What is my celo?

Exploring what matters to the self, breaking the resistance to begin and contributing gifts for a shared purpose — Living celo.

Gökçe Güven
Aug 28, 2019 · 8 min read

For the last 3 months, I worked on Celo, an open platform building financial tools accessible to everyone with a mobile phone. This is the common definition of Celo. Most people don’t realize celo means purpose in Esperanto.

Why would a blockchain platform call itself “Purpose”?

The power of giving something a name, brings the thing into reality. Celo’s focus is on user-first products and building with our ecosystem, giving purpose to its users is the key ingredient in the recipe of Celo.

Celo in the making. Photoshoot for Celo’s Alfajores Launch- recipe cards instructing how to get started on Celo.

My experience at Celo’s compelled me to ask myself a question I will revisit the rest of my life — What is my celo?

This article outlines what ‘living my celo’ was like throughout my internship. Its framework is inspired by Christopher Vogler’s The Stages of Hero’s Journey:

  1. The Call to Adventure: Finding Celo. Not feeling inspired by the typical summer opportunities, my journey started when I found Celo.
  2. The Gateway: Culture, Gifts and Experiences. Celo’s culture and values prepared me for my transition from old to new self.
  3. The Crossing: Reaching Creative Autonomy. Open-ended design projects challenged me to solve problems authentically.
  4. The Road Back with the Elixir: The Art of Purposeful Work. Now, I am returning to school with a mission to explore and follow my celo.

Thank you for reading along and being part of this journey.

The Call to Adventure: Finding Celo

— Story rolls by disrupting the Hero’s Ordinary World, presenting a challenge that must be undertaken. —

I am Gökçe, pronounced Goeh-k-che. In my “ordinary world”, as Christopher Vogler calls it, I am a Turkish sophomore at UC Berkeley studying global management and computer science.

However, I have never been inspired by the expectations that comes with this label — including getting A’s in weeder classes, having a polished resume, marketing myself for top internships, or working hard during the weekdays and live for the weekend.

Under the pressure of what we societally consider as ‘correct’, I was not excited by the opportunities around me. I felt disconnected from myself, my story and nature.

What was beyond the criteria of successful, challenging or interesting?

As I started to look for opportunities of impact and change, I stumbled upon Celo.

This was my call to adventure. The magic started with Celo’s Culture.

The Gateway: Culture, Gifts and Experiences

— Gateway separates the Ordinary World from the Special World, preparing one for the journey ahead. —

C Labs, Celo’s founding team, has a distinct culture. They are structured within a living ecosystem with self-directed teams called “circles.” Each circle has a purpose that contributes towards Celo’s mission, bringing financial independence to the 1.7b people unbanked.

From the start of my journey, C Labs nurtured this shared purpose with unique gifts:

  • Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein
  • A mentor within C Labs
  • Welcoming letter, starting with Hoşgeldiniz (means “welcome” in Turkish)
  • Cowry Shell, the first form of money

Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein

The building block of Celo’s foundational philosophy, Sacred Economics was the invitation to be part of Celo’s purpose. For the first time, I was exposed to core Celo terms like world of abundance, living in the gift and beautiful money.

My first day at C Labs, I read the lines “We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.” I explored the meaning behind this sentence and these ideas for the rest of my internship.


Taylor, brand designer at C Labs, became my mentor. Everyone at C Labs has a mentor and their role is to provide guidance for their mentee during their journey.

He challenged my thinking and built up my confidence and trained me to define my creative strategy and execution.

We weekly met, to talk about universal symbols, inspiring stories and both being ENFJ. On a daily basis, I went to him for feedback on my work and shared unique art and books via Slack.

Hoşgeldiniz Letter

Hoşgeldiniz was an invitation to freely be myself. Welcoming me in my mother language, celebrated who I am from day one. It reminded me that I am “culture add” rather than “culture fit”, a founding philosophy of C Labs’ culture.

Cowry Shell

The shell was the connector. As the earliest form of currency, shells symbolize Celo’s mission to make money beautiful. After on-boarding, new team members are gifted shells and guided to write their purpose on them and leave them on their desk.

For me, this interaction connected Celo’s and my purpose symbolically, and I became part of Celo’s greater purpose.

The Gifts’ Effect

In the harmony of uniqueness, guidance, and freedom: Celo’s gifts supported me in seeking purpose and meaning through the challenges of the crossing.

The Crossing: Reaching Creative Autonomy

— Committed to journey, the Crossing requires accepting fears, a map and a swift kick in the rear from a Mentor. —

The Experience Circle aims to nurture belief in Celo. One of my responsibilities in this circle was to design communications and visuals for Celo’s global community of creators. In my projects, I was challenged to think novelly and take purposeful action.


