What a Tupperware Party, Pastor 
and Financial Guide Have in Common


How does self organization produce powerful networks built on social capital and economic incentives? Tim Schuster discusses the concept of "emergence."

In the late 1940s, Stanley Home Products was looking for a creative way to sell their superior plastic products. Earl Tupper, a chemist, designed a better container with a better seal. But it was Brownie Wes, a sales manager at Stanley, who had to figure out a way to sell it. When placed next to the inferior product in the grocery store, the quality of the plastic was not terribly easy to discern. They needed a relaxed, fun and safe place over the course of two hours to show what made their product superior.

Ever been to a Tupperware home party?

While over the past 60 years we’ve seen the home party (the direct sales business model) sell everything from knives to makeup to candles, this is not the whole story.

After the Second World War, many women returned home after a few successful years in the workforce. But not all wanted to go home full time. Some found satisfaction in working outside the home and wanted to continue working.

The opportunity to work on an independently contracted, self-employed basis – combined with a need for their product – birthed the home party phenomenon started by Tupperware.  Women all over America were given a creative outlet to work in a flexible role and earn additional income. And leaders emerged over time as a result of the open architecture of their system.

I share the history of the Tupperware Party because I once was asked to share why I am both a pastor and a financial guide.

I am one of the founders of MIDTOWN, a missional faith community in south Minneapolis. I am also a financial guide (and blogger!) with brightpeak financial. We lead fun and educational home gatherings to show folks how to live in balance with money and to help them own protection so they can embrace the future with confidence (Yes, I have this memorized!).

Many people assume, as a bivocational pastor, I’m just waiting until MIDTOWN can hire me full time before I move on from brightpeak. But that’s simply not true.

To articulate my calling I could tell you about how much I love helping people reflect on their relationship with money. Of course, at MIDTOWN we believe that generosity is the best way to live life – and through my work at brightpeak we equip people with the tools to be generous.  But that would not quite capture it.

It really comes down to Tupperware parties.

I am fascinated by the study of emergence, the result of self-organization which produces fierce and disciplined networks built on social capital and economic incentives. 

Our community at MIDTOWN, the financial guide community at brightpeak financial, and the engine behind the Tupperware party share a philosophy. It starts with a simple question:

How do leaders emerge?

The open architecture of our financial guide program allows independently contracted financial guides to start and run a business in pursuit of their individual goals. Many – but not all – lead teams. One financial guide can help a lot of families – but only a fraction as much as a team-of-teams can accomplish over the same period of time. Leaders emerge in a place where some will find a voice they otherwise may not know they had.

Likewise, the open space nature of our MIDTOWN Gatherings allows for participants to set the agenda and then cocreate the experience together. At one gathering, someone may be just a participant (including me, the “pastor”) – and at another gathering that same person may be leading a conversation in an area of relevance to their life. It self-organizes and leaders emerge.

The “emergent” nature relies on the collective intelligence from every member and participant in the program or gathering or system.  These systems honor the humanity and dignity of each participant in that they allow for the right contributions at the right time in the right way. And that’s why I’m a pastor and a financial guide.

So, thank you Earl Tupper and Brownie Wes, for allowing leaders to emerge.

Unleash Your Inner Nerd With These Books:

  • For a robust (it’s 400+ pages) yet friendly read on the self-organizing nature of economics (and why both the left and the right have it wrong) see: The Origin of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker.
  • On why and how self-organized relationships and networks will be the center of our communities and economies in the very near future, see The Nature of the Future by Marina Gorbis.
  • On the self-organization of ants, brains, software and cities, check out  Emergence and for a thoughtful and inspiring vision for what could be coming down the pipe, see Future Perfect by Steven Johnson.

On everything you could ever know about the Tupperware phenomenon, see Surfing the Edge of Chaos by Pascale, Milleman and Gioja (pages 113-127).

Written by Tim Schuster

This blog post is from the Author's perspective and doesn't speak for brightpeak financial. Contact brightpeak if you want to know more about brightpeak products, and keep in mind that they are not available in all states and there are some limitations (some exclusions and restrictions may apply).

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