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A Feather for Lifting Anvils – EdgeRyders 2.0 plans to change the world

Members of the EdgeRyders community have decided to take a crack solving the world’s problems by inventing a new collective structure: “Venture Social Capital.”

The idea is to “finance” new positive, local projects using the collective power of an extended social network, with a commitment-based social structure to give us the ability to make decisions in a timely and business-like manner.

In other words, we’re going into the banking business. Are you with us? We’re already staffing up!

1: What’s wrong with Capital?

The hardest part of doing things that have never been done before is finding the money. Ideas are, basically, cheap. There’s seven billion of us, two billion or so online, and with that many brains, seeing the “adjacent possible” – something doable, something close to where we are, but the next evolutionary forwards step – is as much a question of luck as talent; we’re in a position where the first step in innovation, the idea, is cheap. Our ability to imagine, to know, to mingle and network with people that provide us with the requisite diversity our minds require to have new ideas has far, far outstripped our ability to build things. We’ve got more possible forwards steps than we can take.

This is a problem because our societies are wedging themselves up shit creek without a paddle, as Americans would say. They’re gutting their welfare states and social programs, deporting immigrants, talking about splitting up Europe and worse, wasting half of an entire generation’s talent in 40% youth unemployment areas. I’m 40, and I have absolutely no idea what I would do if I was 20 today. My generation, comparatively speaking, had it easy – paid to go to university, and 1989-2001 as more than a decade of stable(ish) peace(ish.) I’m not saying those were better times (less internet!) but they were easier times in the hard-cash roof-over-head sense.

A lot of this catastrophic change in our societies has been driven by abusive capital. Governments have gotten cornered by enormous banks who, when their gambling at the International House of Dodgy Financial Instruments finally hit “00″ and everything went back to the House, came back to the Government and said “If we go bankrupt, which by law we should, it’s going to eat your economic prosperity for a generation. Pay our debts!” What we have is a protection racket, where Capital has convinced Government that it needs to be taken care of more than People. As a result, our societies are leaving more and more of us high and dry. I’m 40, at an age when one starts to wonder about things like retirement, and I’m not at all convinced that there’s any store of wealth other than relationships and creation which has any chance of surviving this transformation in our societies.

Capital, as it has been manifested so far, is poisonous.

2: What’s wrong with Society?

We are faced with two great challenges globally: poverty, and ecology. Poverty is simple: 7 billion people, 4 billion tooth-brushes, 2 billion flush toilets. One billion fat people, one billion people who are regularly hungry, both sides deprived of something they need to be healthy – exercise and meaning on one side, simple raw calories on the other. The world is a mess.

Ecology is equally pressing, but more subtle. Huge loss of forests andsea life, climate destabilization – freak weather flooding cities, 28 years of “above average” temperatures,  and good-times government subsidies for protecting the future which, as the banks imploded, were withdrawn to nurture Capital at the expense of the Planet. You could not do a worse job of managing a civilization without resorting to fascists or late Roman emperors: Golden Dawn and Berlusconi.

But to change things means taking risks. New ideas, by virtue of being new, are untestedunknowns. Innovation means failure, and recovering from failure means having something in reserve: Capital. You don’t (usually) finance the company with the money you needed to pay rent, because if return is not immediate and large, you’re homeless. Just when your society needs innovation most, to face adversity, Capital dries up, and you’re left the same behaviors that caused the problem, endlessly repeated because nobody will finance new thinking about the core issues. We get stuck.

We think we have a solution.

3: A Plan: what can ordinary-extraordinary people do?

The brutual truth is that the crisis deprives us of access to Capital, without which we cannot innovate, because if the innovation does not immediately succeed, we’re homeless. A large scale culture of innovation requires a large scale culture of investment, and the money poured out of Education and Health into the banks is not returning to usin the form of access to investment. Our cultures are stuck.

To get out of this cycle of decline, we need access to “CountercyclicalCapital” - something which gets more available as economic conditions get worse. Fortunately, this kind of Capital exists – it‘s called Human Capital. It’s talented people without jobs, without incomes, without fully-utilized talents. As the economy ceases to provide work or affordable education, people become idle, and that’s our reserve of Countercyclical Capital. We buck the trend!

Our job, therefore, is to organize this Countercyclical Capital – that’s us, we under-financed masses, yearning to create – into a form which permits Countercyclical Investment. We form a social organization, like a labour union, which permits us to Collectivize our strengths, in a form which lets us change the way the world works for us and others. This improves our negotiating position, by making Talent powerful without access to (financial) Capital, and it might allow us to provide the much-needed innovation to help our societies out of their stuckness.

It really is possible. There are examples.

