ReUnion Network: Commoning by P2P Care
Written By Yin Aiwen and Genevieve Costello, with contributions from Sarah Friend (chapter 'Technology Employment') and Marjet Zwaans (chapter 'Regenerative Model of Care').
ReUnion Network is a socio-economic ecosystem channeled through digital technologies, which is designed to resist the continuing crises of care and loneliness in our society. We help people organize bottom-up social support systems to facilitate collective well-being and social solidarity, via long-term P2P care agreements and relationship-driven cryptocurrencies.
ReUnion Network initially started with an artistic curiosity: "How would society be organized if blockchain became the technological infrastructure and decentralization became the ruling ideology?" The core idea of our answer is to design a system that considers interpersonal relationships as the base unit, instead of individuals or imagined communities created by given narratives, to create a commons-oriented approach for socio-economic organization. While the resource of care continues to be rendered in crisis, it is also a form of labor that we do every day, one that demands qualitative effort within trusted relationships. We take care as our driving force and complicate the perceived boundaries of productive and reproductive labor. In doing so, ReUnion hopes to build an ecology of practices between complex and interdependent entities for the repletion of care.
Over three years of research, the project has been carefully designed from this point of inspiration. It has become a multilayered system with three interconnected components:
- 1.A mobile-first web application that provides a meditative space and tools to help people balance personal well-being and sustainable long-term care network beyond traditional kinships;
- 2.A collaborative site for contract-making, including renewable long-term interpersonal agreements, generating relationship-driven crypto-currencies to incentivize people to cultivate and maintain the care relationships arising in their immediate life (as opposed to a sharing economy for short-term exchanges of care);
- 3.A DLT-powered communal fund and welfare system that facilitates value exchanges between informal care and local and translocal cooperative economies to support a common-based economy.
The system is conceived as a holistic approach to the intertwined multilayered and systemic crises that render the contemporary globalized world to be an age of precarity. These crises include the constant movement of people; hyperconnectivity, hyperindividualism, and a 24/7 economy; unprecedented demands of an aging society; an epidemic of loneliness; dangers of job loss by mass automation; and direct and impending threats to life by the progression of climate change.
Facing these complex and unevenly experienced crises is undoubtedly ominous. However, ReUnion believes that an interlinked reorganization of civic resources and social contracts and a new approach to intimate relationships can acutely respond to the conditions of many. We describe in the section “Social Discrepancies at Stake” three intertwined macro trends related to how people organize their personal lives in the context of social, cultural, and economic change.
Its current goal is to transform into a nonprofit organization that facilitates a relationship between local municipalities and local cooperatives. ReUnion is a facilitator through technological means and specific conceptual frameworks, and its mission and livelihood are not tied to one technology. It pursues funding and support for stability, sustainability, social justice - not scalability. It does not offer support at the cost of other crucial civic resources. We seek to test its current application prototype within communities to study its viability and develop it further in a research context for implementation into civic systems.
The project can have meaningful applications in many sectors, especially those that are predominantly related to formal and informal social reproduction that includes healthcare, welfare, childcare, local and translocal cooperative economies, alternative domestic relationships, and economic organizations that are made possible by new technologies. We use social reproduction in its broadest sense to mean the activities that secure and cultivate the continuity of daily and generational life –including bodily care, social values, procreation, spaces, and systems of our activities, movements, and inhabitance. Equally, we use care in its broadest sense – the practice of maintaining, continuing, or restoring the world.
ReUnion’s long-term vision is to become a citizen-centered and collaborative socio-economic ecosystem and to guide European governments in gradually transitioning to a framework that is not predicated on captured GDP, but factors in informal care work and reproductive labor at large. This paradigmatic-value shift addresses current challenges, such as a shortage of care labor, and it fosters social well-being in general. Care labor is a major contributor to social stability and provides the base conditions for the interdependence and balance of a meaningful life, public health, and civic prosperity.
Creative Industries Fund NL has supported our development since 2018. At the time of writing, we received financial support from Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst to begin field research in Amsterdam – a city that was thriving with diverse ways of living but now is under intensive gentrification progress. In the next phase, we aim to research how unorthodox communities organize their care network under the stress of rapid gentrification and intense mobility issues in the neighborhood. As research and trials have not yet been conducted, the numbers in the examples in this paper are thus conceptual and demonstrative.