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Quakes create movements, but can we?

Matthias's picture

Future Makers Nepal is coming close to operating three months in Nepal now. That's three months of working towards an online community of alternative leaders. But progress is still slow. So what is it that makes building communities or other social movements in Nepal so difficult? Is it difficult in general?

These moments of frustration are valuable because you allow yourself to see things more clearly. I just discussed movement building again with @Natalia Skoczylas, and we arrived at some interesting observations and hypotheses. Welcome to join our discussion!

Observations and Hypotheses:

  1. The earthquake was the perfect trigger for creating a movement (and so it did). It could create a movement of volunteer disaster responders because:
    • it put all people into a shared context in a very obvious and non-deniable way, so connecting with anyone about this "issue" was very easy and needed no explanations or persuasion
    • it instilled a sense of urgency in everyone
    • it catered to people's deep instincts for being generous and solidary in times of need
    • it catered to people's needs for doing something that is and feels meaningful (the fact that it's adventurous also helped)
    • it freed people's time so they could invest themselves into the movement; because daily life was coming to a halt, schools and universities were closed for weeks
    • initially everyone including government, army, police and UN struggled to respond meaningfully; this level playing field encouraged the participation of newcomers / volunteers, because they could really make a meaningful contribution
  2. But even the earthquake could only create a short-term movement. 2.5 months onwards, hardly anyone is volunteering like in the first days. So even the earthquake as a motivator wears off. The same could be true for the constitution-writing process in Nepal. Maybe it had created a movement once, but eight years on, it does not anymore.
  3. After the movement withered, people will still say that the issues they were in a movement for once are still near and dear to them.
  4. What makes people drop out of the movement (and in effect, what lets the movement wither) are the requirements of daily life. Needing to earn a living, needing some chillout time to keep healthy, needing to keep up social relations. Especially the "earning a living" part is eating people's time and energy that they would still want to invest into social movements. Instead, people leave the field to paid full-time staff who should care about all the social issues. They're called politicians, but this model usually does not work out that well …
  5. What would fix all this is an unconditional basic income. It would allow social movements to be sustainable because people will have time to invest for this. But politically, that's some years away though. In Nepal, it's also economically some years away because it needs efficient economies of scale in order to feed and supply for the people who will be freed from immediately productive tasks when introducing basic income.
  6. Given that we can't have basic income for everyone, then maybe for some at least? There are money-based crowdfunding platforms that try to achieve this in different areas. Like Byline for crowdfunded citizen journalism. Or GratiPay for open source software development and arts patronage. However, donateable money is limited in Nepal, and in the precarious subgroups of societies it's limited everywhere on the world. And these are the ones who need social movements the most.
  7. However, while money is limited, everyone has some excess time, space and other resources that they would agree to donate for the benefit of social movements. The "public goods" offer type on makerfox.com allows this. It's basically moneyless crowdfunding for the common good, granting some people a compensation for caring about the issues they care for, and thus making their efforts sustainable.
  8. With such "basic income" for some people some of the time, at each time maybe 10% of a population could invest themselves nearly full-time for social movements and other ways that contribute to the public good. This can include fixing public infrastructure, reclaiming and maintaining public spaces, researching and writing what their supporters want to know about, lobbying for certain political changes etc..
  9. In countries where it is acceptable and widespread to use locally produced items, supporting social activists via network bartering is easily possible. For example in Nepal, where nearly all running expenses can be covered with local goods (homegrown food, homemade furniture etc.).

So maybe we have a somehow sustainable and active underground movement of Edgeryders in Europe because there is enough excess capacity so we can afford it there? In the sense that living cheaply in Europe leaves a lot of free time to invest in social movements, while living cheaply in Nepal is simply a necessity for a lot of people? If so, then we really need a sustainability mechanism like the one above to support social movements in Nepal!

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Just one more thing that

Natalia Skoczylas's picture

Just one more thing that comes to my mind - http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/11/how-to-change-the-world-greenpeace-power-mindbomb

Great story about how mindbombs became too little, and how everything slowly becomes too little of an effort and incentive to make people invest themselves in anything. I do believe some sort of basic income with a system that would rotate basic tasks and make sure things will get done, and then a makerfox platform that would manage the free time and assets and match them with right initiatives could be some sort of remedy to hopelessly overworked and not enough determined status quo. People are as trapped as they were in Germinal, with this simple difference that their working conditions are nicer, and life becomes more bearable. But that's a bit too little to just settle down for it, or?

