A blog from Hannah, Community Support for Bloom Network.
Community Calls with Bloom Network in 2020 were an epic series of great topics and guests, ranging from Future Economies, Distributed Manufacturing & Bioregional Production, introduced people to the Decentralized Web and Bloom Network’s DAO and having conversations around “Flipping the Mainstream Narrative” – Alternatives to Climate Change. In 2021 we will continue to have interesting and brain-stretching calls, using our megaphone to teach people about different Regenerative topics.
Our call for February was to focus on the amazing world of Nudibranchs, and their unique place in the ocean’s systems. This call has the plan of taking some of the learnings from creating online experiences and online Burns and creating a more immersive experience that helps promote and lift up the Nudibranchs.
Doing Regenerative work on the side of life means that sometimes a whole bunch of road-blocks are thrown in the way of fulfilling unpaid work. For me, a double bout of illness and having to pack and move house have jumped in the way.
Bloom Network has made the decision to postpone the The Nudibranch Experience until September. This will be a fun experience, deep diving into the Nudibranch world. On this call you can expect:
To buckle up for our simulated submarine ride as we journey through the ocean to the nudibranch habitat.
Learn about the nudibranch unique biology.
Design your own nudibranch.
Learn the nudibranch dance.
Find out what is going on in their ocean home.
Work out what you can do to help them and their ocean habitat.
We are sorry for the delay in this excellent adventure. If you want to sign up for the Nudibranch call you can do that here, with reminders of the call to be sent in August.
Our June 2021 Community Call is about Art and Nature (June 21, 2021 5-6:30pm EST) and you can sign up this on our Community Calls page here.
This Christmas we are initiating an art exchange, on the theme of Mushrooms! Merry Christmush to everyone! The idea is for people around the world to make mushroom art, and send them to other Bloomers as Christmas presents. In a way we are activating our own mycelial networks by creating a worldwide mushroom art exchange. To add your name to the art exchange, email your postal address and your name (if you want to), to firstname.lastname@example.org (we figure this is better than setting up a google form). Make your art, and we will send you others’ addresses to send the art to.
On December 21st we’ll host an interactive video call to share our appreciation, wonder, and nerding about these magical lifeforms. Register for that here.
THE ORGINS OF MERRY CHRISTMUSH
Merry Christmush was an art project initiated by Australian Bloom newcomer Lumi Ricardi (they/them) after learning about the influences of Christmas from a Scandinavian perspective.
“I found the story of the Sami noaidi (shamans) and what they did over the winter solstice period fascinating. They dressed in red and white like the Amanita muscaria mushrooms found in that area, and went to visit the World Tree, a large old pine tree. There they would eat mushrooms and gain wisdom to take back as gifts to their people, as well as blessings and gifts for the coming year.”
I created Merry Christmush to help people connect people to what Christmas time is about, and where the origins of our traditions have come from.”
Last year Lumi made 30 mushrooms from sun-dried clay and painted them all different colours of the rainbow. These were then given out to both friends and strangers, and conversations initiated about Christmas and people’s thoughts about this time of year.
“A fun part of the story is that reindeers would ingest the mushrooms as well. This would give them a lot of energy and they would leap and jump about the forest, giving the illusion that they were flying. People were quite amused to hear the stories from Scandinavia and most people didn’t have any idea of where the origins of Christmas come from.
I think it’s a beautiful thing to encourage people to contemplate where we are now and where we have come from. It’s important to think about how meanings and symbolism changes through the ages, and pieces of the original symbols still remain, like the reindeer, the tree and the red and white colors of Christmas.”
Finally, Lumi invites everyone to enjoy the opportunity to be creative with Merry Christmush, and encourages people to hand make their christmushes. This way each one can be unique, made with care from their own hands and created with the intention of gifting it to someone else.
“A great part about Merry Christmush is that you are creating the christmushes yourself. This ties into the idea of the World Tree and the gifts that the shaman brings back to his community, and to reflect and enjoy the gifts we give and receive from others. It’s important to acknowledge the interconnectivity of our communities. It’s the mushroom thing to do.”
Bloom Network has strong links with mushrooms via Mushroom City Arts Festival, an annual festival about mushrooms in Baltimore, which has been running for 8 years. This year, Robin Gunkel lead of Bloom Baltimore, convened the arts festival online, which featured a number of mushroom inspired artists. If you want inspiration for your mushroom art head to check out the following artists.
What if your community had a way to organize itself, so that it better represented ALL the work that was happening? Not just which is deemed “economic value” but inclusive of commons care work and mutual value exchange, within a tight group of trusted friends.
