[PIG] Trust as a Protocol: An Ethnography of CirclesUBI

Title: Trust as a Protocol: An Ethnography of CirclesUBI

Team Members: Julio Linares, Damla Ozcelik

Short summary of the improvement idea:

Circles UBI is a protocol of trust that allows users to create their own economic network for exchange where currency can flow. This protocol enables communities to build their own common wealth and exchange leveraging the trust they have within and between communities as a complement to state money. In this protocol, people can create their own personal currency and determine how it can flow within the community, where trust flows the opposite way of money. The UBI aspect of this protocol expands the capacity of how trust works in local economies, allowing individuals to provide basic income for each other. We would like to improve the Circles protocol by analyzing how it can be developed in different cultural settings where trust is already present within communities.

What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

We want to improve trust as a protocol for building long-lasting economic and social relationships, particularly with the case of CirclesUBI, a web of trust (WOT)-based system that provides people an unconditional basic income.

We aim to enhance the system by analyzing the Circles pilot program in Berlin, understanding how trust works in different cultural settings, where there are myriad ways in which people relate to one another.

Within the CirclesUBI Berlin pilot, there’s a wide diversity of people and experiences, from migrant workers to care workers, parents, technologists, unemployed people, entrepreneurs, communities doing alternative healthcare, distribution, and more. Each of them came to the Berlin pilot program in a different way, either individually or through their already existing communities. The pilot connected these experiences and made something else in the process.

Using CirclesUBI, we are hoping to improve trust as a protocol and move from homogenous to heterogenous trust.

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

We see trust as a form of power. Trust, depending on your cultural background, can be something that you build as an individual or something that you already have if you are more used to communal ways of life. Depending on your context, the task is either to limit how much trust you give or build it individually day by day.

CirclesUBI is based on an individualized personal currency system. Leveraging the 2.5 years of experiences of the Circles Berlin Pilot, we want to explore how might Circles be improved in contexts where people are more communal, where trust is already there within their communities as opposed to something you have to build using a technical interface.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

Our discovery methodology uses methods from anthropology, particularly ethnographic tools, and in-depth interviews to understand the different social relations that evolved within the Circles pilot, complemented with network science as a way to map the flow and evolution of trust over time.

Some of the research questions we are asking are:

  • How is a trust network built among people?
  • What sort of relationships does trust, mediated through Circles, allow? What are its limitations?
  • To what extent is it possible to create an alternative economy with trust protocols like Circles?

In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?

Based on our results, we will do a proposal that outlines how trust can become more heterogeneous within Circles. We will circulate this proposal with industry experts and publish it as an open-source document.

How will you field-test your improvement idea?

First of all, we will be analyzing the data created by the Berlin Pilot project for the last 2.5 years. During this period, we have been making improvements to our strategy for building trust within the communities. We have been observing heterogeneity in how different groups approached to trust protocols. In addition to analyzing data created so far, we would like to field-test our Circles prototype of heterogeneous trust in communities through a facilitated workshop where participants from different backgrounds will play games using Circles that require different levels of trust.

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?

Albert Wenger
Sarah Friend
Brett Scott
Martin Koppelmann

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

Our analysis from the field research will be published in the form of research papers, blog posts, public talks, and community sharing. Based on our study, we will publish a guide for communities on how to start using their own currencies based on the trust they have. Additionally, we will be creating navigational instructions to support the use of technology as well as the communities to take initiatives on social and economical levels.

What is the success vision for your idea?

That the Circles trust model becomes pluriversal, local-first and modular, in the sense that different communities can adapt it to their needs so that it can better reflect how their social relations actually work.

We would call it a huge success if communities around the world could use our findings and guidelines to form their social and economic relations based on the trust protocol they create among themselves. First, we propose the use of Circles UBI as an interface however the idea is to enhance the possibilities to build upon any trust network. With more communities using trust as a tool to empower themselves, more people can realize the resilience and strength they have to be autonomous, creative individuals.