Loomio
Wed 19 Jun 2019

Funding the Commons Transition

EL
Eyal Levin Public Seen by 314

Hi all :)

The recent thread about funding [1] got me thinking about an idea to fund the Commons Transition, or how to achieve global sustainable wellbeing.

The idea is a platform that allows users to send a monthly donation. Could be $1, $5, or more.

It will have some donation "bundles" that allow users to easily contribute in the area they care about. Could be 'environment', 'inequality', 'transparency', etc. Or a mix of 'areas'.

It can have a forum where users discuss what are the best ways to achieve progress in different areas. Other users could possibly also allocate their funds to such communities that will decide (e.g: on a monthly basis) how the money is allocated.

I think a basic version of this platform could start just from using a forum software (e.g Discourse, Loomio).

What do you say?

[1] https://www.loomio.org/d/Yx8h0TZS/e-money-1-funding-the-web-commons-or-how-do-you-fund-crowdfunding

JR

Jeff Regino Wed 19 Jun 2019

It's a great idea. I dream of a time when there is such a/an (unlimited) fund or platform that's available to most/all people in need regardless of location.

I'm quite sure there are several initiatives out there doing exactly or partly what you envision (either as donation and/or investments).

in my case, that is exactly part of the roadmap of a cooperative social enterprise-powered online jobs platform I'm creating (details here: http://bit.ly/2KJWbxN If you'd like to support this initiative, please let me know by filling out the form in that link/my website).

I'd like to fund social security for online workers, plus allocate to a fund that

  • A. will be used to run charitable initiatives and B. we can invest and grow the fund even more so we can fund more initiatives like A
  • create more job and impact-generating initiatives (social enterprise, cooperative, credit union, affordable housing/housing coop, etc.)
  • and fund a universal basic income experiment.

It might be good to start with a particular cause or niche you're passionate about, and you can expand to other causes from there. This is what I'll be doing as my initiative's "commonwealth fund" grows.

OS

Oli SB Wed 19 Jun 2019

Sounds great to me!We already do this via SolidFund in a Uk loomio group. Donating £5/ month and deciding collectively has allowed us to fund loads of cool cooperative stuff...

LM

Liam Murphy Thu 20 Jun 2019

I’m afraid I will have to say ‘not for me thankyou’. The challenge is not in getting people to donate wealth to social causes but making their sources of wealth ‘social’. We can’t fund commons on ‘other people’s money’! If you want me to produce wealth which increases environmental sustainability, or equality etc., ask me to DO SOMETHING about those things. There is already far too much money in the world and asking people to give it away just re-enforces that profligacy.

Platforms which enable us to share work and production and to take what we need back whilst enabling the rest to accumulate for our commons are great. I’m sorry, but I can’t support platforms which only encourage redistribution of surplus profits.

If I’ve misunderstood the project - apologies.

Thanks for the invitation.

LM

D

dilgreen Thu 18 Jul 2019

Liam, while I am of the opinion that 'only everything will really do' - that all positive intentions are to be welcomed - it doesn't mean that we can't work hard to design better approaches.
My own thinking comes from considering how capitalism got feudalists to use their assets to build capitalism - even in the clear understanding that this was against their long-term hegemonic interests.
Simply, feudalist assets were land, held by force-majeure, and semi-ownership of the persons who depended on the land for subsistence.
Early capitalists offered gold in return for land to grow sheep -> wool on. Feudalists kicked out their serfs and took the gold, sold off their land. It took a few centuries for enforcement of property rights, enclosures etc to take hold, but here it all was in microcosm.
It seems entirely possible to design systems which have the same topology under today's conditions. To take capitalist assets (fiat money), giving them something they need in return (short term gains), but in a way that build commons hegemony at the expense of capitalist hegemony.

The mechanism that makes sense for us is to offer returns to capital on the basis of 'use credits' - rather than cash.

If the systems that are being built are commons, and the use-credits are for produce of those commons, then we get them twice - both coming and going.

With two things in place (mutual ownership and governance with strong asset locks for one, and sale of 'use credits' at discount to investors the other) , the following mechanism works:

  1. Investors stump up fiat currency which will be spent investing in commons capacity building - renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, commons infrastructure ownership/operation, digital toolchains, yada yada.

  2. This builds a 'commons' of assets outside capitalism which produce use value.

  3. Capitalist investors get good returns in fiat - but can't use fiat to buy anything produced in the growing 'commons sector' directly - instead they have to buy use credits. This expands the 'commons sector' economy - the use credits have currency-like properties, but give no strong power (no interest, no dividend, no preponderance of governance rights), and are neither artificially scarce nor politically overabundant - being issued on the basis of actual provision capacity (albeit on a forward view).

  4. This increases the trust in the long-term value holding capabilities of the use-credits, driving further investment into the green commons sector.

