Decentralization as a mean of empowerment – by Joachim Lohkamp


“To transform bureaucratic hierarchies into technology driven networks” (Fred Wilson). That is what the actors from the GETDecentralized community want to achieve. Their next meetings are in San Francisco and Paris. A full track will be dedicated to this topic at the next OuiShare Fest.

Decentralization has become a buzzword and often is quoted in the context of the sharing and collaborative economy, as well as alternative currencies like bitcoin. Per definition decentralization is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, power, people or things away from a central location or authority. This concept can be applied to politics, economics or technology – among others. Generally speaking you could say that decentralization is about eliminating dependencies.

The vision of decentralization stems from the idea that local action enables direct impact and resilience of a communal ecosystem which is yet woven into a global network. Around the world local initiatives and platforms are popping up which cultivate the exchange between global knowledge and local action. The aspect of global resources takes over the role of former authorities – which is assumed to be much more efficient and pragmatic. The collaborative and sharing economy (airbnb, blablacar, uber) is a proof of how many resources are sitting idle, and this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Among those projects that are further pioneering the power of decentralization one can find the Swarm and Neighbourhood Economics projects, Balle – Be A Localist, POC21 and communities like GETDecentralized. They all use methods to amplify the continuous interplay between global knowledge and local action by empowering communities to collaborate with the latest knowledge and technology from around the world – with the ultimate goal to reduce dependencies and maximize resilience.

TRANSFORMATION OF GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE INTO LOCAL ACTION REQUIRES SENSEMAKING

Kaliya Hamlin helped to understand the dynamic of “Polarity Management” as a model of a continuous interplay between global knowledge and local action. What that means is that global knowledge needs to be applied in local action to create real impact. However, there are several challenges in how to make that happen. One of these is to make sense of information. One of our main dilemmas today in the networked society seems to be that we are drowning in a raging flood of new information (big data), and that it becomes increasingly difficult to make sense of all this information (smart data).

The worldwide leading credit card organization VISA emerged as a decentralized organization. VISA pioneered in a time consuming process the collection of information across multiple stakeholders into a common knowledge base through an intensive collaborative process. To effectively making use of our global exchange of knowledge and to bring it into local and sustainable action in places around the world it will be vital to collect information (data) locally, making it globally available, to then implement the learnings that were generated from this information in the next iteration of local implementation.

SUPPORT ON ITS WAY

A good thing, however, is that there are more and more actors trying to solve challenges through this process of interchange. Among them is the EU as a global player which recently brought the Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation (CAPS) call into practice. This demonstrates that also government agencies increasingly support processes to create awareness of problems and possible solutions which request collective efforts and enable new forms of social innovation. Distributed knowledge creation and data from real environments is at the center of their interest to empower people.

Also investors move empowerment and decentralization more into focus as a next macro trend. Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures underlines for example during his talk at Le Web the need to transform bureaucratic hierarchies into technology driven networks. He clearly sees the need to “unbundle” or in other words to decentralize everything that we see tied into today’s’ platforms. The new social dynamic that will result from this process will be more then ever driven by societal empowerment and behavioural learning processes enabled through the interplay of global knowledge and local action – or in one word: decentralization.

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