Catalan Integral Cooperative: A closer look

Introduction, by Alberto Cottica

I have recently come across an excellent report by George Dafermos on Cooperativa Integral Catalana (Catalan Integral Cooperative, henceforth CIC). It is not a single organisation, rather a set of interconnected cooperatives, working closely together.

The model the report outlines is so different from run-of-the-mill late-stage capitalism that it might as well be describing some alien planet in a work of science fiction. I just want to note what seem to be the highlights of their economic model:

  • Very militant attitude. Its one-time charismatic leader, Enric Duran, came to the fore for tricking Spanish banks into lending him half a million euro which he promptly gave away to various anti-globalization activist projects, in a kind of Robin Hood gesture. In 2013 he had to go underground to avoid prison. It does not seem, however, that this money was directly used to capitalise CIC.
  • Legal organisation. CIC has spawned a series of companies that provide infrastructure for people’s businesses and projects, act as legal vehicles for about 600 people to issue invoices. This is, to the people in question, cheaper than setting themselves up as independent workers under the Spanish system. They do pay a fee to these companies.
  • CIC itself has no legal status. Despite this, it is very much real: a set of committees, which meet weekly, run the show. Committee members are paid – they call their monies “basic income”.
  • Decentralized by design. CIC is constantly spawning new cooperatives that initially rely on CIC’s support to get by. The successful ones, like Calafou have become fully autonomous.
  • Two currencies. CIC operates both in EUR and in ECO, Catalonia’s local currency. There is also a system of mutual credit, which is similar to PayCoupons, though not as sophisticated.
  • Real estate excess capacity. Many of the central features in CIC’s economic landscape have developed around the availability of cheap buildings (AureaSocial, Som Pujarnol) or even entire villages (Calafou). Physical spaces appear to be like bioreactors for innovative social dynamics and business models.
  • Focus on public/common goods. CIC puts a lot of effort in making things that then can serve as an enabling platform for whatever the people in it might want to do. They have companies as a legal shell for freelance work, two-sided markets for labor and products, a logistic system for food products, a cooperative for mutual and self-financing, a science and technology networks, and some real-estate based projects.
  • Dyson sphere. The system of small businesses surrounding CIC attempts to “capture” all the revenue that might come from the outside of the system. For example, suppose I had a client asking me to organize a workshop on network science. As I do that, I am going to try to send some business the way of other people in the system. Perhaps my client needs a venue: does anyone in the CIC space have one? What about the catering service? Etc.

The list above is interesting, because we in the Sci-Fi Economics Lab have seen some of its items before. Decentralised design, focus on community needs, Dyson sphere are also part of the model in Messina’s social district. Edgeryders itself also works on public and common goods in a fashion limited to software and knowledge so far. We are also exploring the legal frameworks to benefit our community members, though not nearly as successful as CIC.

I hope that, as we continue the exploration of alternative economies, a convergence will emerge. By this I mean a set of strategies that several initiatives have independently hit upon, and work reasonably well under a variety of circumstances. These might be some of the building blocks for the new economic systems we are longing for.

A CLOSER LOOK

The Catalan Integral Cooperative is an interlocked ecosystem of production, distribution and consumption activities, most of them organised as cooperatives. It operates under heterodox economic theories, and follows practices so alien as to qualify as almost - alien economy on Earth. We could define it almost like an alternative country within a country.

The first questions that came to mind approaching this unique organisation in its own genre, were how do they manage to operate their two currencies and their real estate excess capacity? Is there anything specifically Catalan in this segment and could that be replicable? How does the legal organisation provide infrastructure for people’s businesses and projects? How does the self-financing of an organisation with no legal status work? Is there a general strategy like in the Messina case or the CIC serves as a support nexus for members’ projects?

Joining us in a conversation that started on the Edgeryders platform, then proceeded with an interview and lead to the Science Fiction Economics Lab webinar dedicated to the Catalan Integral Cooperative, Joel Morist from CIC’s Communications Committee introduced the cooperative like this:

“You could see C.I.C as a reality of applied sciences and as a prospective or futurism applied (foresight applied) in panarchy or polyarchy parallel to the state, which at the same time means an attempt to create an independent horizontal network in Catalonia. […] A paradise of happiness for everyone to discover and bring to your own reality and country.

