Hello everyone! Monty here with a cross-section of Web3, ReFi, & Ecovillage experts to bring you the first article to define and explore the emerging phenomenon of a ‘ReFi Village’. We have Sam Delesque from OASA and TDF, Jeremy Agnew from Re:Build and Re:Source, Nico S from Agartha, and Charlotte Fradet from Unity Coliving & TDF.
Coming into this new year and the world continues to grapple with compounding global challenges - from climate change and resource depletion to the breakdown of governments and institutions. People are increasingly looking at how to live in ways that are more sustainable, resilient, and regenerative. At the intersection of two rapidly growing movements - ecovillages and regenerative finance, ‘ReFi Villages’ present a compelling solution to change how we live, work, and relate to one another. This article seeks to define and explore this emerging concept, provide some background and context, and look towards the future. Coming up:
Part 1: The Global Backdrop
Part 2: Living in Harmony with People and Planet
Part 3: The Promise of Web3
Part 4: ReFi Villages & The Regen Network StateSumming Up
If this article inspires you, check out the newly launched How to Build a Regenerative Village handbook!
But first, let's dive in here…
Since the 1960s, Eco-villages have shown how communities can live in ways that are self-sustaining and environmentally friendly. Yet to date, these communities have remained on the fringes and face a number of difficulties in management, governance, and coordination.
The introduction of Web3, digital technology, and decentralised networks has the potential to help solve some of the issues faced in previous generations of ecovillages and provide the infrastructure to scale and grow all over the world… Yet we are just at the beginning of this journey. We must catalyse a movement of environmentalists, techies, builders and pioneers from all walks of life to help take regenerative ways of living to the masses - join us!
Our lifestyle and systemic structures are degenerative and inequitable
Compounding wealth inequality means the richest 1% now own more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people. The rich are getting richer, while younger generations and vulnerable communities are suffocating under the spiralling cost of living.
On-going urbanisation, overconsumption of digital technologies, and a loss of human connection to nature are contributing to ever-growing isolation and a global mental health crisis.
The global industrial economy produces over 30B metric tonnes of climate-warming carbon emissions per year and modern agriculture is destroying rainforests, top soils and wildlife habitats. We are in the midst of a global mass extinction.
These problems largely stem from global coordination failures - the tragedy of the commons, free rider problem, cost externalisation, and multipolar traps. Governments can help mitigate coordination problems, for example with taxes or regulations, but the system is bureaucratic & inefficient, designed for short-term gain, and not keeping pace with a rapidly changing world.
Where do we go from here? Could eco-village communities be a solution?
The ecovillage movement began in the 1960s and 1970s when communities of people were seeking to become more socially, culturally, economically, and ecologically sustainable. The intent is to be self-reliant, produce the least possible negative impact on the natural environment, and create positive social outcomes through intentional physical design and resident behaviour choices. In the domain of their impact, they have often proven to be extremely effective.
Of the eco villages in the GEN network:
90% recycle, reuse and repair more than 50% of consumer goods
90% have more than 40% women in decision-making bodies
96% provide training in nonviolent conflict resolution
95% regularly engage in campaigns to protect human rights, the rights of communities and the rights of nature
All of them actively safeguard regenerative local cultural traditions and provide education in decision-making and mutual empowerment skills.
On average, they emit 50% less carbon dioxide than the benchmark for their region.
These are very promising statistics, but it doesn’t mean eco-villages solve all problems! Conventional eco-villages can often be quite isolated from wider local communities and the rest of the world, and they often lack the resources to implement efficient modern technologies. Much like an embargoed country, an eco-village with little connection to the outside world can rarely sustain itself, and it will struggle to grow and attract new members.
Traditionally, if someone moves to an eco-village, they may be sacrificing possibilities to meet new people from other cultures, or be exposed to cutting-edge art, media and technology, or be immersed in the hustle and bustle of a city. It is a commitment too big for a lot of us to make.
Regenerative villages take a more integrated approach and are the evolution of the eco-village. They recognize the interconnectedness of humans and natural systems and seek to adopt sustainable modern technologies and economic systems to create resiliency and better standards of living. They also seek to connect with and engage with wider society, both to share their knowledge and expertise freely, and to access the resources and opportunities that society offers. Regenerative villages act locally while thinking globally (glocal), and they are starting to gain mainstream interest and attention…
Regenerative villages such as L’Hermitage, partner with local businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organisations to support the development and implementation of sustainable practices. Many regenerative villages host workshops, seminars, and other events to share their knowledge and experience with others.
