• Chelsea Rustrum

Digital Socialism

Updated: Feb 21

How Some Sharing Economy Organizations are Challenging Traditional Exchange Models

Digital socialism is this idea that we can solve social problems using technology. The heart of socialism is “the theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” In this case, I’m not advocating for the state to own everything and redistribute value, but rather for value to flow freely between community members through new, technology driven models. These models don’t need to replace capitalism, but can instead push us toward an economy that is both innovative and egalitarian.

And to be clear, digital socialism isn’t about everything being “free” or about eradicating money, but is about finding new ways to distribute and think about time, resources, and space that are of the highest social benefit. And to be of highest social benefit, there must be economic rewards. That’s what’s so great about the sharing economy — there are so many ways to find and distribute value, which surpass the companies you typically hear about.

Here are a few endeavors that are pushing toward digital socialism:

Seat 2 Meet A coworking space with 61 locations in the Netherlands, Egypt and Japan, which offers free space, coffee and lunch to budding entrepreneurs in exchange for being open to chance encounters where they might help someone else with their social capital. All of this buzz creates a machine, which translates to more large companies wanting to book their meetings there and pay for space. The entrepreneurs themselves can’t stop talking about Seats 2 Meet and everyone wins.

Loconomics Loconomics is using a cooperative legal model to run what appears to be a version of TaskRabbit meaning that each of the workers will own a portion of the company based on their contributions. For more on cooperatives, visit the Sustainable Economies and Law Center. They are doing lots of free classes and community outreach to promote progressive legal models for the changing economy.

Time Banking With time banking, every hour of time is equal, regardless of the type of work that you do. And hours are the currency, to be traded typically within local networks — although, international networks are beginning to form.

Freecycle A very simple, email list driven approach to paying your stuff forward / gifting stuff you no longer need— or requesting goods that you need, as you need them within your community. With 8 million+ members worldwide, they don’t get a lot of press, but Freecycle provides a service to many that’s much needed. From boxes of baby clothes to extra cords of wood, these free things make a difference for many.

Couchsurfing A website that connects people to free stays anywhere in the world — a network of community members who want to share their space and culture with other travelers. With 9 million+ members and over 2 million stays, Couchsurfing is more than a cultural phenomenon, it’s a groundswell of generosity and currently one of the largest online/offline social value exchanges.

Open Garden The mobile internet in the U.S. is still amazingly slow and sometimes difficult to connect to. Open Garden solves that by connecting devices to one another, by sharing internet connectivity — device to device. Instead of Comcast installing shared access on your device and reselling it as a service, this gives you the power to share your own internet, finding the best signal where ever you might be. Along these lines, there is also Fon.

Creative Commons The Creative Commons is way for anyone to share their digital creations (audio, text, video) with others via a common license and an understanding that allows for people to build works on top of one another legally. This is what’s fueling the open education movement toward more egalitarian learning materials worldwide. Whereas educational materials have been traditionally locked behind copyright, the textbooks of the future are translatable, copyable, and repurposable. You can read more in depth about the Creative Commons in the upcoming book, It’s a Shareable Life.

Prosper Prosper is peer-to-peer lending for personal loans, with more than 2 million members and one billion dollars in loans so far. By using Prosper, you can directly help people get out of debt, fund other peoples entrepreneurial dreams, etc.

What else do you know of that’s challenging traditional models, changing our cultural paradigm, utilizing technology, disrupting industries, and otherwise creating new opportunities for more people?
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