The platforms you can join and participate are Freedom Coop (all EU) and Bank of the Commons (worldwide), while at the Centre of studies Joan Bardina you can see a lot of what inspired us in the first place.

We can say that Catalan Integral Cooperative is a place where engineers became farmers, academics distribute food in local networks, scientific scepticism is brought to the government. Based on the idea that the individuals know best what they need and act in the network to achieve it, we make checklists on how to make the world better and then we do it.”

In Joel’s words, “an “integral cooperative” is a tool to build a counter-power from the base, starting from self-management, self-organisation and direct democracy. It allows the transition from the current state of dependence on the structure of the system towards a scenario of freedom with full awareness, freedom from authority where everyone can start developing from equal conditions and opportunities. It is a constructive proposal of disobedience and generalised self-management to rebuild society from below (in all areas and in an integral way) and to recover emotions, proximity and trust-based human relationships.”

From the ideological point of view, among the goals and principles that inspire the project, Joel highlighted the will for social transformation into a system which privileges the interest in the common good, self realisation and mutual help, equity and social justice, equality in diversity, compromise and self-criticism, sharing of experience.

In one segment the CIC ideas recall socialist principles, with everyone contributing according to their possibilities and receiving according to his necessities. In other segments, they are combined into a more utopian idea of currency used along with non-monetary forms of exchange, only as a measure of the exchange without the possibility of accumulation or direct economic relations between producers and consumers where the Cooperative acts as a regulator. The Eco (the cooperative’s currency) is not convertible and no type of interest is accepted on its loan.

Politically, echoing the Catalan anarchist legacy, the principles are those of direct, deliberative and participatory democracy based on transparency, self-management and decentralisation. There is no mention of the division of the society in classes, the ecological principles lean towards permacultures, degrowth and sustainability.

While we may say that the theoretical bases may appear sometimes contradictory, the most fascinating aspects of this economical and social cooperative experiment are its incredible vitality, its organisational energy and the capacity to develop and execute practical (and often brilliant) solutions, along with the passion of its members.

Rather than revolutionaries, the members of the Catalan Integral Cooperative are a crowd of smart people who have dedicated themselves into building a better and more appropriate living situation for themselves, which is open to whoever would like to enter and share its principles. They did this producing non conventional, often ingenious solutions based on the flaws and loopholes of the capitalistic economy in which their own framework, while recognising and opposing its non ethical components, is deeply rooted. Certainly, a ten years experience is a short time frame and the resilience of the CIC will have to endure other challenges. That said, what needs to be underlined is the fact that the Catalan Integral Cooperative is today, more than ten years after its foundation, a vital and functioning attempt to “hack capitalism from within” using the loopholes it contains.

HISTORY AND ORGANISATION

Founded by an assembly of activists in Catalonia in May of 2010, the Catalan Integral Cooperative is a self defined anti-capitalist platform developing cooperative structures in the Catalan economy. Relying on the system where basic needs like food and health care are not considered commodities but social goods available to everyone, CIC is committed to the principles of the Commons, Open Cooperativism and P2P. This makes it almost a prototype of a new generation of co-ops connecting the Commons and cooperative movements.

Politically rooted in the ideas of “integral revolution”, its position is that a radical transformation of all facets of social and economic life is necessary because a truly collaborative economy can only develop if commons-based.

It started in one of many antagonist reactions born in the wake of the 2007 crisis and has seen its peculiar protagonist in Enric Duran, a Catalan hacktivist who tricked Spanish banks to obtain the loans for half a million Euro without the slightest intention of giving them back, invested them into activistic projects and went public with his story.

After the exploit, with a small group of partners he started working on the “integral cooperativism” project. They published its principles and operating platform in 2009 and distributed it through a newspaper in the whole of Spain. The call resonated with Catalan activists and with the strong Catalan tradition of self-organisation and autonomy and led to the founding of the CIC. Because of his legal problems, Duran left Spain in 2013 and soon after started a similar project named FairCoop.

With the headquarters in its central Barcelona space AureaSocial, Catalan Integral Cooperative continued its life with the system of the committees as its organisational frame, its own tools and IT systems, a social currency Eco, a territorial and economic network of several thousand associates and its Autonomous projects of collective initiative (PAICs) which include a Cooperative of Social and Network Self-financing (CASX), a “post-capitalistic colony” (Calafou), the eco-village of Som Puyarnol and a “collectivised machines” production lab MACus.

