In 2020 Mark Pascall emerged from 20 years running a software development company and 6 years working in the blockchain / web 3 technology space. He became fascinated by the work of Raghuram Rajan (The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind) and Elinor Ostrom Nobel prize winning research into managing the commons.
In early 2020 he connected with Dame Dianne Robertson (ex head of the Auckland City Mission) and James Mansell (a leading thinker / advisor in social welfare reform) for 2 days of workshops to share and explore ideas. From those workshops emerged the seed of a big idea to reimagine our social welfare system, and some big questions. Could decentralisation and token economic design patterns/technologies be used to create a scalable community wellbeing commons? Could new incentives be created that supported genuine community wellbeing? Could those new forces start to oppose the dominant and powerful forces of capitalism and centralisation that are decimating our communities and pushing us towards individualism and inequity? And would this thinking align more with the world view of our indigenous Maori culture?
In Sept 2020 Mark was accepted into the Creative HQ Govtech accelerator program where he met Benjamin Alder who had a background in design and social entrepreneurship. Together Mark and Benjamin embarked on a journey of exploration/research which built on the work of Rajan and Ostrom including:
New forms of capital and currencies (out of the permaculture world)
In 2021 we presented at the GovTech demo day and a few months later ran a trial in the low socio-economic suburb of Cannons Creek near Wellington, NZ. The Cannon Coin trial explored using a local community or complementary currency might be used in a small community. This was achieved using a crypto “stablecoin” (i.e. backed by real NZ$) running on an Ethereum sidechain and a custom built user friendly digital wallet as a smart phone "app". The project received extensive media coverage and some interesting conversations with the Reserve Bank of NZ, the Financial Markets Authority and social welfare agencies.
In late 2021 we released our Whitepaper.
One of the key learnings / realisations from the Canon Coin trial was related to trust. The communities that we were working in had a justifiable lack of trust in individuals or organisations who came in to “help” them. It became obvious that before we could build the tools to empower communities we needed to build an entity that the community could trust. We realised that the only way to do this was to create an entity that was genuinely owned and governed by the community that it was serving. Could this entity start to restore dignity, give voice, choice and power to local communities? And could the world of Web 3 and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) give us the governance patterns and technology to create these entities in a replicable and therefore scalable way?
However we also had a more pressing challenge: how do we get funding to keep the project running?
So we tried something a little different. We started talking to community funders: the government agencies, the charities, the philanthropists who had budgets and genuinely wanted to support community initiatives. We pitched a new concept where we could solve a problem that all of them had: how to get funding out to communities in an efficient, fair and transparent way. We showed them a prototype tool that could make participatory grant making / local democracy actually work. At the heart of our solution was the idea that new governance patterns emerging out of the Web 3 (for example quadratic and conviction voting) could be used to create a way for communities to effectively make decisions on how grant funding should be spent. So a funder could theoretically give a community the money directly and let them decide how it is spent (and theoretically take away many layers of bureaucracy and inefficiency).
Our pitch worked, we got initial funding from Sport NZ (a central government agency) to run a series of workshop with funder representatives and a community group. We created a pitch video that was shown at parliament and helped us to raise NZ$155k to build the software and run the Tane Ora trial.
Our first our participatory grantmaking app is now available for other communities to use around the world and has become a key milestone towards The Wellbeing Protocols vision. We are now working with a number of other communities and funders across New Zealand, USA and the UK to start new trials.