A hot topic at this moment, Bloom Network’s Community Call about Future Economies was well attended this month. With guests, Shavaun Evans from New Economics Coalition, Nathan Schneider from Media Enterprise Design Lab (Colorado), and Manuel Maqueda from KUMU Labs it was a high level, but heart-filled discussion. All guests and their work were grounded in deep democracy and cooperative ownership and a culture for mutual aid and respect for the earth.
Our first guest, Shavaun Evans, spoke about the work of from New Economy Coalition. NEC is a coalition of 200+ organizations and works on small to large scales, building new systems or new economies that put people and planet first. It is doing an “important job of bringing together the economic models and the intersectional analysis we need that recognizes how the crimes of our current system are not equally distributed” (Nathan Schneider).
NEC has a website full of resources to help the transition of different groups to cooperatives, land trusts, mutual aid networks, time banks, intentional communities, revolving loan funds and public banks. NEC has policy tool kits on “Pathway to a People’s Economy”, climate justice policy, finance policy, worker ownership, community controlled housing.
“In thinking about what the new economy is… so much of the new economy and that next system that we’re trying to build is already embedded in many of our ancestries and much of our culture. It’s something I saw my father doing, bartering his okra for our neighbor’s strawberries, or my mother doing childcare swaps with her sisters or others in our communities. That consideration of community, that mutual aid and respect for one another and care for each other and the earth… So much of that is already a part of our cultures and a part of what folks have been doing and are continuing to do, especially in these moments of crisis. So much of that is embedded in what we call the ‘new economy’,” says Evans.
When commenting on NEC’s great successes, Evans talked of how last year USA saw federal legislation pass that supports worker cooperatives and increased energy around public banks, with public banking legislation in California. And in this COVID-19 moment there have been successful campaigns to cancel rent or mortgages.
“The system that we’re currently living under is not the system that we have to be in in the future. There are lots of options for us to move forward by putting people over profits. People have been doing it better and will continue to do it better, and this is rising between the cracks and [will] start to solidify into our next system.”
Nathan highlighted the crisis of accountability and data in the online economy, and the common issues around labour and persistent patterns of abuse, which the labour markets of online communities have exacerbated.
Like Shavaun, Nathan reflected on
the cooperative businesses his ancestors were part of, which were owned and
governed by the people they serve. The only way his
grandfather got electricity on his farm was through a rural electric
cooperative, because investor-owned companies had no interest in bringing
electricity to farms.
The new challenge of bringing cooperative governance into the online economy has old answers, Schneider says. At this moment, the economic structure of the tech economy is oriented against a cooperative model, as the policy framework is not there. A farm can go to a coop bank, but if you’re doing a tech startup for a marginalized community, access to the same capital is not available.
Nathan listed a number of organisations that have been trying new models and approaches which are available on our wiki here. He also spoke to how there is the option of ‘exiting to community’. Rather than starting as a coop from the beginning, companies can start as conventional start-ups and as they become things that people rely on, they can become owned and governed by that community. So he’s trying to make it an available option for founders and investors to build companies that their users will become the stewards for. It’s a work in progress that is not yet resolved. This was confirmed during recent work with the founder of Meetup, Scott Hyperman, in trying to turn Meetup into a coop instead of turn it over to another set of investors. They couldn’t figure it out.
Successful examples of a transition to a cooperative can be seen in local USA newspapers such as in Ohio, recently the Salt Lake Tribune converted to a nonprofit. “A mission-centric, community-centered approach is the healthy outcome for [a news organization]”, says Schneider. He also touched on the power of spiritual and religious communities for building these kinds of models based on cooperation. The North American credit union system and worker cooperatives in Europe were often motivated through religious communities. “In a very hard entrepreneurial sense, these communities were able to imagine and achieve things that others around them were not able to access”.
In response to COVID-19 questions, Schneider says there’s a craving for building what comes after this. “There will be many opportunities to introduce models of community-based entrepreneurship that we really need, but there really needs to be a society-wide commitment to say, ‘We’re going to support this because we know it’s important, even if it’s not going to be profitable.'”
In summing up, Schneider says that this shift to
more coopertative, democratic platforms are essential if we claim to live in a
democratic society. We should expect as a norm that the institutions we depend
on are democratic in their practice and structure.
