Introduction to the Decentralized Web – May 2020 Theme Call

Introduction to the Decentralized Web – May 2020 Theme Call

Featured guests for this call were Christina Bowen, co-founder of Digital Life Collective, and John Light, Head of Governance at Aragon.

Recording of Intro to DWeb – May 2020 Theme Call is here.


Farmers, artists, and activists often ask Bloom Network about how to get started with the decentralized web and blockchain technologies. This call was our kick-off to a year-long introductory series to help people learn about it. Our first call looked at what the decentralized web is, and the potential for supporting regenerative culture projects.

On the call we asked “How well do you know the D-Web?” One third had no idea, the majority had clarifying questions and a handful work on decentralized web projects or Bitcoin. This discussion, even as an introduction, ended up being more technical than we expected. So we plan to make introductory videos over time that are accessible to noobs who are curious and want to start diving in.

How does Structure and Governance work on the D-Web? We learned that most people don’t know how the current internet is governed and delivered through hardware, various companies and protocols working together. The current web is vulnerable to censorship, monopolization, and extractive third party companies which use and sell your data (and labor) for profit.

The decentralized web “locks the web open”. You can choose to block content you don’t want to engage with, control your data, and external companies are less likely to determine what you see through surveillance capitalism or state propaganda. Ultimately, the D-Web provides incredible creative possibilities for peer-to-peer economic interactions and regional production networks.

“When we have highly centralized, inappropriately centralized power in our body, we call it cancer. But that’s kind of the paradigm for how companies work.”

Christina Bowen


It’s important to know that the Decentralized Web involves a lot more than just the money aspect, aka cryptocurrency. All other parts of online life can be decentralized, like file storage (CoBox is an example), and social networks (Scuttlebutt is an example).

What is Bitcoin? John Light gave a helpful introduction to what Bitcoin is, and how decentralized protocols work. Bitcoin is a purely digital currency. It’s decentralization means that there’s no single company or entity that’s in control of Bitcoin. It’s run by a volunteer network of computers all over the world that talk to each other using the Bitcoin protocol, the same way that computers around the world can send messages to each other using the email protocol, smtp. Bitcoin is a similar protocol but for creating and sending money. It’s considered part of the decentralized web, but it can also be used on traditional websites.

Caveat – if you are starting to explore the D-Web, the usability is a bit like using IRC in the early 90’s. Most projects don’t have fancy user interfaces (yet) and the set up is clunky compared with today’s internet and mobile apps. The decentralized web makes huge strides forward in usability for non-techies every year. But it’s still not easy.

“What about financial transactions for sex trafficking, or murder for hire?”
Safety concerns are of course, an important topic. Read John Light’s response in his blog.

What financial models are used for decentralized projects? Sometimes with open source development, the company derives financial benefit from how the broader software ecosystem uses the code. Some companies use digital coins or ICO’s, some nonprofit companies eeeeek along with chronic underfunding. Peer-to-peer crowdfunding is starting to become more common. People can contribute monthly amounts to a project, which covers the developers’ sustainable living (like Patreon but no company-in-the-middle fee). GitCoin is one project that facilitates this. You can program it to work for decentralized governance communities, too, which we’ll describe in more detail below.

What is Holochain? Within the decentralized web, there are many different development ecosystems, blockchains, and protocols, and not all of them talk with each other. Flavia from Brazil asked for clarification on what Holochain is. Christina described that instead of a blockchain where you have kind of like a giant spreadsheet that everybody can write to, but nobody can edit; with Holochain it’s more like how neurons work, where not every “node” in the chain can transact with each other, depending on if the two nodes are in an aligned state or not. It uses less server time, which means less electricity is needed to power it. Dat protocol is another facet of the decentralized web that was discussed. Decentralized web isn’t a noun, it’s more like a bunch of very varied decentralized web technologies, and works like a verb.

John Light works for Aragon, which currently runs on the Ethereum blockchain (Ethereum is like a decentralized global computer – people build ‘Dapps’ on it (decentralized apps)). Aragon has made the world’s first digital jurisdiction. It’s a programming environment for decentralized organizations. This is where peer-to-peer governance, and a huge array of specific governance agreements can be programmed, and automated or made more secure through ‘smart contracts’. Sometimes these kinds of organizations are called DAO’s – decentralized autonomous organizations. A more accurate term is smart organizations or programmable organizations. On Aragon you can set up an organization in 30 seconds, compared to several months and the thousands of dollars it costs to incorporate in the U.S.A., for example.

