On any given day I'll get a dozen or so emails from folks wanting to partner with TP, offering up some random new product, telling me I've won the lotto, helping me transfer millions out of Nigeria or sending me press releases about things that well, I'm not interested in in the slightest.
Last week the below press release ended up in my inbox and hey, I was intruiged. I emailed the guy that had sent it to me with some questions that weren't clear to me and thought I'd get your feedback on it. I'll post mine underneath the press release:
Quoting "press release"
5000 people - 1 unique tribe - 1 real island. A tribe is wanted > tribewanted.com
Two UK social entrepreneurs are looking for 5000 people to sign-up to tribewanted.com to form a tribe that will develop a sustainable eco-community on an island in Fiji that tribe members can then visit.
Mark James and Ben Keene, both 26, have set up www.tribewanted.com to invite people to join a tribe by registering for one of the 5000 places available.
When the 5000th member joins the tribe will be formed and will start to make important decisions by voting through the tribewanted.com community on key issues including: What will the tribe be called? Who will be the 12 Chiefs that lead the tribe? What kind of infrastructure will be required on the Island? What kind of Island activities and adventures should be introduced? What are the most environmentally friendly ways of building an island community? What will the tribe grow on the island?
Mark had been reading Ben Fogle’s book about islands when the thunderbolt struck: Would it be possible to bring people together from all over the world through an online community to form a real life island tribe? Mark jumped onto MSN and told his mate Ben.
Just 6 weeks later they had an agreement with a local Fijian chief, island landowner and its only inhabitant, Tui Mali, to work in partnership for 3 years with his neighbouring island tribe to build a sustainable island community.
The plan is to create the world's first online and real life tribal community, providing an experience of a lifetime to its members whilst simultaneously helping local development projects in Fiji and without negatively impacting the environment!
Membership to the tribe will be sold on a first come first served basis on tribewanted.com. Membership begins not when a tribe member joins but on the day the tribe is formed, the day the 5000th member joins. Tribe members will be able to reserve their stay on the island when the tribe is formed. There will be no more than 100 on the island at any one time. The joining fee will cover food and accommodation on the island for their period of stay, pick-up from the local airport in Fiji, and access to the tribewanted.com community throughout their membership.
The money will also support local education and environmental projects in the island’s neighbouring villages. There are 3 types of membership to choose from:
Nomads – 1 years membership of tribe + 7 nights stay on island> £120
Hunters – 2 years membership of tribe + 14 nights stay on island > £240
Warriors – 3 years membership of tribe + 21 nights stay on island > £360
Speaking about Tribewanted Mark James commented,
“The local tribal chief, Tui Mali, feared the worst for his land in terms of a massive hotel complex being built by some vast tour operator. I knew tribewanted had a chance not only to prevent this from happening but also to support him and the local villages in their own community projects. As part of the partnership, for example, we have agreed to financially support the local schools and provide boat engines for the fishermen as well as generating employment in the local communities.”
Ben Keene, co-founder of tribewanted said,
“Tribewanted offers people the chance to be part of a real life adventure where they can influence the development of the tribal community online before visiting the island itself. We have teamed up with Climate Care and are committed to offsetting all carbon emissions generated by the island community and we will be seriously encouraging all tribe members to offset their flight emissions to and from Fiji. We want to be the first ever climate neutral tribe!”
He continued, “We want people from all walks of life with all kinds of skills and interests to join the tribe; from gap year students, career breakers and adventurous travellers to those with specific building, design and environmental skills to help develop the community. Having led development projects in Africa and in the South Pacific I can see the huge potential of this project for both the local Fijian communities and the newly formed tribe. This is an opportunity for a great partnership, a celebration of culture and life, and an adventure of a lifetime for all involved.”
Tom Griffiths, founder of gapyear.com and the tribe’s travel advisor
calls tribewanted: “One of the most exciting projects of this millenium. It has everything - an online/virtual adventure which is played out live in front of your eyes, the responsibility of creating something unique and incredible on this planet from your armchair back home...and of course, the best bit of all, the opportunity to visit an amazing destination to see your creation face to face.”
Now say what you like, but this is different! So I shot off an email with these questions/comments:
Quoting "email Sam"
How will the investments in infrastructure (accommodation, toilets etc.) be paid for if the tribe decides they want to build this? I noticed that any investments like this aren't part of the community fee and was wondering if costs like these are in addition to these.
If they are included, what amount can the tribe spend and decide over? The full membership fees or minus a percentage that goes to you guys/other costs etc.?
Anyway, it's definitely a novel idea. Having grown up in the South Pacific and having seen numerous investments by foreigners into local communities that failed as foreigners generally don't have any legal rights, I do have to say I have some hesitations about the long term sustainability, but the idea is definitely an interesting one.
A reply not long after:
Quoting "Tribewanted folks"
With regards to your questions, accommodation, toilets and food are all covered in the community fee.
The tribe will have a tribal kitty that will go towards the development of the Island, that will cover accommodation, toilets etc we have also put offer a good amount of finances into the investment and development of the local tribe, such as developing schools etc. Finally, we are also launching 'The Dream Foundation' a charity to help support individuals across the areas of the world that our members will come from. Yes, of course we will retain a limited amount to cover running and admin, as any business would.
In terms of your concerns we are working alongside the local tribe and the Native Land Tourist Board (NTLB) in Fiji in order to ensure that the project will be of benefit to both the environment and the tribal people.
So, what do you think?
The guy that answered me didn't really understand my second comment very well, as what I meant was that foreigners generally don't have much ground to stand on after investing in projects like this. Land rights are difficult topics and any court cases are nearly always lost by the foreign investors (including their full investments). Anyway, that's slightly off topic anyway as the idea is what caught me the most.
I think it's definitely interesting/exciting and if I was at a different phase in my life would probably consider signing up, if not just for the experience of seeing how this pans out. I'd want a little more clarity on exactly what part of my fees are going to be able to be used for building accommodation and facilities on the island, and if it's actually feasible to get buildings up (running water available? who will build? what permits are needed etc. etc.). Will it be possible to do this from overseas or will there be someone full time on the ground who needs to be paid. How do you know the money meant for investments is secure and that the company won't misuse it or go bust? 5000 * 360 pounds is 1.8 million pounds, no measly sum of cash by any means and the kind of money that needs proper control. If food is included in your fees as it is, how are you sure that there will still be money left for your food after two years (especially when everyone knows most building projects go over budget and over time ???!!!!).
Anyway, that's just my thoughts. I'd love to hear yours and I'll let the guys know this thread is up too if they'd like to chip in.
ps. we have received no payment for putting this up for discussion; not even a free ticket to Fiji or a free tribal membership - darn it -