“The idea that we tolerate anything else is baffling to me… I’d hope it would be baffling to other storytellers who are broadcasting our stories. Instead of seeing these options as ‘alternative’, we should see democracy as the norm and look at capitalism as the odd alternative we’ve dead ended ourselves into”.
The good news is, there are ways out, and that is what Future Economies is all about.
Manuel Maqueda started his section of the call bringing into context to the brutal pandemic that is happening, a big shock and shared trauma spanning the world. Sending our hearts out in love, we paused for a moment in silence before Maqueda posed the question, “What does this mean in the transition to a new economy?”
“In terms of impact and likelihood, pandemics are a lot less significant than climate-related events. World Economic Forum does a risk assessment each year, and extreme weather events caused by climate have the highest impact and likelihood. Declining biodiversity and weapons of mass destruction have greater impact than a pandemic.”
On the day of the call, the price of oil dropped to negative value and Maqueda observed that the dangerous solution to the excess could be making more plastics. It takes some courage and skill to expand, explained Maqueda. The transformation of the economy is going to require a change of perspective with more vision and courage, moving from reactive to creative.
Maqueda moved into speaking about circular economies, which he is teaching world leaders in both Spanish and English.
“By making our linear economy more sustainable, we’re just extending its runway. Sooner or later, an economy that is tied to resource extraction, generation of waste and social injustice will implode when it rubs against the natural limits of the planet.”
“Waste is money wasted”.
“What we need to be aiming for is an economy that no longer requires extraction of resources and creation of waste to produce economic benefits to people. A circular economy means that you design out pollution, toxicity, and waste”.
Circular economy goes for effectiveness not efficiency. “It’s an economy for the next 10,000 years”, he says, and it requires a lot of systems thinking – or more specifically “ecosystem thinking”. A later discussion talked through how concepts of resources and language have been a limiting factor in valuing the environment and resources correctly. For example, the forest had only be valued as “lumber” for most of economic history instead of valuing the full scope and life of what happens in a forest. Uncovering the hidden costs that capitalism has ignored is a big step towards stronger future economies.
Maqueda reminded us that all around the world there are people showing up and interested, engaged and passionate.
“It important to remember that we are not alone at all in our desires to create something more just and regenerative. We’re absolutely surrounded by allies and we must keep that in mind.”
This Community Call on Future Economies is so rich in deep knowledge, this blog only highlights some important parts of the discussion!
For full minutes of the call, and video of the call, head here.
LEDGER is a European project financed by the European Commission. They are looking for 32 Minimum Viable Products and Services, in order to achieve new models that preserve citizens’ digital sovereignty, where data is a common good owned by citizens and wealth created by data-driven platforms is equally distributed.
Based upon our last ten years of research and development, Bloom Network’s proposal for this program is to build open source peer-to-peer economic modules using smart organization tools to support the emerging market of regenerative enterprise.
Specific to this moment of collapse, Bloom is connected with groups working around the world on a) open source supply chains, b) regional food resilience, and c) mutual aid societies. All of these groups are using Google Sheets + Facebook, and none are connected to each other. We want to support them with distributed ledger tools and use this opportunity to switch to more data sovereign and open collaboration systems.
On a technical level, these are some of the modules we will create, using established P2P governance software including Aragon and Autark’s Open Enterprise suite:
Local budgeting: the ability of local chapters to automatically receive a percentage of membership dues
Participatory budgeting among members of the cooperative
Cross-sector finance: bridging the funding gap to the grassroots sector which is inherently decentralized, by using decentralized project management software to empower efficient mobilization across organizational boundaries
These are some of the needs we’ve identified that we plan to address during the program:
The ability to collaborate across different movements and industries, without the intermediation of centralized corporations, and with data sovereignty
Greater visibility of regenerative initiatives, including peer-to-peer technologies, to the general public
Restorative justice governance: improving the ability of historically marginalized groups to have power and voice in decisions about where funding is allocated and what programs are developed
The modules we create will be both technical using existing decentralized governance and project management software, and also social, documenting the social processes and leadership methods that Bloom Network has found effective over the past ten years across our 100+ local chapter networks.
Our goal is to set up and test digital infrastructure for an international distributed cooperative that can be used and adapted by other networks. Through the Ledger program, we would receive support in selecting existing P2P privacy-protecting technologies to utilize, as well as business support to actualize the research and development we’ve done in the emerging market of regenerative enterprise, to support equitable post-pandemic economies.