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A thought provoking piece

meenabhatta's picture

A thought provoking piece @Matthias

I have some thoughts too!!

“Every good movement passes through five stages: indifference, ridicule, abuse, repression and respect” – Gandhi

Social movements in Nepali society have become a source for challenging the constitutional status quo and for preparing the community for social transformation. Inspired by wide array of underlying issues that needs to be solved (from human rights, to social injustice, environmental degradation, gender inequality, identity, democracy and many more) the new movements have opened up a space for vertical and horizontal interactions in the society  for articulating public needs and concerns that remains unsatisfied by the governance system.

However the larger questions that lies ahead is to identify what sorts of implications do these movements have for national unity and how can they harmonize their narrow social action with the broader public interest and public action. And yes, as you pointed out rightly, the issue of sustainability is the biggest challenge of all.

The ultimate success of any movement lies upon the power of movement integration, collective goal orientation, adequate incentives for the participants, leadership quality (articulate and charismatic leader who can elegantly articulate people’s concern , inspire and create opportunities for new leaders to roll in) and the ability to adapt/absorb continuously the changing aspirations of the younger generation. In addition, for any kind of movement to yield results, it must generate support from authorities, sympathy from bystanders and, most important, continue to be seen as legitimate and effective by movement members.

Some of sustainability mechanisms could be:

  • Garnering Public Support: Movements succeed only when they can win over a greater levels of public support for their cause.
  • Creating solidarity instead of free-riding: Movements are often hampered by the tendency of people to do a quick cost-benefit analysis of their own participation. People often tend to be the free riders to obtain the benefits of social action whether they participate or not in the movement. To address this issue of free rider, solidarity can be emphasized along with personal relationship and the importance of individual commitment for success.
  • Government facilitation: Government needs to assist the movements that are pursuing objectives that sync with their own. They could do so by creating programs, conferences and special funding to bolster the membership and credibility of movements that are actually making a difference or has a potential.
  • Developing Alternatives: A change in the basic conduction of the activities, devising new alternatives.
  • Resource and membership maintenance: Many movements often face the dilemma when it comes to creating fund be it raising money through membership fees or depending upon external funding (which comes with its own strings attached to it). So opting for sustainable funding mechanism --setting up enterprises could be one way maybe. Besides attracting resources, a movement must strive to maintain the energies and loyalties of the existing members. A movement should try to ensure a fit between member’s values and movement goals and thus work for concrete action and visible victories as people are drawn towards any movement only when they see it as a forum for action and does not tapers off.
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Feature? Bug?

Alberto's picture

We definitely need to scope this out. I don't know much about Nepal, but – just by coincidence – I recently visited three countries that each experienced massive mobilizations that then withered:

Why the withering? The explanations advanced by Matthias in the post are all valid. But there could be another one: some activities are just naturally more rewarding than others for "spot" involvement. The case I know best is that of Georgia. That mobilization was led by experienced, skilled activists like @Nick Davitashvili, @Nino Japiashvili and other Guerrilla Gardeners; they used the credibility and the network built in previous initiatives, like the sustained effort to protect Vake Park from real estate development.

The volunteers who instantly showed up to shovel mud in the streets of Tbilisi must have gotten a warm feeling of being useful, of making a difference. Being an activist in normal times requires a lot of skills, from comms to diplomacy to fundraising and planning (look at how Nick himself framed his workshop at the Futurespotters 2014 event). But the flood created a space in which all that was not so important: all you needed was to show up with a shovel and rubber boots, and you could start and do something useful right away.

But once the mud had been trucked away, the focus shifted to activities that require much fewer unskilled pairs of hands. Suddenly you needed sanitation experts, civil engineers to assess the damage and so on. People could still volunteer for those tasks, but acquiring the necessary skills requires a large investment.

Where I am going with this is: it is likely that grassroots movements are inherently "layered". There is a small, highly skilled, highly motivated core of people who devote a lot of their time to them, and are almost professional activists; and a much larger "long tail" of people who will normally do nothing, but who will often become active when the need arises.

What happens to such a world when unconditional basic income is introduced? The income might make people who are already passionate and involved able to get even more involved. But for those who like, say, to play Go it will mean freeing more hours that will be invested to playing Go. Unless a flood, or an earthquake, happens: then everyone will volunteer. Which is what they already do.

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The only sustainable activism is in start-ups …

Matthias's picture

Where start-ups here stands for any mode of making the more "professional" part of activism that you're talking about into compensated activity. Could also be associations etc..

