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A way forward for grassroots communities.
My last post was read with alarm by some fans of Community Forge, but they shouldn't worry I wouldn't close one door without opening another!
While many projects enter and exit the community currency field, the major players move very slowly - since I started meddling in 2004, only a few mild achievements seem worth mentioning.
Greater cooperation between individuals and networks is key. Projects are too focused on their own specific objects rather than continually enquiring where and with whom they can have the most impact. In this talk I explain how my project was in service of so many other projects, and how I had collaborated with several people in the room.
Seen from a systems perspective, money is more like an operating system, than a program, and as such it sits under, provides services to, and connects all other programs! So in monetary networks above all, we must not allow our activism to be circumscribed by specific organisations or networks.
Small, isolated monetary systems are valuing their sovereignty above all other things, including their effectiveness. They struggle to meet operating costs, to produce decent education materials, to develop and host and update and support software, even before any transactions are taking place. And every group, even the larger ones are struggling as I described in my last post.
I can think of only two software projects apart from my own which have attempted to serve the movement without launching currencies of their own, Freecoin and OpenMoney, though neither has any major implementations.
From 2008 I have been arguing and coding for Drupal as a unifying technology for social movements; but things haven't worked out that way. Now not only has the architecture of the Internet changed, but writing software 24/7 is no longer how I want to help!
So I think a lot of the stasis we are facing is because we trying to support such a great diversity of software, all of which is doing mostly the same thing.
From now I'm changing my call. I invite all social movements, and especially complementary currencies to organise around building a modern software ecosystem, NOT a platform which can be owned, but a set of APIs and open source implementations which can be used off the shelf or easily tailored.
This is nothing to do with replacing Facebook, but to support modern life in flesh & blood communities! In this ecosystem payment systems would be just one tool sitting alongside a plethora of other potential services such as marketplaces, event calendar, neighbour alerts, and voting. By better coordinating we can make all of these interoperable, meaning that the services are aware of each other, and the groups are aware of each other without building a monolithic system vulnerable to domination by Big Capital.
I'm aware of projects like Synereo and Fermat, which are focused on building the next internet and learning from past mistakes, but waiting so far hasn't yielded a silver bullet. These other projects often turn out to be too ambitious, or are led in different directions, like Cyclos whose donors eventually walked away and they were forced to serve more conventional institutions. The best way for change-makers and activists to acquire the software they want is to build it and own it themselves.
So here is the actual news: I'm now in talks with Community Forge, CES, Timebanking New South Wales, Mutual Aid Network and others about a new level of cooperation. If you know a community that wants to address these problems in partnership with others, or of a community network that struggles with software, please get in touch.