DisCOs are Distributed Cooperative Organizations, a framework that stems from the peer-to-peer movement and work of the Guerrilla Translation Collective. DisCOs are a playful, artful feminist alternative to the patriarchal and top-down economies we are familiar with. Going beyond time-banking and DAOs, DisCOs are a way to organize and create communities that recognize and support the importance of labor that nurtures people and the commons alongside any particular mission or product the group is producing.
Centralisation and trust have been growing issues as networks grow, and layers of tech have evolved to try and solve some of these problems. However, the “solutions” usually do not include all the layers of care, that as women, we know we are fully immersed in.
“We need a cooperative, feminist, commons-oriented alternative to DAO (decentralised autonomous organizations)… DAOs are based on blockchain technology where there is a techno-optimistic idea that if we can program things correctly, we can create zero-trust situations where we don’t have to trust each other as humans. The problem is though, those algorithms are created by humans. The trust issue doesn’t disappear.” – Lisha Sterling
Bloom Network is a DisCO!
Bloom Network rests in-between the spaces of a nonprofit – a corporation – and a grassroots decentralized effort. Because Bloom has a different perspective for how organizing needs to happen, preferring decentralized ways of caring for community, it has made it difficult to plug in with the existing institutional structures to raise money and apply for grants. Discovering the DisCO model has been a revelation, and this model has been articulated well and in a fun way. We hope to work with and refine this model of working over the coming years so that Bloom is a living, dancing example of a DisCO.
Introducing our guest – Lisha Sterling
Lisha Sterling is the executive director at Geeks Without Bounds, a USA, non-profit, humanitarian organization of technologists, first responders, policymakers, and volunteers who work toward improving access to communication and technology. The aim of Geeks Without Bounds is to help people transform their bright ideas for civic and humanitarian technology into sustainable living projects using open source technology.
The Guerrilla Media Collective asked Geeks Without Borders to help develop software for DisCOs. GOB is deeply interested in this work, because like Bloom Network, GOB is in that in-between space, listed as a non-profit (which cannot be called a cooperative under legal definition in many states in the USA), and using a cooperative model internally.
The Origins of the DisCO
The Guerrilla Translation Collective developed the DisCO concept via lived experience which began in 2013. Literally a translation volunteer collective (working for activist causes) they needed a way to organise the workers and work involved, while trying to address imbalance between paid labour and the invisible work required to keep the project healthy. Maintaining relationships with allies and customers, time-consuming background work and maintaining good internal communication are all important to an organisation, but do not directly bring in monetary value. In 2018, the collective reviewed lessons learned and established a more explicit governance model. Thus the DisCO was born.
“If I Only Had a Heart” – Organisations and networks that value all types of works
Self organising systems that meet human needs and leverage the power of networks.
Connecting with open source and commons principles within cooperative and social solidarity movements.
Enabling value sovereignty by rewarding meaningful contributions to projects rather than just wage labour.
Challenging ordinary economic abstractions that devalue or outright ignore reproductive and care work.
“Not only can we trust other humans, but we actually need to trust other humans.” – Lisha Sterling
The picture below shows the evolving nature of cooperative and distributed design.
Platform cooperatives are cooperatively owned, democratically governed businesses that are established with a computing platform. It is a cooperative organization with a digital layer that facilitates the sale of their goods and services. Nathan Schneider who spoke on Bloom’s first Future Economies call is part of a successful platform cooperative.
DisCOs are similar because software is used as a layer to help with trade, managing value flows within and between DisCOs.
What kind of a revolution would it be without a disco ball?” – Lisha Sterling
Three Core Types of Work
Guerrilla Media Collective has established three core types of work/credits, to ensure that everybody gets paid for all of their hours:
Livelihood Work – Agency work that pays in monetary value.
Care Work – work that holds the organisation together, administrative work, taking time for people care, including mental and physical health.
Love Work – Pro-bono work that adds value to the commons (eg translating something with permission for free and making it freely and publicly available). This gets GMC noticed and often generates Livelihood work.
GMC has an equation that works out how many hours people have given each month. The model tracks the value whether it be commons oriented pro bono work, ethical market livelihood work, or reproductive work to create a fair distribution of income. If your work is unevenly distributed, you can top up the other types the following month.
The Seven DisCO Principles
The seven DisCO principles are adapted from the seven principles of cooperatives, which have been statutorily oriented towards the common good, multi-stakeholder in nature, which is tied into a locally oriented global network (eg GMC coordinates with different printers in different parts of the world, so that things can be printed locally and shipped a shorter distance instead of shipping from a centralised location). Head to https://disco.coop/ to read in more detail.