  5. Over time, this hollows out the capitalist sector.

Of course, some things that are baldly stated here are non-trivial - effective commons governance, ability to make investment prospectuses that generate sufficient confidence that they attract capitalist investment, the specifics of those, the choice of projects - all of these, and others, need work.

None of them, though, sound intractable, or really any different from what we are trying in any case.

This is the process we envisage using to build the Credit Commons.

LM

Liam Murphy Thu 18 Jul 2019

Thanks for this detailed elaboration. I am all for the process of 'transvestment' -?- which you describe (I think?) , with as you say yourself, the allowances for 'necessary work' (which I think we are talking about financing and/or resourcing). I find myself in agreement with both the points I made initially and with your elaboraton re; your project! Can I offer one, maybe seemingly pedantic question (first): Strictly speaking and in accounting terminology, cash at the bank (fiat) is listed as an asset but has no intrinsic value as with other assets - as a P2P trade. My point - as with your point about gold, land, etc was about starting with an 'object of trade' which has use value. What you describe is very close to my own rationale for #culturebanking (owing much to threshold funding, 'street performer' initiative, eady levy, copyright taxes and copyleft/copyfair movement generally, etc historically speaking ). The point, for #culturebanking is a fundamental one: By starting with Intellectual Property rights, we begin with a natural right, easily and widely enforceable and intrinsically 'ours' and therefore - common-able. Is this a ‘who funds the crowd founders?’ Question? I don't think we're far off being eye to eye here and this is an initial and brief response. I will give more thought but thanks for coming back to me. Liam

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

There is no (set of) natural rights called "intellectual property". It's a propaganda phrase that piles together an unrelated set of state-granted monopolies, including copyrights, patents, and trademarks:

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.en.html

LM

Liam Murphy Fri 2 Aug 2019

It's a human invention and we could call all human invention propaganda - but some invention gains a practical application and some doesn't. Not disagreeing with you in theory, but, in practice... https://www.alec.org/article/intellectual-property-rights-are-natural-rights/. IP need not grant monopolies, can be open, shareable, can be partially, commonly and publicly owned and can be used for or against private property... I think it's an unexplored area... and yes, it's been hoodwinked and used as propaganda - mainly due to lack of imagination - ironically.

DS

Danyl Strype Sun 4 Aug 2019

As Stallman explains in the article I linked, copyrights, patents,trademarks etc all existed for decades before the term "intellectualproperty" was coined. You can tell they are government grantedmonopolies because they are temporary. "Natural property rights" (also apropaganda phrase, there's nothing natural about them) do not expireafter a standard time period. Anyone who is trying to convince youotherwise is leading you down the garden path, in pursuit of extended powers toenclose the digital commons for their own financial gain.https://www.alec.org/article/intellectual-property-rights-are-natural-rights/The fact that you're promoting links to an infamously anti-socialcorporate propaganda front might explain your confusion:https://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC

LM

Liam Murphy Mon 5 Aug 2019

Dear Strypey, No-one is trying to convince me of anything, I am not promoting anything and Stallman is of course correct in all he says... My interest is in Copyright as it affects artists, designers, authors etc. The link I sent is simply to point out that yours is not the only 'reality' and other realities will not disappear because you dis-engage, ignore them or advocate others do the same. IP needs to be massively reformed, but I really think calling it 'propaganda' (I understand it is a construct which can be altered) will not earn you a seat at any table where those decisions will be made. You probably don't want to be there and neither do I. I prefer to work productively on what I can change... I appreciate all the help I can get whenever I get it. Please try on hats of other colours!? All best, Liam

RVE

Renaud Van Eeckhout Thu 20 Jun 2019

Isn't Liberapay a good enough solution? It avoids reinventing the wheel, and it's working already.

LM

Liam Murphy Thu 20 Jun 2019

Why does ‘maker of commons’ mean ‘making things for free’? Can’t be sustainable to do things for nothing and hope for donations ...

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

If you want to collect the funds before you release stuff into the commons there have been models for that, including Humble Bundles and crowdfunding sites like Goteo or Crowdsupply. Micropatronage sites like Liberapay address a different problem, commons that need a regular trickle of small contributions from many supporters, to fund something ongoing. This suits commons like free code software that require ongoing maintenance, as well as perpetual media like blogs and postcasts. Categorizing the different styles of commons funding, identifying which projects sit in which categories, and doing case studies of successes and failures to fund commons with them, are all things I had in mind for the research project I proposed in the "Money #1" thread.

Why does ‘maker of commons’ mean ‘making things for free’?

Because 20 years of experience with the internet has shown that you can't enforce artificial scarcity of digital goods, without creating unintended consequences much worse than a bit of permissionless copying (DRM crippleware, surveillance and persecution of netizens, media customers lose access to when the platforms they bought them from go bust etc etc).

Can’t be sustainable to do things for nothing and hope for donations ...

