Civic Consumption

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= "In the fall, we’ll be hosting The Civic Consumption Summit to bring this community together and make exciting plans to continue growing Civic Consumption as a new impact-oriented movement within the new economy". [1]

Contextual Citations

  • "Instead of focusing on activism or government, communities can find power and effect change through their collective business decisions". [2]


Will Byrne:

"Its time for the social sector to move beyond the us-versus-them, zero sum approach of shaking its fist at corporations whose drive to maximize profits has come at the expense of communities. With purchasing power, we can help business leaders to deliver social benefits while also meeting their bottom line, creating local markets that reward those who do. People, given a path that does not set them back economically, will make choices as consumers that do good for their world. And, just as important, business leaders will as well.

The social sector has focused for years on government as its mechanism for change, but it’s business that has the biggest potential impacts on the social and environmental crises of our time. Purchasing power is social impact power."


Will Byrne:

"Kyle Zimmer, an inspiration of mine, ... began her organization, First Book, around the mission of promoting literacy by improving access to books. After learning that many low-income school districts across the United States were simply unable to afford books for their libraries, she created a platform for them use collective purchasing to gain access to books at low, or even no cost. Soon, her impact went deeper than access to books. Her work began changing the product itself: with demand, publishers began prioritizing books that were more culturally relevant to the students of these schools. And why shouldn’t they? Doing the right thing had become good business." (


Will Byrne, CEO of Groundswell, interviewed by Sara Horowitz:

"Sara: When you say that people can use their power as consumers to advance social change, what exactly do you mean?

Will: It's this idea of Civic Consumption, in which transactions can become collective actions that advance a positive social outcome or benefit for your community.

I think we're arriving at a moment where a lot of people care about making positive change in the world, and want to live their lives intentionally to make that kind of change. There are plenty of one-off examples of this kind of “conscious consumption”: People buying Seventh Generation products or Fair Trade products, for example.

But our belief is that instead of consuming as individuals, we can engage networks and communities to pool our power as consumers in order to push not only for lower costs through economies of scale but for actual changes in how businesses, and whole market sectors, address social needs. With the rapid growth in new enterprises and meaningful alternatives, consumers have more power today than ever before.

If you pool enough people together as consumers, they gain the leverage to make gains on the social issues they care most about, and reward businesses that operate locally, hire local people, operate sustainable supply chains, and so on." (

More Information

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