building the commons economy - enric duran faircoin

Building the commons economy – Q&A with Enric Duran from Faircoin

In the run up to OPEN 2020 we interviewed Enric Duran, a founding member of the Catalan Integral Cooperative (CIC – Cooperativa Integral Catalana) and Faircoop, who developed the Faircoin project.

OSB: How are things going with Faircoop and Faircoin?

ED:  We’ve been working on Farcoin since 2014 – and it helped to develop the faircoop ecosystem till 2018, but since then we’ve suffered with access to liquidity and the value of Faircoins has gone down. We’re now trying some different strategies to build alternative economies – some of which are much more local.

A couple of our projects are doing fine: Bank of the commons our cooperative banking service and Freedom Coop, a tool for citizen empowerment and economic civil disobedience.

OSB: What have been the effects of the changing value of Faircoin?

ED: Right now we have a few different perspectives on Faircoin… a few of us want to recover access to the markets, by recovering the value of Faircoin. This could also help with getting funding or investment… We’ve been working on Faircoin for a long time, trying to make a currency which connects local currencies with markets – systems which are outside our ecosystems. To make the connection better we need the tokens in the markets and the tokens in the circular economy to be different but they need a bridge to connect each other. To relaunch faircoin on the markets we would need to create a token specific for markets.

OSB: Building a commons using a currency that is prone to speculation, and changes in value because it is tradable on the open market seems problematic to me – have you considered using mutual credit instead, to avoid these issues?

ED: Mutual credit is part of our vision, many local communities connected to faircoop use it, but mutual credit only works inside the network – it doesn’t provide a way to access the value in the existing economy and we want to provide a bridge from the mainstream to the commons economy. Anyone who starts a mutual credit network has financial problems when  developing the project to sustain the management costs – and members need access to resources which are not provided by the network. It’s a chicken and egg problem.

If Faircoin was working correctly it would help to monetise and build the commons. If the market invests from outside it helps what we are building inside. Mutual credit can work well on the local level – but that’s not enough to develop an ecosystem.

One other strategy we have been trying is growing our other global projects which have incomes of their own. Our main project is Freedom Coop, but it’s not enough to support Fair Coin.

OSB: How big is the Fair Coop team?

ED: It’s decentralized so difficult to say, the more active people move between 20 and 50 perhaps, and the community is probably somewhere between 500 and 1500 members.

OSB: So what are you working on right now?

ED: We would like to focus on making economic tools using distributed software. For example, I am working on building decentralised infrastructure for an eco system for the future – to get users and developers building on blockchain to create a resilient economy.

OSB: Have you looked at Holochain and Scuttlebutt and Solid?

ED: Yes – we’ve been researching which tools to use for some time. In the last period we chose another system – Chromia.

OSB: How does that work – does it still follow the ‘proof of cooperation’ model behind Faircoin? I’m really worried about the energy consumption of some blockchain setups…

ED: Chromia doesn’t use proof of work – so doesn’t use so much energy. It is similar to Faircoin’s proof of cooperation, but could more accurately be described as ‘proof of authority’. There is a democratic process to select block producers that will provide a service – and which provides them the certification to do so… These become the system nodes that provide the central architecture. Then there is a directory of other nodes, that is run by 10 or 12 nodes, which know which node is running which App, so it’s fully distributed. Every dApp has its own chain.

The block producers are professional providers but users can provide their own node. The main point is not the blockchain – but the capacity to develop any technology on this… Blockchain has been about coins and tokens, but with Chromia you can build decentralized anything.

Holo is amazing but Chromia’s strategy is in my point of view more appropriate for our needs for a couple of reasons, which in the long term will be key.

Firstly, development. NGOs and commons building organisations do not have not a lot of money to pay developers so we need to choose a language which is fast and easy to learn – and Rust is not that. Rust developers will be expensive. Chromia uses Rell, which is very easy to learn and faster to develop.

The second benefit is Chromia’s relational blockchain concept which brings the capacity to build anything you can imagine – you could build video games fully on the blockchain. It’s a big step forward…

Another factor is that Chromia’s creators have been experimenting with blockchain since 2012. They have lots of experience developing for banks and public systems. They bring credibility that this is serious and will be around for a long time.They’ve made a public blockchain based on their private work.

OSB: So is building a commons based economy on Chromia your long term plan?

ED: Right now we are building a co-op of developers to offer services for platform co-ops – to develop their projects on this platform. We want to be able to support projects with similar values to ours and help them sustain their businesses.

For example, we’re aiming to build Coopshares, which will include a tool kit of 8 or 9 different apps for co-ops to use. One is a wallet with currencies and tokens – and a way to enable people to invest in co-ops or projects in return for some equity, which could also enable projects to launch their own social currencies.

OSB: That sounds awesome, and like something the co-op sector could really benefit from. How is Chromia governed? Even though the technology is distributed it seems essential that the organisation behind it has suitably distributed governance too.

ED: The governance is being built now, so we can help define it… At the moment it’s in the hands of the company. The current blockchain is in alpha and by 3rd quarter 2020 the plan is to have a minimal viable product governed by different block producers – the different agents in the ecosystem.

OSB: I look forward to hearing more about how the plans evolve. Do you have any other updates you want to share?

ED: I’m also involved in a plan to set up an EU ethical bank which will work like a platform co-op. It will be based in Lithuania and be formed as a European cooperative society.  The project is led by Zef cooperative in Croatia. We need to have a social movement of different groups working together to make it work. The plan is to create an entity which enables us all to invest in the commons.

OSB: Excellent – that’s another clear part of the puzzle we are all trying to solve to help grow the commons – Good luck and thanks for the update!

Join us at OPEN 2020, on the 11th and 12th of June, to hear more from Enric and others about building the commons economy.

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