There are plenty of examples of micropatronage creating fulltime salaries for commons makers. The lead developer of Mastodon, for example, living entirely off donations to his Patreon account.

G

Graham Thu 20 Jun 2019

On the basis that an optimal approach to generating commons is the cooperative model, Platform 6 is an approach along these lines. Members make a modest financial contribution which keeps the lights on and gradually accumulates in a common pool resource which they collectively manage, in a similar way to SolidFund, as mentioned by @olisb . Platform 6 is seeking to extend the approach beyond money to include expertise and other resources that members might bring to the table, such that someone bringing a new project to the attention of the group can access a wide range of help, from seed funding to hands-on assistance, advice, potential co-founders, potential customers, etc. So it's a bit of an incubator/accelerator and treasure box for building the cooperative economy.

DU

[deactivated account] Thu 20 Jun 2019

Now it's starting to make sense. I could have really done with what you describe two years ago. I still need it. Can you hurry up please. :relieved:

I did assume it existed in the form of Coop UK when I started. Let's just say I declined to renew my membership there, after coughing up an additional £200 for an upgrade package, for which I got one question answered, very badly. That still smarts.

It does confirm however, that there is a definite gap in the market.

Come to think about it Graham, what you describe is akin to a Federation of Small Business exclusively for coops. That organisation was of its time, but much like the whole capitalist thing, it's losing its way. I also recently cancelled my membership there, after maybe twenty years, because It failed to reflect any aspect of my post-capitalist ethos. It's definition of success continues to be more profit. No mention of purpose.

Maybe you could run an advert in their member's magazine offering a 'Convert your business to a workers coop consultancy'. You might be inundated.

JR

Jeff Regino Thu 20 Jun 2019

@graham2 will you accept platform coop hybrids too?

"Platform 6 is seeking to extend the approach beyond money to include expertise and other resources... can access a wide range of help...it's a bit of an incubator/accelerator and treasure box for building the cooperative economy" -- I think this is the best way to go. Congrats!

G

Graham Fri 21 Jun 2019

My personal view is that we should seek to be as open as possible. Having read your posts on the Solidfund Loomio a while back I currently see no reason why Platform 6 would not be able to work with your project @jeffsuccess . Please bear in mind that what I've written in this thread is aspirational. As to whether Platform 6 is currently able to deliver against any of this is another matter entirely, but if you are willing to get involved and work with us, I would personally find that really helpful. We're all on a journey here - so let's walk together where we can.

G

Graham Fri 21 Jun 2019

@simon88 As I've just mentioned to Jeff, we're at the beginning of a process of co-creating Platform 6. We took the decision some while ago to do this work in the open rather than hide ourselves away until we had a 'product'. I believe that we need to be working with people like yourself and Jeff, so I'm pleased by your responses, and I very much hope that you will choose to get more involved.

JR

Jeff Regino Fri 12 Jul 2019

Thanks @graham2! Just posted on Platform 6 to see if there's interest: https://www.loomio.org/d/tsjCD0rn/seed-fund-platformx-platform-coop-hybrid-

LM

Liam Murphy Sat 20 Jul 2019

The Hive?

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

While I appreciate and admire the radical transparency of starting new organisations in the open, it can create confusion for people looking for something they can use now. It's analogous to confusion created by free code software, in that average users without insider knowledge can struggle to distinguish between mature software that is ready-to-use, and aspirational projects that haven't written any code yet (even though they might one day be awesome). Especially because aspirational projects can have flasher-looking websites and marketing than mature projects run by old school hackers ;)

I think part of this radical transparency, for both software and organisations, has to be a willingness to be open about what stage of development you are at (which you have done here, thanks for that :) and a willingness to avoid empire-building and merge with other similar projects. For example, my original goal for Disintermedia.net.nz was to create an organisation, but it's ended up being more of a personal brand for my various decentralization and commons advocacy activities. So now I'm actively looking to merge it into an established organisation, working on the same stuff.

G

Graham Sun 4 Aug 2019

Thanks @Strypey - I have no doubt that we need to to be clearer both about our state of readiness to deliver service/benefits and also what it actually is that we are seeking to deliver. For my part I am very keen to merge/partner with like-minded initiatives where it makes sense to do so. I'm certainly not in this to build some sort of personal fiefdom or cash cow (although it would be nice to earn something out of it at some point) - my motivation is simply to try to shift the needle in the direction of an economy and a society that has a chance of making it through the lifetime of my children without having everyone with chronic mental ill-health.

EL

Eyal Levin Fri 21 Jun 2019

Thank you all for the comments.
It's nice to see similar ideas/projects (like Platform 6, SolidFund, etc) already working and making progress.
And Liberapay looks like a potential option for payments.

One difference regarding the idea I thought about, that I think of it more of a meta-project to support other projects and initiatives. At least at the beginning.