We live in an era in which self-sustaining technologies are more accessible than ever. New hardware and software technologies are being introduced and improved all the time, and the templates for building and implementing these systems are openly accessible on the internet. People can learn to construct new heating, renewable energy & food systems - or even entire houses, all with knowledge shared in youtube tutorials! As such, Regenerative Villages are becoming increasingly efficient, modern and resilient.
At the same time, a new set of digital tools and technologies are emerging under the banner of ‘Web3’. How might this intersect and empower the Regenerative Village movement? First some context…
Web3 refers to a variety of technologies that can create the means for more distributed, open, democratic, and community-governed digital systems. Blockchain, for example, enables a network of people to maintain a distributed and transparent record of accounts without any one party being able to corrupt or manipulate the data.
One of the most exciting sectors of innovation emerging out of the Web3 ecosystem is ReFi.
ReFi stands for 𝙧𝙚𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙛𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 and it relates to a movement to create economic systems, practices, and strategies that support regenerative and restorative outcomes in both natural and social systems. By aligning financial incentives with the principles of sustainability and regeneration, ReFi seeks to support the restoration of natural systems, create long-termist and socially just economic models, and nurture the development of more resilient communities and societies for both people and the planet.
In the crypto space, ReFi utilises the tools of Web3 to help create and coordinate these outcomes. ReFi shares some commonalities with the wider decentralised finance or ‘DeFi’ movement, such as promoting equity and access to financial services, but they differ in focus and approach. Regenerative finance is focused on aligning financial and social activities with the principles of regeneration - in essence it creates win-win scenarios for all stakeholders, whereas DeFi alone has many variations of values and use cases - some useful, but also many that are predatory, scammy, or degenerative (these are win-lose scenarios much like the existing traditional finance market). Additionally, regenerative finance is not limited to using only blockchain technology, whereas DeFi is inherently tied to using blockchain and other decentralised technologies.
If you want to learn more about the thesis, aims, and practice of ReFi, dive into this piece from John Ellison “What is ReFi? Part I — A tour through the climate crypto rabbit hole”. Or if you want to learn more about what the sector has been up to in the past year and where we might be heading, check out this recent piece below 👇
Web3 tools like blockchains, smart contracts, and decentralised apps (Dapps), combined with a bunch of other digital technologies like group video and chat platforms, help to enable trusted communication & transparency amongst strangers, and can facilitate effective collective decision-making. DAOs are built on top of these tools. DAO stands for Decentralised Autonomous Organization, and they are a new type of internet-first organisation that exists only because technology can now enable anyone to collaborate seamlessly with global networks of people.
D: Distributed teams + decentralised governance
A: Autonomous as in sovereign entities + individuals
O: Online organised group with a common purpose
Impact DAOs are an emerging sector of DAOs that are focused on making a positive impact on people and the planet. They can be thought of as internet-native nonprofits and social impact organisations that operate on the principles of decentralised power, collective decision-making, and transparency.
Land-based DAOs can be conceived as groups of people utilising Web3 & DAO coordination tools to support the development and operation of new on-the-ground communities. Rules and processes of the organisation can be co-created, and blockchain can be used to codify this into un-disputable digital records. This can help to authenticate governance structures and execute decisions with a wider pool of stakeholders in a way that retains transparency and accountability.
One of the first and most prominent examples of a land-based DAO is one called CityDAO. It started off with a casual tweet in early 2021 that rallied enough people around them to form a small team. They quickly managed to crowdfund a large treasury with NFTs to represent governance rights. Now CityDAO has a community of 30k people and a treasury of millions of dollars which they recently used to purchase a 40-acre parcel of land in Wyoming. Token holders frequently vote on decisions CityDAO has to make for its next steps and participate in forum debates.
Web3 is young. A raft of scams, speculators, and bad actors have given it a bad name. Yet in the midst of the ups and downs, we have seen huge waves of innovation in the development of decentralised networks, programmable digital assets, and global online coordination technology. Indeed it took the internet many decades to mature and proliferate before it became embedded into the very fabric of modern life.
We are also just at the beginning of a new wave as ReFi, Real-World-Assets, and ImpactDAOs look set to take centre stage in the next cycle. How might these innovations enhance and upgrade the eco and regenerative village movement?
At the culmination of all of the above context, ReFi Villages represent the next evolution of on-the-ground eco-community living.
Here is how we are defining it:
ReFi Village 🛖🌿🌐
= Regenerative Village (Regenerative Social, Environmental & Economic Framework)
+ Web3 Tooling (Crowdfunding, Land-based Impact DAOs, Web3 Identity & ReFi)
Regenerative values, principles, and practises help to elevate natural, social and economic capital.
Web3 tools create more transparent, open, and democratic systems for community governance.
Identity, social, and reputation systems, help villages to plug into global networks of people with aligned values.