What about Democracy? Another governance innovation happening thanks to blockchain technologies is liquid democracy, where one can delegate their vote on an issue to someone they trust to be knowledgeable about it. One can then change who their delegate is, or reclaim their own voting connection on any given issue, at any point in time! At Bloom we believe these technologies will make digital-age business easier, and also that they have important possibilities for more constructively managing migration. This is increasingly going to be important for humanitarian purposes due to climate disasters and political destabilization. We are working to teach folks about the decentralized web now, to be prepared together and have enough capacity to utilize these tools when they are needed at a large scale.

“How can we actually decentralize power, intentionally disperse power throughout the system? A honeycomb, instead of these hub and spoke networks of power that we have?”

Christina Bowen

Who owns the data? As John Light described, with the decentralized web, your data is no longer controlled by a centralized company, like Facebook, or Dropbox or Google. Instead, the data is fully in your control and the specific people that you choose to share your data with, and there is a resilience built into it. Decentralized file storage protocol works by chopping up your file into little pieces and these are shared across many different computers. Even if one of those computers disappears, you can still reassemble your file.

What would you do if you lost your ability to access Facebook overnight? It is possible for Facebook to arbitrarily decide one day to boot you off their platform, (this happened to Bloom’s director in 2009, as she was determined “not a real person”). Not only do you lose your data (photos, posts), but perhaps more importantly you’ve actually lost all your connections to other people and groups through that platform.

Decentralized web tools give you the ability to control your data, who sees it, and control your relationships with other people directly – peer to peer. Organizations no longer have to rely on centralized platforms like Facebook, in order to collaborate with other people.

The decentralized tools are building infrastructure that could lock the web open, and they’re asking us to confront power at an essential time as the human race together. A platform where the users have a voice and have decision-making power is a platform of and for the people. We can use this technology to imagine the power structures we want to see, and we can explore these different kinds of power. For example, you can have nested or interwoven hierarchies like in nature. It’s about power and it’s about having agency.

The conversation went further down several rabbit holes. Indeed some people get into exploring these technologies because it is the land of infinite rabbit holes. To summarize a cliff we dove off head first together about ethics and technology, here’s a final quote from Christina:

“Can we wrap ourselves around the questions that our technology poses to us quickly enough to keep up with exponential growth as humans to wrangle the questions that we actually need to be wrangling about these futuristic scenarios that are coming way faster than we expect? That requires interdisciplinary conversations of policy and law and all sorts of experts coming together around these questions.”

Christina Bowen

Test cases in regenerative cultures that will benefit from using decentralized technologies:


1) Bloom is building a federated cooperative for its members (individuals and organizations) to more directly share value with each other, and to connect business better with the bioregions whose life flows sustain us.

2) Some communities are successfully using tokenization to support the flow of goods and services where money is scarce. Tokenization, in blockchain terms, is the process by which “values” are transformed into a digital asset. Grassroots Economics is working in Kenya, South Africa, and Congo – communities are designing their own community currencies, represented as tokens on their POA blockchain (Proof of Impact). It’s helping everyone see the exchanges happening and understand better how to support each other. At Bloom we’ve gotten requests from Indigenous coalitions in the Amazon and Turtle Island asking for how they can use blockchain tools for better local economic sovereignty and regional resource governance.

3) Christina shared the idea that wealth can be measured as flow rate rather than a centralized amassing of currency. There are many finance communities working on better measurements for regenerative impact and on changing how funds structure their investments. Global Regeneration CoLab and Crowd Doing’s Systemic Change group are two of them we’re connected with.

Resources shared on the call:

Outcomes from producing this call:

Our presenters John Light and Christina Bowen got to know each other better from different corners of the dweb development ecosystem.

Danielle Gennety started a working group for designing how to best bring visibility and recognition to contributors to Bloom’s wiki. (Dani is a co-founder of Bloom who works with Giveth, a decentralized philanthropy software company.) This is an international team of about five people, who want to share human and business protocols they’ve found healthy for nomadic communities and ecovillages. This group is also looking into tokenization, where contributors would receive some form of exchangeable credit for use of their work.

