A General Forum on Ethereum Localism

PDXDAO is looking for speakers and attendees to join us in Portland for our General Forum on Ethereum Localism, Friday October 13th - Monday October 16th, 2023.

Coordination. Decentralization. Regenerative local economies. Sustainable commons infrastructure. Proliferating protocols. Infinite community gardens. We circulate these dreams; we tell ourselves to keeping buidling, and to touch grass. But grass is static, homogenous, manicured. Beneath it lies a moving, plural flux: alkaline, mineral, rhizome … rootedness.

If the collective dreams of the ethersphere are to take root, we must engage in the organically situated, messy work of digging and cultivating the soil. Somewhere in those rich mineral folds are the mysterious consistencies of the commons, the generative witch’s brew that can sustain and nurture difference and sameness in the same breath. We believe the time is right for the adoption of an Ethereum localism - grounded in the earth, reciprocated across the globe, generative on both fronts.

If you’re experimenting with on-chain localism, using DAOs or DisCos to develop your community, city or bioregional infrastructure, or simply building onboarding mechanisms to bring the ownership economy to your neighborhood, this forum is for you. Note: While there are other rad events on other very pressing aspects of localism, this event is targeted to crypto-natives, and will broadly focus on the question of localism and web3.

Ethereum Localism

We believe the Ethereum machine is untapped until its creations are touching soil on the level of the local, just as our cities and communities are squandering their singular gifts if they aren’t contributing to the global conversation. The urban center especially, with its dense entanglement of networks, its magical collision of artificial and organic, is a radical testing ground for any technology, and these same entanglements announce loudly the need for coordination tools and positive sum games. There is still so much discovery to be done, so many answers to the question: “what can a blockchain do?”

Our intention for this convening is to create a container where the Ethereum community can elaborate for itself, in a plurality of directions, what an experimentalism of the city can mean and look like for web3. While we know the cultural imagination will outdo us, some examples might include:

  • DAOs as a tool of the urban commons – economic solidarity blocs for individuals (housing protection, unions, grassroots campaigns) and businesses (as mutual safety nets to protect against extractive megacorps), issue-specific grassroots fundraising sprints, and commons infrastructure management.

  • Ethereum-enabled monetary localism – mutual credit networks, community tokens, circular economies, and other exotic programmable solutions to the problem of extra-local economic extraction.

  • The premise that local food and material production systems are aligned with the Ethereum ethos of decentralization, security through redundancy, economic autonomy, and applied systems thinking, and should be supported as our natural allies.


It seems much of the web3 world is waiting for some nebulous global catalyst to deliver blockchain to the masses. Many seem to think speculation will save us - the return of the bull. This not only violates the natural processes by which technology sees adoption, but it is antithetical to the bottom-up nature of decentralization. Bull or bear market, the work has always been done by passionate technologist anons experimenting without sanction or promise of financial gain.

Disruptive technological adoption is driven by practical material solutions – technologies aren’t real until they matter. This mattering means, above all, foregrounding simplicity and backgrounding complexity, a task that can be as difficult as developing the tech itself. It’s why adoption occurs long after a proof-of-concept exists. It’s also the window when the battles of capture and decentralization are fought; too often, the generative work happens at the grassroots level, the fruits of its labor then captured by centralized entities.

By design, web3 is inoculated from that threat - or so the story goes. We are here to say that this immunity can’t be assumed, but must be assured through practice. We know from history that the kind of technological simplicity that precedes real adoption requires local application, in all its experimental plurality. If this is so, then every site of novel local use is a potential inoculation site, a defense against capture. If the logic of protocols is a first breath of resilience, community use is its conclusion. Localism is an anticapture technology.

This is why PDX DAO is embracing a grassroots approach by using Ethereum tools for solving existing problems at the local level - that is, for mattering. We want to connect and merge tomorrow's end-users with today's tool-builders to begin iterating now on technology solutions that solve practical problems for communities while inventing new use cases for the globe. In this infinite garden of feedback, localism is globalism, and this conference hopes to underline that break in the binary.

Why Portland

Viviane Barnett (left) breaks ground for her community garden network in NE Portland's Albina neighborhood.
Viviane Barnett (left) breaks ground for her community garden network in NE Portland's Albina neighborhood.

