“Blockchain and Sustainable Communities” Workshop

 

Irish Research Council logo

This one day workshop, funded by an Irish Research Council New Foundations grant, co-organised by NUI Galway School of Law, FEASTA, and Cultivate, and hosted by Cloughjordan Ecovillage, explored the possible future applications of blockchain technology in the development and coherence of sustainable communities.

What exactly is the likely nature of blockchain disruption? Will it be isolated in the #fintech community or will it reach into the “real” economy? How does the trustless mindset behind cryptocurrencies map on to the essentially trustful aspirations of sustainable communities? Will explicit transparent contract conditions assist community development and coherence or act as a barrier? How can we build bridges and meaningful relationships between the tech and sustainability communities? Will the emergence of new institutional structures have a deep effect on society?

This workshop sought to explore all of these questions, and more. The morning presentations provided a series of differing perspectives on these themes – of currency design, community activism, technology limitations, social factors and the design of new institutions. The afternoon discussions were aimed at solidifying a shared understanding from the morning sessions, and mapping out key future research questions. Stuart Bowles, one of the participants, has written a short summary of the event, while Dr Paolo Dini has provided a longer and more detailed report.

Amongst the ideas generated in the afternoon session were the following:

A digital time capsule for future generations: Recording community history and and important events for future generations
The technology this already exists. A simple version would be to generate a hash for a digital archive and store that hash from time to time. Tools to explore and search the data would be useful. To develop this further, what would be helpful would be an open source project which individuals and communities can use.
Using blockchain to archive and manage energy supply and demand
More frictionless mechanisms for decision-making, task allocation, and accountability for small groups, work teams, and communities
Information is needed tools like Loomio, the meaning and application of accountability, how it can be supported, and how voluntary and paid roles can be distinguished. Barriers include technophobia or lack of technical literacy, the complexity of blockchain technology, perceptions of elitism, cost, and the need for up-to-date devices. A research project would need the involvement of a large organisation such as a political party, trade union, or NGO. This would explore how to incorporate blockchain into existing decision-making, how to record decisions, and how to make accountability work in non-hierarchical organisations.
Blockchain to encourage the use of idling assets which are unused due to lack of money
Information needed includes a survey or inventory of assets, a list of users, a calendar for availability, and costings. Barriers include someone to run the system, the lack of a clear market, the need for seed funding, obtaining buy-in, sharing rivalrous goods, and understanding of the technology. Short-comings include accessibility of the technology, the need for an easy-to-use interface, brokerage, mechanisms to avoid abuse, and insurance (perhaps paid for by a membership fee which goes into a sinking fund).
Can technology contribute towards developing a gift-giving economy in the public sphere?
This requires understanding the technology and what it can do, and research into what constitutes a gift giving reciprocal economy. Is there a danger of monetising what are social relationships? Can blockchain technology be used to identify skills and needs that could be matched?
Portable Reputation in Small Communities
Information is needed on whether small communities need portability or a reputation system. (Ostracism can be a significant issue.) There needs to be a threshold for forgiveness but this is problematic because algorithms will go wrong and perceptions will change over time. There will also be “reputation farming”. Implementations could include: “peer.com” (blockchain reputation review as peer review); “oath.com” (legal relations under seal); “faceless.com” (reputation-based decentralised airbnb-style site)

Introduction

Dr Rónán Kennedy, School of Law, NUI Galway
Cloughpenny Project Leader

Institutional Design & Smart Contracts

Prof Joshua Fairfield, Washington & Lee University School of Law

Prof Joshua Fairfield’s slides

Local EcoSystems of Innovation

Prof Peadar Kirby, University of Limerick

Prof Peadar Kirby’s slides

Blockchain: Revolutionising Exchange?

Dr Graham Barnes, Currency Innovation Strategist, Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability

Dr Graham Barnes’ slides

Discussion (Part 1)

The Blockchain in Practice

Dr Rónán Kennedy, School of Law, NUI Galway

Dr Rónán Kennedy’s slides

A Platform Co-operative Perspective

Sam Toland, Co-operative Development Lead, Resonate

Blockchain from the Bottom Up

Gar Hynes, Analytic Solutions Architect, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Discussion (Part 1)

Reflections

Dr Paolo Dini, Associate Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics

Paolo Dini

Closing Remarks

Dr Rónán Kennedy, School of Law, NUI Galway
Cloughpenny Project Leader

 Posted by at 8:51 am