A novel community economic system, designed to capture the economic value of volunteer work is showing ability to generate income for, and incentivize people to work on volunteer projects. The inflow of money and labor is made possible by a new type of “volunteer” currency, anybody can earn for their voluntary work. The currency can be purchased with national currencies, which allows using it as an universal proof of commons-benefiting contribution. Volunteer project owners consequently can demand such a proof for access to their products, in a way that is community building and commons-enhancing.
In my previous article, I wrote among other things about the chronic lack of funding, faced by the maintainers of FOSS, collaborative and other volunteer projects, and attempted to explain its cause. I also pointed out that most of the projects are underfunded, regardless of collectively generating over a trillion USD/year of estimated economic value. I ended the article by suggesting there might be a way to satisfy the instinctive desire of volunteers to share their work widely, without giving away the economic value of their products. In this article I show on real-world examples, how the community economic system Neo, through its implementation Rovas, is addressing that goal.
Intuition suggests, that sharing volunteer work broadly and capturing its economic value at the same time might be impossible, but schemes attempting such a feat exist. One example is a class of “dual” software licenses used in the FOSS domain, which generally require payments from the for-profit consumers, while allowing free access to everybody else. The approach to a large degree addresses the two requirements, but it has some problems. First, it provides little incentives to the non-paying consumers to contribute back to the commons, which is a lost opportunity to make the scheme viral. Second, there is no “natural” way to assign consumers into the two categories, as both — the classification property, as well as its value — must be determined in an ad-hoc manner. The scheme has also an ideological problem— why should anybody be excluded from the obligation to reciprocate in the first place? Reciprocity is crucial for any functioning socioeconomic arrangement, whether it is a small group of people exchanging gifts or services or the global market economy.