Charging the Commons is a 2-year project that investigates the design of digital platforms for resource communities. The project explores how a Situated-design approach can be employed to articulate the (social) values of resource communities. In addition, the project examines how these values can be translated into a design for the management of an urban commons, using digital ledger technologies (DLT’s).
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the fields of architecture, area development, design, digital design and technology development see a new “market” emerging in the growing interest in the urban commons. These are local communities in which people share and manage resources such as energy, mobility or housing in a sustainable and pro-social way. SMEs see opportunities to co-create with these communities and develop new services and products that allow residents to manage their resources together. SMEs also see the development of urban commons as a possible solution to pressing social issues and missions in the areas of inclusive housing, sustainability and the energy transition.
For the commons to function well, a clear articulation and implementation of their underlying (societal) values are essential. This requires SMEs to search for new ways of area and technology development in collaboration with residents.
A specific problem here concerns the translation of the commons values into a technological system that enables the joint management of resources. For this, much is expected from digital platforms and distributed ledgers technologies such as the blockchain. These are databases that keep track of exactly who contributes and uses what. They also link such accounts to the rights, duties and reputations of the participants. In setting up such a system, designers must always make choices and take into account tensions between, for example, privacy and transparency, or individual and collective interests.
In this design process, SMEs encounter a knowledge gap. How can the underlying (social) values of commons communities be 1) articulated and 2) translated into a design for the organization of an urban commons using digital platforms? This research explores these questions in a field lab in Amersfoort, at two ‘transfer sites’ in Amsterdam and Birmingham, and with a community of practice partners. Together, a set of design principles and guidelines for the design of DLTs for the urban commons will be developed.