I don't know what are the 'right' ways or solutions for a Commons Transition. It could be worker coops. Or some other things. Probably a combination of solutions and initiatives.

In this vein, I'm thinking to start experimenting. Maybe a Loomio/Discourse forum with initial topics. A few dollars/pounds/euros to move around and transfer to relevant organizations (could be the examples you talked about or others). And keeping everything very transparent and public (this could be adjusted later if there will be any traction).

Does anybody want to experiment with this?

G

Graham Sun 23 Jun 2019

One mechanism that might work for you is Open Collective. At Platform 6 we decided to be a host organisation for Open Collective, precisely to support projects like the one you've outlined Eyal. Our host page on Open Collective is here: https://opencollective.com/platform6-coopI've come across Liberapay but not used it. It might be a better fit for what you have in mind. I know that the people behind Open Collective are very much aligned with the cooperative/commons approach, and that was part of our rationale for choosing to work with them, and as implied by the name Open Collective provides a fully transparent platform.

EL

Eyal Levin Sun 23 Jun 2019

Thanks @graham2! That looks really interesting.
Who should I contact in order to apply for this host?

G

Graham Sun 23 Jun 2019

There's a button on the page at https://opencollective.com/platform6-coop that will take you to a simple application form. Submitting that will send me a notification and then we'll most likely approve the application. Before you commit be sure to check out how it all works - https://opencollective.com

As you can see have a few collectives that are recently created with us, and we are also in dialogue with one larger one that was created using the default OC host and who want to move to us because we are a cooperative host.

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

Does anybody want to experiment with this?

If I understand it correctly, your proposal is to create a small funding pool by putting in, say, a fiver a week, and deciding together how to allocate the funds to organisations we want to support. The advantage being that the pool could supply funding in larger chunks, rather than regular trickles, if and when we decide that's needed. I'd be willing to join a short-term experiment in this.

@Graham has already mentioned Liberapay and OpenCollective as free code software that could be used for this, either using their home instances, or self-hosting our own. Another software platform that could used for this is CoBudget, created for use in the Enspiral network and maintained by member company GreaterThan:

https://www.greaterthan.works/cobudget

Although in this case, we'd to need to find someone who could host a CoBudget server for us. Unless someone is already running a server (using CoBudget or something else) for collaborative funding of the commons that's open to new members?

G

Graham Fri 2 Aug 2019

IIRC we (Platform 6) have access to CoBudget, kindly provided by Francesca some while back when we were looking around for tools to assist with the task you outline here @Strypey . We've not, as yet, adopted it in practice as it has key bits of functionality - for us at least - missing. Notably we wanted a mechanism where people could pay into the pot, which Cobudget doesn't handle - last time I looked at least. So we'd need to manually handle the numbers inside Cobudget. That's why we've opted to do stuff on our own Drupal/CiviCRM site and with OpenCollective, but Cobudget could still be an option for us into the future as we iterate on our cobbled together MVP.

EL

Eyal Levin Sun 4 Aug 2019

@strypey Thanks!

Here is a form you can fill to get onboard:
https://www.changebase.org/links/application-form
(you can also send me those details in a personal message if you prefer)

Everyone is invited to fill this form.

@graham2 and Platform 6 were very kind in offering to host this project on Open Collective. So now I'm focusing less on the money logistics and more on getting feedback from users.

EL

Eyal Levin Sun 23 Jun 2019

Another experiment option I'm thinking about:
If you had some amount of money to invest on a monthly basis (e.g $100), which organizations or individuals would you transfer it to? How would you split the money?

For people who are willing to be in some kind of communication with me regarding this project/experiment, I'm willing to invest a minimal monthly amount in your chosen orgs/individuals.
[Just don't take too seriously-contacty :) , it's a time-limited experiment]

You can also contact me on this subject in private message if you prefer.

In any case, even if you're not into experiments, I'll still be happy to get people's responses to which orgs/individuals they would be happy to send a monthly amount.


And a note regarding this idea. I think one of the potentials of such a platform is the community that could evolve and the potential for cross-communication between projects and fields.

JF

Josh Fairhead Fri 28 Jun 2019

Great initiative, sorry to turn up late! Just a heads up that were building a donation application called Giveth.io that you may want to take a look at (beta.giveth.io). Its maybe not exactly what your looking at (crypto orientated) but there may be some synergy there??

AR

Ana Rosa Fri 6 Sep 2019

I think it's good to have smaller websites (that may focus in a specific group), so things do not happen in one only site, in only way - maybe they could be more connected and support each other in such way?
I just started a crowdfunding campaign, but once I intended to do something with a general Brazilian community, I did that in a Brazilian website (www.catarse.me) and I am having a good experience with them.
If anyone is interested in the project with bees keeping by indigenous communities: www.catarse.me/melindigena :)