DisCOs dancing together
Each individual DisCO is a group of anywhere from two to 20 people, but preferably not more than 20 people. By working with small trusted groups it is easier to wield the organisation because you are working together every day. You have a way to manage the income and the values you have together.
When DisCOs then want to work with other DisCOs, this is where technology like a DAO can be useful. Trade, or working on larger cooperative projects together means that the trust levels are different so DisCOs might choose to put more into using digital contracts.
Trading does not have to be in monetary terms either. You might choose to trade based on the value of something else, bananas, or an hour of massage therapy.
“One of the ideas is that we can create different types of economy or tap into the many different types of economies that already exist for these different cooperative partnerships. And we’re primed for Federation, with your local disco, and also being connected with all of these other groups that are also discos and being able to do exchanges and work collaboration”.
– Lisha Sterling
Questionsfrom the audience
Outside of the initial organization, have there been other organizational use cases that you might be able to describe?
There are projects just starting and piloting this concept, but there is no project going longer than 2 years, because that’s how new this concept is.
Two pilot programs are Cooperation Jackson working with Mondragon University, in Spain. And in Zimbabwe, there is a hackerspace called Multi-talented Maker Space, which is in the early stages of establishment, and are starting right from the beginning as a DisCO.
In the last month both GMC and Geeks Without Bounds have received grants to run a number of pilot projects, with GMC developing training materials, and writing a research paper about how these pilots are developing, and Geeks Without Bounds to build more software.
What software are you developing?
The main part is an accounting software that is very specifically tailored to DisCOs, built in a distributed manner on top of something called Commons Pub, which if you’re familiar with Activity Pub, Commons Pub is built on top of Activity Pub.
We’re using Commons Pub together with Interledger, to create an accounting software that also can move value around. So that within a single DisCO you can manage both units of value, whether that’s widgets that have been made, or man hours worked, or whatever your widgets of value are, with whatever the exchange for that is, whether you’re paying in bananas, or Bitcoin, or Euro, or dollars, or whatever. That software needs to be something other than ‘off the shelf’ existing software, because it allows the individual DisCO to define its governance, and its value equations.
Using that DisCO’s value equations, the money is divided, and percentages of your wages every months is split between love work, care work and livelihood work.
And if your work that month does not achieve the percentage the DisCO values are set at, the the software adjusts so that the extra love work you did this month goes into future credits. If I did all love work one month, then livelihood work the next month, and the month after that I’m doing all care work, the software understands what the split is and makes sure that across a period of time things get evened out out according to their equation.
There are other parts of the software that are not part of this grant, but we’re also working on an open source tool that will help teams to do their collaborative work. We’re building it on top of Next Cloud, which gives you something kind of like the Google Apps environment where you’ve got email and shared documents. Think of it like an open source replacement combo for Trello, Whiteboarding software and Google Drive.
With panelists Kevin Carson, senior fellow of Center for a Stateless Society & author of The Desktop Regulatory State Josephine Watson, a researcher organizing regional food system networks Lorenzo Kristov who facilitates transitions to localized renewable energy grids.
2020 has been a year of impetus for localised production to start happening, and we have seen across the USA, and indeed the world, people with 3D printers creating much needed Personal Protection Equipment for their local hospital using open source designs. We have also seen a surge of interest in and support for regional food systems. This emergence is known by a few names, distributed manufacturing, localised or bioregional production. Our August call discusses theoretical and real world examples of this work. For a fuller version of the text head to the truncated minutes here.
Localized production is a form of production that gives people control over their own livelihoods and the material preconditions for life. It keeps materials, production and consumers within the local context of a bioregion. It uses less materials and has less overheads compared to traditional mass production. It follows a ‘just-in-time’ production model and doesn’t need to invest in marketing or shipping because consumption stays close to the point of production. Because it has evolved in a resource constrained context, needing to extract maximum value out of every unit of input, localized production usually has less waste and tends not to engage in planned obsolescence.
‘Common Space’ or the ‘commons’, is often discussed with distributed and relocalized manufacturing. This is because capitalism purports the artificial idea of abundant materials that are ‘free’. Common space means the local economy is reintegrated into the natural surroundings and production is oriented towards local resources and watersheds and what it can handle. There is more incentive toward things like circular economies, recycling materials, cradle to cradle design.
Open Source is a big part of micro-manufacturing. It actively facilitates the rapid diffusion and use of knowledge, cooperation and collaboration with no monetary exchange. This more agile response can rapidly change and adapt. When new innovations arise they can continue to be shared rapidly, because there’s no intellectual property and other legal monopolies to create barriers.
