Snapshot of Global Commons Trust / Stewardship System model

The following prose is slightly edited from a comment I made on a Facebook post (to the Beck-Graves Spiral Dynamics group) in October 2018.


Of late, I’ve started using the term “Global Commons Trust” (GCT) to describe the type of governance body I think we need to deal with some of our global wicked problems.

Here’s why:

I don’t think government can do it. Countries compete against each other. If they’re not all moving at the same time, those who move first are at a disadvantage.

I don’t think private industry can do it. They have to make a profit, and their scope of vision is necessarily limited in order to maintain their own survival in what is, again, an essentially competitive landscape.

What we need is an entirely different strategy, one that is collaborative first and foremost. A way of pulling people together in a coherent fashion, working towards the one goal. Ideally, we would harness the voices and power of as many people as possible, including those who don’t have any other voice at the moment, perhaps because they’re too young to vote, or because they don’t have the money or the time to lobby or to research the supply chain or climate science, or even to think beyond where their next meal is coming from.

How do you get people to actively collaborate like that, except by aligning incentives and adjusting system conditions so that when people and businesses and governments behave naturally, in accordance with their own interests (preferably their short term interests), it automatically works to the benefit of the whole, as well?

I’m no expert on the Commons (yet), but from what I’ve managed to understand so far, based on information kindly shared by James Quilligan, Anna Betz, George Pór, Michel Bauwens, David Bollier, Silke Helfrich (and no doubt others I can’t remember right now), it’s a 3rd sector of governance, one we’ve largely forgotten about, and – I believe – the one we desperately need to reclaim back from Market & State and empower to take responsibility for stewardship of the planet. Effective commons governance is collaborative to the core.

Here’s how I think the GCT should be designed to work:

  • individual people opt in to receive a digital ID / passport, and an account in which they will receive dividend payments

  • GCT experts (economists, quants, ecologists) model and transparently publish the increasing rents / fees on fossil fuels (and/or other commons claims) required to smoothly reduce demand for the resource to a sustainable level

  • GCT negotiates with individual fossil fuel corporations to pay those rents / fees to the GCT fund, in return for positive public relations, future assistance with decommissioning stranded assets, etc

  • dividend payments (say 80% of the rents/fees collected) for that commons claim are equally distributed automatically to all beneficiaries of that commons claim who have opted-in to the Trust

  • the payment distribution infrastructure can also be used to provide a “service” to other organisations (e.g. governments, charities, personal data using organisations like FB) which want to distribute additional payments to selected groups, e.g. universal basic income, disaster relief, advertising-attention compensation

  • the GCT might also potentially act as a bank providing loans for social and environmental projects, and scientific research … again, distributing dividends from any interest received on those loans to appropriate beneficiaries of the relevant commons claim (i.e. on the ‘loan’ itself)

  • who knows … maybe a new currency could be created based on increasing value of Creative Commons via sharing (e.g. create 2 credits at point of ebook download, allocate 1 to fund and 1 to the creator/author … OR, using an algorithm such as the ones Mark Nadal and team are working on)

The technology required to set up the infrastructure for the above exists (with the possible exception of suitably secure and self-sovereign ID). The project could be funded, I believe, with a fraction of the money currently donated to various climate funds by billionaires such as Branson, Musk & Zuckerberg.

The GCT could be administered by functional experts, selected by sortition (i.e. random ballot from pools of pre-qualified volunteers) for limited terms. Again, this seeks to enhance collaboration rather than competition.

There’s a lot more to it but that’ll do for now.

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