Designing our own economy
- Welcome to new participants at our Minciu Sodas laboratory http://www.ms.lt
for independent thinkers. I'm writing this letter to John Roger's working
group Cyfranogi for participatory society and community currency, but also to
our working groups Holistic Helping and Working In Parallel and Flu Pandemic.
In Oaxaca, Mexico I met again with Bob Horn and also signed up several new
members for our Working In Parallel group. John introduced me to Bob's work
in visual thinking, the syntax of combining words, pictures and diagrams to
good effect. http://www.stanford.edu/~rhorn/ It was great to see Bob's
notebooks from his Mexican travels dating back to the 1980s, a decade before
he wrote his seminal book. In November and December I plan to work a lot at
our Working In Parallel group to develop a web interface that would help us
all collaborate on our many endeavors:
and our investigations and connect regarding our deepest values:
I would like to organize our endeavors into "ecosystems" which bring them
together, for example, we have an ecosystem for "effective use of marginal
Internet access" in which our proposed USB Flash Drive Editor "Includer"
http://www.includer.org opens a major role for our lab. There are other
ecosystems that we might diagram which are strategically important for
independent thinkers, such as for global villages, emergency response, and
designing our own economy.
I will write now about our work - especially John's work - in community
currency design at Cyfranogi, and how it might relate to Lucas Gonzalez's
interest in pandemic flu response and Asif Daya's interest in malaria
prevention. John's investigatory question is "How can we create sustainable
community currencies? What does a sustainable CC look, sound and feel like?!"
and I think he is interested in currencies that are able to stay viable and
not raise hopes and then dash them.
Thank you to Gregory Martin for sparking new discussion at Cyfranogi, and
thank you to John Rogers, Tom Wayburn, Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota, John Waters
and Terry Mace for encouraging responses. I spoke a few days ago with John
and I am also interested to get his and our help to design one or more
currencies, metrics, strategies, systems. John is writing a book, a
practical guide to community currency design, and our Cyfranogi group is
meant to foster his leadership as an investigator and thinker, and so I hope
he might gain as he helps us think through what kind of currencies we would
like for our lab, our networks and our own purposes. I will share what I am
learning of John's approach, but please look to John for the real source!
John makes ever clear the importance of considering our goals, Why do we want
to set up a currency? He gives the following five questions to help us think
through our currency:
1.What is the operating environment -what forces are working for and against
2. How will it be governed - where is the power, and who makes the strategic
3. How will it be managed - is there an existing management structure into
which it can be plugged or do we design one from scratch?
4. What specific design features need to be built into the currency - this is
the bit that needs the most technical knowledge about pros and cons of 'mutual
credit', demurrage etc.
5. Who are the potential participants, what are their goals and aspirations
I find these questions very practical because they go to the heart of the
power issues. Indeed, they have a broad applicability and so I consider the
broader question of designing and managing an economy, not simply a currency,
but also possibly one or more metrics, strategies, systems, relationships, or
set of currencies.
At our lab I have found several innovations helpful:
* We keep a count of how many letters individuals have written in all
http://www.ms.lt/authors.php and also in the last 90 days (see the pulldowns
at http://www.ms.lt) This helps me know who are most active and should be
considered as leaders and might lead working groups.
* I have started to make explicit our large "gift economy" at
http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?Gifts and this is helping me understand that
our lab's gift economy is and perhaps should be much larger than our lab's
* We have been successful in distributing work in a fractal way, allowing us
to organize large teams as we did for MyFoodStory http://www.myfoodstory.com
However, I have also failed in several attempts at community currency:
* I had available $3,000 to back a community currency for help with
collecting stories for MyFoodStory but failed to generate interest and
instead hired Sasha who collected 1250 stories for $1250.
There are several areas where I would like to make good use of a community
currency or other economic innovation:
* I have written about a "workshares" program that we're trying out and
should better define. The purpose is to be able to send money to Africa in
exchange for work to be done at a future date when a need for that work
arises. We need to set this up so that the expectations are clear, there is
not exploitation and it is simple to do this.
* We need help programming our online interfaces but even with small funds
available I've never found much help from open source programmers. How might
we get their help?
