P2P Answers the Meltdown: Nathan Cravens

When we forwarded news (to our p2p-research mailing list) on the publication of Dougald Hine’s proposals to use p2p-inspired strategies to at least mitigate the effects of the meltdown, we put forward a call to our community, to send in their own findings and proposals.

The first reply came from Nathan Cravens, which we reproduce here.

Nathan’s proposal is to combine open cafes, community supported agriculture, and open source fab labs as an integrated system and strategy.

Nathan Cravens:

What I have to present addresses the three questions asked by the author of ‘Social Media vs. the Economic Recession’. Housing may need to be manufactured out of Fab Labs at first until rent based vacancies are too rampant, lowering prices down to practicality. Our contact to solve the housing issue is Larry Sass.

From http://otherexcuses.blogspot.com/2009/01/social-media-vs-recession.html:

* practical/financial (e.g. how do I pay the rent/avoid my house being repossessed?)

* emotional/psychological (e.g. how do I face my friends? where do I get my identity from now I don’t have a job?)

* directional (e.g. what do I do with my time? how do I find work?)

Here’s an idea package to add to the TO DO NOW list:

The Open Cafe / Community Supported Agriculture / Fab Lab Alliance

1. Open Cafes: The physical hub for activity. A place where meals are prepared by people for people to eat for zero money. Its hip and empowering to dine/work/have a chat here.

2. Community Supported Agriculture: Enough participants work in DIY gardens or community farms and donate the produce to the Cafe and or from government issued food cards. (I play both sides for the same aim)

3. Open Source Fab Labs: Cafes align with OS Fab Labs to fill out the resource necessity gap to further save financial cost.

Wikis provide only an example for the communications medium used until better mediums are made: easy to use and easier to organize. For now, let’s work with the communications we have ready-made: e-mail and wikis.

Here are a few, but hardly all, hoops to jump through to make this Alliance a reality. This is just to prime the creative pump.

The Cafe is the focus:

* A space and resources are donated for this purpose by those that see the benefit. It can begin in your home and branch out. In urban settings, it can begin with what is already public domain, the local park.

* Food and beverage donation. Donations for the day/week can be viewed in advance on the Cafe’s wiki. Most everyone will want to participate in production because everyone can go here for free. There are no consumers here, rather, this is where producers are born willingly. There is not much difference between consumption or production here.

* If money is needed, a wiki shows expenses that need to be met and what is generating them; those in the Fab Lab then have something to make to reduce or eliminate that cost.

* Event planning. This too is done in wikis and is a place for people to perform or have specific discussions at the Cafe or elsewhere (like at the CSA or Fab Lab) to benefit the Cafe and the people that go there. The Cafe is our focus, because its where all of our interests can unite: in putting food literally on the table.

* Elaborate and replicate the Cafe as needed from here: http://opencafe.wikispot.org/

Other than crowdsourcing, here’s another way the Trio can receive additional funding until its less or no longer required. If one part of the trio has more surplus funds than another, these funds are tapped by the Cafe or Community Farm as needed based on the Open Source Pact or publicly viewable and revisable mutual agreement. (when necessary) Ideally, this pact works very well as a wiki. The establishment of a wiki contract shows in itself how well the contract works.

The Sell Stuff to Get Stuff Business Model:

I want to produce a Fab Lab to make ‘almost’ anything, but first need money to build one, but I’m not interested in profit so much as getting these labs up globally for abundant access so people can make what they want to have (rather than purchasing it / bashing me over the head for one). In prospect, once these labs are ubiquitous, I will ask “how can I make this?” rather than “where can I buy this?” Later it will only be “where can I make this” as desired. Knowing this foreseeable reality makes the presentation of Open Business plans like this one even more relevant and necessary.

I then go to the market and see what’s selling for a high return that’s easiest to make with as few tools and resources as possible. Once I’ve reverse engineered (open sourced) the thing and simplified the production process (potentially ignorant of patent law) I can now build it in our feeble lab and sell it for a return (like on Ebay) in order to put more tools in the lab which are then reverse engineered and resold to produce more fabrication tools and so on until a fully replicable Open Source Fab Lab is in every town around the world.

