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5: DisCO Futures

DisCO is a vision for future distributed economies that doesn't rely on top-down techno-solutionist frameworks or corporate-constrained policy. We believe that change needs to be led by people creating economic counterpower to meet human and environmental needs at the point of access.

The 2020s are the crucial decade for worldwide economic change toward fairness and ecological stewardship over all considerations. DisCO puts the agency of change in small, federated groups working together for social and environmental purposes.

Imagine a world full of DisCOs, where workplaces increasingly turn away from exploitation of humans and the planet. Instead, people dedicate their talent and creativity toward the emotional well-being of humankind and extend this care to the planet that sustains us. This is a world where groups don't waste a third of their lives in workplaces that mistreat and alienate them while worsening the social and environmental crises we face.

With their focus on continued learning, DisCO can effectively de-school their members away from patriarchal, colonial and GDP growth-oriented value systems and towards relationality and deep care for community and nature. In the face of collapse, DisCOs raise the ground by effectively implementing the economic and human relations necessary for a rapid shift towards anticapitalist, feminist and commons-oriented societies. This reinvents the sense and purpose of work: we work, together, for planetary restoration, we rest, and then we take care of each other. This is what "work" should have been all along, the historical precedents are clear and need to be reclaimed at this juncture.

DisCOs are not small, isolated solutions. Together they can add up to a large-scale economic counterpower, federated worldwide to create the necessary cultural and techno-legal framework to ease their uptake. DisCO quantifiably frames existing alternatives, creating street-level demand for fairer work, gender and digital policies, while bypassing corporate control or shock-doctrine legislation over urgent ecological shifts. We hope to offer actionable hope at a crucial time where everyone matters and people are trusted to be active drivers of community led change.

This is a vision that can be accomplished before the 2020s are over. What do we need to accomplish it? More and more DisCOs, working for the needs of its members, their immediate communities and the planet as a whole.

DisCOs in the time of monsters

DisCOs in the time of Monsters

Historically there has been a marked tension in liberatory political and activist movements between prefigurative (building the new world in the shell of the old) and institutional (using the tools of the system, the state and the economy to alleviate the pain of those most harmed) politics.

DisCOs are prefigurative because we're practicing actual anticapitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist approaches in the here and now. The extent that we are able to do so will always be determined by the constraints of existing systems. Whether through the enclosures brought on by neoliberalism or through authoritarian, exclusionary hate politics, the ‘normal’ conditions people expect or aspire to are increasingly shrinking. This affects things that those in more privileged economies had taken for granted, including job security, pensions, unemployment, sensible working hours and conditions, fairness. As an effect, the ‘wiggle room’ assumed for the operations of alternative economic frameworks such a DisCO will compress.

We want to overcome the prefigurative vs. institutional conundrum by:

  1. doing the work that needs to be done to restore the planet while taking care of ourselves and
  2. creating a political economy that helps these prefigurative practices shine.

Both approaches, prefigurative and institutional, can work together. DisCOs help new alternatives now and provide real world examples and data to hack existing political channels toward the DisCO Principles. How do we achieve this? First by creating more DisCOs and, following that, ensuring that they are protected and supported for future resilience.

DisCO-friendly Policies

DisCO-friendly Policies

Given DisCO’s transnational orientation, the following recommendations are general and non-domain specific. Individual DisCOs and federated DisCO networks can actively campaign for legal change at various levels in their regions and countries. The objective is for local, regional, state or transnational legislation to provide the necessary infrastructure to empower and protect DisCOs, but not direct the process of federated DisCO development.

From the perspective of the State, DisCOs centered on ecologically and socially-oriented work can directly address urgent crises at their root, radically democratizing social and public health provision and large infrastructure management and upkeep. Preventing further damage would obviously lessen the need for costly interventions, bringing a more democratic distribution of economic power. DisCOs also provide tangible social solutions by providing meaningful employment, narrowing the digital divide, and actively addressing the gendered aspects of work.

DisCO also prepares us for taking power. Sympathetic political actors with no economic power are inevitably choked by the interests of capitalism, whether through propaganda, economic harassment and legislative intimidation or outright attacks. Care-oriented systems of commoning that are already providing for our needs are the best defense against predatory interests. They also have the necessary maturity to tackle power and federate it into subsidiarity. A strong, federated and transnational DisCOverse can guarantee that programs like Universal Basic Income or Universal Basic Services develop in ethical and anticapitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist ways, and not be caught up in power interests or patterns of over consumption and materialism.

In an uncertain future the best investment you can make isn't gold, bitcoin, guns or other prepper delusions. Invest in making friends, taking care of people and providing for your community. Be the future you want to see in the world.