Examples of Open Source production: Open Source Ecology and their Global Village Construction Set uses open source 3d printers that can be built for $500 worth of materials. Routers, cutting tables, laser cutters, drill presses, farm and construction machinery that can be built for less than $1,000, much cheaper than their commercial counterparts. It is now possible to build a garage factory in six months, instead of building giant factories with million dollar mass production.
“The old mass production economy is like a T-Rex floundering around in a tar pit. It’s just dead.” – Kevin Carson
Every aspect of the regenerative movement would like to see more citizen and community participation shaping the policy and the law that governs the way they live. Bioregional conversations are at the core of this and are going to be important in our future.
“Whenever we’re talking about bioregional distributed manufacturing in a farming context, we are talking about giving communities agency over the food that they’re eating, which is such an intimate part of our lives… working towards a feedback loop, that connects with the way communities would like to eat and how they would like to have relationships with their land” – Josie Watson, Northeast Healthy Soil Network
Bioregional conversations can be tricky without a level of coordination and shared values. Josie shared about the response of the Northeast farmers to the pressure of the government subsidizing monoculture growing. This flow of cheap food to the Northeast is making it tough for local and organic growers. Many collectives, associations and networks have sprung up at local, regional and state levels to address this problem. Inadvertently, multiple movements have formed without communicating with each other, and each of them hold a piece of the puzzle they are trying to solve.
The Northeast Healthy Soil Network was formed focussed around Healthy Soil, to help bring all these groups together, because healthy soil is a common goal across the organisations.
“We wanted to incorporate working with soil as a living complex entity with millions of microbes. This is something that was not studied during the Green Revolution. We didn’t ask how the soil system lives and breathes and functions. We need to relearn and embrace these things rather than focussing on pure food output”. – Josie Watson
You can read more about the Northeast Healthy Soil Network here
Often State policies and ownership models need to be changed to achieve bioregional success. Lorenzo Kristov has been working hard at shifting State structures to allow local energy planning and production to take place at the neighbourhood level. This planning would be tailored to the energy needs of that neighbourhood. The plan also utilises existing energy companies to provide funding and expertise to teach local neighbourhoods how to plan and run their own power grids and/or develop resilience requirements when the grid goes out. Shifting ownership models enables the revenue that would normally flow to monopoly structures to stay in the neighbourhood.
“Rethinking how we do energy becomes a critical enabler of just about everything else we want to accomplish… When I think of bioregional, I think of the many local communities and neighbourhoods that participate in that bioregion. Part of this transition is to go beyond the economic dogma of the individual household as the unit of analysis, and shift to a neighbourhood as the core unit of analysis”. – Lorenzo Kristov
Lorenzo firmly believes that neighbourhoods, and the relationships that people have in them, are crucial to the next step of bioregional production. In those relationships we can develop collaborative projects that make our neighbourhood better and stronger. Neighbourhoods is where we will start to create the alternative to what’s happening. Lorenzo encourages us to get out and build relationships with the people that live around us, and see what projects flow from that.
“Neighbourhoods are seeds for creating a successful way around the extractive dysfunctional systems we have now. Rather than obliteration, of seeing the systems failing and going through their end of life and self-destructing, we can view them as compost, which becomes fertilizer to grow the new thing.” – Lorenzo Kristov
There were mutual calls to make sure that people of colour and Indigenous nations’ leadership is visible in helping lead the way in these transitional times. It is recognised that it is a difficult time to reach out to Indigenous communities and ask for aid and research when they’re so financially strapped. But we know that Indigenous groups throughout the world are bastions with the most important knowledge about how to steward ecosystems. Josie reminded us that the United Nations perpetuates this idea that members of Western academic institutions are the ones to create global policy and law. Media groups need to bring Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour leaders to the forefront and put spotlights on their knowledge and projects.
The FAO has a project called World Agricultural Watch (WAW), which is creating a database of collected knowledge and setting members of indigenous groups who are willing to engage as the experts that they are.
2020 has sprung upon us an incredible number of Black Swan events; no one could have foreseen that and the incredible impact they have had. There is also no way of anticipating what other unforeseen crisis events are going to happen over the next 15 years.
In the last 15 years we have had two major recessions, both of which were the worst at that time that the United States has been through since World War Two. Kevin expects to see more of these tumultuous events over the next 15 years. There has also been an arc of movements like Arab Spring, then Occupy, the anti-pipeline movement and Black Lives Matter movements. Large left-wing movements are on the rise, as are right-wing ones. The municipalist movements across Europe are interesting trends to watch as well, and these are expected to continue.