The organisation in the committees is perhaps the best representation of the CIC philosophy because it encloses some of its most important principles, such as active participation, open cooperation, solidarity for social transformation, direct relationship between practical action and its theory.

The Coordination Committee manages the internal organisation and coordinates the work of its committees and working groups. It has three main members and two collaborators - a facilitator and a psychologist which speaks volumes of its approach.

The Reception Committee provides guidance and advice for the new CIC members.

The Communication Committee takes care of CIC’s public relations and works on a proactive principle enabling any member of the cooperative to produce promotional material without the necessary direct involvement of the committee’s core members.

The IT Committee takes care of the IT infrastructure which includes a self developed accounting software. All the developed tools are free/open source.

The Common Spaces Committee is in charge of shared physical spaces.

The Productive Projects Committee manages the ‘self-employment’ of the members, the exchange of knowledge and skills and runs CIC’s jobs portal Feina Cooperativa and the Mercat Cooperatiu, the online directory of the projects which accept ECOs in exchange for their products and services.

The Economic Management Committee: CIC has two main sources of expenses: the “basic income” received by the members of its committees and the funding it provides for affiliated projects. According to Dafermos’ report, the members’ fees (minimum of €75 every three months) account for about 50% of CIC’s income, while the remaining 50% comes from the tax refunds received by the cooperative for every invoice self-employed members make through CIC mechanisms. An added yet variable income is represented by the donations from sympathizers.

The Legal Committee provides legal assistance for the members. One of the basic working methods of the legal committee, composed of a lawyer team based in AureaSocial is empowering its clients and helping them understand the legal process and the technicalities involved in their cases. We have already seen such an approach in the Messina social housing project. The legal fees can be paid by the clients both in Eco and Euro.

The Catalan Supply Centre or CAC (Central d’Abastiment Catalana) was formed in 2012 and serves as a logistics network for the transportation and delivery of the products of cooperative’s members. Imagined as a public service of vans, it connects various “rebosts”, CIC’s pantries present in all of Catalonia.

Network of Science, Technique and Technology or XCITT (Xarxa de Ciència, Tècnica i Tecnologia), develops tools and machines adapted to the needs of the cooperative network. Its science lab and its workshops are based in Can Fugarolas.

A CONVERSATION

The Future Is Ours To Hack

Interview with Alberto Cottica and Joel Morist, published on Edgeryders platform on 8 October 2020

The Catalan Integral Cooperative project:

Alberto and Joel talked about motivations for their alternative approaches to economy and the potential for a joint event as part of the summit (second after the Messina event).

Joel has studied cinematography to become a filmmaker. He topped it up with history and anthropology “to make better movies through understanding what the world needs”. From the year 2000 he explored alternatives to capitalism with his film projects in South America. After the economic crisis in 2007 he joined Enric Duran, activist and author around whom many others gathered, offering support for his team. In 2010 the the Catalan Integral Cooperative was founded.

In his own words CIC: “encourages and promotes social networking for everyone towards everything capable of satisfying the needs of the local community, politically, economically, culturally.”

“It functions progressively disconnecting from centralised state and capitalism and gathers engineers who became farmers, academics distributing food in local networks and so on. It is the scientific scepticism that governs through consensus in a system where the individuals know best what they need, they talk to each other and together select the means to improve their lives, surroundings and whatsoever, and then actually apply them in practice.”

Alberto: I am really interested in the details and practical hacks. When we look at different utopian principles, the goals are often similar. What makes it or breaks it is the ability to use a piece of the old system in the new. You need to build a system of the future while being compatible with the present.

I am curious about how you do these things. Therefore I will ask some fairly practical questions as I think that is what people are hungry for:

Is the P2P Foundation report on the CIC a good source?

Joel: Yes, it is a good source.

Alberto: You seem to be exceptionally good enabling people to do “their thing”. You have organisations that act as infrastructure for people’s businesses and ideas, so that they can for example invoice. How do you make this work? People who barely can afford to run their own project/organisation seem not to have the ability to pay their costs. There are examples of cooperatives doing that, for example in Belgium where people are registered and “employees” of the cooperative. You seem to be able to make that less expensive and more efficient. How do you do that?

