The Future of Worker Organizing & Web3

Traditional and new forms of labor need to be built and supported. How can we enable communities to build for themselves, mutualistically and create our next safety net? Can tokens, blockchains and DAOs be useful? We dug into these questions and more on April 21, 2022 with Sara Horowitz of Mutualist Society, Saket Soni of Resilience Force, Esteban Kelly of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and Matt Prewitt of RadicalxChange. You can watch the full conversation here. Here are a few of the highlights:

Mutualism as a frame

Sara Horowitz literally wrote the book on Mutualism and what she learned is that there are three essential elements to developing mutualistic solutions typically led by cooperatives, unions, mutual aid groups and faith institutions. First, the idea comes from the community and has a social purpose. Second, it has to have an economic mechanism to ensure financial independence. You can't get all your money from the government or from foundations because then you need to focus on their agenda and what problems they are seeking to solve. But it can also be an exchange of time or alternative currencies. And the third is a long-term time horizon. 

The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives offers a great example of what mutualism looks like in practice. Esteban broke it down for us.

Tech lengthening the lifespan of mutualism

Resilience Force supports workers that step in to rebuild entire areas after natural disasters hit. Saket Soni, its founder, urged us to think of what it might look like to build technologies, Web3 or otherwise, that could help coordinate and expand the lifespan of mutualist efforts.

Some solutions are already in the works, like Guilded which Esteban Kelly describes here.

Web3 & Governance

There’s a shift underway in the Web3 community, Matt told us. Whereas less than a year ago, most Web3 technologists thought the technology itself would solve most of the problems that stem from centralization; they now realize that figuring out governance structures that work is they key question they’re wrestling with. And here, worker organizers and mutualists have a tactical advantage because that’s their expertise.

The question becomes, how do we ensure mutualists are the ones designing and building the tech that allows them to coordinate and make sure some other system doesn’t just “happen at us”.

Expanding workplace democracy

Work is where most of us spend most of our time. It’s also one of the best playgrounds for democratic governance. How do we make sure tech enables more of that and doesn’t just automate everything?

Ownership matters

Who owns the tech is of critical importance here, and the Web3 moment we’re in offers us an opportunity to rethink ownership altogether.

For more check out the DWeb Learning Collaborative, convened by Ashoka & Mutualist Society