List in progress! Is there a movement you’d like to see listed here? Contact us here.
Our intention with Bloom Network is not to circumscribe people into one movement or into our “brand”, but to help people find regenerative spectrum activities and groups they can participate in and contribute to, and to boost the visibility of initiatives that are doing wonderful work for all of our well-being on this planet <3.
Voices of Amerikua – collaborative documentary and multimedia lab featuring Indigenous- Native American- First Nation communities of North, Central and South America and their efforts to protect their Culture, Land and Rights
Fibershed – how to produce clothing in a regenerative way
Restorative Justice – Instead of putting people in prison, a mediator guides all parties involved in and impacted by a crime into a process to decide together how to best restore community well being and safety. It always(?) has better outcomes and is way cheaper than putting people in jail or prison.
DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization. It’s a new kind of organization that is native to the internet. DAO’s make it easier to run companies that don’t necessarily have hierarchies of power, or they can have more diverse and subtle power relationships. They decentralize power – meaning that decisions and resource allocation can happen among customizable sets of people, peer-to-peer, without having to funnel decisions and money up a hierarchy of people that make more money or otherwise extract value. DAO’s can also be called “smart organizations”.
The technology that powers DAO’s – blockchains – also make it possible to do things like “liquid democracy“, which theoretically can achieve more deeply informed and equitably distributed decision making. Peer-to-peer democracy is possible now! Think about that. Soon you’ll be able to do it through Bloom Network.
Anyone can start a DAO, and with a platform like Aragon or other DAO applications, it literally takes 30 seconds, compared to weeks or months if one sets up an organization through their state. Yes, today there are applications on the internet that allow you to instantly start an organization to collaborate with people locally or internationally. We need those! Now.
Bloom Network is really excited about DAO’s because they make it possible for us to run our collective as an international cooperative, that is truly owned by all our members and can freely self organize, without risking the kinds of power abuse and siphoning of value that are endemic to most of our older paradigm institutions. Bloom Network is a strange beast in that we are actually more like a connective tissue for many companies to collaborate through – DAO’s provide more flexibility to have collaborative business models. We are doing a governance hackathon now and at our conference, Pollination 2019 to set it all up and work through the intricacies. Please join us! Or keep reading to learn more about DAO’s and digital currency.
One of the technologies behind DAO’s is called smart contracts. Those can be coded so that, for example, in an activist organization, three of five people have to sign off on a transaction in order to issue funds to a specific person or for a specific project. DAO’s eliminate some of the administrative load of running an organization. Once a vote passes that approves, say $30,000 being allocated to an organization to build an urban food forest, that money is automatically issued to the organization and no human has to administer paperwork for that to happen. This all also puts in place some safeguards for collaborating with people you might not have yet established deep trust with – this will soon be important with more large-scale disaster response efforts.
Another thing DAO’s make it easier to do is work as an international organization. Instead of paying for currency exchange and wire fees, and waiting several days for transactions to clear, DAO’s run on the blockchain and cryptocurrency. You can nearly instantly send money from one country to another, in pure math, and not have to run the transaction through the third party of a bank with all its overhead costs and siphoning of some value. This isn’t just exciting for some “buck the system” reason; it is absolutely essential for the large-scale mobilizations that will need to happen increasingly often in the coming years due to climate change, migration, and large-scale demand for decentralized, localized autonomy. The reason local autonomy is important, is that part of resilience to weather anomalies, and part of restabilizing our planet’s carbon cycle, AND having less extreme inequality, is making local changes to the ways we do transportation, watershed repair, community forestry and agriculture. DAO’s make the legal landscape of this much more streamlined, fluid and fast. We think it’s also going to make it easier for large-scale finance institutions to work with these smaller fast-moving community groups. Our Bloom Network crew wants to help people get familiar with and orient to this new governance operating system that is better designed to handle the 21st century’s challenges.
Cryptocurrency software is built out enough now that an average person can use it easily enough. We’re hosting an introduction to getting started with cryptocurrency this Monday U.S.-time if you’d like to get a walk through. It’s much easier if someone shows you step by step and you do it with them. There are more and more services built on the blockchain so you can use cryptocurrency to purchase things and otherwise transact, without having to exchange the money back into your country’s currency. We could go farther down the rabbit hole with you, but we’ll stop here for now. Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities to participate.