Joel: To gather people, we offer them a platform for sharing. There is a little fee of around 50-100€ every three months instead of the usual 300€. It is very expensive to be self-employed in Catalonia.

Here, a special cooperatives law, which has been changed in the meantime, created a possibility of the volunteer work in cooperatives. The general idea was that if you were a farmer, an actor, craftsman, etc. in a cooperative, your “voluntary work” would have been remunerated through the gift economy, which is quite difficult in reality. People must be paid in some other way still, they need to be able to buy gas, etc. This argument between us and the State was tremendously hard on us. The State saw us exclusively as a business, which was only a very small part of what we were doing. We were also promoting social eco-networks, local governance and created something that is still standing. We are rich with nature and culture, but we have to live in a society of scarcity because of the centralised money and interest system.

You wanted a technical example: We had maybe 500 people, but we had thousands of associates. Many of us had expenses but not the income, so the economists of the cooperative balanced the incomes with the expenses and that way we had to report less to the state.

Alberto: So this system was based on the specific law in Spain about volunteer workers?

Joel: That was only law in Catalonia. I actually think that it was written and left there intentionally for us to discover.

Alberto: You say this movement is connected to an older movement of progressives who were involved in writing/inspiring this type of legislature in the 1980’s?

Joel: Yes, we have contacts to many people in their seventies now, researchers and famous intellectuals, Bardina, Chalaux, revolutionary priests as Xirinacs , that made big findings about banking and money. For example, Leander Bindewald in his PhD thesis researching across many countries, discovered that there is no definition proving the existence of money in constitutions, laws…

Including David Graeber RIP.

Alberto: But Graeber, as influential as he might have been, could not influence writing laws in Catalonia in the 70’s.

Joel: Sure, but he has influenced political parties risen following the ideas of some of these people. We have contacts with these lawmakers and parties.

Alberto: Is your model more successful because you have some people to talk to in the parliament? (on your side)

Joel: Our, really distant, connections in the parliament are now working on a small version of basic income and Covid-19 is one of the main reasons for it. Maybe in 5 years it will get somewhere. For sure, we must move from here, we can not continue in the next centuries as we have.

Alberto: You used a quirk / feature of the Catalonian law that you think was put there on purpose, you see a red thread from anarchists and progressives in Catalonian history. This is quite unique.

Let’s move on: New initiatives are constantly born around CIC and some of them become independent. That is something we have been trying to do in Edgeryders as well. Not yet very successfully and I will tell you more about that if you want, but for now I would like to know:

How does it work? Do people come to you and suggest it?

Joel: Both ways, sometimes craftsmen come to us and tell us what they do/need and see how they can help and help themselves on the networks.

We are promoting all of this through social networks. The motto is: “Stop using the central currency - come to our cooperative and use social currency”.

Some people in the political party CUP were promoting similar initiatives and even people in some of our networks connected.

From 2016 we are decentralising our activity. We are now building "cooperative shelters”. Once they are strong enough in an area, they disconnect from the central area. Now some of them are totally independent cooperative projects. For example, a baker with 5 people and a few rooms for rent. They might still use the same cooperative system but they are disconnected from the central one now. We are not sure how all of them are doing now.

Alberto: Let me ask you about this idea of Making the world in your image and creative freedom . We have been able to help some people close to us to start a software development company. Edgeryders would be the first client of that company. The idea is that if we needed something done, it would be done as between friends. If you want to start something, you can take the “Edgeryders hat” to get started and then you can develop on from that. We have not been very successful in doing that yet, but you seem to have been very successful, how did you do that?

Joel: In terms of computer stuff, we were really successful because we started with hack labs with some great people. It was interesting to work with them and many have joined and got involved because of that (as some developing retro share). The people were not interested in starting their own companies, but living independent from state and capitalism. We wanted to live. Even so, I worked 10-15 hours a day without recognising it for 5 years. I lived in a sci-fi universe and enjoyed it. We jumped 1000 years from 1999 to 3000, we had lunch with the best organic food in the gift economy without touching a dime. We have films and culture in a sci-fi environment. We occupied the place through juridical practices. Its name is Aurea Social.

Alberto: There seem to be buildings “up for grabs”. How does that work?

