Economic SPACE workshop 2: DPO for grassroots organising

Earlier, we noted how different types of agents can use a Distributed Programmed Organisation (DPO) and it’s token logic to bootstrap new as-yet-non-existing projects. By offering a “piece of the action” itself, not just the end product as in standard crowdfunding, projects can both disintermediate third parties, and grow — both as projects and as parts of larger ecosystems. Let’s look at how a similar process would look like from the perspective of a grassroots group, and how the DPO model can go round some of the current organisational thresholds.

Groups of people are organising on interaction platforms like Hylo where they develop and execute projects that they see value in. Occasionally these projects branch out to public events or concrete productions such as software that are open for other people to join in and use. However, in terms of attracting new people, there is a certain threshold that comes from managing the project cooperation. In these “emerging project based organizations” the initial group of peers usually acts as a core group overseeing and keeping the organisation alive — simply because they are the most invested (via interest, time and money). Occasionally there are projects that could be valued and adapted by larger networks if they could join in as the core peers have, that is, if their small or big input to the project would be noted as stakeholding.

One way to do enable this is to establish some kind of cooperative or corporation structure where new peers share a role. However, this kind of formal model or organisation does not do much more than offer a “shared bank account” and set rules to the operation. This is precisely the problem being tackled by various interaction platforms offering interactions models for people to come together, but then again lacking means of formal stakeholding. For instance, if one joins a Facebook group, what are the rights the joiner has to the value that the group creates? Also, how does that group capture and distribute that value? When talking about the value(s) that arise from cooperation we are entering into questions of building economic organisations.

The quest for peer driven economic organisations has takes giant leaps thanks to Bitcoin (decentralised spreadsheet/money), Ethereum (decentralized computer) and the ”infamous” TheDAO (decentralised computer program). These forerunners have built decentralized programmed organisations for economic cooperation that offer value created from peer cooperation. And this is what the kinds of groups mentioned above want to do: open up the project for others by starting an economic organisation that is specifically focused on programmed (and re-programmable) peer cooperation.

The end-goal of economic organisations can vary, but one solid starting point would be making an offer of value: that project produces (or promises to produce) value and offers it to networks. In this case the offering can be, e.g., a festival ticket or ownership/license for software in a token form. The token is an important element because it is a unit of value, a commodity that has value and a form of equity all rolled into one. If the group has planned a festival, it can pay the artists in festival ticket tokens and the artists thereafter share stakes in ticket sales. The same goes for any other peer of the festival organisation, including peers who may buy more tickets than they need in order to fund the project and share the up or downside of final ticket price. In the case of software, most developers would share stakes in the software according to their contribution. The project can leave it open for developers to decide if they want to contribute all their efforts in one production or diversify and be part of multiple projects.

In both cases, the DPO model tackles the problem of keeping track of stakeholding while at the same time being an easy way of joining the project. If the token has enough liquidity, it is easy to get rid of, thus facilitating casual and one-off engagements. On the other hand, it also has “sticky” qualities for those who want to stay with the project for longer periods.