Bank of the Commons

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= "Group dedicated to develop an European cooperative bank for the commons during 2017. This group also focus the Fairpay cards project".

URL: = https://bankofthecommons.coop/ Initial Pad

Description

1.

Bank of the Commons is an initiative to create a European cooperative society, as legal backing for an open and cooperatively run alternative bank. Its objective is to transform banking, payments systems and currencies in order to support the economy used in cooperative and social movements both at a global and a local level. Its efforts are ideologically close to those of founding partner initiatives Faircoop, Chip Chap and Dyne, involving a commons focused monetary sovereignty, democratic participation, open cooperativism and a hacker ethic across the use of open source technical tools and hacking the existing financial system as well as creating a new one.

As well as areas such as ethical financing, Bank of the Commons attempts to hack money creation into a commons, to work with a network of interconnected social and fair currencies, and to be cooperatively run. In this sense it attempts to tackle various areas of the financial system currently seen as problematic by alternative economy proponents.

Bank of the Commons uses technologies like FairCoin 2, the Open Collaborative Platform (OCP) which is the current incarnation of the NRP software initially developed for Sensorica, Freecoin the community currency toolkit and Chip Chap, who develop cryptocurrency banking and payment tools. You can read more about technical plans in the Roadmap https://bankofthecommons.coop/strategical-steps/

On the 7th of June 2017, Bank of the Commons has entered its Beta stage and had 40+ members and 20k+ social capital in shares as of 28/9/2017. Legally, the european cooperative society is planned for September 2017, but the bank also forges alliances with other banks such as Catalan community bank Casx.cat, Banca Etica in Italy, and various ethical banks and organisations fostering alternative economies across the world.

Open participation based on in-person meetings/hackathons, online assemblies, collaborative pads and contributions from members is combined with more focused work in areas requiring more expertise such as economics, accounting, programming, management, legal issues or communication.


2.

"FairCoop is one of the co-founders of Bank of the Commons (BotC), a revolutionary open cooperative initiative whose aim is to bring some fresh air into the dark world of banking and finances and to offer support to cooperative projects and social currencies all over the world, both at a global and a local level. BotC brings them the latest technologies in banking and payment systems, inside an environment where they can stay loyal to their values.

The official systems are continuously adopting new banking and payment technologies to make their services easier and easier to use, but they aren’t really implementing this advances for the common good. Bank of the Commons’ aim is to put these latest technologies at the service of solidary economy projects to help them grow and consolidate. But it goes even further: the blockchain revolution makes it possible to decentralize banking and make it more transparent, so BotC is using it to obtain much desired sovereignty in finances, participatory budgeting and money creation, adopting FairCoin as a strategic global social currency. This means to change the basis, not only the shape.

By combining the open assembly methodology (that has characterized movements like 15M, Occupy and the integral cooperatives) with professional work in areas such as economics, accounting, programming, management, legal issues and communication, BotC practices a participatory and efficient way of management.

The result is:

  • A self-managed bank, without bankers. Every member of the cooperative has a say in the decision making.
  • Multicurrency operating options (FairCoin, social currencies and fiat money), with a wallet allowing all of them to use according to necessities, giving great possibilities to alternative currency systems.
  • Aimed to invest in cooperativists movements, solving the old problem of the lack of investments in this sector.
  • Ruled by ethical principles.

Bank of the Commons was launched in a Beta stage on the 7th of June, 2017, offering its first services to its members. Legally, it will adopt the form of a European cooperative society, offering then its full range of services." (https://2017.fair.coop/bank-of-the-commons-the-new-banking-era/)


Discussion

A BoC as wing of the Federal Reserve in the USA

(this is not about the same project as above)

By J.D. Alt:

"What comes immediately to mind is a “Bank of the Commons” (BOC)—a new wing of the Federal Reserve—which is specifically empowered with the task of enabling and funding local cooperative projects. Local advocates would propose the goals, details, milestones, deliverables, and budget for a specific project that creates some collective good, and—if it is approved by the Bank of the Commons—the Federal Reserve would deposit directly into the advocate’s account new fiat dollars to fund the project.

