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Beyond the noise of crypto: 4 amazing community technologies

Over the past few years so much attention has been given to blockchain-based technology. Its central promise — to decentralize power, collaboration and ownership — is incredible. And yet almost every actual application of web3 community tech I have seen is still pretty unusable and 95% hype. Often the UX experience is poor. The hurdles to onboard a broad set of users is high and, at this stage, only a tiny niche of tech-savvy super users are actually engaging with the tools. That will change. I thoroughly believe blockchain will become an amazing tool for community. But it will still take several more years for these technologies and their user experiences to mature.

Meanwhile there are some amazing community technologies hiding in plain sight. None of them are based on blockchain. And fascinatingly, they use some pretty old-school tech. But they actually offer similar possibilities to crypto, but much, much easier to use.

1 — Open Collective

Open Collective is incredible. Many communities are just groups that someone started and that grew over time. Many don’t have a legal entity. As a result they usually can’t get a bank account. Handling money is awkward. Money flows are often not transparent, things are hidden in some Google spreadsheets somewhere. It’s a mess.

Enter Open Collective. Open Collective is a non-profit foundation, with branches in Europe, the US, New Zealand and other places across the globe, which basically allows any group with a charitable purpose to be hosted under their umbrella.

What this makes possible:

  • You don’t need your own legal entity, but you can be hosted by Open Collective. You can also apply to be “fiscally sponsored” by Open Collective, which means that for money purposes you can act as if you had your own charity (which would take tons of admin and money to setup and run).
  • This in turn allows to accept grants from foundations and donations from individuals (who, in some countries, even receive a tax-refund).
  • All the money flows are 100% transparent on Open Collective. Anyone can see every expense and income.
  • Open Collective becomes your bank account, which allows you to receive and pay money.
  • You don’t have to worry about accounting, taxes, legal filings.
  • In return Open Collective takes a fee, which ranges from 4–10%.

In my opinion this is a game-changer. Do you have a beautiful idea to create a purpose-driven project? You can, within minutes, setup a structure on Open Collective.

2 — SuperHive

Gif via SuperHive https://superhive.is/preview

In my opinion community tech is still heavily underdeveloped. The biggest potential I see is in what I call the human search engine effect: Many, many people use communities to search for things. They search for friends, resources, connections, funding, a new mattress, whatever. Others are offering these things. Yet fascinatingly in most communities this matchmaking between people looking and people offering is still so manual and extremely inefficient. This happens through online forums, or sometimes through personal introductions by community managers. Some communities use membership databases with tags, but they become outdated the moment they are created. Many of these matches happen by chance. There is HUGE potential in creating better opportunities for community members to matchmake.

SuperHive does exactly that. And it does it, crucially, not by adding yet another social network or new app, but by integrating into email. Yes, email.

Gif via SuperHive https://superhive.is/preview

Here is how it works: Once a week SuperHive sends an automated email to your community members asking people to submit requests: What are you currently looking for, offering or want to share? Members then have 24 hours to submit answers. These answers are automatically drawn into one summary email, which is sent out on the next day. In the summary email people have an easy possibility to connect with the person who submitted the request or offer.

So simple, so powerful.

3 — Cobudget

One of the promises of blockchain has been that it will allow groups to more easily co-invest and make financial decisions together. Yet, for reasons mentioned above, most of that tech is really hard to use (and very hard to migrate existing groups onto it). But do we actually need blockchain to collectively make decisions about money? Turns out no.

Cobudget is an amazing tool that came out of collaboration between Enspiral (where it originated), Greaterthan and The Borderland community (which developed a crowdfunding platform called Dreams).

Here is what Cobudget makes possible:

  • Create your community-internal crowdfunding platform. Think Kickstarter but just within your own group. Are you a community member and you have an idea for a project you’d like to make happen as part of this group? Get it funded through the community.
  • Distribute power by making money decisions together. Where should we — as a collective — invest our resources? CoBudget allows us to make these decisions together.

Two powerful case studies:

4 — Loomio

Image via Loomio.com

Blockchain is supposed to be all about shared decision making. But again, turns out there is much simpler and easier to use tech for that. Loomio is a brilliant tool to facilitate shared decisions and work through the ambiguity that’s naturally part of inclusive processes.

What other community tech have you found to be a game changer?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the comments!

Thank you

To the teams at Open Collective, SuperHive, Cobudget and Loomio for building meaningful products that make a real difference!

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Fabian Pfortmüller

Grüezi, Swiss community weaver in Amsterdam, co-founder Together Institute, co-author Community Canvas, fabian@together-institute.org | together-institute.org