Reflections on DWeb

On June 23, 2022 the DWeb Learning Collaborative got together one last time to reflect and debrief on our journey thus far: what have we learned about web3, about blockchain and tokens -- and the tension between solidarity, community, and self-sovereignty ? Any technology can be used for good and for bad purposes – what are the good promises and avenues for our work that we’re excited about? What do we see is not going to work? You can watch the full conversation here. Here are a few of the highlights:

Will the real Web3 use cases please stand up?

This conversation took place right as crypto markets were crashing, putting renewed emphasis on the pitfalls of the speculative nature of Web3. Is Web3 a solution in search of a problem? Where are the use cases, really? Konstanze Frischen argues that the most valuable uses cases come from social entrepreneurs who turn to Web3 not as a solution but as one more tool in their toolkit.

Building bridges between Web3 & mutualist ecosystems

Throughout the session, people kept coming back to a similar reflection: Web3 tech experts – those who are building crypto-currencies and launching the biggest DAOs – and social entrepreneurs are working in siloes. What we need are bridge-builders who can start exploring key governance questions together, drawing from each other’s expertise. We also need to reckon with the compatibility of our approaches. In our DAO Lab learning session, Daniel Hwang spoke at length on the importance of “self-sovereignty”, a concept that at first sight seems diametrically opposed to a core tenant of mutualism – solidarity. Are these reconcilable?

What if instead of incentivizing individual gains, as our current financial system does and crypto-economics tend to replicate – we instead took a page out of Indigenous economics, Lee White suggested.

Trust, social fabric & intrinsic motivation

Another central aspect of Web3 tools is that they purportedly bring trust to trustless networks. However, what we have learned from social entrepreneurs is that for Web3 tools to work for communities, trust still needs to be built and typically this happens through a combination of online and offline interactions – weaving tech-enabled solutions into the social fabric.

Harnessing the moment for the benefit of all

Though there was a healthy dose of skepticism and critiques of Web3, several people remained optimistic about the promise of Web3 for social impact.

For Meena Palaniappan Web3 represents a golden opportunity we simply cannot squander. “Let’s not be timid,” she said. “Web3 was made for us!”

Ben Powell urged us to imagine a world where social innovators could pool their power and resources through a common token. Collectivizing our efforts in this way could help rebalance the relationship between social entrepreneurs, funders and communities.

A renewed opportunity to encode shared ownership

Nathan Schneider has been building bridges between Web3 experts and Coops, since the inception days of the decentralized web. His view was, if not optimistic, pragmatic. He cautioned that socially minded people are a tiny minority in this space, in particular when it comes to developing new regulatory frameworks for crypto. While Web3 does represent an opportunity to encode shared ownership in new ways, it’s not the first time this opportunity presents itself. How will it be different?

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