Christina Bowen is anchoring a working group in Socialroots.io with a handful of diverse regenerative makers, to test out a way to have cross-network visibility of what each network’s strength is, and what they are currently finding constructive to exchange among each other.

Both of these working groups will likely influence future sessions of Bloom’s ongoing series on this topic, Open Mesh Platforms. Click here to see the tentative schedule and register. And become a member of Bloom to join our central collaboration space in Hylo (and many more benefits).

Many thanks to all our guests on this call, and we look forward to continuing to connect together!

For love of the mycelium,
Magenta

Aragon tutorial: Creating a multistakeholder organization

Aragon tutorial: Creating a multistakeholder organization

Aragon is a powerful tool for creating digital organizations. The flexibility provided by the underlying aragonOS smart contract system means that nearly any organization model or governance rules that can be conceived of can be implemented in code and built into an Aragon organization.

Want to know more about Aragon? Read our blog post Governing with Aragon.

In this tutorial I will show how you can use Aragon to create a multistakeholder organization that is governed by its members. A multistakeholder organization is an organization governed by stakeholders from “different social, political, or economic groups”. For example, a neighborhood that wants to unite to solve problems or provide benefits to the local community could create a multistakeholder organization made up of neighborhood residents, business owners, workers, and civil society groups to propose and vote on different activities to focus resources towards.

In this tutorial we will create a multistakeholder organization that is starting off with three stakeholder groups: a local business, an institutional nonprofit, and a grassroots community organization. Each stakeholder group will have an internal process for nominating a representative who will be responsible for relaying information about proposals back and forth from the multistakeholder organization, as well as voting on proposals in the multistakeholder organization. This keeps the multistakeholder organization nimble and allows most members of the stakeholder groups to focus on their normal jobs rather than being constantly distracted by what’s happening in the multistakeholder organization. If at any time a stakeholder group feels that their representative is no longer the best fit for the job, they can swap them out for a new representative. 

Note: It is possible for a stakeholder group to vote on proposals in the multistakeholder organization using direct democracy or any other governance model, but for this example we will use a representative model.

Step 0. Prerequisites

Make sure you have all of the prerequisites necessary to start using Aragon. Namely, for this tutorial you will need an Ethereum provider and at least 0.5 Rinkeby test ETH.

Part 1. Create your stakeholder organizations

As mentioned before, our multistakeholder organization is going to start off with three stakeholder groups: a local business, an institutional nonprofit, and a grassroots community organization. Each of these groups is going to have its own Aragon organization so that they can, at a minimum, nominate a representative who will act on their behalf in the multistakeholder organization.

Each stakeholder organization is going to be configured the same way, so we will perform this step three times, once for each stakeholder organization.

1.1 Go to rinkeby.aragon.org 

We’ll create our organizations on the Rinkeby test network for now. This way if we make any mistakes, it won’t cost us real money and we can easily start over if needed.

1.2 Click the “Connect account” button

Connect your Ethereum account to the Aragon client. A popup may appear asking for your approval. Approve the connection to continue.

1.3 Click “Create an organization”

We’re going to set up each of our stakeholder organizations using the Membership template. With this template, each member of the organization will receive one non-transferable token that represents their membership and provides them with voting rights in the organization. Each member can only hold at most one token. This creates a “one-member-one-vote” governance model for the organization.

1.4 Install optional Agent app

For this setup, we want to make sure that we install the Agent app on each stakeholder organization. The Agent app is an Aragon app that enables Aragon organizations to interact directly with any other smart contract on Ethereum, including other Aragon organizations. This is what will enable each stakeholder organization to act independently inside of the multistakeholder organization.

Click the toggle to enable the Agent app installation then click the “Use this template” button to proceed.

1.5 Complete the setup flow

There are five steps to completing the setup flow for each stakeholder organization.

1.5.1 Choose an ENS name

We have to choose an Ethereum Name Service (ENS) subdomain name for each stakeholder organization. This will uniquely identify each organization on the Ethereum blockchain. I’m going to call our stakeholder organizations business.aragonid.eth, nonprofit.aragonid.eth, and grassroots.aragonid.eth.