There are two issues in this proposal to contend with, (assuming, of course, you accept the reality that the Federal Reserve actually has the ability to create the new dollars.) First, what would prevent the selfish gene from taking advantage of this funding source? Second, what would be the process by which the BOC “managers” could possibly review and then approve or deny thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of locally initiated cooperative projects every month? (Obviously, the second issue is also related to the first.)

In essence, these two questions constitute the dilemma described by Thomas Piketty in his recent book Capital in the Twenty First Century—namely that while it is true (he finally admits after some 500 pages) that a sovereign currency issuer does, in fact, have the ability to directly fund virtually any collective “need” within its own national society, ponderous national governments are poorly structured to do so in any kind of rational or effective way. The democratic electoral system is too slow and cumbersome to make decisions about this kind of sovereign spending—and central banks are too obtuse to make good decisions about what collective goods need pursuing in any given locality. Here’s how Piketty puts it:

It is of course possible in the abstract to imagine much larger central bank balance sheets. The central banks could decide to buy up all of a country’s firms and real estate, finance the transition to renewable energy, invest in universities, and take control of the entire economy. Clearly, the problem is that central banks are not well suited to such activities and lack the democratic legitimacy to try them…. The problem is not one of technical (monetary) possibility but of democratic governance. (p.552)

Instead of simply assuming, however—and in such an off-hand fashion!—that legitimate “democratic governance” cannot possibly be inserted into a central bank’s procedures for issuing fiat currency, why not try to imagine a way that it could? This is precisely what a “Bank of the Commons” might accomplish.

The technology that would make this possible, of course, is the internet—and a platform already exists which would be a good starting “model” for the effort: the crowd-source funding platform KICKSTARTER. If you haven’t spent some time at the KICKSTARTER website, I invite you to visit. And while you’re there, imagine that the projects are not profit-seeking entrepreneurial start-ups or artistic ventures, but rather large and small cooperative projects advocated by specific local groups. Just to give a quick example, imagine a core group of moms and teachers organizing to form a cooperative venture to build and operate an early childhood reading and day-care center to be shared by every family in a certain urban neighborhood. The presentation would (a) document the need for their collective project, (b) establish the costs of its various components, and (c) identify the availability of the actual resources necessary for implementation. The internet “crowd” would vote for their favorite projects, and every month the Bank of the Commons would “approve” the top, say, 1000 projects.

In other words, the Bank of the Commons would be, itself, a crowd-sourcing “commons”. The “managers” who have to make all those evaluations and decisions about what, in fact, might be a viable and useful project creating a local collective good, are NOT government bureaucrats or Wall Street insiders—they are the great population of internet citizens themselves.

But what about the selfish gene? The crowd-sourcing selection process leaves “him” out of the picture simply because it’s virtually impossible to coerce or fool a large number of unknown people into cooperating with a private collusion. After a project is funded, however, what prevents the local advocacy group from turning out to be a small group of colluding individuals who intended, from the beginning, to take the new fiat dollars and use them for some private, selfish purpose?

This, I believe, could be addressed in two ways: First, the BOC funding would include terms of agreement holding the advocacy group legally bound to use the funds as they proposed. Second, the advocacy groups would be required to keep ALL their funds in—and make ALL their transactions through—an account at the BOC itself. Any internet citizen, interested in a specific project, would be able to “observe” the project’s account on the BOC platform. In a real sense, then, the Bank of the Commons is a direct “democratic governance” for all the cooperative genes in our society. What would Mr. Piketty say to that?

Finally, what if the local cooperative advocates did their best, spent all the money as they proposed, but still the project, for whatever reason, failed to produce the intended collective good? Well, in that case, what’s been lost? The fiat dollars have still been spent into the private economy where they can now enable citizens to buy food and housing and cars and shoes. If prices begin to rapidly rise it would be very easy for the Bank of the Commons to dial back the number of projects it funds—or to cease funding them altogether until the inflation is brought under control. In the meantime, however, one can imagine tens of thousands of creative projects that would give a lot of people something interesting and useful to do—in addition to creating real collective benefits. Best of all, though, there’s not a single governmental bureaucrat or Wall Streeter involved!" (http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/09/bank-commons.html)

More Information

discussion via https://fair.coop/groups/bank-of-the-commons/