* I would like to offer a variety of services if not for cash, then as part
of a gift economy, especially to outsiders, so that we might expand our
economy. For example, it is not too hard for me to create an archive for any
existing Yahoo group. I may not be able to find anybody to pay me to do that
and so its probably not worth pursuing it too seriously businesswise. But if
I found enough people who valued that service, then perhaps it might lead to
some kind of work. So I would be happy to do it for free if it was
acknowledged as part of a gift economy and that those who receive the service
wanted this gift and were willing to give gifts to others in our gift economy
and strengthen it. I think there are quite a lot of free services that I and
others might be able to offer in this way and they could certainly lead to
pay work but would also expand our networks and help us work with people in
* Gryte Miseviciene in Pavilnys, Lithuania is interested to set up a local
community currency to encourage trade of goods and services, some of which
(like goat milk or cow milk or other foodstuffs) it might not be possible to
sell legally without the appropriate licenses.
* I would like to support Lucas Gonzalez's interests in emergency response
for pandemic flu. I share below my chat with Asif with my ideas so far of
how we might develop an emergency network. Once we have such a network there
may be many ways to get funding and related work. Setting up the network the
power issues that John asks about are very relevant.
I will be working through John's questions. I invite our help and also to try
out his questions on our currency ideas. And perhaps they will overlap to
make for a vibrant economy.
in Oaxaca, Mexico
AndriusKulikauskas: Asif, what should our malaria strategy be?
Asif: Get local people to make sprayed nets - that's self sustaining and
AndriusKulikauskas: so that helps, yes? :: are these nets over the beds? or
the doorways into the houses? :: and what is the usefulness of information?
Asif: Yes- over the beds
AndriusKulikauskas: if it is coupled with communication and action then it
may be useful, yes?
Asif: Keeps the mosquitoes away for atleast8 hours
AndriusKulikauskas: I imagine it is a seasonal thing?
Asif: Also, get local people involved in the transfer of education to
different sectors of the population based on the malaria severity count on
the sector given priority :: Yes, it's seasonal - but education could be done
in the non-season
AndriusKulikauskas: Lucas is working on the pandemic flu and I think it would
be good to have some network for emergency communication, basic instructions
and emergency leadership. :: But I don't know how to approach that.
Asif: For communication SMS works great
AndriusKulikauskas: Maybe some kind of simple "tests" done as "games" with
"rewards". :: Yes, for example an SMS test which lets you earn a free SMS.
Asif: Yes, that is very plausible
AndriusKulikauskas: And we might collect SMS phone numbers that way and send
them out in an emergency. :: We could have an SMS emergency system. ::
Because it doesn't cost to receive an SMS, yes?
AndriusKulikauskas: And we could send them locally.
Asif: It depends in which country you are looking at - SMS costs
differentials and mechanisms vary
AndriusKulikauskas: That is something that we could suggest for the Rising
Voices contest due November 30
AndriusKulikauskas: because the replies could be used for a blog :: we just
have to find a reward mechanism
Asif: very interesting
AndriusKulikauskas: and that we might negotiate with the phone company
somehow? :: or can we do it without them?
Asif: No, need them :: Many phone companies are Govt. owned in Africa
AndriusKulikauskas: or we could credit a village :: and it would be a
"savings" program for the village
AndriusKulikauskas: we send them 100 dollars if they have 100 people send us
Asif: will need a grant
AndriusKulikauskas: we can come up with 100 dollars
AndriusKulikauskas: and if we show it is effective then we can get
AndriusKulikauskas: also the SMS can have a sponsor, commercial or nonprofit
Asif: that's smart thinking
AndriusKulikauskas: stumbling along...! :: but I think it would encourage
Asif: i am sure the churches would like to add a prayer
AndriusKulikauskas: great yes :: yes it could be church to church donatiosn
:: one church would give another church 100 USD :: ok I will run now!
Asif: theree are lots of churches and ministries in Africa :: ok - bye - nice
AndriusKulikauskas: yes and we could help link them to churches in the US ::
thanks this is great :: also you can "brand" your group as you like
(including Trainerspod) but the subject should be clearly your "deepest
value" so we know what that is
Asif: that's true :: i believe everyone deserves a good education and to
progress as far as they like in it :: i'll see ya' - take care - have fun in