Christian Siefkes on Local Associations for organizing material peer production

In the second part of his contribution on free cooperation, after introducing his concept of distribution pools, Christian Siefkes tackles the issue of local cooperation.

Christian Siefkes:

There are things that concern all the people living in a specific area, such as the providing and maintenance of infrastructure and of public services (e.g., health and elder care). To handle these issues, the people concerned need to jointly deal with two of the three aspects discussed above: they need to _set goals_, deciding which infrastructure and services to organize (item 1), and they need to _share the effort_ required to do so in a way that is acceptable to all (item 3).

I use the term *local association* to refer to institutions that the inhabitants of an area set up for these purposes. Local associations will need decision-making structures for _goal setting,_ but they don’t have to handle the providing of infrastructure and public services all by themselves. Instead, they can cooperate with various peer projects for organizing the different activities (a project building and maintaining streets and bridges, another one running a hospital, a third organizing a fire brigade, etc.), leaving the detail decisions of how exactly to organize things (item 2) to the specific projects. Local associations will also have to decide how to make the organized services available–in many cases, _flat rate_ access might be the most suitable model, but other allocation models are possible too.

To _share the required effort,_ local associations can rely on the mechanism discussed above, by joining a _distribution pool._ Due to the effort-balancing effect of distribution pools, this means that the members of a local association will have to contribute as much effort to the d-pool as they take out of it: together, they need to contribute enough weighted labor to the distribution pool to make up for the overall effort required for the activities coordinated by their local association.

A special issue that can be considered a public service and that might be handled by local associations is to ensure that everyone gets access to the goods they need, regardless of whether they can contribute. The core idea of the “effort sharing” model is to distribute the effort required for producing something among those who want to benefit, but it would not do to exclude those who _cannot_ contribute (say, because they are too old, too young, ill, or disabled). A part of the goal-setting and effort-distributing activities of local associations can thus be to decide who is _exempted_ from contributing and to ensure that those who are exempted get access to the goods they need or want to have (which means that everybody else will have to contribute slightly more to make up for the missing contributions).

Since the scales most suitable for organizing a task vary for different tasks, I assume that there will be several levels of local associations of different sizes that nest into each other like Matryoshka dolls (for example, a _communal,_ a _regional,_ and a _global_ level).”

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