Alternative Network for International Asset Management
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This note attempts to identify possibilities for an innovative solution to
some asset-related problems of individuals, families and private organizations:
- who would like to orient themselves to some degree toward an alternative
style of life and use of their assets, but
- who do not wish to risk their assets under any of the communal,
community or cooperative formulae currently advocated for Ideological or other
The note first identifies the different kinds of asset-related problems, since
the persons who are laced with them are those to which this proposal would have
to appeal for it to have any financial basis for successful implementation.
The note then identifies other persons or groups who might be associated with
the project to the benefit of all concerned. The possibilities for linking
all these parties into an economically viable, coherent network are then discussed.
Some individuals, families or private groups are faced in their own estimation
with one or more of the following situations:
1 . Ownership
1.1 Ownership of houses, villas, chalets, possibly with associated land
(whether farmed or not), in excess of their basic requirements (and tax position)
or in distant locations or in countries in which they cannot or do not wish
to reside permanently.
1.2 Ownership of property (as in 1.1) which is rented to third parties under
conditions which result in inadequate maintenance and care of the property
1 3 Ownership of property (as in 1.1) which cannot be rented because of the
high probability of improper care (as in 1.2) and therefore remains inadequately
1 .4 Ownership of property (as in 1.1) which is only required by the
owners for part of the year and is unused or poorly used for the remainder
of the year.
1.5 Ownership of property (as in 1 .1) of which only a portion is used
(e.g. one wing of a large house) under conditions which make the owners reluctant
to rent any of the remaining portion of the property either because of rental
problems (as in 1.3) or because of possible Inconvenience associated with
interaction with other occupants.
1 6 Ownership of fixed assets in excess of basic requirements which the
owner would be willing to have used in support of a positive programme provided
(a) he retained ownership and
(b) the value of the assets increased (under some improvement contract)
or was at least not diminished by the use made of them.
1.7 Ownership of financial assets (shares,bonds, etc.) in excess Of
basic requirements which the owner would be willing to have used in support
of a positive programme (under condition analogous to those in 1.6).
2.1 Individuals or families, possibly of relatively modest means, who
are obliged to Invest and manage their assets through conventional banking
and other corporations but who would be willing to divert some (or all) of
their assets into an alternative asset management system under appropriate
2.2 Rental of property with excess space (as in 1 .5) under conditions
which make the occupants reluctant to sub-lease any of the remaining portion
of the property either because of sub-leasing problems (as in 1.3) or because
of possible inconveniences associated with interaction with other occupants.
3.1 Private corporations, cooperatives, foundations and similar bodies
who are obliged to invest and manage their assets through conventional banking
and other corporations (as under 2) but who would be willing to divert some
(or all) of their assets into an alternative asset management system under
3.2 Public corporations (in some special cases and possibly only as an
exercise in public relations) which would be willing to invest some portion
of their assets in an alternative system under appropriate conditions.
1. The situations identified in the previous section Imply not only
(a) the opportunity for alternative use of some assets currently "blocked"
by conventional practices and attitudes, but also
(b) the existence of Individuals who (although owners in their own right
of some of the assets) could well be willing to make use of some of the other
assets if they were available under some innovative arrangement.
The asset-owners could therefore well prove to be asset-users, if they had
access to assets located elsewhere or under different conditions than their
own. This is particularly true if the availability of assets located at
different points within a country or around the globe could constitute,
to the extent desired, an attractive framework to support some measure of
an alternative lifestyle.
2. In addition to the asset owners, there are other individuals and groups
who could beneficially be associated with any alternative approach to asset
management if suitable arrangements could be made to ensure that the net result
was economically viable and did not result in devaluation or misuse
of the assets from the owners point of view.
Rather than identify the individuals or groups who could be users of the
assets, it is more useful to identify the kinds of activity in which such
individuals or groups could engage.
2.1 Health and well-being: Centers, courses, and related initiatives
are an increasingly common response to a variety of developing needs, for
physical: keep fit centers, beauty farms, special cures, etc.
non-physical: growth centers, dojos, retreat centers, meditation centers,
re-creation centers, etc.
2.2 Intensive care: Centers are increasingly more conscientious
care in a higher quality environment for following:
the physically handicapped, and the bed-ridden
- mentally handicapped
- the aged and those suffering from terminal diseases
- the gifted and talented (e.g. in the case of children)
- maternity clinics and convalescent homes.