The Fab Lab is only an example presented in the story found in the preceding two paragraphs. The basis of this model can work for a CSA and Cafe as well, but I suspect OS Fab Labs will be the bread winner financially for these groups, even if the bread comes from the CSA and made at the Cafe by real people with real machines. I say OS Fabs will be the bread winners because the stuff made there are more difficult than replicating Cafes or Farms. Argument complete.


My presentation and prose may be a fault, but I believe the general ideas are sound. With your help or without you even knowing it we will amplify and attenuate a version of this proposal into practicality before generating something better. This can begin by further refining the ideas described here to better assist viable application.

Support Michel and the P2P Foundation, Factor e Farm and Appropedia, your local OS Fab Lab, CSA, and start an Open Cafe. MIT, can you spare a dime? We’ll be fine given our persistence toward the aims touched on here.”

5 Comments P2P Answers the Meltdown: Nathan Cravens

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Nathan,via email:

    Thanks for the support Michel. That content I boldly title ‘The Triple Alliance’ is developed here:

    I dare call it the New Triple Revolution! Right now its the contemporary equivalent of scribbles on a napkin. I look forward to collaberating with you on writing it. From this idea set, I can see clearly things I would otherwise ignore in the many dimensions needed for abundant society.

    I hope to see more ideas like these and the ways they are (can be) put to practice. We need applications now for this meltdown. What is presently in practice in Iceland? The organizational approach described in the Triple Alliance will come into greater demand as we continue to make our world more abundant.


  2. AvatarKevin Carson

    It’s an excellent model for community resilience–simultaneously a cushion that could enable the unemployed to subsist outside the wage system and form the nucleus of a future post-mass production economy centered on production outside the wage system.

    A few points:

    The Fab lab concept should be expanded to include all forms of small-scale production tools affordable by individuals. This would include well-equipped home workshops with conventional machine tools, as well as intermediate-sized tools like the multimachine. This broader conception would coincide with the community workshops advocated by Colin Ward, Karl Hess, etc.

    Local agriculture should place a premium on alternative water sources (esp. rainwater conservation with cisterns), edible permaculture landscaping, etc., for resilience against drought and other forms of climate change associated with global warming.

    And adding a fourth category, housing, would fill a big gap in the overall resiliency strategy. It might be some kind of cheap, bare bones cohousing project associated with the Cafe (water taps, cots, hotplates, etc) that would house people at minimal cost on the YMCA model. Squats in abandoned/public buildings, and building with scavenged materials on vacant lots, etc. (a la Colin Ward), might tie in with this as well.

  3. AvatarKevin Carson

    Vinay Gupta’s work on emergency life-support technology for refugees is also relevant to the housing problem: offering cheap LED lighting, solar cookers, water purifiers, etc., to those living in tent cities and Hoovervilles.

  4. AvatarHarper Kingsley

    Things to consider:
    *licensing to prepare/serve food – if health cards are necessary, that would have to be figured into the funding structure. As well as preventative immunizations and boosters.

    *child outreach programs – especially for summertime. The children can help tend the garden, and receive a meal and snacks they might not otherwise get at home. Especially if they are in a homeless situation.

    *aquaponics – using a cheap fish like goldfish or an edible fish that can be cultivated, bred, then eaten. (Though the problem with edible fish is balancing water pH and temperature with the well-being of the fish.) Fish are a source of good protein, and their waste can be mixed with compost to create quality soil for outside gardening during warm months to up crop production. (In an aquaponics setup, it seems better to use lettuce rafts and trays of clay media in a closed system. This allows a year-round growing season.)

    *community kitchen – a community kitchen program would allow people to can and preserve their own foods for later. It would teach life skills, nutrition information, and allow people to form bonds with their neighbors.

    *community services – wifi hotspots, job search help, Rhino and 3D printers, computer education. A corner of a Cafe could have donated computers and equipment.

    If everyone works together growing food and all sit down to a meal, there wouldn’t be a sense of inequality to the relationship. It wouldn’t be volunteers and disadvantaged. It would be a community of people eating together. I think that would be of great benefit to society.

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