Skåne looks for new governance models to deliver the R:ekobyn community vision
Jörgen Dehlin and Josef Gustafsson – Länsstyrelsen Skåne, Sweden
A combination of the climate crisis and the need to embed sustainability in project design and development means that many communities and development projects now choose to set goals and visions for how common resources should be controlled and managed to ensure that they are used in a sustainable way.
These goals and visions can be quite general – such as incorporating the UN’s 17 global development goals or Agenda 2030 – or more specific sustainability goals that are particularly relevant to a Municipality or project.
The R:ekobyn community
R:ekobyn (R = Röstånga, eko=eco, by=village) is a cohousing project in Röstånga in the County of Skåne in southern Sweden. The community of R:ekobyn has a clear vision of the type of ecological, social and economic environment they would like to create for their sustainable community.
The non-profit association that runs R:ekobyn wants to find climate-sustainable technical solutions for the common challenges that face the community – issues like heating, energy, and construction technology They also want to create common spaces and activities – like a common workshop – that supports a more efficient use of resources.
However, there is a lack of framework, based on evidence-based research, for how projects like R:ecobyn should be managed when they need to have shared goals and visions, manage common resources, and involve multiple different parties – including residents, future residents, and other public and private actors.
This proof of concept explores how the community might deliver this rules-based approach to community governance though a blockchain-enabled solution – with a particular emphasis on how to ensure transparency in decision making. This work is part of a wider two part feasibility study on the future of R:ekobyn, consisting of the creation of the R:ekobyn network, and the second being the creation of a steering group with overall responsibility for the project.
Using rules to manage a network
One possible solution is to create a set of formal ways of working – enabled by blockchain technology – that can enable particular forms of collaborative working. Having set ways of working will help the community develop more concrete solutions to the challenges that arise when trying to collaboratively deliver shared visions using shared resources.
The network R:ekobyn is building will be based on Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom’s
‘Social- Ecological System’ (SES). Ostrom’s theory of how the commons (common spaces, common resources) should be governed and of the fundamental importance of trust, is
an influential social science theory. The SES system is based on eight guiding principles that increase the likelihood that people should be able to control and manage common resources in a long-term and sustainable way, which are then articulated through seven user rules.
The challenge the R:ekobyn network faces is how to embed these rules in the management platforms they use, and in their day-to-day ways of working.
Using blockchain to enable a new Social-Ecological System
To create transparency and increase participation in the network, and to ensure that the community had a platform to deliver the rules of the SES framework, communication would be driven through a blockchain platform.
The advantage of blockchain technology is that with a private blockchain only those who are invited can participate or write to the blockchain. Content added to a blockchain
is cryptographically signed, and cannot be altered or deleted. If someone wants to add text or images, this content becomes a new block in the chain, with that person’s unique digital signature.
A R:ekobyn blockchain platform would facilitate internal communication by acting as a logbook for all internal and external communication. It
would also provide a single source of truth that enabled members of R:ekobyn to easily get an overview of previous regulations
and of ongoing work.
- A network makes it easier for projects to be able to reach their sustainability goals. This should help organisations deliver their goals.
- A network can promote that the sustainable use of shared resources, which reduces the likelihood of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ resulting from competition for use, from overuse, and from “free riding”.
- A network where all parties communicate via a blockchain makes communication secure and traceable, which facilitates accountability.
Delivering a R:ekobyn blockchain platform
This idea sketch sets out how R:ekobyn can create a network based on Ostrom’s SES framework – delivered through a blockchain platform. This outline should lead to an implementation project, which aims to deliver
the lessons learned by the network and which would also be useful for drawing lessons
for future similar networks in other projects
in the Öresund-Kattegatt Skagerak region.
What is expected to be included in the project that we want to create?
This proof of concept supports the wider work being done to set up and deliver the R:ekobyn network and its steering group.
The network in R:ekobyn would need to identify where the framework will be most effective, how it will be financed, how R:ekobyn’s shared visions and resources should be collectively managed, and which of the SES user rules will be embedded in R:ekobyn’s ways of working. User rules that are well anchored in the R:ecovillage’s local context will increase the incentives for the participants in the network to try to reach their common goals and to use the common resources in a sustainable way.
The main tasks of the steering group will be to find participants for the network, to embed the SES framework in how the network works, and to find a way to develop and implement the blockchain technology in the network.
Their biggest challenge will be finding an affordable way to develop the blockchain,
as this is a technology that is context-specific, and the platform must be developed from the ground up for this purpose.