Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

PIE News Report Summary

Project ID: 687922
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PIE News (POVERTY, INCOME, AND EMPLOYMENT NEWS)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

PIE News / Commonfare is a socially and politically engaged project that recognizes the precarization of lives and social relations due to the crisis of traditional welfare systems and growing social inequalities. The project aims to contribute to face such societal challenges by making visible and supporting practices of collective and individual empowerment, autonomous life, and collaboration (e.g. ethical purchasing, free software, co-housing, fab labs, coworking, time banking, social cooperatives, ethical finance, community-gyms).
According to Eurostat (2017), almost 25% of the European population is at risk of material deprivation and social exclusion. Discontinuous income and unstable jobs undermine the life conditions of many people in Europe, particularly women, young people, people living in single-parent households, lower educated people and migrants. Another factor is the decrease of wages even for stable workers, resulting in the growth of the so-called “working poor”. A third aspect regards early school leave and the deterioration of labour market conditions for early entrants (e.g. unpaid jobs), contributing to the phenomenon of NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training). Lastly, a growing number of people do not (or no longer) qualify for social safety nets given the the declining adequacy of welfare policies.
In this context, PIE News / Commonfare is building a digital platform –commonfare.net– by working in close cooperation with participants –including unemployed youth, precarious workers, non-European migrants and freelancers– in three pilot countries (Croatia, Italy, The Netherlands). The overall aim is to connect people and initiatives across Europe to confront together societal issues such as low income, precariousness and unemployment. Specifically, commonfare.net pursues three goals: 1) to inform about welfare state benefits; 2) to map, recount and connect existing welfare initiatives based on social cooperation and mutual-aid; 3) to build a complementary monetary and financial circuit to ensure economic sustainability and the free development of grassroots welfare “good practices”.
Supporting the connection of people and communities across Europe means enabling them to exchange and integrate organizational practices, strategies to relate with institutional actors, and plans to ensure sustainability. Making visible these experiences will support people struggling with precarious lives and will show policy-makers new ways to address welfare policies within a deeply changed societal context. The ultimate goal, indeed, is the promotion of the Commonfare, that is a new socio-economic model based on the valorization of social cooperation and the central stage accorded to people’s everyday life conditions.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The three objectives parallel the three main functionalities of commonfare.net: Info Hub, Stories Hub, Networking Hub. To develop these components, research and co-design activities have been carried out in the three pilot countries. Results are collected in the deliverables D2.1, D3.1 and D3.2.
The first platform release (R1, Feb. 2017) provided information on existing welfare benefits in the pilot countries. Welfare measures were mapped and edited into easily understandable language in the corresponding national language and English. This resulted into 58 “welfare cards” available on commonfare.net. In parallel, the technical infrastructure of the platform was developed. This included the design of the user interface performed in close collaboration with people in pilot sites, as well as the tool to publish welfare cards on commonfare.net.
The second release (R2, Sep. 2017) integrated storytelling tools along with the opportunity to create an account, thereby allowing people to share their experiences and to promote grassroots initiatives beyond the good practices mapped in D2.1 and described on commonfare.net. Indeed, R2 also contributed to the informing objective by providing knowledge on 29 bottom-up welfare practices. The project aims in fact to shape people and groups into a public through mutual learning and sharing.
The third release (R3), that is being designed and developed and will be available by the end of April 2018, will feature networking tools such as a Commonplace where to exchange goods, services and skills; the opportunity to create groups to support local communities activities; a social wallet and digital currency (D4.2); network dynamic analysis tools (D3.2). Alongside research on the reputation/contribution system, the social wallet and digital currency, and network dynamics, other substantial work has been carried out to reach the supporting objective, including the organization of networking events, informal networking activities with stakeholders, and a plan for long-term sustainability of commonfare.net.
The fourth release (R4, Dec. 2018) will further contribute to the informing objective by making publicly available data concerning platform use (e.g. times specific cards have been read), to the benefit of everyone, especially policy makers, trade unions and NGOs. To this end, a monitoring plan has been developed and is being carried out in the back-end; a front-end dashboard for displaying relevant data is being designed. The chosen tool for platform analytics is the free and open-source Piwik (now Matomo), compliant with the project guidelines for privacy protection.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The functionalities implemented so far (Info Hub, Stories Hub) served the goal to connect dispersed publics and to support people experiencing precarious conditions by harnessing the collaborative potential of digital technologies. The network dynamics component will be used to: a) monitor platform use to better understand social needs, b) detect misuse and possible speculative dynamics, and c) contribute to the reputation system, that has been reconceptualized and designed as a contribution system (Commonshare). Additionally, the project has explored new forms of digital currencies that are flexible enough to accommodate the different needs of the pilot participants although maintaining a unique identity.
Outside the digital realm, several networking events are planned in Eastern, Northern-Continental, and Southern Europe, aimed at promoting the Commonfare and recruiting new platform participants (Commoners). Pilot partners identified subcontractors (citizen organizations, NGOs, etc.) for the organization of these events according to the following criteria: variety of audiences and their potential reach, geographical coverage, contents that can be generated and shared on commonfare.net, contribution to the construction of networks, capacity to grant visibility of bottom-up welfare practices in the local context. Additionally, the project will support the travel of 30 Commoners to such events through the back-up of the accumulated digital currency. Networking events are managed in collaboration with local communities and interdisciplinary research groups, and are disseminated through several means (e.g. Commonfare Manifesto, video interviews, newspaper articles). These public engagement activities are crucial to achieve sustainability beyond the end of the project.
The combination of online and offline activities will have a significant impact on the overarching goal of the project: to promote a new socio-economic model, the Commonfare, based on bottom-up collaboration and resource sharing.

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