Joel: Low budget rents, squatting, legal squatting, etc. There are also rich supporters who front/donate money to build up eco villages and houses like these. The black sheep of the richest families in the world, you know, who also see that the way humanity lives now is wrong. But we could live like in heaven! I witnessed it 24/7 in these places. The pleasure of explaining it. Paradise can exist. I have seen it for five years.

The future, the present and everything, they are ours to hack! No need to sacrifice yourself for that. If you want, you could come and live with us. Maybe like that, we would live after the singularity.

Alberto: The CIC starts with the critique of money. Can you explain more?

What thoughts about the nature of money inspired what choices in the development of CIC? It seems that you embraced an existing alternative currency that already existed in Catalonia, What happened there? Did you find it?

Joel: We used different types of economy and currency:

** Gift economy (“I don’t want to be your consumer I want to be your friend” principle)*
** Barter*
** Social currency - Eco*
** An ethical cryptocurrency - Faircoin*
** A non ethical cryptocurrency - Bitcoin*
** Euro*

We use the existing platform as a Community Exchange System (CES) and have created others.

Other examples: We had engineers making amazing fuel cells, but we were not able to register the patent as the engineers would not want to run the risk.

We rented a house in a beautiful village for very little in exchange for fixing little bits, they are renting now for 10 people for 600 euro.

For Calafou a friend put 200.000€ down to enable that, without hoping to get it back.

Aurea Social was squatted through legal manoeuvres. From 2015 they have been saying: “it’s the last few months”, but it is still going on.

We made a country inside a country. Now go to the EU, now go to the World Bank. Now it is the time due to Covid-19! Let’s create universal income! We should base it on Switzerland’s experience and after a few months of splendour, people will adopt. Humans are the only ones paying rent on this planet. We are all servants of a stupid centralised system. They say it pushes people to work, but people want to work! It does not even help the richest, no one is happy. Nobody would like to rob you if everyone was wealthy. How does it work in Switzerland? They won’t have a crisis since they still use their own social currency as WIR. The planet could be happy by Christmas. You might work 17 hours a day or none, but you would be happy.

Alberto: As we wait for this wise decision to be implemented I would like to ask you a question: How do you work across the ECO and Euro? Which of your transactions work how?

Joel: For example, I was paid 450 € and 150 in Social Currency, but I changed to 200 in Social Currency and 400 in €. I had the best apartment in Barcelona near Sagrada Familia, great holiday places to go with my family. But quite often I had preferred to stay in Barcelona and work. Or “labour” rather than work, as work comes from enslavement, labour is what enriches and develops you.

Alberto: There is part of that CASX relies on, isn’t it?

Joel: CASX is a bank, credit without interests, on fiat money and social currency. They did not rise very high. And by the way, they still have 40 € from me from a while ago, but I do not mind, I see it as a contribution.

In our case, there was a proposal to account for everything, but in the process to do that we were losing ourselves and our motivation. People lost their passion through that. Not all the accounting was unnecessary, but it matters less in gift economies.

Alberto: How does a unit of Social Currency rate to a unit of Euro?

Joel: It is independent, but can be used as 1 to 1 for pricing products and services. Despite that, we don’t change social currency for euros.

The weight of the Social Currency in the networks can vary from 100% to a minimum of 10-20%. We wanted to have a 20% Social Currency minimum. I increased it for me to 30%. Some people reduced the amount of Euro to very low amounts because they did not need it.

When it was necessary we squatted houses. Never from people, but from the “evil banks” (those which were part of the crisis). This way we did not have to pay for flats. There is energy, telephone, cooperative Internet … if you use that, you do not need Euros.

Catalonia attracts computer people because it has an internet cooperative which works as intranet on the scale of a country (Guifi).

Alberto: What is your connection to Guifi?

Joel: Some of us were among its founders. Enric Duran, who founded the CIC and many other initiatives since early 2000’s, convinced his father to buy infrastructure in Barcelona to make free Internet for the people and many other projects .

Alberto: How would you instruct a poor person in another country how to do this?

Joel: First, make yourself famous. Then, show your commitment.

You have to enter in contact with intellectuals, writers, economists, jurists and lawyers, academics and journalists who sound a little bit on the similar lines and here you go. You already have 5000 people in the Edgeryders network.

Alberto: 6000

Joel: 6001 with me. It is very interesting to me.

Show commitment.

