Imagine a world where you — and the people around you — interact and collaborate, to shape the future of your community.
A world where people closest to the problems are empowered to solve them — and where people closest to the place determine the future their places hold. (Gratitude to Michael Johnson & NDN Collective for this perspective.)
For their own lives, and for the lives of generations to come.
Why does that world matter?
The places around us are in a constant state of change. Through inaction, and falling out-of-sync with a changing world. Through decay, and a failure to maintain and improve what exists today. Through the status quo, and local decisions made behind closed doors, by external stakeholders (e.g. real estate developers, financial institutions, government offices).
The only pattern we’re missing, is change being led by the people who actually live in a place. The people with skin-in-the-game, who have been there for generations and will be there for generations, and who have most on the line — as well as the most to gain — from better local futures.
It is only sensible that the people who are closest to a decision, who understand it best and will live with its consequences, are empowered in local decisionmaking.
A world in which decisions are made by people and communities closest to them — supported by all of the knowhow and experience and perspectives our world has to offer — is a more truthful, productive, and abundant world for all of us.
We also need to empower distributed, local decisionmaking, because we are in a time of epic change.
Around the world, our environments are rapidly changing. Our failure to adapt, is directly affecting the futures we’ll be living in.
And yet, we’re living in a paradigm of individual change.
Government programs focus on individual home energy loans and electric vehicle rebates. Applications target individual users, on their individual phone screens, and prompt individual changes. Advocacy campaigns promote eating more plants and creating less waste, in our own individual shopping carts and our own private kitchens.
And if we wait to for individuals to change, home-by-home and kitchen-by-kitchen across millions of communities and billions of people, most of our future will be determined before any of us lift up our heads.
But we have hope.
By shifting from individual-scale to community-scale perspectives — street blocks, neighborhoods, towns and cities — we can increase the scale of our impact, and the rate of our change.
Imagine 10 people on a street working on their own home improvement projects.
Now imagine those same 10 people, working together on a community improvement project. Moving from individual-scale to community-scale, the project will make a bigger difference in each of their individual lives — and more, the project will touch many more lives altogether.
It will be more affordable and less time consuming for every person involved — and probably, come together even faster.
Working with our neighbors and the community around us, it can be more enjoyable, educational, recreational, and fun.
And by working in public, transparently and openly, countless more people can discover our project, share it with others, contribute themselves, and carry our work on to new places.
Scaling the idea and the impact, to countless more communities and futures.
Now, moving from individual-scale to community-scale, we can talk seriously about determining our own futures — even at the rate the world is already shaping them.
Finally, as governments spend trillions of dollars on projects shaping all of our futures, we want that public spending to produce the best outcomes it can.
Not only should public spending be distributed to the people closest to the problem — it should also be distributed transparently.
Imagine trillions of dollars flowing out of national treasuries. Where does that money go? How long does it take to get there? Who makes these decisions? How much of it is getting lost in the cracks, or spent on bookkeeping and management?
With transparency, the system gains integrity and accountability.
It enables us to work faster and with less friction.
By making the spending open, we can save money on bookkeeping and oversight — by opening up oversight to the whole public — and put that overhead towards more impactful projects.
And it enables us to better learn from allocation decisions and the outcomes they produce — so we can speed up our learning cycles, iterate more quickly, and make better decisions tomorrow.
Transparency minimizes our opportunity costs — in time, money, learning, knowledge, insights, possibilities — as we undergo a pivotal chapter in human history, and need every opportunity we have available.
In short: build back better, transparently.
So what’s stopping us from taking the lead, and starting to shape our own local futures?
The lack of tools to work together — and in some cases, a lack of resources.
I’m building a tool to help people work together, to shape futures in their local community, freely available around the world.
It’s still in development - and yet, it already works, and you can use it today.
In terms of resources, it should be pointed out that not all local improvement projects require funds or capital. Community-led campaigns and initiatives can happen through conversation and organizing. Hands-on projects, like gardens and compost sites and local repairs, can also happen with little funding.
Since 2020, we’ve seen projects and initiatives like this happening in communities around the world.
However, when resources are required — or, simply, when they’d make life a little bit easier — we have an answer as well:
We can fund anything through the future value it creates.
Say you want a community-owned Internet network for 1000 local homes and apartments. In the future, we know that people in the community would gladly pay $1/month for local high-speed Internet + WiFi.
This network will cost $60,000 to build.
To raise $60,000 to provide the service, we can sell the future rights to Internet services at a discount today. For this specific example, you can sell future rights to high-speed local Internet at $0.50/month, for up to 10 years.
The people who buy up-front can get Internet access at $0.50/month, instead of $1/month.
Once the network is built, the up-front buyers can use their discounted Internet service — $0.50/month, for up to 10 years.
And they can also sell their service rights back to others in the community, for a price of up to $1/month (netting them a return of $0.50/month, or 5% ARR).
Of course, people would pay much more than $1/month for high-speed local Internet. But the point of this model isn’t to make money. The point is simply to help us fund things that we want — for today, and for our future — and keep custody of those things in our community.
This same approach — funding things today, through the future value they create — can be used to create housing, energy, food systems, clean water supplies, public transportation, schools, community services, and anything else we wish for.
How will you fund it?
Who would fund projects like this?
Anybody who is close enough to the project, to understand the future value that it will create. That could be local banks, credit unions, municipalities, local businesses and schools, members of the community, and anybody who wants to use the project themselves a discount.
Likewise, anybody who would prefer their money invested into assets with intrinsic value — as opposed to negative interest bank accounts, or speculative markets and investments.
Intrinsic value: Even if the rights to local high-speed Internet lose their “market value” and you can’t resell them, you would still have rights to cheap local high-speed Internet — and as long as you use Internet, that asset will always have an intrinsic value to you.
Imagine all of the money in your bank account, backed not by government reputation or market conditions, but by backed by rights to local things — energy, food, water, Internet, housing — which will always have value to you. Every dollar, signifying a right to a local project or service or thing, which will always have value for you.
And likewise, imagine the billions in local banks, credit unions, pension funds, municipal treasuries, school treasuries, business accounts, all going towards local projects which improve life and futures in the places around you.
Everyone gets returns from a better local community, and the community builds generational wealth in the process.
So in reality, we don’t have any problem getting funding for our local projects — as long as we start seeing the future value they create.
And with ways to work together, empowering local decisonmakers and community-scale projects, transparently and openly, there’s nothing stopping us.
We can start shaping our futures, today.
Let’s get to work.
Sold on these ideas? Want to get to work?
The knowledge is yours! You’re encouraged to use and share these principles in your own work.
You’re also free to use the tool in development. Anybody can start a local project, get others on board, and arrange funding for these projects with local stakeholders in the ways described here — raising the capital, while keeping custody in the community.
Want to discuss ideas, share feedback, or ask questions?
Share your thoughts and questions, or reach out any time.
Want to incorporate this vision or any of these ideas into your work, and interested in collaboration?
Send an email with your request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and set up a time to chat if you’d like.