crap made overseas, with its sub-optimal working conditions and carbon footprint from manufacture & transportation & distribution.


Start acting out your truer self and continually making your world a tiny bit better, meaningfully deepening connections with the communities of which you’re already a part.


Please steal this idea. It could save the world. I’m serious. And I call it: Social Supply and Demand.

Let’s start by acknowledging that we are each sitting on a goldmine. While we each have skills & knowledge & things & experiences we would like to have – what we demand of the world – we also have skills & knowledge & things & experiences we can share – what we can supply to the world.

The goldmine comes from the community-internal connections after knowing what we want, and can give.

(There. That’s how.)

While my major was Biomedical Engineering, I did a minor in college in Business Administration, which meant I took a couple of Economics classes. I now wish I went to more of those Econ classes (“I’m an Engineer, I’m good at Math, and this is just Math, right?” WRONG! There’s terminology. There’s a whole language. Go to class. Show up. Then ace the Math because you actually know what they’re talking about.) (…I could say so much to my past self…), but I do remember how often we talked about Supply and Demand. And as an Engineer, I love this model. The phrase holds two terms that are both (mostly) comprehensive and mutually exclusive. If an individual is viewed as a system / black box, then demands are desired inputs to the system, and supplies are potential outputs from the system. Can you picture this? Again, as an Engineer, I’m very comfy with this model, too.

And maybe viewing ourselves as black boxes is entirely appropriate.

When I look at you, I don’t know what you want from me, nor what you can give me (sure, let’s talk very selfishly for a second). The same goes for when you look at me. We can interact with each other, but that’s not much more than poking at the systems: I input something, you output something, I then get a better understanding of the black box that is you. Over time, only after many pokes, we find new ways to help one another.

But poking around is inefficient.

Yes, there is meaning in the time that it takes to interact and get to know another person: trust is built. Over this time, and on top of this growing trust, deeper desires can be elicited, and more intimate gifts can be shared. Yet this takes place between two people at a time, and to varying degrees across your relationships.

So let’s pan for gold as a community.

Towards greater efficiency than poking at black boxes, two at a time, let’s coordinate for greater effect by gathering as a community to share what we each want, to share what we each can give, and then to find new ways to help one another.


This can take a few forms. I’m working on two right now.

In my community at work, of a little over 40 fellow Agile Coaches, we gathered for our quarterly summit, and we held a conference-like session to put stickies on a wall under the ‘want’ and ‘give’ columns, and then taped red yarn across the columns, between groups of similar stickies.

These community-internal connections will feed a backlog of organized ways we can help one another.

In my community at school, of a little under 40 fellow parents, we gather for drop-off & pick-up daily, and will use a community board to post scraps of paper under the ‘want’ and ‘give’ columns.

These community-internal connections will be the more emergent reaching out across families to help one another.

(There. That’s how.)

Besides the satisfying of the supply-demand market – the connections between the ‘want’ and ‘give’ columns – the transparency into the state of a market can also show any overages in supply/demand – the mass of items in one column without a match in the other column. The ability to inspect these overages lend to insightful ways we can adapt. (Scrum Bingo!) (Ah… jokes only an Agilist would get…)

Overages in demand show a clear group desire – a lot of similar items in the ‘want’ column – and now you have a… wonderful problem. Sure, it stinks to have so many people dissatisfied in some way, but now an organized action on a specific topic can satisfy many people at a time. That’s efficient. That’s effective.

Overages in supply show a clear group competency – a lot of similar items in the ‘give’ column – and now you have an… odd problem. Sure, it’s cool to sit on all this expertise, but now an organized action on a specific topic can fill any (likely varying) knowledge gaps, nudging people from ‘good’ to ‘great’, satisfying many people at a time. That’s efficient. That’s effective.

Again, please steal this idea. Craft it into an application that fits your context(s). And imagine the possibilities.

Yes, this requires vulnerability… and for it to be really effective, vulnerability of the whole community.

This starts with one trusting person.

This continues with another person being inspired, by what was shared, to be more trusting.

This grows with more instances of communal gatherings, like what I’m doing, whether to share what we want or can give, or to satisfy the (social) supply and demand market. Each instance becomes a gateway to greater trust through vulnerability, as folks share deeper desires and elicit more intimate gifts, after proof of communal safety and personal utility.

What’s my deep desire? I’ve shared that at the top of this post.

What’s my intimate gift? An idea I’ve had probably since grad school: Social Supply and Demand.

Fine, don’t steal this idea.

Enjoy it within your communities.

Then share it.