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NeighborSQUAD is a Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO)

You may be wondering: “Who is behind this organization and where are we going?” This website was created by me and my wife, Margarete Koenen. I registered the domain name in 2012 seeking to create a better way for Neighbors to organize and work together after Occupy Wall Street. We were developers number 1 and 2 for the website that registered 9000 people into 100 working groups for Occupy in 2011.

In the wake of Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign for president, we decided to organize locally using newer versions of some of the same tools that we had used for Occupy, i.e. WordPress and BuddyPress. We prefer and support free open source software, but we are also pragmatic, so we will sometimes purchase plugins and use services provided by companies like Google, Twilio and Zendesk. Since the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, Mutual Aid groups have sprung up all over using Google Docs and Sheets to track things like which grocery stores offer curbside pickup and who can make deliveries to old folks. Our website has embedded some of those docs and spreadsheets created by people in our community.

Grow, but stay small

We started this with two people, but our mission is to enable fundamental systemic change from the ground up. Unlike organizations such as MoveOn, we are not trying to build an email list with millions of people. That said, we do appreciate the fact that developers for MoveOn have put code they have written for Twilio applications on GitHub. Thus, we can stand on the shoulders of others. While my wife and I have always been open to collaborating with others on big projects, we are not looking to grow what is our legal entity, LoudFeed, Inc. (a 100% minority, handicapped, sub-chapter-S, Michigan Corporation) After a serious spinal cord injury in 2018, I became a quadriplegic. So we are very happy living and working as a two-person team, but the only way to work towards our dreams of a better future is by finding ways to team up with others.

Smart Contracts

For the past few years we have been following the progress of Blockchain Technology, in particular, “smart contracts.” Unfortunately speculators in the crypto-currency markets have been at odds with the best promises of Blockchain for society. One of the ways I survived dealing with a lot of pain and 100 days in a hospital bed was by attaching Chromecast to the hospital room TV and watching countless videos, including the work of Aragon. The following is a quote from a recently written thesis about Aragon tools.

Organizations are typically made up of hierarchical stacks of written agreements between people. A company is just a collection of contracts: shareholder agreements, deeds, leases, service provider agreements, employment contracts, customer terms & services, etc. These are bound by a senior set of shared contracts called laws, which are governed by another set of contracts that form the State. The “economy” as a whole is made of networks of stacks contracts. And all of these contracts are enforced by hard jurisdictional courts.

Aragon DAOs
 Joel Monegro

Economy or our Health

We have been offered a false choice as we try to stay safe from COVID-19 and contemplate what we need to do to move forward. Here in Michigan our state capitol building was the scene of legislators, afraid for their lives, while people with Confederate flags and automatic weapons looked down on them from the balcony. Then, a single video of a policeman taking 9 minutes to slowly murder a black man was so horrific, that we are seeing uprisings around the country and across the globe. So, what are we to do? It is insufficient to think that we can shelter in place for a while and then somehow go back to business as usual. We must each take responsibility for how we live our lives and determine the changes that we can make and must make, if we want a future for our children and grandchildren.

Organizations are made of contracts; The economy is a network of contracts.

So this week, we decided that NeighborSquad is a distributed autonomous organization, with a focus on building communications technologies for Mutual Aid Groups. You can see our initial next steps here. We will be using smart contracts for agreements that we make with call center agents, independent freelancers, small businesses and nonprofit organizations with whom we collaborate.

Mutual Aid Gives Us a Future

In these past few weeks, I have wondered if this is what it felt like to be a citizen of Rome during the fall of the empire. We are clearly at a turning point in our society and we have serious choices to make. As a teenager one of my favorite authors was Peter Kropotkin and lately I have been getting to know more and more young people who are trying to live their lives with the spirit of Mutual Aid. I don’t think technology can save us, but I do believe we possess the tools to save ourselves, if we make the right choices.

“The species in which peace and mutual support are the rule, prosper, while the unsociable species decay.”

Peter KropotkinMutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. 1902

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