“We’re going to see continuing chronic unemployment and underemployment. That makes it a matter of necessity to turn to all these economic alternatives that we have all talked about today”. Kevin Carson
All the panelists agreed, there is a lot of work to be done, but it can be done. Moving from thinking in the old mass production capitalist mindset is what needs to be shifted, and necessary relationships and economic alternatives need to start being understood and worked on by more people.
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Kevin’s Observations about Federated Cooperatives around the world:
The Mondragon system and the Antigonish both have a federal structure with their own financial arm that provides capital for enterprise incubation.
New municipalist movements are springing up all over Europe, in Spain formed by post-M15 and activists, Barcelona and Madrid.
Bolonia has had a really strong cooperative economy for the last couple of decades.
In the United States, Cooperation Jackson, and the Evergreen project in Cleveland which was influenced to some extent by the Mondragon system.
Anarchism is something Kevin Carson is well known for, so we asked him “How does anarchy sit with bioregionalism?”
“The importance of distributed manufacturing and relocalized economies leads to anarchism in a sense, at least that’s true the kind of anarchist model that I subscribe to. How real localization takes shape, will inform the direction that post-capitalist and post-state transitions are going to take. We are seeing commons-based institutions (like community gardens, neighbourhood workshops, local currencies, co-housing projects for sharing costs and risks, pooling income and localizing energy production) forming out of necessity right now and these are basically the seeds of a successor society. But they are forming out of sheer necessity for survival rather than any particular ideological motivation. I think it is important for anarchism as an ideology to be moving in the same direction that people are spontaneously moving in already out of material necessity and do things to facilitate that”. – Kevin Carson
Cover image by Ane Eline Sorenson and David Hodgson
For the first time, the number of people in the southern hemisphere equaled those in the North on this community call! Our topic this month was focusing on climate change messaging and the vision casting we wanted to create as an alternative narrative to the future.
Why the narrative is important? – fromClimate Justice Alliance – “The narrative: our story and vision for the world we want and know is possible. Short, medium and long term organizing strategy—indeed, entire movements—grow and are derived from narratives… The seeds of our narrative form the roots to weather the many storms ahead.”
Language used in climate change campaigns began our conversation, comparing agencies and the words they used on their websites. You can read the research presented here. In the conversation that followed, the participants highlighted the following things as important:
Main Observations and Concerns
Concern in greenwashing by interest groups, an emphasis on technology, or using narratives of fear with alarmist language. Focus too much on tech to save us, or focus on the problem rather than the solution generating ‘warning fatigue’. “People are sick of the alarm, it’s been sounding since we were born.”
People who use alarmist messaging don’t tend to have a stable connection with nature. They can have lack of grounding or a clear message about who they want to reach, eg they want to shake you into ‘waking up’ and are often aggressive about it. Receiving alarmist language sets off the nervous system, making us anxious, tired, desperate.
We’re collectively doing things no one wants to do individually. Colonization and commodification of nature is still happening. Language can be racist, divisive. ‘For and against’ arguments do not help.
The carbon cycle is abstract. It also doesn’t capture the full spectrum of problems arising from human activity. Some research shows it only affects 4% of the Earth’s heat cycle, and the focus would be better restoring the disrupted hydrological cycle.
There is a need for:
A narrative that is irrefutable. This is because the “climate change” and ‘global warming” terms can be too easily argued with because the Earth is naturally in flux with temperature and conditions.
Elevating the messages of indigenous people.
Changing our relationship to nature/planet. We’ve lost that connection to ourselves and to the planet through the narrative of separation. We need to understand the barriers that are stopping people having this connection.
Understanding the co-dependent relationships between life and living creatures and that we need to include other beings in our sense of self. Shift focus to care of ourselves and other beings.
Connection pathways to help people connect to Nature/Mother Earth.
The call ended with the question “How do you personally connect with nature?” Nervously, people shared the activities they do to connect. Internally, we thought we were weird (some voiced this too). Through sharing stories we realized we all had a deep connection to nature, and take time to commune with it regularly. We are not weird, but actually share a common thread which we believe is part of the answer. We only think we are separate and weird, but we are actually united. Being ‘weird’ is becoming the new normal.
The conclusion of this conversation reflects what Daniel Christian Wahl, regenerative author, talks about. When you are in a ‘regenerative’ mindset you understand that humans are part of the system. We are not apart/separate from it. More individuals are remembering this connection. And now we are remembering how to also transform the systems we hang our lives off.