ProjectVRM is a development and research project hosted by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. It has two purposes:

  1. To encourage development of tools by which individuals can take control of their relationships with organizations — especially in commercial marketplaces.
  2. To encourage and conduct research on VRM-related theories, usage of VRM tools, and effects as adoption of VRM tools takes place.

The project was created by Doc Searls when he became a fellow at the Center in 2006*. Since then ProjectVRM has grown to play a driving role in many different development categories. (A partial and ever-changing list of those, and their occupants, is here.)

VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management, the customer-side counterpart of Customer Relationship Management, the $48 billion business by which companies attempt to relate to customers.

Doc sees VRM as “a way to fulfill one of the promises of The Cluetrain Manifiesto” — the widely-cited website and book written in 1999 by Doc and three other authors (one of whom is David Weinberger, also of the Berkman Klein Center). That promise was embodied in this statement, written by Christopher Locke:


Doc believes customer reach will only exceed vendor grasp when customers acquire tools for the job—and encouraging development of those tools has been ProjectVRM’s primary work since the project began.

The VRM community has grown over the years to include many development projects, companies, allied associations and individuals, in addition to ProjectVRM itself. The community’s work is outlined in the project wiki, and discussed on its mailing list (with around 575 members), in the blog portion of this site, and in workshops and other events, most notably at IIW: the Internet Identity Workshop, a twice-yearly unconference at the Computer History Museum. (Doc has co-organized IIW since it began in 2005.)


*Doc has been an alumnus fellow since 2010. He also continues to direct ProjectVRM, and co-founded Customer Commons, a spin-off of ProjectVRM, in 2012. He also serves on Customer Commons’ board.

The photo at the top of the blog was taken in July 2011 at the Rialto mercado in Venice, one of the oldest and most famous markets in the world. It is the one where Marco Polo worked, and the setting for Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.


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