Judging by what I want to see grassroots activism doing, the layered architecture that makes these movements wither away is surely a bug. I mean, by itself it does not hurt and is just a fact to be embraced, but we'd need an architecture that enabled grassroots activism to do much more than it currently does, if we ever want to see it as a potential alternative to the formal political system. And that's where I'm heading for ultimately. I want citizen activism to be able to build and manage all their infrastructure, including Internet, roads, social security etc..

Crowdfunding opened some doors for sustainability of activism, but access to money is limited. On the other hand, I still think that everyone has their own area of expertise (beyond playing Go), it's just that it does not fit for the professional-level tasks of activism causes most of these people would like to support. Skill exchanges (as implemented in Makerfox Public Goods) might be a solution. I will try if I can do a small pilot with this here in Kathmandu in August, just for fun, but no promises at this stage …

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Exactly

Alberto's picture

Well, look: maintaining an infrastructure like you say needs layered participation. Suppose you are trying to bring an Internet connection to my home in Rue Pierre Decoster. A cartoonish rendition of it would have two phases:

  1. Dig a trench to lay to fiber; put the fiber in; cover the trench.
  2. Set up and maintain the system, including hardware routers and software setup of the same.

Phase 1 is inclusive. It needs plenty of hands on deck, and anyone can help. It is also relatively short in time. Phase 2 is permanent, but it has no use for people like me and shovels; it needs few people with very specific skills. When everything works, you will see a burst of participation, then a sharp drop to near-but-not-quite zero. The burst level will be unsustainable; once the trench is covered, people like me will have nothing to do, even if we do turn up at the system engineer's door with our shovels. And yet, those of us that appear to be inactive and detached will possibly jump right in the next time a trench is needed. Media and pundits would go "Oooh! Who knew these jaded, Facebook-toting youth in Egypt/Nepal/Tbilisi/Yerevan would care so much?", and the next cycle would begin.

I am not sure in what sense this is a bug. Cyclical patterns can be sustainable too.

(I really enjoy discussing with you, Matt. I have to tighten up the screws of my thinking at every step of the way).

So you are staying in Nepal in August? Is the project being extended?

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Sleeping reserve

trythis's picture

To be quite honest I never checked the UNV structure/offers in the last couple of years, but the last time I talked with the Red Cross HR people it was seriously off-putting. Perhaps that had a hand in that. But generally, the concept of a reserve to be called on when necessary (ideally with public support) would make sense.

I would be interested if there is a low-threshold sort of "reserve pool" one could get into (also as highly specialized professional) where I could either check on current demands on a website, or receive various kinds of alerts via email. Basically just get on a mailing list for a couple of key words/org from a looong list and say which combinations interest you.
This just made me check UNV - much better than I remembered. But I still get a dead link if I want to work locally with UNDP, or I have to read the registration brochure upside down as pdf...
I do like the online volunteering options. There are some interesting in there, but it would be nice to be able to piggyback on one/see some more cases before you commit (to what exactly?). However it does not really go very far beyond economy/technical/social in terms of specialization in most cases, and it basically seems to be a match-making service only, where you might as well (or better) find the organization through a different channel.

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Wait... how is that different?

trythis's picture

If I want to be nasty and take your first sentence out of context, you're saying:
(Small social) businesses should be doing this sort of stuff.
Well they are - the only thing is they aren't small anymore, and the social part is debatable in some cases. However, basic income alone would not fix either of those issues I believe.

On the second paragraph: what sets "slightly regulated" citizen activism apart from what a government is doing in a democratic country? Sure, there's different levels of participation and effectiveness, but where is the line? Or are we looking for adjustments in detail (which is kinda how we got where we are in many places)?

"it's just that it does not fit for the professional-level tasks of activism causes most of these people would like to support"
This sounds a lot like the "20% (or more) time for a project of your choice" - that some silicon valley companies have supposedly implemented. Personally I think, this changes a lot over time, no problem though. This would make it work well with "grassrooty architecture" I assume.

