Social Movements Take Control: Transforming Governments and Governance
Local governments are increasingly being called to action around the world, while also balancing limited resources with delivering critical services to their needed constituents. With the onslaught of mass change in city mobility and urban density, our global urban communities are increasingly subject to “black swan” events, or socio-economic shocks. These “black swan” events often strain the fragile and vulnerable ecosystem within our urban communities. In 2020 we have experienced an unprecedented shakeup in our daily lives with the introduction of quarantine efforts. The effects of quarantine and 2020 have regimes have fundamentally transformed how citizens interact with each other and their environments. How do we better communicate and implement a safety net for our most vulnerable, while also minimizing damage and loss within our global cities and world economy? The “black swan” event of 2020 has impacted sectors ranging from health and education to housing and municipal services. This has exposed a myriad of challenges ranging from communication and responsiveness to transparency.
The very concepts of cities as dynamic hubs of innovation, culture, and collaboration are meaningless without effective, efficient, and resilient crisis handling capabilities. Consistent and equitable access to basic services becomes equally important. Participation and empowerment combined with an active and engaged citizenry are key tenets to sustainable inclusion. In today’s landscape, we have an opportunity to execute sustainability earnestly.
We are likely at an intersection of new technologies and approaches to governance and engagement along with impending greater awareness towards building more resilient communities. There is a renewed focus on citizen and stakeholder-driven governance, along with developing infrastructure and applications for local community resilience, inclusion, and public health. During the Blockchain for Social Impact 2020 Conference on September 16, 2020, we had the opportunity to hear about wonderful ideas from numerous institutions ranging from the City of Austin to the World Bank and UNICEF. Here is our potential framework that we hope to experiment and build upon.
Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition
Draft Framework for Stakeholder-driven Governance
1. Comprehensive Tracking, Registration, and Follow-up for Municipal / Citizen Facilities
Can the use of blockchain for registration and incentive / bounty management be used for improving information flow and accountability in urban and peri-urban environments? Lets look at the case of water handpumps. A third of water handpumps in Africa are broken, and in many cases this is due to not understanding how to maintain and repair, a lack of accountability and poor follow-up. How do we create an environment where life-saving utilities are maintained?
- Is it possible to embed a resilient approach to both identify and register where these handpumps are located and who could be best to ensure proper maintenance?
- Building from that, we could additionally identify the stakeholders who will be using these water pumps (farmers, households, etc.), and with local administration develop a token-weighted system (weighted based on the importance to different stakeholders for these handpumps) to validate their performance and provide feedback. This can be logged and tracked in a distributed ledger, along with separately registering the actual location and details of the hand pumps themselves. This could, ultimately, identify what is malfunctioning when, and who is responsible for maintenance.
- Incentivization: In this example – If the accountable parties receive points, or bounties, for the number of handpumps in operation as well as the number of handpumps repaired, we have a way of ensuring the team members are efficiently and directly rewarded accordingly. There is potential to explore embedding reward tokens into a smart contract into the repair of a utility / municipal asset – with the goal of releasing this token when a goal is achieved / smart contract is executed.
2. Inclusive Processes centered on the Stakeholder
How do we develop processes, laws and regulations in manner that is more open and inclusive, and centered on the stakeholder? How do we create create trust, at a local level, in the governing bodies? Evolving attempts at collaborative lawmaking, such as Brazil’s e-Democracia or Better Reykjavik in Iceland have opened up the concept of participative decision making in creating laws. Adding in a more dynamic ability to voting is the next stage. It is still an experimental process, but something that could work in different cultures and communities.
- Building a system that distributes voting power: Today, decision-making (on issues ranging from traffic signals to disaster management to food distribution) that affect the lives of constituents are made by elected (or possibly appointed) governing bodies – a municipal council. The transparency of these councils and the technologies they use vary tremendously; from village panchayats in India, traditional municipal councils in the US, and to more transparent electronic decision-making forums in Estonia. Voting, to the extent it exists, is in most cases only for the elected representatives and rarely on proposals (truly digital / participative democracy) themselves. In many cases, concerns exist on who should have more influence / stake than others in making these decisions (similar to corporate decision-making, where larger shareholders have the proportionally larger influence). We have the systems today, with appropriate oversight and governance, to explore token-weighted governance for decisions of critical importance (placement of health supplies, food and water distribution, disaster management, transportation management, etc.) that impact some parties (hospitals, school representatives, who have a greater stake) more than others.
- Vulnerability: Influenced and outright vote buying is something that already exists in the blockchain world with Dark DAOs. It of course exists in the real electoral world as well. Ultimately, a human layer of oversight and permissioning will nearly always have to remain; any permissionless voting systems is ultimately vulnerable.
- Trust: All stakeholders ultimately need to have the opportunity, incentive, education, and ability to participate. They also need to be protected and anonymized: what someone votes on, their identity should not be influenced or otherwise compromised. Ultimately, this comes down to legal systems and a broad commitment from leadership to commit to putting such systems in place. This is a very difficult bridge to cross, and likely will only work through isolated, local level pilots, and multiple approaches to engagement (as in the City of Austin’s MyPass).
3. Supply chains for critical supplies
Post the devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015, major efforts were made to build both localized distribution centers for relief supplies as well as a strengthened Disaster Management Information System in Nepal to manage all this information. Over time, traditional challenges of accountability and maintenance resurfaced – are supplies kept up to date in all locations? Is there any corruption and loss / theft of supplies as a result? Are audits regularly done? Many information processes being stood up today relate to gathering, recording, analyzing, and disseminating data about both hazards and vulnerabilities – ranging from health safety issues (such as pandemic supplies) to actual risks in given areas. We have the opportunity today to apply all the wonderful elements of a distributed ledger supply chain to build a platform that can be leveraged by municipalities and government. The current pandemic has exposed some of the most egregious examples of failures on this front globally. PPE orders were regularly being diverted internationally (example of San Francisco’s orders going to Europe), and little transparency existed on how or why this was happening. Elements to build into our “best practice” handbook of how to set up resilient disaster and crisis systems should likely include:
- Leveraging identity systems to ensure the right people are obtaining the supplies they need
- Traceability: knowing where the products and supplies have come from – and that they are the right tools for the job
- Recordkeeping: better records of where supplies are sourced from, kept and ultimately used
- Immutability: ensuring trust and transparency in the data about our supplies being sourced, replenished and consumed – be it tents, medical kits, or emergency food / water.
Taking this to the next level
As governments all over the world construct forums to look at how to transform local governments, and with experimenting with blockchain, many sustainable ideas could surface and get piloted. Success ultimately involves continuous experimentation and iterating further.