How to make this real

We hope the prototype illustrates how tech could support collective decision making. Although it’s grounded in research and real communities, there’s a lot to learn and many untested assumptions.

What it would need

To do this for real, we believe a new micro-granting organisation should be set up for real.

It would need:

  • A product team to concierge the concept (run everything manually), learn what works, and automate it over time.
  • At least 3 years of grant funding (3 years at £500 / month would be £18K)
  • A community.
  • Full autonomy - no strings attached to the grant money.

How to approach it

We strong recommend the concierge approach, where the tech is built in parallel to running the fund, rather than trying to build everything upfront. There are too many unknowns to be confident in what needs to be built without running it with an actual community.

Paul Graham’s article Do Things That Don’t Scale makes a compelling case for this approach.

By observing what works and what doesn’t, adapting the approach and progressively automating more of the process, the team would learn a formula that could hopefully be repeated.

If the concept worked and proved to be possible to mostly automate, it could be scaled and replicated to other communities. We think it would take many rounds of funding to get to that point.

Roughly, here are areas we think need a lot more understanding:

  • How to recruit members at the start. What kind of people are suitable? How do you reach them? What do you offer? How do you achieve diversity?
  • What’s the “churn rate” of members? How do you recruit new members?
  • How people feel about reviewing and voting on ideas every month?
  • What exact voting rules produces the best results?
  • How transparent should it be?
  • Does making it easy to apply result in lots of low quality applications?
  • Should applications be categorised and if so, how?
  • How much information are members willing to share with each other and publicly? What are the data protection considerations?
  • What should the rules be around how many votes are required to make it valid?

Final thoughts

This was a fascinating project for us. It’s important to work out how to cede power to communities and support them to make decisions together.

To everyone we interviewed during this project, thank you. You directly affected our thinking and guided the prototype. And it was lovely meeting you as someone who’s doing great things in your community.

Thank you Cassie, Hannah and Conor for trusting us with this project, for reading our weeknotes and for your enthusiasm and challenges at our fortnightly show and tells.

If you want more, take a look at our weeknotes for an unfiltered, week-by-week account of our thoughts, feelings and discoveries throughout the project.

If you’d like to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Paul Fawkesley and Ian Drysdale