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Thank you … trying some clarity now …

Matthias's picture

Some stuff seemingly stayed unclear, since the above was a late-night writeup (my time) … like this time, again … . Anyway, maybe a bit more clarity:

First paragraph: To me, current large-scale social enterprises failed as well. I'm not proposing that again, but looking for a new mode of organizing activity. Not necessarily the corporate model, but the compensation model. Compensated however it has to be. Because pure volunteer movements like after the earthquake here burn out after 2-3 months at latest. If the volunteer professionals don't get enough back for basic survival plus some comfort, why would they want to volunteer long-term? And something long-term is needed for keeping infrastructure up and running …

Second paragraph: I don't look for regulated citizen activism. To the contrary, it should stay as DIY-able, grassroots and unregulated as possible, to not fall for the same reasons of inefficiency and corruption that entrenched organizations (incl. public bodies) fall for. Grassroots activism includes (in my interpretation here) that no long-term, large organizations are required. Grassroots activists must be able to immediately disband a movement / organization and regroup into another one whenever there is abuse of authority or power. I admit this idea is influenced by my own anarchist thinking ;) The magic missing piece I'm looking for is this: a process or tool to allow this disbanding/regrouping, and at the same time a process or tool to allow organizedness and guaranteed compensation. These are usually only found in established organizations, which I want to avoid by all means b/c these usually bring in all kinds of problems again (from power abuse to corruption).

Third paragraph: The Google etc. policy of allowing staff to work one day on a pro-commons project of their choice … I think for collective action it's pretty useless (by itself). Because like other forms of direct volunteering, it requires the coincidence of (1) having the skills for supporting a certain project and (2) wanting to support that certain project. Quite improbable to happen, not really useful for large-scale, powerful collective action. With economic exchange (using money, barter value or otherwise), both elements are de-coupled, only one condition has to be met for one person. That's where we are heading for with Makerfox, while trying to avoid (always scarce) money …

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Something constructive?

trythis's picture

1st para: Yeah, I think I get where you're going. You mean compensation (e.g. through basic income) not corporate (as in capitalist/free market/profit driven), right?
I think both have a point. I do like the efficiency maximization that competition pushes towards (not at all costs of course), I really don't like that it is virtually impossible to fund things that are clearly beneficial (to the degree that they blow the competition clean out of the water) in the long term but they don't make a profit that you can capture in one way or another. To me that means two interdependent things: We need better metrics for investment decisions (probably accepting some uncertainty), and in consequence new resource flow structuring. Perhaps though it is better to turn this around, cause I am not sure about our socio-intellectual capabilities at this point. Slow trial & error, although scary and perhaps too late, sounds better than asking the people who got us here to get us out again (an Einstein quote comes to mind). There already are a bunch of things where there is a rather strong consensus, and the results seem relatively predictable (also because some communities used them to good effect for some time). There is no need (and arguably little legitimacy) for delay in those. Above that though I'd want to recommend setting up a range of well monitored long term "special economic zones" (some geographical, others not), some of which should be radically different in various ways.

2nd para: Hmmm... I think we have some genuine disagreement here. I think if you need to do a lot of different things efficiently, you need a lot of different tools. Losing large(ish) and long term organizations would be a loss in diversity, perhaps risking some valuable tools. I assume there will always be tensions, and conflicts, and no static conditions. In effect the disagreement on this point is probably not very large, as I am usually also very much in favor of small, sensible and nimble. The other point though concerns regulations. Where again I assume we'd pretty much meet after some more discussion. The thing is that (nano, bio, chemical, nuclear) technology is at a point where capabilities of DIY are currently positively scary if you don't have good regulative processes (which we don't have in every of them). That probably gets us to the point of how to regulate these things. Here I would suggest to keep the old structures for now but start complementing them with new methods. I'll get to how a bit later.

3rd para: The 20% thing. Improbable, for each option - surely. But on the whole (to find one attractive option in the Venn-diagram)? Easy as pie nowadays! Due to reduction in (information) transaction costs. They can be pushed down by another factor of 10-100 using current tech if implemented with half a brain and some money (speaking in a EU context here). I think the rationale behind the 20% thing is the following: a) Doing things that you like boosts motivation. Thus you have less people watering down the passion of your workforce by picking their nose 20+ % of the time (and infecting their colleagues with that attitude). b) There is the problem with "good but not profitable", which a large and disruptive (note that these traits usually are mutually exclusive for the majority in free markets) companies like google can actually exploit. For them it is the cheapest way of running an innovation center, turning a lot of unhappy-hours into potential business. For most companies this is not really an option because they risk innovating themselves out of business (e.g. by making a product that lasts twice as long and costs 1/10th because it is made with a different process - that your competitor happens to be better at). Most companies don't want to rock the boat if they don't have to, is my experience.

Now for a different way of organizing, I like the phrase: "Simple rules produce complex behavior. Complex rules create stupid behavior."
Thus my approach in post disaster organization.