DisCO Policies in a Nutshell

DisCO Policies in a Nutshell

To support these goals we propose that states and municipalities enable DisCO development through:

  • 1. The provision of special economic incentives for DisCOs, implemented as:
    • a. Tax benefits, including reducing the tax rate dynamically calculated against measurable social and environmental gains, social security bonuses for employing underprivileged or marginalized persons and more.
    • b. State-supported microcredit systems with demurrage based interest rates based on achievement of co-defined social provision goals. These can be delivered through cooperative banks, some of which may practice forms of DisCO accounting. State-supported social and crypto currencies are another possibility.
    • c. Direct financial injection and social investment through renewable, interest-free loans. These can act as seed funding for DisCOs and enable positive credit valuation.
    • d. Public subsidies towards DisCO Worker Self Directed Nonprofits as a more democratic and mandate-accountable alternative to traditional NGOs.
    • e. The monetary value of employee pro-bono work could be treated as a tax-deductible contribution to the non-profit coop.
  • 2. The development of legal frameworks to provide DisCOs with appropriate institutional (i.e., State, federal) support to facilitate their operation and innovative accounting practices.
  • 3. The development of commons-public partnerships as an alternative to the established public-private, following the Preston and Evergreen models, with DisCOs facilitating.
    • a. Municipal service provision for local economies.
    • b. FLOSS-built and open licensed, common-pool civic knowledge resources.
    • c. Practical workplace education on feminist economics, the commons, decentralized technology and the ethical market sectors offered by participating DisCOs.
  • 4. Supportive municipal policies for provision or support for physical infrastructures for DisCOs, including hackerspaces, hacker LABS, maker and co-working spaces. Unused municipal facilities could serve as short- or long-term incubators for knowledge work, skill sharing and technology transfer, as well as for the development of new, federated DisCOs.
  • 5. Support of community investment funds for federated DisCOs, with dispensations for
  • a. DisCO federation contributions
  • b. Tax-exempt charitable donations
  • c. State sponsorship (see point 1)
  • 6. DisCO-oriented work training programs with DisCOs providing practical education in their specific sectors, as well as the DisCO methodology and tools. This would include transfer and acknowledgement of credits for higher education.
  • 7. Research and higher education support, leveraging existing DisCO open-access documentation, training programs and pedagogical materials.
  • 8. Support of DisCO initiatives as bottom-up facilitators of Green New Deal projects. Compared to normative public-private solutions, this would:
    • a. Disburse funding for GND projects more equitably and at a lower risk,
    • b. Enable substantial savings, absent a profit motive,
    • c. Bring the benefits of impact at scale through highly federated actors, focused on regenerative economies of scope, not scale.
  • 9. Prioritization of DisCOs and DisCO federations over for-profit entities when capitalizing on products/services derived from publicly funded research, including healthcare and medicine, code and end-consumer products. This would ensure fair pricing, ethical application and open licensing.
  • 10. Policy development in concert with the International Labour Organization and the International Cooperative Alliance to recognize transnational, on-chain DisCOs as federated cooperatives.

DisCO LABS in diverse sectors such as the arts, translation and media, regenerative innovation, education, independent cultural spaces and decentralized music venues are being planned and launched. Research findings from these pilots would validate DisCOs advantages in real-world contexts to facilitate policy uptake.

DisCOs are designed to be autonomous in operation and not State-dependent. From a legal standpoint, cooperatives are private entities. But in the interest of long term remediation — social, economic, environmental — governments would be called upon to prioritize support for generative, restorative industries, and to divert funding and subsidies away from harmful, extractive and exploitative ones.

Taking a Stand with DisCO

Taking a Stand with DisCO

What DisCO proposes is radical economic subsidiarity: distributed production and economies not of scale, but of multi-faceted scope. With the increasing awareness and discussion (even if divisive) of our many global crises, taking a stand becomes more important, collectively and individually. For true change to happen we must first address the productive and reproductive spheres of work, the decisions about what we produce and why, and how we regard fairness in the way we treat one another. Ask yourself this question: can we continue to support the exploitative labor practices of the ever-growing economic power monopolies exemplified by Amazon, or do we see ourselves capable of contributing to the revolution of work, as exemplified by DisCO?

While compatible with existing alternative economic forms (i.e., cooperatives, the Social Solidarity Economy, etc.) and actively working to subvert the right-libertarian bent of most blockchain economics towards mutual aid, DisCOs also pave the way for decommodification and non-market exchange thanks to their commons orientation. They train us to resist and create capacity for whatever the future may hold.

Finally, DisCOs place a new and more empowered political subject at the center. Beyond the precariat, DisCOs exist to care for and reproduce commoners — understood as people in communities who steward their own resources according to the rules, norms and values they set for themselves. With the sustenance of 2.5 billion people depending on natural resource commons and an abundance of commoning practices taking place in digital spaces, mutual aid groups, food production, cohabitation and fab LABS and makerspaces, the logic of commoning is omnipresent yet invisibilized. DisCOs catalyze these practices into a feminist economic and care-oriented framework, paving the way for pervasively sustainable commons-based alternatives to the dominant order.

  • Fair, more distributed futures rely on small-scale, federated groups working together for social and environmental purposes.
  • DisCOs are not isolated solutions. They need more DisCOs to build large-scale economic counterpower and create the necessary cultural and techno-legal framework to protect and support each other for future resilience.
  • States and municipalities can enable DisCO development through DisCO-friendly policies such as various economic incentives for DisCOS, development of legal frameworks that facilitate DisCO’s operation and innovative accounting, commons-public partnerships, support for physical infrastructures, community investment funds for federated DisCOs, training programs, research, etc.
  • DisCOs are designed to be autonomous in operation and not State-dependent.
  • DisCO proposes radical economic subsidiarity. Real, meaningful change starts with reassessing the productive and reproductive spheres of work.
  • Beyond the precariat, DisCOs’ raison d’être is to care for and steward the commons. With its feminist economic and care-oriented framework, DisCOs pave the way for sustainable commons-based alternatives to the dominant order.