4: Stepping out of the usual frame

Wikipedia’s a very, very good example of the combined power ofHuman Capital to change the world. We all use it every day, and it’s taking effective action on both poverty (poor people are using it too, all over the world!) and ecology (it’s saving huge numbers of trees on paper books.) People are working together to solve a real human problem - access to knowledge - and it’s improving all of our lives.

There’s a tiny thread of financial capital – running the servers, say – but Wikipedia is a Human Capital enterprise. It shows what can be done.

But what we want is sustainable livelihoods. While Wikipedia is great, sitting around all day and contributing to it is not going to put food on the table or buy Mom’s birthday presents. What we need is to use a similar kind of effect – a lot of volunteer labor, and a little financial capital – to solve the employment problem for all of us.

In thprocess, we should have impact on the innovation gap that is threatening all of our futures, and thereby poverty and the ecological crisis too. It’s a tall order, but this is an age of miracles. 

5: Building it

Here’s the idea: a volunteer driven “Venture Social Capital” fund.

We all put in some time, energy and effort – we pre-commit resources – promising time and energy to that fund. A Board of Evaluators does what Venture Capitalists usually do – they evaluate projects, and give Capital – in this case, Human Capital or Social Capital – to get these projects off the ground.

A funded project can then take their grant – of your and my time and resources – and ask for help. You come to me, and say “I’ve got an EdgeRyders grant for 40 hours of time and I was wondering if you could write something for me, Vinay?” and I say “well, I’ve got 6 hours on balance here, so yes, what do you need done?”

When I’ve done all the hours I’ve promised to the EdgeRyders organization on one project or another, I’m done. I’ve paid my “membership dues” (like a union!) but, of course, if I feel like doing more voluntarily, I can. It’s that simple. But imagine how it could change life for innovators trying to get great new ideas off the ground if they could get 50 or 100 hours of free, skilled help at the most critical stages of their projects, helping lift the projects off the ground and creating sustainable employment for their founders, and more.

We’re asking you for one day a year: 10 hours. We think we can get close to 1000 people to volunteer one day a year from the existing EdgeRyders network, and we hope the idea will go viral and become a common social form. If we all give a day a year, perhaps we can finance some of the innovation that neither the Banks or the State can manage, and turn some of this mess around.

I’m in. I’ve given my day. Who needs me? What do you need me to do?

Sign up for the Edgeryders “Venture Social Capital” Fund here

1 Like

The sign-up page is dead.

oooh thanks for the heads up

Hey Jonathan will be picking up on this thread in the form of a porposal to collaboratively build and LOTE Grant Fund, and was looking through this post. Its now time to keep building on this idea I think as part of the work of building the event, so we should set up a propoer sign up on the platform itself…

Accidentally we built a tool for SC4SW. Synergy, anyone?

While working to finish our network barter software, the last feature that got on board was “barter value payments”. Think of it as a way to send value to anyone, denominated with a numeraire, but both transferred and received in real-world products and services, with network barter managing the conversion between sender offers and recipient needs.

A simple example is: I send 50 USD in barter value to @hexayurt, and to fulfill that, system lets me do some software development for user A, who does something for B, etc. etc., until user X does something for Y, who provides video editing for 50 USD for Vinay, which Vinay ordered on the platform before.

A more complex example would be using it for SC4SV: 200 Edgeryders donate 100 USD in barter value each to the SC4SV project, managed by the Edgeryders user on the network barter platform. The SC4SV project finds a social venture cause to support among recent ideas, and pays (say) 6000 USD in barter value to them. The beneficiary project can then go shopping with this among the products and services offered on the network barter platform, and the algorithm will try to make their orders happen on a best-effort basis. Only when such orders for (part of) the donated amount get transacted, some of the 200 donors will get to do some work or ship some products that they offered, and the beneficiary project will get some product or work that they ordered. If it’s not clear like this, I will have to draw it laugh

That’s the idea, and after lots of simulated trade we are now looking towards real-world deployment and proof of concept of our software tool. Could we awake the SC4SV project for a joint venture experiment within the Edgeryders community? The idea just flashed to my head, and I want to put it up for discussion here (including economic advice from @Alberto and a stance on adequateness in social / community terms from @Nadia and @Noemi).

Update: The payment feature is now enabled for all users on makerfox.com – log in and look at the new “Pay” menu item.

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We need some way to test this anyway

Matt, here’s my take. As good as the Makerfox is, we will need plenty of social stuff (from signaling to handholding) to be able to make a reasonable test of it as a collaboration enabler. My reference for this is the unMonastery, which took plenty of time and effort. I think the Makerfox might be in late 2014 what the unMonastery has been in late 2013 and early 2014: some kind of flagship project, to make some investment on.