Here is my currently favored approach in a large economic context, the "Rule of the Hand":
If you have income you need to give 4 x 1/5th to a minimum of 4 persons (they do the same, down to a certain level).
[Winner take all & value extraction disincentivized, more opportunities for long term post-factum payback, taxation closer to problem, financial flows more likely correlated to actual performance (also small groups vs individuals) even though less strongly correlated in time, potential to replace book-keeping with a witness system]
You have to pay some small amount of taxes to large organizations, the tax increases if you keep working with the same people only for a longer time. [Incentivizes some degree of flexibility and problem solution vs management, disincentivizes nepotism, money somewhar more likely to be smeared out and not ending up on the biggest pile]
At some early point you need to include some representatives of the most disaffected party into the planning process (they have absolute information access). The representatives are paid from both sides, but "their side" has overwhelming control about who gets to keep that money. There should be a (e.g. financial) incentive to reach a consensus which will for example give a bonus sourced from the global tax. The representatives may have to give up some significant rights in a contract with their representative body to frustrate corruption (e.g. through subsequent job positions).
[Externalities reduced, early planning stages consensus influenced, social cohesion safeguard]

There are still many problems this does not address effectively (e.g. inheritance), and it would probably be best to have some basic income supporting this all.

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*like*

Matthias's picture

I think we're not too far apart, some more discussion would probably let us come up with a nice common proposal.

For the first paragraph: Yes, compensation not as in the profit-driven model. Just compensation for replenishing the (lifetime etc.) resources that participants invest for the public good. This needs a compensation mechanism, and that may use elements of a marketplace. If the design favours small actors enough, the capitalist idea of profit maximization is no longer applicable even though it's a market …

About regulation (second paragraph): I'll leave the nanotech and biotech etc. areas, where regulation might indeed be needed, to you :) Being in a "least developed" country right now made me forget about these areas … the areas where people here should self-organize require just expertise, not regulation: building roads, earthquake-safe buildings, Internet connections etc..

I like the "Rule of the Hand" model. I can't really predict its socio-economical outcomes as I don't understand it enough, but it has some really nice innovative elements for sure. My only concern is that it only works with some coercive power to implement it, right? For that it needs a well-meaning functioning government (or army ;-) … which is absent in large parts of the world currently, so what I try is to work around this "environmental limitation" by relying on self-organized movements for getting things done … which has its own limitations of course …

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Implementation... well...

trythis's picture

This is indeed a relatively tough - even assuming my ideas are any good, which is far from a given.
Coercion would be an option, though I personally am not a fan of that. It would be relatively easy to enforce with the witness system: If you got some money from the government or an NGO, they knock on your door one day and ask where the money went. So you need to come up with at minimum 4 people who back up your story. If you just find 3 - no big deal, that happens (but you should consider spreading the money to 5-6 trustworthy people to avoid this). If you only find 2 you're headed for big trouble (perhaps not the first time). Next money source can offer a certain level compensation (and amnesty) for one of your witnesses to betray you. If everyone sticks to your version you're good for now. If the authorities smell a rat they just pick one of your witnesses and ask for his/her 4 witnesses. A very simple game. The result should be that it builds trust and social cohesion because it incentivizes building of reliable economic networks, likely with a sizable fraction within your "Dunbar crowd".
The alternative to coercion/externally regulated wealth sources would be to convince people to switch on an individual level. Here the problem of course is that you can't do it alone, and only with difficulty in a small group - because the flows tend to dry up as they get to the edge of the network. Special contracts or currencies may help with this but probably not fix it entirely. It can be countered though if your economy within the network works so much better (e.g. through the relationships built, more effective investments, and generally perceived value generation) than what you had before. I can imagine this being the case, especially after a few years - but it is maybe not easy to find the right circumstances for such a nucleation. Perhaps it would help to model this on a computer first to see where likely issues arise from. Also, a gradual or preliminary transition (with a good exit strategy) may help reducing the perceived risk of such a transition. That would be one of the reasons for the SEZs (special economic zones) I mentioned. In effect I try to buy a better outcome with more upfront cost. Self-organization may even be the more effective "SEZ" on the way to this. That is why I tried to design it with simple rules everyone gets: 5 fingers on a hand, you're just one of them. Also, you need an opposable thumb to get the more complex things right (inclusiveness, diversity, minority rights).
Of course the devil will be in the details and quantitative adjustments will lead to qualitative changes at times. Its a tinker thing.