Look for juridical advice in the country you are in, look for the gaps that the big companies use to enrich themselves. Instead of filling our pockets, give it back to the people.

In Sweden, they renew, revamp the hospitals’ tech every 2 years for example. The leftovers can be reused to start new collectivised health centres. This is how we did it in education, we started a school and many other projects.

All these things involve people. You provide a place for them. Where, for example, one can come and prepare for school, where homeschool children can meet. People will come and ask: “why is it free, how does it work?” and you will ask them “What do you do?” They say for example: “I am a graphic designer”, you will ask: “Do you have a hobby? " - “Baking cookies” - “Bring some!”

Over some time you will have local beer, or self-made toothpaste or things like that in social currency.

Last year it was Greta Thunberg talking about climate change. What I think is why don’t we raise a campaign for changing the basic economic system, the world’s monetary system? For example, 3 thousand Swiss Francs as basic income worldwide. Not 500 to cover rent etc. – everyone should be free of sorrow! Human warmth and sociality is possible with that. I could accept to start with 700 € first raising it over the next years so that by 2030 every adult over 18 years gets 3000 €. Not for children, because people might try to get children for money.

Alberto: Thank you very much. I will contact you again after thinking about all of this.

THE WEBINAR

Transcript from the webinar on the strange economy of the Catalan Integral Cooperative – 3 November 2020

Host: Nadia El-Imam, Edgeryders

On the Stage: Joel Morist, member of the Communication Committee of Catalan Integral Cooperative, Alberto Cottica, Science Fiction Economics Lab

Founded 10 years ago, Catalan Integral Cooperative, in the words of Joel Morist of its Communications Committee, is “a model of panarchy or polyanarchy that enabled thousands of people across the region and the world to live in a different way. Dual currencies, building new networks and the culture of the Catalonian people are some of the reasons why it worked so well.”

Escaping a centralized economic approach

Joel posed a question: “with panarchy, or poly anarchy, you don’t have to move to join a new system, you can govern yourself in different ways, from where you live. In the past people associated communism with Russia and capitalism with the US, but why not in the same country, could we have different ways that every citizen voluntarily aggregates this kind of government?”

Alberto: “In which direction would you go to adopt this model?”

Joel: “First: Building networks. Second: Putting brains behind the operation and third, using the consensus lead approach.”

  1. BUILDING NETWORKS

Practical example: The cooperative had 3000 associates but the collective was producing things that were distributed to markets and shops and possibly reached tens of thousands of people - some not even fully realising the existence of the network.”

Alberto: “The CIC actually didn’t try to replace the state but acted as a separate structure: studying the CIC, what strikes you first is that it is the opposite of a monolith. Many things, small things there, are connected to each other in a web by way of relationship, trade, economics trade, ownership, financial, ideology etc. Instead of scale it has depth.”

  1. THE BRAINS BEHIND THE OPERATION

Joel explained that Enric Duran, activist and author, together with Dídac Sanchez-Costa, was the major influence behind the project and many people were attracted to his ideas: “It was an experiment and practice. (We said) let’s not waste much time thinking or discussing, but let’s do it once we have a discussion.”

  1. CONSENSUS LEAD APPROACH

“We have known that everything before has failed…” - Joel said. From the outset he explained that the group decided they wanted decisions to be made upon consensus rather than voting majorities.

Alberto: “What does it look like to live with the Catalan Cooperative?”

Joel: “In villages, towns and the city of Barcelona, for me the feeling was deep happiness, because you are not isolated as a little community where you always see the same people. Part of the physical spaces of the CIC, where twice a month we had general meetings are in Barcelona, but the meetings of the Cooperative are also held where it is present, in the north, east and west. That was three days a month and felt like a holiday weekend. We had our concert at night and good food almost for free at very cheap prices with social currency. For example 2 eco for a meal. It could be the equivalent of 2 euro and you would be eating the most wonderful ecological food.

The feeling was that of freedom and we connected much more. Our surroundings came (to feel) like a general family. It felt like a tribe a little. It felt like something else. We were meeting to talk about our reality and friendship but at the same time it felt like there was friendship.”

The social currency

Alberto: “Can you tell me more about the concept of dual currency?”

Joel: “

1. The dual currency enables freedom.

The ownership of goods feels different than when you buy with currency. It changes the way you think about money. So you can say to someone ‘I cannot give you something immediately’. It happened in Mesopotamia (where it’s believed the world’s first civilisation emerged).