Crowdfunding & tokenized land-titles enable seamless collective fundraising and ownership structures with reduced administrative burdens.
ReFi protocols help villages transparently measure, report and verify ecological data and access global networks of finance and expertise.
Open-sourced knowledge and software allow continuous sharing, learning and trade between villages, also reducing barrier-to-entry for new villages.
Combining all this, we can help to allocate and align resources with the collective stewardship of our land, the commons, and each other 💚 but how do we get there?
Web3 & DAOs have seen huge amounts of ongoing energy, innovation and learning in the past few years, but localised land-based DAOs are a relatively novel concept. It remains to be seen how such DAOs will fare, and if the toolstack that has been developed so far will be able to properly serve the needs of IRL communities.
One element brought forward by the Closer platform is to enable communities to give decision-making rights based on Proof of Presence - a measure of a DAO member’s presence on physical lands. By giving voting based on the time spent on site, actors that may have more on-the-ground knowledge are empowered to make context dependant decisions for the DAO.
If successful, local DAOs can act as grassroots ecological actors, creating and measuring impact on the ground alongside scientifically robust methodologies and a global community of experts to help verify legitimacy and support. Not only does it incentivize localised positive action, but by linking it to a global regenerative financial system it can become a truly democratic way of distributing resources that optimise for natural conservation, restoration of soils, biodiversity, and even support thriving human health or any other quantifiable impact metrics.
This is all starting to happen. One such example of a ReFi village building and operating right now is Traditional Dream Factory (aka TDF). Based in Portugal, TDF focuses on creating positive interactions between stakeholders, including the local community, nature, and future generations. The project aims to counter extractive practices and foster thriving relationships and ecosystems. It is working with agroforestry experts to create a food forest that can sustain human and ecosystem needs, and includes shared spaces such as studios, a coworking garden, cafe, makerspace, industrial kitchen, water retention landscapes etc. The project is also part of an ecological conservation network called OASA, and is in partnership with Open Forest Protocol to track the growth of its forest and leverage ReFi carbon markets to generate one of its many sources of income.
TDF is one of the first of its kind. But what happens when it connects to a global network of other similar ReFi Villages? What happens when people and residents can move between these villages and operate within its distinct political and economic structures?
Balaji Srinivasan defines The Network State as “a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.” Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin also wrote a captivating essay diving into his own thoughts on Balaji’s concepts and highlighting key points.
Taking this concept and applying values and principles of regeneration, we can start to imagine a collection of on-the-ground Regen communities that transcend current physical and political boundaries to form an interconnected but geographically dispersed network state.
With each ReFi village being its own Land-based Impact DAO, it connects into a global network of other similar such organisations. As these value-aligned communities interact, they start to self-organise by developing synergies for collaboration at larger scales and levels of complexity. The more this network gains economic and political power, the more it will be able to emancipate itself from the rules of imposed by the prevailing world order we live under, and offer a more sustainable and regenerative alternative. Once it reaches critical mass, the network may one-day request full sovereignty to become an actual state, one that will be governed by a truly democratic and transparent structure - the Regen Network State DAO?
The best thing is, we are able to do this without the permission of powers that be who have a vested interest in preventing the change we need to combat climate change and other global problems. ReFi Villages and the Regen Network State provide a bottoms-up AND scalable solution - but we all need to join together to make it happen!
Ultimately what we are building towards is a more SolarPunk future. Starting as a sci-fi art genre in the early 2000s, Solarpunk has since evolved into an ideological movement aimed at working with advanced science and technology to create a more regenerative and egalitarian society. As opposed to the dystopian depictions of a CyberPunk future - technologically advanced, yet dark, desolate, corrupt, and quite frankly depressing, SolarPunk imagines a world liberated from oppressive power structures and where humanity is living in harmony with natural systems. That is what ReFi Villages can deliver!
Web3-powered regenerative villages - ‘ReFi Villages’ - have the potential to flourish in an increasingly challenging global environment. Opting out of economic dependence and political domination, they can become sovereign entities that are self-reliant and sustainable. At the same time, they can coalesce into a truly democratic network of diverse communities that exchange ideas and resources, and create options for people to move fluidly between them, thus allowing for the best organisational models to emerge organically. They are a beacon of hope for a future where we live in harmony with each other, as well as the natural world from which we all depend.
Led by pioneers such as the Traditional Dream Factory — the first land-based regenerative village DAO in Europe, the ReFi Village movement is only just getting started. Feel free to join the Re:Build telegram group to find out about upcoming events near you. If you want to dive deeper, you can get our "How To Build A Regenerative Village" handbook.
Stay tuned for part 2 in which we dive deeper into the pioneers of this space - and what is the current status of these projects. Make sure to subscribe to the ReFi DAO Blog!