Sometimes, when the word doesn’t exist, you have to make it up.

Interindependence is a word that I made up (as in, invented.) … back in maybe 2015?… when I realized we simply didn’t have a word that captured how feminism sees our relationships with each other.  I write more about this in my book, and in other essays here on Feminist Values.

Interindependence is the combination of being independent while also being interdependent.

Businesses need BOTH independence –  self-determination, authority, responsibility–  AND interdependence –relationships, commitments, and contributions between their own business and others.

To create interindependence, organizations need to create communities of commerce.

There’s no such thing as an independent mushroom.

My friend Stowe Bowd has a great metaphor for explaining how individuals work together socially — he describes a community as a mushroom field.

From the surface, a mushroom field looks like hundreds of individual mushrooms growing up towards the light. In reality, all of these individual uprights are connected by a root system that we can’t see, because it’s below the surface. The individual upright stem and cap is just a part of the mushroom. It’s the entire network of uprights and connected roots that constitute the whole.

The individual upright draws from the network and gives back to the network what the whole thing needs to thrive. As for the individual mushroom stem  – it can only stand upright and “independently” because it is interdependent on the mushroom community.

There is no self-reliant mushroom, just like there is no independent small business. Our small organizations and start-ups look like they are standing on their own, when actually they are nourished by their connections with a community of other businesses.

A New Economy Requires Interindependence 

If organizations want to business commerce at a human scale, they can’t focus on independence and self-reliance. They also have to promote relationship and community.

Some organizations are already working towards ‘commerce at a human scale‘ by creating communities of organizations and stakeholders that are interindependent (even if they don’t use that term).

For example, the NY startup Smallknot is building interindependence through community crowdsourced investments. Smallknot makes it possible for you or me to invest a small-ish amount of cash, get back discounts, products and “experience”, and also “share the love” by keeping your neighborhood thriving.

With a funding model like this, it’s pretty clear than none of Smallknot’s businesses is “independent” — they all depend on a network of stakeholders (investors, customers, neighbors, folks who are all three). But in this case, their dependence and lack of self-reliance is a good thing.  They are independently, interpdependent, embedded in a community of commerce all working towards a shared purpose.

Boost Economies are Interindependent

At its core, the product designer’s organization probably knows that interindependence is what it really wants to support. I suspect they are just struggling to find the right kind of language to talk about how boost businesses must simultaneously be self-reliant and build community.

While interindependence is a clumsy word that your spellchecker will reject, it’s a word our hearts should embrace.