Trust, Networks and Reciprocity

A 300 year old winery. A design company focused on innovative vending machines. An Italian brewery gaining recognition is craft beer. Networking event? No, just examples of social capital in Rome.  

· Social Capital Research

Three years ago, I began following Sardex, an organization created on the island of Sardinia to provide an exchange of goods and services in response to their financial crisis. Earlier this week, the class was hosted by Tibex.net, one of the circuits in the Sardex company. The morning started at Tibex headquarters in Rome with a presentation by their Director. Tibex provides opportunities for businesses to network and develop relationships with other businesses to exchange goods or services. It is a transactional, where all are cleared by the end of the day or month. It is a closed network, based on trust and reciprocity. They have over 400 members in their circuit. As a member of the circuit, you are brokering relationships, providing a service to help with transactions. Some of the successful businesses are those that take advantage of events hosted by Tibex to develop relationships with others. Tibex strives to have a community approach and not every person seeking membership is accepted. According to their brokerage manager, they do not strive to be mainstream or “sexy”; companies that produce weapons or “speculative services” are not offered membership. This network is valuable to smaller companies, than larger ones because the characteristics of Tibex is being a local system, providing transactions with companies that are physically close. Yet there has to be demand in the network for the goods or service offered by a company. 

To understand how it works, Tibex arranged for our class to experience the network by visiting three businesses: Pietra Pinta winery, Da Design Group and East Side brewery. Since we were their first USA visitors, they had a camera/videographer follow us around the entire day and their staff joined us at East Side brewery for the last visit. Overall, we observed companies who were successful or just emerging onto the business scene (like East side) seeking new opportunities to grow their business. When asked why did they join Tibex, the response was feedback from others in the network was positive and they saw a need to exchange a good/service to save their Euros. 

Words cannot explain how I felt during this experience and observing concepts of social capital: trust, networks and reciprocity. Throughout the day, my conversations with the Manager of the Broker Agents (those who seek businesses to join the network) included words like trust with members in the network and the value of getting to know other businesses to build social capital. This opportunity was also our chance to network as Tibex trust us to spread information about their organization, it’s value and use our network to inform others about these businesses.