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  • Posted June 18th, 2023

    Move over #DeFi & #ReFi; hello #CoFi – collaborative finance for the commons

    Move over #DeFi & #ReFi; hello #CoFi – collaborative finance for the commons

    Matthew Slater reports on the first Collaborative Finance Gathering at the Commons Hub, Austria, May 22-28, 2023, where the concept of #CoFi was born.

    Some background:

    #DeFi = decentralised finance – based on blockchain, to take the money system out of the centralised control of the banks.

    #ReFi = regenerative decentralised finance, using crypto to fund regenerative projects. See https://matslats.net/refi-austria-unconference-cca. They haven’t really delivered when it comes to building sustainable alternatives, and have been instrumental in putting a price on nature, which makes it vulnerable to asset-grabbers (think land purchases by Bill Gates and friends). In the case of ReFi, there’s been lot of emphasis on carbon credits, which reduces the complexity of everything that needs to be done regarding sustainability / regeneration to one measure. The idea of tokenisation doesn’t capture the complexity of the regenerative work that needs to be done. Also lot of ReFi isn’t about financing regeneration, but token sales providing a lump sum that isn’t ongoing.

    CoFi is about different systems issuing credit collaboratively – trying to avoid destructive competitive dynamics in an emerging system – not making enemies of each other, but uniting to provide a viable alternative to capitalism. No one project is going to do that, especially in competition with lots of others trying to do similar things.

    Over to Matthew:

    It was an honour to be asked by the Commons Hub to design the conference and I took the opportunity to bring together crypto-people with some working on more traditional complementary currency innovations. I arranged the mornings so that each one covered a different ‘structure’ of credit (a taxonomy I have yet to write about), namely mutual credit, mesh credit (i.e. ripple/trustlines systems), local voucher systems, and multilateral offset clearing, in which invoices are aggregated and cancelled out as far as possible.

    Hello co-fi

    I was lucky that the cornerstone project, Informal Systems was willing enough to sponsor the event, and they also sent their whole Multilateral Offset Clearing team, using the event for team-building and in-person working. Other Sponsors were EthicHubThe Community Currency AllianceHolo, and Ripple creator Ryan Fugger.

    Also the Economic Space Agency (ECSA) came en masse, with ten people and a book to launch.

    I was really helped by Julio from Circles who helped tremendously with the gender balance by bringing the whole team and by inviting people from less developed countries (Guatemala, Syria) where my knowledge is scant.

    Also present were: ResourceMutual Credit ServicesGrassroots EconomicsSikobaLedgerLoops/Federated BookkeepingMyCHIPSRegen FoundationHudson Valley CurrentCelo, the Blockchain Socialist, also releasing a bookGood DollarEveWeathBAERgeld, and Block Science. In total there were at least 60 people there every day of the week!

    I used my opening address to stress that, having come so far, we shouldn’t be making sage-on-the-stage presentations to each other as if youtube were the medium, but should instead be generating conversation and learning. I exhorted everyone to open themselves to listening and collaboration. As the week progressed I was blown away by the enthusiasm with which sessions were attended, the quality of dialogue, the willingness to understand, and the intensity of the open space discussions. People started saying to me “something is really happening here” and “I’ve never known anything like it”. A few days after the conference ended, I want to try to capture the outcomes.

    Hello co-fi

    The main outcome I think is that a protocol working group will be set up to look at interoperability of the projects represented. This is essential if our initiatives are to scale up rather than competing destructively with each other. I very much hope that the funded projects will feel more inclined to spread their money around, having met and built trust with projects in the same field with similar discourses. I’m hoping also to run a track in the next Crypto Commons Gathering on monetary theory, in hope of converting talent from the blockchain space to the credit theory of money. If you have any questions, or if you attended and there was a positive outcome for you, please say so below.

    In conclusion, the event was a pleasure to design, and Felix and Giulio from the Commons Hub provided all the support I needed, pandering to my spontaneous creative ideas and even running the open space track, because I was exhausted. I want to thank them and Jeff for anointing himself head troll in my stead, and everyone for making the event a stonking success!

    Watch the Live Streams.

    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


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