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Transfer concepts

One concept of transfer is an activity that re-assigns rights and responsibilities for an economic resource from one agent to another. A second concept is an activity that operationally changes physical custody or possession of an economic resource from one agent to another, without affecting rights.

Note that a transfer is a one-way activity. Two or more reciprocal transfers form an exchange, and are connected in Valueflows by an Agreement.

We think that now, and more so in the future, there will be more gradations of rights and responsibilities for resources than are sometimes considered now. For example, as a society we may decide that we should take more responsibility for recycling or upcycling resources at the end of their useful life for us, or not wasting them. The concept of "ownership" may transition more into "stewardship" in a concept of the world that does not put humans in a position of controlling the world's resources or abdicating responsibilities to the ecosystem in the name of ownership. So, we are for the most part avoiding talking about ownership in this vocabulary, as we work towards more of an ecosystemic perspective.

Explicit and implied transfers

In Valueflows, several actions can involve the transfer concepts. (For more detailed information, see the Actions section.

The explicitly denoted transfers are:

  • transfer all rights
  • transfer custody
  • transfer (shorthand for both rights and custody)

Other actions that can imply a transfer when the receiver agent is different than the provider agent are:

  • produce (the resource being produced has to be new or already have the receiver agent as the primary accountable agent)
  • consume
  • use
  • work
  • deliver service (almost always will imply a transfer by its nature)


  • For example, perhaps some agent has many apple trees, and plans on pressing apple cider. Another agent has an apple press and agrees to transfer use of the press (a resource) in exchange for a reciprocal transfer of a portion of the apple cider. The use of the press involves some rights (to use the press for some period of time) and responsibilities (to not run it beyond its capacity and to clean it up before returning it).

  • Or in a library, a book can be checked out, a transfer of custody from the library to the reader. The agent who checks it out can read it and is responsible for caring for it and returning it on time, another transfer of custody.

  • Or let's say that a community has farmland and equipment held in common. The community transfers responsibility for the land and equipment to some farmers to use and take care of. The community also transfers seeds every year to the farmers, enough to grow the food the community needs. During the year, the harvests are distributed (transferred) to the community members for their consumption. In reciprocity, the community provides for other needs of the farmers.

Implementation note: Different networks may choose to handle namespaces and identifiers at different granularity. This also may depend on the technology used. So one network may have separate namespaces for the nodes in the network; another may have one namespace for the whole network. In the latter case, an implication on transfers is that the provider agent and the receiver agent may use the same resource identifier for resourceInventoriedAs and toResourceInventoriedAs, even though the primary accountable has changed.