One transformational design project was developing how Celo would strategically establish a strong presence at Berlin Blockchain Week, an agnostic movement bringing together the global blockchain community. We wanted to discover unique ways of inviting this builder community to Celo’s purpose.

IDEO’s mood meter visualizes disequilibrium as the synthesis phase devoted to making meaning, where graph of the designer’s
IDEO’s mood meter visualizes disequilibrium as the synthesis phase devoted to making meaning, where graph of the designer’s
In IDEO’s mood meter, the synthesis, in which designer’s mood hits the lowest point while connecting the dots, is the stage disequilibrium takes place.

While designing the experiences and campaign, I develop a creative strategy for the team we were sending to Berlin. At first, I felt uncomfortable by the open-endedness of this challenge. I was in disequilibrium, a state of mind caused by an imbalance between new learnings and previous constructs.


This project could go anywhere. The standard experience in my mind was easy to execute: give out swag, host happy hours with beers, and help developers build ‘cool stuff.’

For the first cycle, I storyboarded experiences with specific posters for each event, sketched swag like celo-coin socks, and wrote communications timeline. Different, right?

During the feedback session, I was guided to unfold the thinking behind my work. This process led me to realize that my work was not magical enough.

How can one create magic?

Taylor and I going through the third iteration in building the information architecture for Berlin Blockchain Week.

I reflected and turned back to Celo Values and gifts to apply my new learnings. As an interpretation of Sacred Economics, the Experience Circle defines Magic as

“when an entity responds to Celo’s beauty and is inspired to contribute their beauty in return.”

To create magic through gifts, we needed to craft memorable experiences that have the power to compel the receiver to share it with their social circles. My new understanding of magic during this synthesis guided me to eliminate generic qualities of my design. My design solutions from my first design cycle did not bring unique value to Celo’s community.


During the second design cycle, we shifted Celo’s experiences by sharing Celo’s community tenets as gifts. — Design for all, Innovate on money, Strive for Beauty, and Embody Humility — From there I helped coin the event slogan “Design. Innovate. Strive. Embody.”

Testing the community tenets as street art in the San Francisco office before sending it to Berlin for our Ice Cream Truck installation!

Based on my studies on Pincer movement battlefield strategy and the psychology of geometric shapes, I proposed to follow physical and digital forms of circles in our design. This strategy aimed to associate feelings of belonging with the Celo Community through circles. In the construction of a circle, all dots are united without hierarchy, representing a sense of wholeness in cognition.

The Pincer Movement strategy

Transforming Pincer Movement, a military maneuver with simultaneous and underfloor attacks in two flanks, to space design, we created circles with various attention points. We aimed to attract groups of people to get into the circle of experiences without feeling attacked by the content.


Rather than only hosting tech workshops, we decided to deliver purposeful experiences. From Canoe+Bier to an educational audio installation, each Berlin event embodied a community tenet to immerse our community to Celo’s values.

Listening Booths in ETHBerlin, prototyping to completion.

In ETHBerlin, we made Listening Booths featuring audio from our user research interviews. This experience embodied the tenet Design for All. Our purpose was to share stories from financially excluded communities to inspire developers to build with purpose.

All of our experiences included circles with two or more direct attention areas to create flanks. For example, the Celo Ice Cream truck, designed to embody Strive for Beauty tenet, had workshop tables and Celo information table in its opposite sites. These fronts created various interaction points with the Celo team and brand, all related to creating opportunities to welcoming everyone to Celo.

(1) Stickers to share Celo Community Tenets sustainably. (2) Preparing for the Ice Cream Truck Installation. (3)Canoe+Bier ride.

Throughout and beyond this project, I was encouraged to work autonomously, have opinions, and take initiative. In Celo, I experienced the value of contributing my gifts for a shared purpose.

The Road Back with the Elixir: The art of Purposeful Work

— The Hero must recommit to completing the journey and accept the road back to the Ordinary World. —

My internship has wrapped up. With my new roadmap guiding me toward meaningful work, I return to school to start my sophomore year.

My elixir under the change was the art of following purposeful work, celo. It was challenging to be in continuous disequilibrium, but it made my experience meaningful and valuable.

Celo is dynamic and changes but, it is important to seek and follow one’s celo.

My celo at C Labs was to challenge conventionality through art, expressionism and tech for positive change and magic.

I believe in exploring what matters to the self, breaking the resistance to start and contributing with gifts:

Living celo.

“How beautiful can life be? We hardly dare imagine it.’’ says Charles Eisenstein.

Imagine and follow.

With love and celo,


The Celo Blog

Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. Visit celo.org for info on the community, contributors, and technology.

Gökçe Güven

Written by

creativist at the intersection of design, tech and sustainability.

The Celo Blog

Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. Visit celo.org for info on the community, contributors, and technology.

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