2. Dual currency allows you to withstand economic shock

In a crisis there is no money flow but everyone has the same needs and the same capabilities of production as the day before- why does that happen? Because we are waiting for the bank, for private banking.

This is cyclical, and I have read many economists who tell you clearly this is artificially manipulated. So if we have a counter cyclical currency, when they remove the money from the market we can use that. We don’t need to have one, we can have several because one way of (using) money could be a social currency - we have fantastic tools like this community exchange system (CES) created in South Africa by some. There are other ways of money in economies - it could be gift economies, exchange or cryptocurrencies. We are already decentralising when we moved to Bitcoin.”

As Joel explained, within the CIC, other forms of currency are used: gift economy, barter, Eco - the social currency, an ethical (Faircoin) and one non ethical (Bitcoin) cryptocurrency, Euro;

“They have found it very useful because when you spend echoes you can save euros. … with echoes it’s a 20 - 30% level of acceptance. For me, I found it gave me a lot of freedom. Others felt like they were punished because they felt like they had to use their Eco,” Joel said and continued: “The best is to do everything and use all the economies at the same time, gift barter exchange, Eco, Euro, Fair coins and even Bitcoins.

Bitcoin and Euro are very good for community economies, for example, we want to make a new building, we want to buy things from the market, decapitalise them and sell them in Eco inside our core networks”

Alberto: “Is it comparable to Sardex, which is used in Sardinia? It is backed by the Euro, so one equals a Euro but even if you use it for business, you can only spend it locally. So what they are trying to do is increase the local dimension and keep the money in the local economy. Tax to the central government prevents businesses from fully adopting Sardex.”

An intervention from the public pointed out that Liberex currency, based on a similar principle as Sardex, is used in another Italy’s region, the Emilia-Romagna.

Where do we go from here?

Joel: “We should not try to replicate exactly what the CIC did, because the experience, the economic experience is a live thing, but we should gather and find, what and how people would like to live. It has to be spread to the world and it has to be shared.”

During the discussion and on the platform some of these questions emerged:

  • Are there elements of indigenous societies that can give inspiration to other panarchy models?
  • How do you incorporate modern healthcare into a society like this, when you approach big problems from a local lens?
  • What is Joel’s opinion on the concept of universal basic income (UBI)?

Regarding the example of Swedish healthcare that reorganises its hospital equipment periodically and that this equipment should and could be reused in another situation, thom_stewart on the platform commented that: “the argument seemed to be that modern high capital intensive healthcare was incompatible with these models. Three points:

  • One being that the vast majority of healthcare isn’t acute - it’s community / social care. Equal care coop and Buurtzorg are interesting examples.
  • The second point would be that tech advance means what used to require a hospital can now be briefcase-or-backpack. Hackers here could provide details better than I.
  • The third would be the negative externality analysis - I can’t find the study but it’s on the health damage done by various ‘high tech’ solutions, eg drug production causing cancers elsewhere, that exceed the gains.

Basically I think we’ve a psychological and economic focus on acute tech medical, but it’s grossly inefficient at a population level - at best, induced demand - less charitably.”

johncoate answered: “I think I agree with this analysis. I do support emphasis on prevention, community health/wellbeing, social care, diet, environment, and not overdoing what medical help is given if it is not really needed. From my perspective, this should save resources for when the high-end medical help is really needed. I say this as someone who has hardly ever needed medical attention in my life, but I would not be here today had it not been for a very high tech cure in 2016 for a tumor that certainly would have killed me.”

In a precedent occasion Joel commented on a question how does CIC experience a universal basic income and would social currency still exist with a sufficient UBI:

“I am not an economist to be able to answer this 100% sure. But for resilience, I would always recommend economic and money diversification. Not only fiat and social currency, but also exchange and gift economies, individual and collective.

For a world transition, I guess, first we would need a change in the world’s monetary system. And then provide the UBI worldwide. At the level of the country that gives the highest, i.e. Switzerland, about 3000€ per adult. Same time: Promote networked societies, for resilience and ecology.

Vegetable garden at home, production and exchange points, once a week at very local level. There could be good, as banks of time, to use money without interests. At higher levels and collectively we could use ethical cryptos as Faircoin. And even in higher levels, as cities, large districts, big communities, Bitcoin and fiat. For big entrepreneurships as urban building, land buying… But at a large scale of time, some could substitute the others.

