In a word…YES!
There will never be another litre of Heating OIL bought via the Community Buying model. The community no longer needs it! What? How? Why? Well you see, the model has finally been superseded by the only thing that could eventually do so…the market. Well when I say the market, I mean by one visionary man…who just happens to be a supplier. It has taken six years, but the market has just caught on, caught up and reinvented!
“What you’ve achieved is amazing – so disruptive”
A humbling testimonial this week from a long term member, little did she know that a few days later I would be telling my members that they now have a far superior way to buy their heating OIL. Step forward Chris Bingham. A man with a record of developing “disruptive” businesses in traditional business sectors. Visionary or crazy – take your pick – he chose to form, buy, develop and build his own Heating OIL supply business less than four years ago. Founded on a business structure and strategy unlike any other in the extremely archaic business of his competition, he has successfully built a model that now enables the community to buy their OIL in a better, more streamlined, more socially responsible way than has so far ever been possible.
“You must be devastated?”
Wrong! I could not be more ecstatic. As Aung San Suu Kyi once wrote, whilst under house arrest for over 20 years in Burma for being a dissident of course: “Dissidents can’t be dissidents forever; we are dissidents because we don’t want to be dissidents”. This development for the market frees me from a weight that has at times been akin to more than one very large mill stone.
You’re just walking away?
Yes and No. I have worked closely with Chris over the last few months to lead him to the community – his missing link. He is now well and truly immersed in it and by the time the New Year comes the brand he has developed called Tank Topper will be ready to deliver to the community right across mainland GB and soon EVERYWHERE across the UK. So yes Community Buying is walking away from the day to day chore – which it has been – of bringing the community to the market and placing those orders. But our next phase is VERY exciting and fits with the roots of why this got started in the first place.
Everything will be automated…an online Community Hub?
Yes…the vision we had of a community of communities. Remember we have been an email based ordering process for over 95% of our orders. That percentage will make an extremely simple transition to a web based process. Each member will have an online account they can log into – A HUGE IMPROVEMENT ON OUR OWN ARCHAIC SYSTEM – which means never again will an order get lost, not be confirmed, be retyped incorrectly, be duplicated or be left off from a delivery! True, real time accountability. It will be extremely easy even for the nervous web user and accessible by an individual user, or a user acting on behalf of another vulnerable user or a group coordinator on behalf of their entire group. And for that 5% who used to need phone support – a FREEPHONE number which has a 24 hour emergency link.
But what about buying days?
Buying days were NEVER the perfect model. They were simply our best choice. Remember this began as a protest and a tiny community project. It grew to become a friendly giant. But the initial design was always flawed for such mesmeric growth. On reflection it is unfathomable that it has taken six years for a Chris Bingham to come along. He is truly welcomed with open arms. As I said above , the new model will deliver OIL in a better, more streamlined, more socially responsible way than has so far ever been possible. Just watch as the model unfolds and the local delivery system for communities, already trialed in the North West, is rolled out across the UK. When it does the concept of working to a buying day will quickly be forgotten.
Does this mean the end of the old model?
It means all OLD models have been superseded. That doesn’t of course mean that any of them will necessarily end overnight. However, this is the beginning of the end for very archaic and opaque parasitic organisations like Boiler Juice, Anglian Farmers, AFfinity and a number of groups that have simply borrowed a model that we developed without understanding their true responsibility to the community. The door will be wide open for ALL of them to seek a partnership with Chris Bingham, because he sees how he can support each and every one of them in their need for change and development.
Will small local groups continue?
Of course. For as long as there is Heating OIL – which if the government were to get their way would be less than another five years but let’s say it has got a maximum of 15-20 years left – then small groups of people will be led by one person in their community prepared to do a huge amount of work, often for little thanks but lots of grief, to buy as a group. However, the new platform will allow them to do this with a far greater level of expertise and much superior service if they do so via the platform. That stands for existing groups of any size and makes starting new ones so much simpler and smoother than ever before. Bring on an even greater level of community revolution for heating OIL!
And new ventures…?
This is the most exciting thing for the community. There are so many inspirational organisations looking to immerse themselves in this concept and they finally have a place they can go to that can act as their hub. DTAS for example, an inspirational hub itself of over 200 other community organisations in Scotland, can “borrow” this extraordinary level of expertise and launch an online service for their members and their members’ members! Chris Bingham’s background of building software businesses means those organisations that couldn’t do this for themselves have an extremely low cost entry to a world that can help them create extremely positive outcomes for all of their communities. What that really means is they get a developed model that has learnt from six years of mistakes, without having to go through them in the same way as we did!
And what about new introducers…?
Once again they too have a solution, because the entrepreneurial possibilities that Chris Bingham sees for this platform are numerous and flexible. All those interested or linked to community and/or energy that want to bring their contacts, databases, customers or members to the platform simply need to begin a conversation to see what working relationship can be built. This is unknown territory for an industry that is screaming out for change and Chris Bingham can be the facilitator for those changes.
So what is next…?
Well we are certainly not done with OIL or energy. We have come a very long way, created some amazing outcomes and, of course, had some huge fails too! But it is time to move into a new phase. We are still Community Buying and we are still in the mode of protest. We will remain on the case to bring Heating OIL to more socially responsible practices, but we are also moving beyond creating greater levels of sustainability in communities to include greater levels of health within our communities too. This an extremely exciting new era for every one connected to Community Buying.