A special case is the telephone-based service for those in a state of stress
(e.g. suicide, anxiety, etc.)
2.3 Knowledge and culture related: It has been recognized that
the post- industrial society will be highly dependent on the "knowledge
industry". Much knowledge-related activity can be based on alternative
environments particularly with the progressive decentralization of communications
(telephone, telex, computer links). Examples are: design, programming,
consultancy, education, etc.
Such environments are also very supportive of cultural and artistic activity:
theatre, music, crafts, etc.
2.4 Conferences: Because of the Increasing dependence of society
on meetings, and the increasing inadequacy of existing meeting environments,
much could be achieved by developing high quality communication environments
- facilitated by the kinds of people who would be attracted by such alternative
settings (rather than by the equipment which might be used).
Financial and organizational basis
This section outlines how the different elements noted in the earlier sections
may be linked together to the satisfaction of those concerned. It should
be stressed that the objective is not to put forward a single rigid formula
but rather a panoply of complementary organizational and financial devices
which can be knitted together or used according to circumstances and particular
1. Use of conventional corporate forms
The challenge is to be able to offer participation in financially sound,
but specially constituted, corporate forms through one or more of the following:
1.1 Contract: This could be used where commitment is low or
a trial period is desired. The contract could be designed to suit the participant
by giving him access to some services in exchange for whatever use of whatever
portion of his assets he was willing to associate with this project.
For example, he might simply be prepared to use one corporation in the
network to supervise the rental of one of his estates on the open market and
ensure that the property was appropriately maintained. The corporation in
question could then be very similar to a normal real estate corporation.
However, he might permit innovative rental conditions if suitable tenants
could be found to use the property in some alternative manner (of which he
might wish to approve and in which he night wish to participate personally).
Contracts could be adapted to cover a wide variety of opportunities as they
1.2 Incorporation: This could be used to cover the case of a particular
set of assets belonging to one individual. It could also be used to link several
individuals with similar or complementary assets. The owners could "loan"
these assets to the corporation in exchange farad shareholding, for example.
On dissolution of the corporation, the assets would be returned to the Individual
1.3 Holding company: This device could be used to link together
various corporations if such a linkage was considered desirable for tax or
other reasons. The shareholders of the holding company could be Identical
with the shareholders of the component corporations.
1.4 "Cross-linking directorships". This device could be used to link
two or more corporations under certain conditions. The directors
(or shareholders) of one corporation are also directors (or shareholders)
of the others. In this way there is no legal link between the corporations,
although from an operational point of view their policies would be
1.5 Other devices: Where
appropriate any of the following forms could be
used: bank,insurance company,
building society, etc.
The lack of originality in the possibilities
noted above is a guarantee of their
feasibility but not of their interest as an alternative approach to
But as is implied in some of the points, there is no obstacle to
such Initiatives in a mutually
supportive manner. The key to
is firstly to ensure that complementary economic units are linked into the network
in such a way as to avoid having to transfer funds out of it in exchange for
services which could be supplied by an appropriately conceived addition to the
corporate network. Secondly, if the services available from the corporations
the network are sufficiently attractive and competitive, they will attract
funds into the network.
2. Other fund-oriented organizational forms
As Is often the case, there is every advantage in linking such forms
as foundations, trusts or similar bodies into
the network. Again (and
as is the case with corporate foundations in practice), the linkage
could be achieved by having the same people as participants to the
3. Complementary function of
other organizational forms
As outlined, the project is feasible but without special interest. In fact
such projects could well be considered to have been Implemented already between
individuals or groups with suitable assets (e.g. the extended families of
the hyper-rich which use a complex mix of profit and non-profit forms to manage
their assets). At the other extreme, Individuals without considerable assets
can participate effectively in different cooperatives linked within the cooperative
movement. (It is in the interest of cooperatives to transact certain business
with each other rather than in the open market.)
But all the organizational forms and examples cited, although providing a
viable economic base, do not supply any alternative element which would make
the project both more interesting and more attractive. In fact, what
is missing is the associative function whereby individuals are linked in
terms of non-economic concerns which they share. As has been noted many
times, economic and bureaucratic organizations necessarily deny any associative
relationships amongst their staff or shareholders (although attempts may be
made by their public relations departments to re-generate such relationships
through staff dances, sporting activities, newsletters, etc.).