Portland in particular is a notable example of cosmo-localism - that is, the optimistic, technology-positive worldview that sees the globalization of knowledge and communication as a means to supercharge autonomy, freedom and creativity at the local level. Portlanders who showed up at the famous “anti-globalization” protests in Seattle in ‘99 brought a taste for Open Source, OSAT, the Whole Earth Catalog, speculative genre fiction–dynamic technologies that made use of knowledge-share across the global community to imagine new ways to value the local.

Portland didn’t develop this way by chance - environmental and social conditions led this town and region to design decisions that produced the vibrant economy and attractive lifestyle conditions that led to the area being dubbed the “Silicon Forest”. Abundant natural resources, a confluence of transportation networks, and a history of defiance, autonomy, and optimism, supported by highly permissive and plastic local governance with high participation rates have created an environment ripe for creatives, builders, and disruption.

As a hub of technology, ecology, and localism, Portland has scoured the possibility space, in an experimental practice ranging from protest (some of our members attended the famously innovative 100 days of action in 2020) to mutual aid to alternative food security and permaculture (backyard chicken coops have reached the level of cliche in this town); from the adequate technology and open source movements, to the LETS and time based currencies that lay between the two, Portland is a breeding ground for decentralization and cybernetic freedom. Paul Stamets, Viviane Barnett, Linus Torvalds, Ursula Le Guin, Toby Hemenway have all called this city home, their visions sending ripples across the globe. The language and ethos of decentralization has a natural place here.

Ethereum may well be the best new innovation in the tradition of technological optimism and decentralization, though so much of its value as a cosmolocalist technology remains in potentia, untested and waiting to be activated. To honor the forebears from our streets, and the future generations that will inhabit them, we’re ready to light a spark of action, and start a new chapter in our own town.

Come get some dirt under your fingernails. It’s time to sow.

Conference Details

Format: As localists and blockchain advocates, the ethos of distribution and decentralization runs deep with PDXDAO. Several of us have participated in unconferences in the past, and we aim to bring some of that (un)structure to this event.

This conference will have time for speakers (centralized), unconference breakouts (distributed), and open periods (decentralized) to allow for the maximum amount of ideas to flow. Unconference breakouts will be led by attendees on any relevant topic of their choosing. These can range from ultra-specific talks, group conversations, mind and body activities, focused hacking time, and anything else the participants decide to put together in the heat of the moment.

Venue: BridgeSpace Commons, SE Portland

PDX DAO has its operation quarters at Bridgespace Commons, a warehouse community space in inner SE Portland. In its 6 months of operation, the space has acted as a schelling point for permaculture groups, seed collectives, mutual aid groups, racial justice nonprofits, art collectives, dance crews, and more. In a former life the site was host to underground raves and psilocybin parties. In other words, the vibes are immaculate. Bridgespace is the main venue for the conference.

The relationships we have with a variety of projects and places that embody the spirit of decentralization and community autonomy means we’ll have a great selection of pre-conference tours and micro-events for those who wish to attend early and get to know Portland a little better. These include urban farms and intentional communities like Kailash Ecovillage, Tryon Community Farm, Topaz Farm, as well as makerspaces and art collective spaces like Past Lives, Green Anchors, and Hedron Hackerspace. Pre-conference events are planned for the two days prior to the main conference.

Admission: Short application process; payment on a sliding scale (pay what you want, no questions asked). Bridgespace has an upward capacity of 150 people.

Lodging: We recommend the NW Portland Hostel, and the slightly more upscale The Society Hotel as great options for cost-efficient shared rooms or affordable single rooms. For a more traditional hotel with a rad style, go for The Jupiter Hotel in Central Eastside. Each of these is locally owned.

Dates/Schedule: Pre-conference: Wednesday October 11th - Thursday October 12th; Conference: Friday October 13th - Sunday October 15th; Post-conference: Monday October 16th; Daily Schedule – To be announced

Call for Speakers: If you’re interested in sharing your relevant knowledge, experience and skills we’d love to connect. Please reach out to us at pdxdao@gmail.com or on twitter @PDXDAO.

It’s up to us to do the locally integrated work to bring these tools to ground level, where communities can implement, experiment, and iterate to their own sovereign ends. When cityDAOs across the world coordinate and experiment with these tools, we’ll be able to come together, compare results, and cross-pollinate to create the exponential utility only participatory design can make. A network of shared values and love for difference, among nodes that reinforce each other even as they flower out.

On Friday the 13th, protocol touches grass, and grass touches soil. Will you join us?

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