Skip to main content

POVERTY, INCOME, AND EMPLOYMENT NEWS

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PIE News (POVERTY, INCOME, AND EMPLOYMENT NEWS)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-06-30

According to the Eurostat, in 2017 almost 1 out of 4 European citizens experienced material deprivation and social exclusion. Economic and social factors are responsible for this devastating trend, including the increasing precariousness of labour, the dismantling of social services, and growing income insecurity. To counteract this, the project engaged in large-scale participatory design, involving hundreds of people in workshops, real life experimentations, and dissemination activities, which shaped two key contributions:

- Commonfare.net a digital space sharing knowledge, goods, services and skills. It collected 58 simplified and actionable cards providing information on public benefits in the three pilot countries (Croatia, Italy, and the Netherlands) and over 300 stories about bottom-up initiatives of social collaboration in Europe written by the Commoners. The Commoncoin, with its open-source Social Wallet API provided the complementary currency supporting groups and networks striving towards autonomy and free implementation of cooperative welfare practices. The Commonshare provided an innovative contribution (vs. reputation) metric which rewarded practices aimed to strengthen the community, rather than to achieve personal gain.

- The Commonfare Manifesto, the elaboration of a political and economic alternative to the capitalistic principles of accumulation and exploitation, based on four basic pillars: Unconditional Basic Income; Managing Both Common Goods and Commonwealth; Alternative Sharing Economy; Commoncoin. The Commonfare (or welfare of the commonwealth) emphasizes collective wellbeing, solidarity and mutual help (https://commonfare.net/en/stories/the-launch-of-the-manifesto-for-commonfare).

Overall, commonfare.net served the goal to connect dispersed publics and to support people addressing precarious conditions by harnessing the collaborative potential of digital technologies around the ideals of Commonfare, offering the socio-technical infrastructure to connect people and organisations, making experiences visible and opening dialogues on socio-economic models.
The project followed a large-scale participatory design and a five-staged release of continuous improvement. The work started from a substantial desk research which provided a solid background on the welfare systems in Italy, Croatia and the Netherlands —including historical reflections and economic analysis— alongside qualitative research on people’s current needs, desires and coping methods (D2.1). The cross-national and multidisciplinary project consortium worked as a collectivity-of-practice, engaging participants in 4 plenary Design Workshops and a number of formal and informal evaluation activities engaging over one thousand people (D4.1 D5.3). Key design decisions were collectively taken by the team, constantly discussed with participants, and monitored in the online behaviour with the development of two dedicated analytics dashboards, showing the community status from the perspective of the user and the community manager (Release 4).

Participation of distributed and heterogeneous partners seeded the basic pillars of the Commonfare Manifesto and embedded them in the commonfare.net platform. Genuine participation required continuous changes, ranging from the project name which was soon deemed patronizing by project participants and therefore substituted by the word “Commonfare” in all public communication, to the functionality and the look and feel of the platform. Starting from Release 3 (April 2018) which introduced networking features, participants on-line contributions became substantial. The section “Commoner voices’ opened up multimedia creativity to the commoners and collected over 300 “beautiful stories” narrated and commented by a community of almost 1000 registered Commoners. These people met virtually with other visitors of the platform (14,377 unique visitors in total), and physically at the two currency experimentations and the dissemination (n. 64) and networking (n. 25) events where the project was showcased.

Two major field evaluations were conducted at the Santarcangelo Festival in 2018 and the OltrEconomia Festival in 2019. In these venues, the digital currency was experimented in a real-life scenario and evaluated by an ethnographic team of almost 4 observers per day, for a period of around 3 weeks and the equivalent of almost 34.000 Euro circulated. These studies (unplanned in the DOW) strengthened the evaluation and communication activities of the project, allowing participants to experience and reflect on the role of complementary currency for the establishment of the Commonfare.
The project provided several important contributions to the field of collective awareness platform which addressed economic, politic and social research alongside participatory design for social innovation.

The Commonfare Manifesto represented a solid ground for the development of alternative welfare systems for a more equitable European Community. The Manifesto was inspired during one of the activities of the third Design Workshop and resulted in a chapter contribution in the 2nd volume of MoneyLabReader, edited by the Institute of Net Cultures in Amsterdam, under the supervision of I. Gloerich, G. Lovink and P. De Vries. The Manifesto was authored by the General Intellect collective which included commonfare researchers from BIN and DYNE.

The basic pillars of Commonfare were integrated in commonfare.net. The platform exceeded by far all KPIs, in terms of people involved in the design, evaluation, and online activities. Commonfare.net has attracted around 30,000 visits and collected important contributions in the form of stories and comments. The quality and the quantity of these contributions witness the liberating effect of storytelling as social empowerment. The absence of hate-speech and verbal aggression, alongside the quality of well-articulated stories are probably the most relevant legacy of the project. Commonfare.net emerged and established as a “self-organised” community, populated by people who embraced aligned values and supported each other in action. Platform network dynamics monitored through a dedicated dashboard based on the Commonshare detected no collusive behaviour (e.g. currency accumulation) by Commoners.

The commoncoin architecture was used in two case studies to create the Santacoin at the Santarcangelo Festival 2018 and the Oltrino at the OltrEconomia Festival 2019. Both leveraged on concrete stakeholders’ needs and involved the entire consortium, generating an important wealth of experiences and relations, together with a sound technical test (over 3,000 transactions handled). This work was not planned and represented the most significant deviation from the DOW. It demonstrated strong technical reliability, allowed people to imagine alternative scenarios for complementary currency, and provided the tools to realise them.

The project has provided also important methodological contribution to participatory design as it addressed one of the most complex scenarios of social innovation in a transnational and multidisciplinary distributed fieldwork. The wealth of knowledge and research emerged from it will shape the future of public design in Europe and can be accessed at pieproject.eu alongside five volumes of the Commonfare Book Series.
Activists in Zagreb (one of the project pilot site) - from commonfare.net homepage
Workshop at Commonfare Final Conference / OltrEconomia Festival 2019 - featuring Oltrino currency
Crypto Rituals performance at Santarcangelo Festival 2018 - featuring Santacoin currency
Workshop at Macao, Milan (one of the project pilot site) - from commonfare.net homepage
Locations of the Santarcangelo Festival 2018 - featuring Santacoin currency (based on Commoncoin)