Regular readers will know that I have been nurturing a growing fascination with complementary currencies, and have written about the need for a new economic model many times in the past (like here, here, here, and here). So far it has all been fairly hypothetical and abstract, but now the rubber is about to hit the road in a way that I’m very excited about.
Last August I had a Zoom call (what else!) with Scott Morris, who I had first met at the Global Economic Visioning conference at Bretton Woods in 2018. Scott is an expert in local currencies, and I was telling him about my global women’s network, the Sisters, and my preliminary designs for a complementary currency, called the yin, to counterbalance our predominantly yang mainstream economy (inspired by Bernard Lietaer’s work, described in my blog post on Yin, Yang, and Jung).
“Ah,” he said. “You might want to check out SEEDS. It’s very aligned with what you’re describing, and it might just save you ten years of your life.” That was quite a compelling argument, so of course I took a look at SEEDS, which describes itself as “The Conscious Currency”.
(In fact, I discovered I already had the SEEDS Passport on my phone, having been sent an invite by Bret Warshawsky of the Together Life System several months previously… and then promptly forgetting all about it. But when an idea is meant to find you, I believe, it will hunt you down and keep pestering you until you finally pay attention.)
As I looked at the SEEDS mission, I felt a growing sense of excitement. It was indeed aligned with my idea for the yin, but was about 10x better… and it actually existed, which is more than could be said for the yin at that point.
In short, SEEDS is a new cryptocurrency that is designed to incentivise and reward the behaviours by individuals, companies, and communities that support a sustainable and equitable civilisation. Its governance is decentralised, meaning that it is owned and governed by its participants, not by any company, and all decision-making is participatory.
The phrases that caught my eye in the documentation were things like:
- Sowing Ecological, Equitable and Decentralized Societies (decode of the SEEDS acronym)
- A conscious currency for regenerative and thriving global cultures
- A financial ecosystem to empower humanity and heal our planet
- Universal Earned Income (contrasted with Universal Basic Income, which is a handout) to enable individuals to pursue their ikigai, or purpose, even if it is something not recognised and rewarded by conventional economics
- A more stable currency (overcoming the boom and bust cycle that is built into conventional national currency)
- The evolution of a global society that recognises the role of humanity as stewards of our planetary ecosystems and designing for thrivability and future wellbeing
I was falling in love… with a cryptocurrency. I had that wonderful feeling of everything in my life having led up to this discovery. In my doctoral dissertation last year, I had examined my attempts to raise environmental awareness by rowing solo across three oceans, and the reasons for my lack of success in having an impact – specifically, my naïvete in thinking that simply telling people about our ecological crisis would make a difference. Change is so much harder than that. We are all embedded in systems – social, political, and particularly economic – that perpetuate the status quo. I had come to the conclusion that we cannot solve our environmental crisis from within the same system – neoliberal capitalism – that created it.
Yes, I know that we have B Corps and Conscious Capitalism and carbon taxes and the rest… but when we look at the statistics on carbon emissions, species extinction, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, etc. etc., it is clear that the speed, scale, and severity of our ecological degradation continues unabated.
So I had yearned for a viable alternative to the mainstream economic model, and here it was, in the form of SEEDS. It was exactly what I had been looking for.
I started to explore the SEEDS ecosystem, tentatively at first (I’ll be honest, the current version isn’t incredibly friendly to the uninitiated, and initiated I most definitely was not), but then with steadily growing enthusiasm. A big breakthrough was being invited to the SEEDS server on Discord (a platform that’s kind of a cross between WhatsApp and Slack, with different channels for different areas of interest), where I found a buzzing hive of activity, and also found my two new best friends, Irina and Sorin in Romania, who took pity on a confused newbie and held my hand through the early stages of transitioning from Visitor to Resident (and now, as of last week, I am a Citizen – hurrah!).
SEEDS is still in its infancy – last I heard, there are around 130 Citizens, and about the same number of Residents. But the community has a clear vision, and the tech tools to make it a reality, and although it’s a long shot, it just might work.
When I talk with people about it, they sense my excitement, but don’t always quite get what it’s all about. It’s not easy to wrap your head around it all at once. People also have lots of questions, not all of which are answerable right now – either because I don’t know the answer, or because no answer exists. SEEDS is still emergent, a verb rather than a noun. For example, yesterday we had a big call about spinning up a whole new DHO (Decentralised Holonic – which the spellchecker wants to call colonic, but that would be entirely different – Organisation) provisionally called Samara, which is the name of the winged seeds of trees like the maple and sycamore, the purpose of the wings being to help the seeds spread far and wide. SEEDS is a very dynamic creature, teetering on the brink of chaos, but as I’ve written before, the edge of chaos is where all the cool stuff happens.
Some are also sceptical about whether a cryptocurrency can really save the world. The early cryptos, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, may have tried to be revolutionary, but were mostly requisitioned by the old-school practices of speculation and fast profit-making.
My honest answer is that nobody knows if SEEDS will work. I certainly don’t know. But here’s what I do know. When I was on the Atlantic (my first ocean row) I wasted a lot of mental energy asking myself, “Can I do this? Do I have what it takes?” And naturally my brain would search its memory banks and report back, “We have no idea if you can do this – you’ve never done it before. TIME TO PANIC!” Eventually I realised this was a bogus question – the only way I could find out if I could do it was to keep on sticking my oars in the water, and only time would tell if it was possible.
Likewise, the only way to know if SEEDS can work is to try, to keep on doing the doing until we find out. I am committed to doing my darnedest to make SEEDS work, as are many, many others in the SEEDS community. After 15 years of trying to figure out how to make a difference, SEEDS is the most promising thing I’ve found yet, and it arrived into my life just as I was wrapping up that doctoral dissertation concluding that our best hope at environmental salvation was to reengineer the incentives bound up in our economic system. The timing was so perfect that I felt a sense of destiny.
So this is definitely the mission for me. It may not resonate the same way for everybody, and it doesn’t need to – the tipping point in the diffusion of innovations curve happens at around 16%, after the pioneers and early adopters are on board, and the early majority start to get with the programme. 16% of the world population is a lot of people, but SEEDS isn’t trying to replace the entire global economy, just provide an alternative, and there will be certain geographical pockets (like Stroud and Totnes in the UK, and places like Austin TX, Asheville NC, Portland ME and Portland OR in the US) that will provide more fertile soil for SEEDS than others.
When it comes down to it, the feeling we have about an idea often reflects the feeling we have about the people who are already embracing it. And I love the tribe that is coalescing around SEEDS – smart, passionate people from all across the globe (which makes scheduling meetings a bit of a nightmare) who really care about making the world a better place. They are a wonderful, welcoming bunch with a real vision for the more beautiful world that, even on my darker days, I still believe is most definitely possible.
You will be hearing a lot more about SEEDS in the future, as I continue my journey as an advocate and evangelist. If you are intrigued and would like to find out more, either stay tuned, and/or email me and ask for an invitation.