1.5.2 Select Voting app parameters

We have to select the parameters we want to use for the Voting app that will be installed on each organization. I’m going to set both the Support % and Minimum Approval % parameters to 50%, which means that more than half of the organization members must vote YES for a proposal to be approved. I’m also going to set the vote duration to 10 minutes. Since this is just a demo organization we want the votes to go quickly.

1.5.3 Select Tokens app parameters

We have to set the parameters for the Tokens app. I’m going to make the token name for each organization VOTE TOKEN and make the token symbol VOTE. In the Token Holders field I’m going to paste my own Ethereum address. I could click the “Add more” button to add the Ethereum addresses of other members of the organization, but for simplicity I’ll leave it with just my address for now.

1.5.4 Review setup settings

We have an opportunity to review all of the settings we just entered for our organization. Everything looks good so I’m going to click “Launch your organization”.

1.5.5 Launch the organization

We have to sign and broadcast the transaction to create the organization. If you decide to add multiple tokenholders to the organization on the Tokens app section of the setup flow, you may have to sign and broadcast more than one transaction.

Now we’re ready to go! Click “Get started” to go to the organization you just created.


After repeating these steps three times – once for each stakeholder organization – we will have each of the organizations that will make up the multistakeholder organization and we can move on to the next part of the tutorial.

Part 2. Create the multistakeholder organization

The steps completed to create the multistakeholder organization are going to be almost exactly the same as creating each individual stakeholder organization. The only differences will be the ENS name and the initial tokenholders that I select.

For the ENS name, I am going to call the multistakeholder organization multistakeholder.aragonid.eth.

When it’s time to add the initial set of tokenholders on the Tokens app section of the setup flow (Step 1.5.3 above) we are going to enter the Agent address of each stakeholder organization, for a total of three initial tokenholders.

To find the address of the Agent app for each stakeholder organization, navigate to the organization in the Aragon client then go to “Organization” under the “System” section of the sidebar in the Aragon client. 

Click on the Agent app address then copy and paste it into the Token Holders field on the Tokens app settings page when setting up the multistakeholder organization. Click “Add more” to add the Agent addresses of each other stakeholder organization.

Review and confirm the details, then launch the multistakeholder organization. Since there are three initial tokenholders, we must sign and broadcast two transactions to complete the setup.

And now we have our multistakeholder organization.

Part 3. Nominate stakeholder representatives

In this part we will nominate a representative in each stakeholder organization. As mentioned before, this representative will be responsible for taking proposals from their organization to the multistakeholder organization, relaying information between the multistakeholder organization and their own stakeholder organization, and voting on proposals in the multistakeholder organization on behalf of their stakeholder organization.

This part is optional; a multistakeholder organization could decide that all of the members of the stakeholder organizations should be fully involved in the governance process, and so participation is based on a direct voting model rather than a representative model. There are many ways this could be set up. But for this example, we’ll use a representative model.

We will complete this part of the tutorial for each stakeholder organization.

3.1 Propose a representative

To propose a representative, we’re going to create a proposal that gives the representative’s Ethereum address permission to execute actions using the Agent app of the representative’s organization.

Note: The permission to execute actions using the Agent app can be a powerful permission that would, for example, give permission to the representative to unilaterally transfer any assets managed by the Agent app, if it manages any assets at all. This permission is best granted only in an organization where the Agent app is not used to manage assets, and is only used to vote in a multistakeholder organization as in this tutorial. If an organization wants to participate in a multistakeholder organization this way and manage assets using the Agent app, it’s best to set up a separate organization specifically for this purpose.

3.1.1 Go to the Permissions app of the stakeholder organization

Click “Permissions” under the System section of the sidebar in the Aragon client to open the Permissions app.

3.1.2 Click “New permission” and configure new permission

On app “Agent” assign to entity “Custom address” “(paste address of the representative)” permission to perform action “Execute actions”. Click “Add permission” then sign and broadcast the transaction.

3.2 Approve proposal to give the representative the necessary permission

After you sign and broadcast the transaction to create the new permission giving the representative the ability to execute actions using the Agent app, a proposal will be created in the Voting app. Based on the parameters we set for the Voting app in each stakeholder organization, over half of the members must vote YES for the proposal to be approved. Go to the Voting app and vote YES on the proposal. If there are other members, have them vote YES as well.


Now the representative has the permission to execute actions on behalf of the organization using the Agent app.