So, yes. I would be up for setting up and communicating carefully a medium-scale collaboration experiment as mediated by the Makerfox. I could ask my friend Giovanni Ponti, an experimental economist and mechanism designer, now teaching in Rome, to make suggestions for how to come up with a rigorous experiment, something that would deal with the counterfactual nature of economics. Ideally, we want to prove that the Makerfox deployment has enabled more collaboration than in the counterfactual of same project but no Makerfox. That’s much more rigorous than we ever have been.

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An experiment with double use would be awesome

Thanks! You’re clearly right about the “plenty of social stuff”. That’s why I would like synergies with other initiatives even for the test scenario, since it can be too much workload for a small core team of just two people. If Giovanni likes to be involved, we’d really welcome a proposal for an experiment setup. We can contribute statistical analysis of the experimental data, which a mathematician from Barcelona would do for us as a member of our extended team.

It would be desirable to design the experiment so that it also has long-term benefits by solving the collaboration issues in some community (like SC4SV / Edgeryders) and by bootstrapping the initial Makerfox user community (and of course, allowing us to persuade future donors if indeed we are able to make the intended proof).

Or two experiments.

Second thoughts: your proposal is just great to fit into the medium-term strategy for the Makerfox project. Namely, setting up a collaboration with universities for research and refinement of the network barter idea. This would include research funding grants from government / EU, both to compensate contributions from people like Giovanni, and to pave the way to future self-sustainability for the Makerfox project. This is where I see your proposal leading to, and we’re very much open to that; including to use the Edgeryders legal framework for the research grants, with proper contribution back to Edgeryders (esp. also since the Edgeryders community will get a role in the experiments). What do you think, does it make sense for Edgeryders to pursue this path of being part of a multi-stakeholder research project? Let’s include initial planning for this in the next director’s call maybe …

The above is far more professional (but also longer-term) than trying the fastest path to self-sustainability of a lean startup, which I intended initially when proposing the experiment above: something that can provide the kernel for growing a user community around network bartering. I still like this path, too, and maybe there is a way to combine both?

Ok do we want to give this a test run at LOTE4?

I think we’re getting to the point where we can test run this in a “live scenario”. Eat our own dogfood and all that. I say let’s implement makerfox in building LOTE4. Now is the perfect time as we are now starting to prepare the public communication about the event and calls for participation. Are you up for it? Is the compatibility with edgeryders.eu there yet?

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Hm… are they ready to absorb a crowd?

Are we sure the project is ready for a swarm?

Do we have relevant skills (i.e. not much coders can do in a weekend, but other things can be done fast fast fast.)

Let’s figure out how to do this right!

I think so. Let’s talk about it in Tbilisi?

Maybe even organise a session to work it out?

I don’t think so but there might be solutions …

On the tech side, the Makerfox core team (just my brother and me) are already stretched thiiiiin, aka drowning in work. And this is not a software where features can be added ad-hoc. But the again, it depends on how you want to use it for LOTE4 (and what compatibility with edgeryders.eu do you need?). It’s risky because it would be the first major real-world use, but we’re ok with taking risks. Let’s definitely talk this in Tbilisi … also I will do a session about Makerfox there, where we’ll also live-demo the software by Alberto bartering to get a freshly repaired CyanogenMod 11 smartphone with it laugh

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Ben’s coming too so you’ll have everyone on location for once!

:slight_smile: SUPER EXCITED!

Assembly: as if it’s almost being done

Seen this?

http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/21/7258667/assembly-collaborative-work-open-source

In the beginning I thought it looked a lot like SC4SV idea, especially because it was raving about open source and it has App Coins to count contribution shares in a project, until I began reading the Terms :

THE COMPANY RESERVES THE RIGHT, FOR ANY OR NO REASON, TO (I) REFUSE TO POST ANY SUBMITTED SOFTWARE PRODUCT TO THE SITE, (II) TERMINATE THE DEVELOPMENT OR ANY PHASE RELATED TO A SOFTWARE PRODUCT, (III) TERMINATE THE SALE OF ANY SOFTWARE PRODUCT RELATED TO ANY SOFTWARE PRODUCT, OR (IV) SELL OR LICENSE A SOFTWARE PRODUCT, AND/OR ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RELATED THERETO, TO ANY THIRD PARTY.

That, and the website looked a bit too shiny.

So another AirBnb for p2p production, just what the world needs :slight_smile:

Hack Pledge

Along different lines but also related, this seems like a great initiative: https://hackpledge.org/

Posting it thinking it could give us ideas about how to package the crowdfunding campaign on Makerfox, who knows…

Thanks @Auli for sharing it…