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Flows of value

networks of networks picture

Networks of value flows are created when processes are linked together through flows of resources.

This forms an economic network, where resources flow from agent to agent to agent via events. These resource flow networks do not care about company or national boundaries.

The patterns used in Valueflows

There are two basic patterns used in Valueflows:

  • Resources, Events, and Agents (REA)

  • Input-Process-Output Resource Flows (IPO)

REA (Resources, Events, Agents)

The core is based on the REA (Resource, Event, Agent) ontology. You can find all the details by following the links here.

Agents are individual persons or organizations or ecological agents, who perform Economic Events affecting Economic Resources.

An Economic Event can take actions like produce, modify, consume, or use Economic Resources, or transfer them from one Agent to another, or transport them from one location to another.

Economic Resources would typically be useful goods and services, but could also be money, credits, energy, knowledge, designs, skills, CO2, methane, air, water, or almost anything else that some Agents can agree should be accounted for in their economic networks.


IPO (Input-Process-Output)

The IPO pattern is used to enhance the ability of REA to represent complex flows of value. The flows are IPOs...

...Input-Process-Output resource chains, where one Economic Resource is the output of one Process and then becomes an input to another, thus connecting the processes into a flow. The Agents involved in each Process in the chain need to coordinate with the previous and next Processes about the quantity, quality, and timing of resource flows between them.

IPO schematic

Putting them together

In general, how they fit together: Agents perform Economic Events that provide Inputs to Processes and take Outputs from Processes and move Resources from one Process to another. This forms a directed graph of value flows.


For example: a food network

...might include farmers, food processors, restaurants and bakeries, grocery stores, families to eat the food. And vehicles to move everything from place to place. Coordination might be needed between each of those stages: seeds and other inputs for planting crops, workers etc for harvesting crops. when are the crops ready for processing, when is the grain ready for milling and then for baking and then for people to eat, when is the fruit ready for pies, etc.

Flows without processes

Some flows do not involve processing, i.e. there is no transformation of Economic Resources. These flows simply transfer Economic Resources between Agents or move them between locations. One common example is an exchange of one Economic Resource for another Economic Resource between two Agents, as below, with two reciprocal flows based on an Agreement.


It can also be simpler, such as a gift, or more complex, involving many Agents. Also, these flows can mix in with Process-based flows.

For example: in that food network above processors might purchase the harvested food from farmers, sell processed food to restaurants and stores... or families might provide land and labor for a farm and receive harvested food each week in return. That becomes part of the coordination.

Traversing value flows

Value flows can be traversed forwards ("tracking") or backwards ("tracing"). Often people use the term "provenance" when looking backwards towards the source of some resource, sometimes when a problem emerges (as in a disease outbreak from food), sometimes to know the quality of the resource (as in wanting local humanely produced food with lower ecological impact).

The data structures of ValueFlows provide the ability to trace or track any value flow, no matter how long or complex, see Track and Trace.

Levels of the ontology

Valueflows uses the layers of ontology documented by REA. Each of the layers follows the core patterns above.

REA layers

  • The Knowledge level represents classification, policies, procedures, rules and patterns. This is where each network or community can configure the core concepts to fit their needs.
  • The Plan level represents offers and requests, schedules and promises.
  • The Observation level represents what really happened.

Here is a simplified view of how they connect.

process resource flow

Here is a specific example of the simplified view:

salsa flow