Part 4. Set up Frame + Agent

The representative now has to set up their Ethereum provider so that they can interact with the multistakeholder organization using their stakeholder organization’s Agent app. Currently Frame is the only Ethereum provider that has native support for interacting on behalf of an Aragon organization using the Agent app.

1. Install Frame

Visit https://frame.sh/ and install the Frame desktop app. You can also install the Frame browser extension if you want to be able to use Frame with other Ethereum applications.

2. Add your Ethereum wallet to Frame

Start the Frame desktop application. Click the arrows at the top of Frame to change to the Settings menu. Next to “Connection” change “Mainnet” to “Rinkeby”. Click the arrows at the top again to go back to the main page. Click the “+” button and add your Ethereum account to Frame. This should be the same Ethereum account that has the address nominated as the stakeholder representative. You can select from multiple options to add your account depending on how you are storing your account.

3. Add the stakeholder organization’s Agent

Once you (the representative) have added your personal Ethereum account to Frame, click the “+” button in Frame again to add another account. Scroll down to where it says “Smart accounts” and click “Add Aragon account”. Type the name of your organization (the stakeholder organization the representative is acting on behalf of) then click “Next”.

Select the Ethereum account that holds your stakeholder organization token, then select the specific address holding the token (the same Ethereum address selected to be the representative).

Frame will show a success message, then you will be taken back to the main account selection screen in Frame where you can select the Aragon account to act with.

4. Create and vote on proposals in the multistakeholder organization

Using Frame + Agent and acting as their stakeholder organization, representatives can now create and vote on proposals in the multistakeholder organization. The proposals can do almost anything a proposal in any other Aragon organization can do: add or remove tokenholders, withdraw funds, change permissions, install or upgrade apps, etc.

Note: Due to a software limitation that prevents acting as an organization within another organization, the only type of proposal not currently directly supported in a multistakeholder organization like this are Agent app proposals. One way that you can work around this limitation is to give representatives the “Create new vote” permission on the Voting app in the multistakeholder organization. Then, representatives can create new votes on behalf of the multistakeholder organization using the multistakeholder organization’s Agent app, as described above using Agent + Frame except acting as the multistakeholder organization instead of the representative’s stakeholder organization. Once the vote is created, the members of the multistakeholder organization can cast their votes on the Agent proposal. If one of the stakeholder organizations ever changes its representative, then the “Create new vote” permission can be revoked from the old representative and assigned to the new one.

Once a proposal is created, the representative can use Frame + Agent to cast a vote on behalf of their stakeholder organization using the multistakeholder organization’s Voting app.

Success!

We are now done setting up a multistakeholder organization using Aragon!

You can learn more about how to use Aragon for your organization at the Aragon Help Desk.

If you have any questions or feedback you are invited to start a thread in the Aragon Forum or join the Aragon community chat on Discord.

Governing with Aragon

Governing with Aragon

A lack of frameworks for coordinating across national borders. Struggles for resources between departments. Money missing from the cash box.

These are issues faced by all types of organizations, from startups and grassroots community groups to multinational companies and NGOs. The issues stem from people problems first, but are made worse by outdated technology.

The balkanization of financial systems means collaboration between people of different nationalities can be difficult or prevented altogether.

Departments competing for resources lack visibility into what the needs are of each other and the rest of the organization.

Multiple people need to pull money from the cash box to pay the group’s expenses, so it’s hard to control access and hold everyone to account.

We have been able to accomplish a lot with the tools still relied on by many organizations to govern and allocate resources. But it’s also clear that there is room for improvement.

An introduction to Aragon

Aragon is software that brings shared control, flexible permissions, and internet-wide access to money, domain names, video game items, financial assets – digital resources of all types, even organization governance itself.

Shared control means that it’s no longer necessary to entrust control of vital resources to a single person. Whereas traditional software requires giving at least one person “Admin” control over an organization’s digital resources, Aragon provides the ability to decentralize control among multiple people, even entire communities. In this way, administration powers are truly shared rather than concentrated in one person.

Flexible permissions mean that if the existing governance rules aren’t working, they can quickly be changed to better suit the organization’s needs. Not only is control over the organization’s resources shared, but control over the governance rules is also shared. Since the rules are written in computer code, changing the rules can be as easy as voting to approve an app update.