A whole range of non-economic activities may be developed amongst
(a) those linked within the essentially economic network noted above,
(b) others who could be usefully associated with the network so that
the economic aspects are appropriately counter-balanced.
Having provided an economic base through the first group, the mix of Individuals
and activities included in the second should ensure the magnetic quality of
the alternate network which is the justification for its continued existence.
4. Overall policy and control
The characteristics of a network preclude the emergence of any centralized
control. The overall policy would consequently be the resultant of the interactions
between the policies of different parts of the network - some of which might
wish to be subject to centralized control or policies for some purposes or
for specific periods of time.
The attitude toward overall policy might change in times of crisis for example
or if efforts were made to take over or disrupt the network.
Policy guidelines might therefore be formulated in an association
of all the people involved in the different units of the network. Those
concerned could respond to them within particular more formalized units to
the extent they considered appropriate in each case.
5. Externally-oriented policies
It is to be expected that any such network would be perceived as a protective
device for elites and as such against the Interest of the underprivileged.
Those maintaining this point of view would simply advocate that the assets
of owners in any such network should be redistributed to the underprivileged.
This well-known political issue will continue to be debated whether any such
project is implemented or not The question Is whether the manner in which
the assets are used within the network can attract non-owners, and whether
the services t can perform both for participants and outsiders would be such
as to counter much of the criticism that would otherwise be raised. As such
the network could we'll constitute an asset protecting device in a hostile
political climate (cf. the monastery network in the early Middle Ayes).
Clearly different parts of the network could be more or less "open"
or oriented specifically toward alleviating the conditions of the underprivileged
- whether in the same area or in developing countries.
6. Management and operational
The management of any particular unit within the network would
clearly be the sole concern of that unit - except to the extent that
it was deliberately constituted
with the obligation to
other units on specific matters.
However any unit could seek
management and operational support in the form of advice
from other units.
For example, it would clearly be in the network's interest to have
mobile teams moving from one location
to another providing
specialized services. These might
Include: building maintenance,
garden/estate maintenance, accounting, crafts, group dynamics,
medical care, etc. Such services could
be funded from a specially
constituted foundation within the network, under contract, or in
any other manner agreeable to those providing the services. It is
in fact the movement of people
from location to location which would
knit the network together, to the extent necessary, and ensure the
necessary diffusion of skills and information.
7. Individual access policies
Given the basic flexibility and diversity, there are many ways in
which Individuals could become Involved in
the network, other than
in their possible capacity as
7.1 Club: One obvious conventional parallel is the club system or
the country club. This gives individuals the right to use certain facilities
for certain time periods depending on their commitment. The link to a club
in one location may give reciprocal membership rights with clubs in other
locations, possibly under specified conditions or for a defined period.
Some clubs have residential facilities, again under certain conditions.
There is of course no need to make conditions explicit if those involved,
or who might be Involved, have no difficulty in sensing the bounds
which need to be respected to avoid abuse and disagreeable incidents.
Again, clubs may in practice be very exclusive or very open, depending on
the environment which the membership core is attempting to maintain. Clearly
care must be taken with any trend towards an environment where there is a
high turnover of membership, little sense of permanence, and inadequate complementarity
between the interests of participants.
7.2 Association: In addition to the club formula and its variations,
of which there are many examples in practice, there is also the example of
the association with a weekly or monthly meeting and related activities.
Where the association's aims and members were in sympathy with those of the
network, some of the network's facilities could be used by the association
on whatever basis proved mutually satisfactory. It might even be of interest
to explore the possibility of a reciprocal arrangement between the network
and some existing transnational association with many local groups (e.g. Rotary,
Scouts, etc.) if there was some basis for contact.
