Circles UBI Garden is an open-source blockchain-based technology providing digital Universal Basic Income (UBI) that circulates through mutual trust. Still in its infancy, the community-driven experiment aims to strengthen local economies in a wholesomely holistic way.
Circles is a creative concept that’s passionate about enhancing people’s ability to meet their daily needs. Their mission statement is to empower people to realise joyful, fulfilled, and meaningful lives in which communities can help each other grow.
All participating users receive 24 Circles Points per day, which can be sent to other Circles users in exchange for products and services. Their vision is that as the Circles network grows, Circles Points flow between users, businesses and suppliers. With this complementary contemporary solution, communities can flourish into an era of mutual support and abundance, by re-imagining supplementary value and incentive systems.
Circles is a community-driven initiative that started in Europe in 2017 and is now being trialed in Bali in collaboration with: Indobig Network, UbiLab, Alam Santi Design, Memri, Gnosis, Kalimajari, Kembali, and Lentera Talenta. Thanks to continuous support from policy advisors and Balinese authorities, the Circles Indonesia project continues to conduct fascinating research into the interesting potential of this space.
In 2021, 494 people in 3 distinct areas of Bali gave in depth feedback on how Circles could be used in their communities. 97% of respondents in the rural and urban areas surveyed were highly enthusiastic about Circles Indonesia. In 2022 the Circles team developed an app based on this feedback from Balinese communities, and collected endorsements from 70+ community leaders. The first iteration of the app was easy to use and addressed the key aspirations of research respondents.
This year, official permits have been granted to Circles Indonesia’s local partner Alam Santi. Together with other local partners, they are rolling out the latest beta test version of the Circles app to 1,500 users in 3 districts: Negara, Tabanan and Denpasar.
According to their Whitepaper, “Universal Basic Income is one of the most cross-culturally appealing political movements of the modern era. It has attracted the support of thinkers from every background including Thomas Paine, Martin Luther King Jr, Stephen Hawking, Guy Standing, Milton Friedman, and David Graeber. It is seen as a utopian project that could finally unlock the creative potential dormant in all people, and is the culmination of centuries-old humanist ideals.”
Circles Points are owned by their users, not by any centralised organisation or institution. In essence, Universal basic income (UBI) is a system in which all of the system’s participants regularly receive an equal, regular payment of a grant, without any conditions. UBI can be implemented nationally, regionally, or locally. And there are many models of UBI currently being trialled across the globe.
While variations of the Circles technology have been tested in different parts of the world since 2017, the current version of Circles is a new beta application that will be tested for the first time this year (2023). The Circles Indonesia Project was launched just after COVID19 struck. Since then, the team have been working with local stakeholders to see how iterations in this emerging technology can be successfully harnessed and deployed.
“The topic of UBI has exploded in popularity in recent years, as wealth inequality grows and inflation-adjusted wages fall all across the world. Until now, the conversation has primarily been viewed through the lens of public policy and bureaucratic action. Public support for the idea of a UBI has never been higher, but plans for implementation are progressing slowly and without cooperation at an international scale. It seems that UBI systems have received a ‘too big to implement’ label at the highest levels of government, similar to climate change action, making development and rollout unlikely to happen any time soon.”
“The introduction of global blockchain networks changes the conversation about UBI significantly. Now for the first time in history, it is trivially easy to create financial applications that are universally accessible to anyone on the internet. Starting with Bitcoin and moving onto smart contract platforms like Ethereum, blockchain technology has achieved widespread popularity by routing around the gatekeepers and roadblocks that make innovation so difficult in the legacy financial system. Smart contracts and the blockchain create a very promising environment in which to implement a new system.”
“Circles proposes to be the blockchain’s native UBI money system. It has its own built-in resistance to Sybil attacks (i.e. fake accounts) and anyone can join the network at any time without asking for permission [although 3 ‘validations of trust’ are necessary to verify an account]. It has been designed with the expectation that it will be bootstrapped in a completely organic and grassroots fashion, but is extensible to allow arbitrary governance systems to operate on top of the base protocol. Circles is an entirely new way of looking at the nature of money and what value exchange means in a post-UBI future.”
When it comes to evaluating progress, Circles works with local research partners to capture insights through regular monitoring, evaluation and learning activities, by interviewing research participants, documenting developments and gathering data on App usage. For more information on the project you can download the app, participate in the forum, read through their resources or contact the team.