Permission settings in the Saint Fame organization at https://mainnet.aragon.org/#/sf

Internet-wide access means that slow or inflexible control of money and other digital resources due to balkanized legal and financial systems is a thing of the past. Just as chat apps make it easy for people all over the world to send each other messages and collaborate over the internet in an instant, Aragon makes it easy for individuals and organizations across the globe to use the internet to share ownership of resources and make decisions together.

We have seen in the examples at the beginning of this post what can go wrong when technology limits the ways that organizations can self-govern. What might an improvement over the old ways of doing things look like?

Governance as an app

Aragon is software that runs in web browsers that are Web3-enabled using either a browser extension or native Web3 integration. Web3 is a new set of internet protocols enabling collaboration and ownership without central authorities. The Web3 protocols that Aragon makes use of today are Ethereum and IPFS.

Whereas older “Web 2.0” applications such as Twitter and YouTube are run by central companies who have full control over the application and its users, newer Web3 applications can be built so that users remain in control of their data and their financial assets. These new capabilities offered by Web3 protocols are what enable Aragon users to share control over their organization’s resources.

With Aragon, users can create a digital representation of their organization complete with tools for managing membership and resources in the organization, as well as a system for managing who has permission to perform various actions, such as spending funds or adding new members.

The Aragon Network Governor Council at https://mainnet.aragon.org/#/network/

Aragon organizations can expand their capabilities using software extensions called “Aragon apps”. Aragon apps provide users the ability to easily manage different aspects of the organization, from adding and removing members, to spending funds, to voting on proposals, and more.

A special app called the Agent app enables an Aragon organization to interact directly with any other Ethereum application, so the organization itself can be treated as a first-class citizen of Ethereum. This means that the organization can take out a loan, register a domain name, stream salaries to workers by the second, even own land in virtual reality, all under the shared control of the organization’s members. Nearly everything about an organization can now be governed directly by its members, no matter where they might physically be in the world – just add internet!

Newfound trust and capabilities

With the new technology pioneered by Aragon and the broader Web3 community, organizations can transcend previous limitations and operate both more securely and with greater freedom than ever before. Where organizations used to have to trust an individual to responsibly manage the finances, now everyone in an organization can be given the opportunity to review expenditures and vote on whether or not to approve a transfer. In larger organizations, responsibility can be delegated to a specific team or small working group. Controversial decisions can be arbitrated by an Aragon-native dispute resolution system if needed, saving time and money over traditional courts and offering a solution for cross-border disputes.

Since all of the actions that can be performed in an Aragon organization are recorded on the Ethereum public ledger, Aragon organizations are transparent by default. Every vote, every payment, every membership or permission change are all publicly visible and verifiable. This makes Aragon particularly well suited for any organization that has transparency and accountability as core values, such as nonprofits and public communities.

Aragon Association finances at https://mainnet.aragon.org/#/budget

It is even possible for Aragon organizations to come together to form a new entity – a multistakeholder group, industry association, coalition, or similar organization of organizations. This enables organizations to pool their resources and tackle common challenges with minimal bureaucracy and legal overhead, even unlocking new opportunities in situations where barriers in the traditional legal or financial systems might have prevented collaboration. 

For example, a grassroots civic community in Africa can partner with an NGO in Europe and a church group from Australia to pool funds for a clean water project, and each organization can have direct input and oversight in how the funds are spent. The lack of financial infrastructure or the presence of legal complexity need no longer be barriers to getting things done and fulfilling important missions. Aragon can help organizations route around these problems by providing alternative finance and governance infrastructure.

Making the abstract concrete

In the next post I’ll help make some of the abstract concepts discussed here more concrete by showing how to create a multistakeholder organization using Aragon. In the meantime, I invite you to try Aragon for yourself by creating a test organization on the Rinkeby test network. If you have any feedback or questions, you can drop by the Aragon community chat and tag me in a message to the #support channel – my username in the chat is @light.

Future Economies – April 2020 Community Call

Future Economies – April 2020 Community Call

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.

Shavaun Evans, Co-Director and Membership Director for the New Economy Coalition.
(@NewEconomics)

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 Schneider, Media Enterprise Design Lab in Boulder, and assistant professor at University of Colorado, (@ntnsndr , @CUBoulderMDST, @MEDLabBoulder).