7.3 Innovative formulas: The above possibilities
have the advantage and disadvantage of having been well explored. Other
possibilities could also be envisaged with a stronger accent on the alternative
style, for example:
alternation for an individual between permanent residential participation
and occasional visiting (e.g. weekend) participation. This might involve
periods of residence measured in months or years, alternating with equivalent
periods of absence. The economics of some such arrangement might, for
example, be worked so that the individual spent early years as a non-resident
and later years as a resident
full or permanent involvement at a particular location might effectively
be governed by the Individual's ability to have experience with some specified
skills e.g. alternative technology, agriculture, music, group dynamics,
again full or permanent involvement at a particular location might (also)
depend on the individual's ability to adjust to either a maximum or a minimum
of privacy, communality, noise level, psychic space, physical space, etc.
full or permanent involvement might or might not depend on the Individual's
ability to bring in adequate funds, to loan his assets in some appropriate
way (possibly at some other part of the network), to generate income through
projects he initiates, to collaborate on other projects, or simply to perform
a necessary minimum of work.
Such different conditions for participation would result in a variety of
sub-networks more or less loosely linked together and into the larger network.
1. This approach has the advantage that it could be developed into a loose
organizational and financial framework which would I. attractive both as a
means of managing assets and as a sound economic basis for promoting many
2. It has the merit of appealing to individuals who are unable to organize
or finance an alternative use of their resources in a satisfactory manner
- either because of lack of experience, skills or simply their Isolation
from others with similar preoccupations. By linking such isolated initiatives
or potential initiatives a much more powerful resource basis is created which
is a guarantee of their continuing success. The argument of this paper is
that the problems of many isolated initiatives are only really soluble
within some larger organizational and financial context -- however loose this
may be. The larger context can provide a pool of experience and skills to
overcome the peculiar problems of each isolated project.
3. It is the creation of a larger context which is the present challenge,
for it is such a context which would provide many of the essential multiplier,
synergetic and catalytic effects and opportunities which are absent from isolated
projects. If such a project could be appropriately promoted it could result
in a very powerful (although minimally organized) network which would be an
appropriate channel and focus for many initiatives, which cannot be linked
to the alternative formulae currently advocated (and which are therefore
locked into some inadequate linkage to the conventional system - despite the
desire of those concerned to act otherwise).
4. The proposal does not represent an effort to organize and bureaucratize
alternative initiatives. Rather it is an attempt to make available a range
of organizational and financial packages such that, to the extent that they
are found appropriate and are used for whatever period, they will provide
an organic interlinkage between initiatives - thus enhancing the viability
of the whole.
Whilst the proposal is directed to a group which has not yet been able to
switch resources in support of alternative initiatives, clearly many of the
organizational and financial packages could well appeal to existing alternative
5. For those who consider that the general economic and socio-political situation
will continue to deteriorate, the existence of such a network constitutes
a useful form of insurance and a safeguard in the event .f economic collapse.
Under such circumstances the ability to participate in networks with a non-economic
component could be essential to well-being. Such a network could be the
basis for a viable form of self-reliance.
6. Many features of this proposal stress a degree of de-structuring and flexibility
which could be interpreted either as leading to a lack of operational coherence
in the network as a whole or as blurring into the existing range of overlapping
and interlinking initiatives. It is the strength of the project, however,
that it can build flexibly from an existing position towards whatever degree
of operational coherence is desired by different parts of the network.
It would be important for the network to ensure that creative thought was
continually given to the identification of more suitable organizational and
(a) to respond to people who would otherwise be unable to link their
activities to those of the network
(b) to ensure that the network uses appropriate forms to avoid being
blocked by legal or bureaucratic restrictions in particular countries.
In fact, the network might well be characterized more by the new kinds of
organizational or other form being introduced at any time rather than by its
dependence on well-tried forms.
7. Clearly in its present form this proposal merely outlines a number of
lines of Investigations which could be pursued and developed into a coherent
proposal based on a range of formulae for participation and with an indication
of the range of services and opportunities which would emerge as the network
Examples of some existing organizational/financial special forms possibly
relevant to this proposal
clubs with reciprocal membership (e.g. Rotary)
- bank with reciprocal arrangements (e.g. Eurocheck)
- exchange housing schemes for academics on sabbatical leave
- corporate foundations, family corporations
- free lance personnel services
- not-for-profit research corporations
- sanatoria, convalescent homes, intensive care centers
- "solve-your-problem" services (e.g. universal aunt)
- people-exchange clubs (e.g. Experiment in International Living)
- consortia, project-based consortia
- monasteries, missions (e.g. Divine Light Mission residential centers)
- trade associations, producer associations, freight conferences
- employers organizations,institutes of directors
- hotel chain, restaurant chain
- youth hostel network, camping ground network