If we get the UBI, perhaps the fiat currency (changed in it’s morphology or not) perhaps will prevail. With time. And with or without some other changes in fiat money and or in social currencies, could bring the extinction of money. Towards unmonetized societies. Also the UBI could be based in “social currency”. Or that change in morphology of the world’s monetary system, could imply getting close to what social currency is.

All options are plausible lines, and optionally they could meet and live together one with the other. […]”

The event was organised by Edgeryders’ Science Fiction Economics Lab with the support of EIT Climate-KIC as part of our work to extend the space of economic models that are conceivable and deployable to build a successful, fair civilization, while preserving the planet’s ecological balance.

Contributors to this publication

Featured participants

Joel Morist

a filmmaker who studied sociology and anthropology and who tried for twenty years to find alternatives to capitalism. Moving from Spain to South America and coming back in 2007 when the crisis was almost at its peak, he contacted the author of a book that interested him and they decided to fix up an old house to provide a place to work together. They took part in the foundation of Catalan Integral Cooperative, an organisation which acts as infrastructure for people’s businesses and ideas. A community where, in his own words: “ everything is possible”.

Alberto Cottica

Head of Science Fiction Economics Lab. Economist and network scientist, expert on online collaboration, collective intelligence, and participatory, networked organization. Worked with governments and IGOs in various capacities; now entrepreneuring at Edgeryders; civic hacking with Wikitalia and Spaghetti Open Data. In the past a reasonably successful rock musician (Wikipedia), but he is trying to quit.

Nadia El-Imam

One of the founders and directors of Edgeryders. Leads the strategic development for Edgeryders Environment and the Climate unit and was born in Sweden to African parents, raised in Europe and Asia. She is an engineer and designer and specialises in building platforms for citizen engagement and distributed collaboration.

Community contributors

Aaron, alberto, Alessandro, alex_levene, amelia, amesteves, amiridina, andreja, angelo, anique.yael, AnneC, anonandon, Arved, atelli, augusto, Azraq bengansky, bob, Brian_Econ, BrianW, Caszimir, chrisjcook , ckrez, dadabit, danohu, desireasflux, digiogi, dkomm, Enro, eric_hunting, estragon, filip, finnern, fjanss, FotiosKotzakioulafis, Gabriella, gehan, giacomo.pinaffo, GrahamCaswell, gyrgir, haf, hires, hubert_brychczynski, hugi, ilaria, irene_1, IvanC, J_Noga, jake, jakobskote, JasonCole, jaycousins, jean_russell, JGG , Joel1, joelfinkle, johncoate, jolwalton, Jorge, Joriam, justinpickard, JZib, Kaibeezy, kajafarszky, Karl, kevin_carson, khaoula, kravietz, LauraRoddy, Leah, LStewart, lylycarrillo, maiki, Malka, manutopik, marcosenatore, mariacoenen, MariaEuler, marina, martin, martinapolimeni, matthias, michi1, MMartin, mrchrisadams, mstn, nadia, noemi, Nskocz, oliiive, OmaMorkie, owen, patrick_andrews, petussing, phm, phoebe, Player1, poietic, ponyo, rachel, RafalRolka, Raffaele, ralmond, richdecibels, Stef-Kuypers, SteveLittle, SueRule, sz_duras, teunvansambeek, thom_stewart, ton, trythis, Ulrike, Usal, yannick, YannickFrank, yudhanjaya, zplakias, zvanstanley.

Science Fiction Economics Lab is a project organised by Edgeryders and supported by EIT Climate-KIC.

Acknowledgements

This publication would not have been have been possible without generous contributions from:

Kirsten Dunlop, EIT-Climate Kic

George Dafermos, P2P Foundation and Robin Hood Coop for their report The Catalan Integral Cooperative, an organizational study of a postcapitalist cooperative, jointly published in October 2017

Joel Morist from the Catalan Integral Cooperative, for his endless patience and passion in explaining the ideas, principles, hacks & mechanisms of the Cooperative

Maria Euler

Giovanni Calia

Members of Edgeryders community who took part in the webinar and in the discussions on Edgeryders platform, making this inquiry possible by their presence and their support.

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