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, transformative organizational consultant, teacher of circular economy at the University of California Berkeley. Co-founder of SUPER (Single Use Plastic Elimination or Reduction), Kumu Labs and the Plastic Pollution Coalition, (@Maqueda, @KUMUlab)

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.

Announcement: Bloom Network a Finalist in Ledger’s 2nd Open Call

Announcement: Bloom Network a Finalist in Ledger’s 2nd Open Call

Bloom Network is happy to announce we are a finalist in Ledger’s 2nd Open Call, part of the Next Generation Internet Initiative.

Ledger is a #venturebuilder allocating up to €200k #equityfree to develop #humancentric solutions using #decentralized#technologies  such as #blockchain #DLT #peertopeer #datagovernance #privacybydesign #citizendatagovernance.

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.

Read more about The NGI Initiative: An Internet of Humans, and check out Ledger’s website to learn of more NGI projects they are supporting.

Open Mesh Platforms

Open Mesh Platforms

An Introduction to the Decentralized Web for Regenerative Projects
presented by Bloom Network 2020-2021

All educational calls take place the first Monday of each month @ 12pm Pacific. Additionally, there are now a few working groups hacking on a few key pieces of Bloom’s infrastructure so we have tangible use cases to learn and create with.

Purpose of this educational series:

1) Increase the accessibility of peer-to-peer systems beyond early technical adopters to those working on the community frontlines.
2) Build relationships between software development communities and regenerative leaders on the ground.

What the heck is the decentralized web?

Yes exactly, that’s why we’re doing this. Here are some great intros from Mozilla, Internet Archive, and about Europe’s Next Generation Internet initiative.

Sessions

July 6, 12pm Pacific: Notes / Conclusions / Next Steps
Already since beginning this series, a few working groups have formed. We’re currently feeling out the right balance between training/introduction calls and calls where we hack on Bloom Network itself. On July 6 we’ll plot out next steps for 1) setting up a continuous fundraiser to raise a community loan through Bloom memberships, utilizing DAO technology (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) and 2) looking into creating a protocol for the types of value exchanges Bloom members want to do with each other. If you are brand new to the dWeb / Web 3 etc, you’ll still be able to learn things during this session.

Below are sessions we plan to host over the coming year. We are forming the schedule month-by-month as we go. If you have the ability to do one of these trainings or explain to noobs what these projects are, please get in touch, thank you!

  • Decentralized web protocols – designed for privacy, distributed power and control of resources, and better connectivity in the developing world. Featuring Scuttlebutt, Blockstack, IPFS, Swarm. 
  • Training: How to use cryptocurrency for the first time – bitcoin and ethereum, introduction to wallets Samourai and Coinpayments.net, introduction to Metamask
  • How digital platforms enable decentralized governance, including introductions to Aragon, DaoStack, and Colony
  • Training: How to use DAI stablecoin to store cryptocurrency at a stable exchange rate. Cryptocurrency value fluctuates wildly at this stage in its adoption. In order to issue payouts for projects without the risk of losing value, teams can use stablecoins that are pegged to the value of the US dollar.
  • Publishing and media distribution on the decentralized web
  • Art and the blockchain: tools for artists to be compensated for digital sharing of their works
  • Training: How to use Kraken to withdraw cryptocurrency to state currency in your bank account. Not every country has access to Kraken, however, most countries do have a cryptocurrency exchange that is trustworthy.
  • Sovereign Identity Tools for data privacy – imagine if your social profile data was anchored primarily in your own account and not owned by a company like Facebook or Google. There are implications for a more economically equitable internet, protection from algorithmic manipulation of behavior (such as what you purchase and what you believe), and more. We’ll take a peek at the farthest along identity tools to date: Blockstack, U-Port, Jolocom, 3Box, and JLINC.
  • Training: Introduction to Aragon
  • Token Engineering – what is it, when not to use it, how communities can use it now – cutting through the noise
  • Cooperatives on the Blockchain. How smart organizations enable federated coops, easy and cheaper international exchange, and the sophisticated governance methods people need to collaborate with equitable power dynamics.
  • Introduction to deFi – What is decentralized finance, what tools exist to do it, and what are good use cases for it?
  • Regen Network – a regenerative agriculture application of blockchain designed to incentivize carbon drawdown and ecosystem restoration