Hi-tech is actually very close to "least developed" countries. It is (unfortunately?) more likely than a comprehensive vertical (capital intensive) heavy industry in the mid term. Especially in places where transport is an issue. Cell phones are one example. GM another. Rich places like to externalize risk - the stuff is totally at the gates already. Though I am not saying you need to fix exactly that today. But it is something that needs to be addressed within the whole economic paradigm nexus.

On the first paragraph we'd probably mostly quibble on which income/accumulated wealth Gini coefficient looks the best in the end...

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Being contrarian...

trythis's picture

1. General agreement + it is a "one off event" which allows people to commit to activities they would have difficulties (ir/rationally) justifying for themselves if they were to do this day by day. Because their life as they know it would have to be restructured in consequence. Directly after a disaster this is a given anyway - so no extra "emotional penalty" was incurred in this case.

2. Who would start volunteering after a month or two? What occasion would prompt that decision, and what kind of mental "exit strategy" would they have if they started at some relatively random time? Could they ever attain a status equal to the "first hour volunteers"? Bad investment - better wait for next disaster (and have a difficult time "breaking a habit").

3. Well who would publicly admit to their value system being dependent on earthquakes, or the weather? It is not something people commonly do, especially if you separate values from corresponding action. I don't doubt people still feel strongly (and stronger) about their values. However it is kind of a hard sell to stick with the relief effort when you are not sure where it is going, while many (most?) people in your environment go back to business as usual (BAU). If you do stick with it you risk becoming a passive agressive "holier than thou fatality".

4. Yes. There was a pertubation to the system. That is considered history and it is back to BAU. If you want to get strong long term high engagement out of individuals, the social context gets really important. Some people have commented on this already and I suspect it may be an elephant in the room, actually. MIT is not known for slacking and they put a lot of effort into a spouse and partners program. They don't do it for fun. It is an investment that pays of big time for them.

5. I don't think a basic income would necessarily fix all this, perhaps not even much of anything over the longer term. Don't get me wrong - I think it could and probably would do a lot of good. But you have to remember the market is good at milking resources back out in one way or another. Be it a hike in rents, utility costs, or cigarette consumption there are many ways to part someone of his/her money/means before they would use it on social improvement...
One would have to be smart in designing this system for value creation not transfer I think.

6. Arts patronage/scholarships and the like can also be seen very, very critically. I think "the dose/distribution makes the poison here". The limit on "donatable money" largely depends on people's perception of what creates value, what creates income, and what risk is acceptable. When I watched the disaster unfold in Nepal I tried to watch the self organized relief effort through the lens of an international investor as well.
The limited amount of money available for "doing good" , I think, stems from two overarching causes:
a) Value transfer is easier than value creation. We generally don't make an effort to change this relationship.
b) Value creation is hard to measure because you change the system. Often to the extent of drastically changing relationships, and relative values of parts of it.
Value transfer appears relatively easy to measure:
You have a forest, and someone cuts down a tree and takes it away. Now the forest is worth one tree less.
However, if you watch the forest grow - how can you tell when it re-grew the tree? Or, more realistically: If you introduce a new species into the forest - what happens to the value of the trees in the forest, and the ones you already cut down?

7. The first is difficult to support as a general statement (remove "every" and we can talk). What I would like is a feature where I can say: public organization XY should really be using the service of YZ much more.

8. On a smaller percentage this was the case with Zivildienst and Voluntary Social/Ecological Year e.g. in Germany, no? Apart from the forced labor issue it has, it did not really fix everything. I think it may not have been a bad idea in the bottom line (see also EU context) - but there was A LOT of institutional lethargy in the whole thing. I assume you're aiming more for the long tail? I'd think it'd be cool if a couple of people could do a sort of self determined but loosely over-sighted project instead of working with a big institution. Perhaps also with a few more senior members involved. Generally I'd like to see more support for limited-lifetime projects that do not have the trouble of mission creep and problem management vs solution (never paint yourself into a corner).

9. I don't think you have to encourage bartering per se - it is pretty much a natural affair. You are totally right to address the complexity/transaction cost side of bartering, which is hampering implementation a great deal. Still, I don't see too much of a fundamental problem with money in itself. It helps amplify deeper problems within ourselves - and that is not good. But if it money was gone the problems would still persist and many, which can now be dealt with in a consensual manner, may get a whole lot messier. Again though a good case for a "consensus finding engine" - be it in chickens, or in cash.

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