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History and background

Updated: May 9, 2020

The Planetmakers project team have been working together in various combinations over many years. We shared a general vision of the kinds of positive social and environmental change the world needs, and are convinced that a communications infrastructure might be the key to making it happen.

We were brought together again by a sense that the time was ripe for a new attempt because the zeitgest – spirit of the age – has shifted in this direction, with hugely increased awareness of the climate crisis, and because a technical breakthrough in the localised, distributed internet was coming along to make the infrastructure much easier to build.

The actual starting point was a talk by Gary Alexander, Our Shared Social Vision, to the Open:2018 Platform Coops conference on 27 July 2018 in Conway Hall, London which proposed that we build that vision using Holochain as the basis of the communications infrastructure.

We then found that there was a €1 million prize offered by the European Union, in their Blockchains for Social Good programme. We decided to apply for that and it galvanised us to move our vision much further than it had been previously.

  • We assembled an excellent Project Team to take it forward, and a set of partners to work with: community groups, technical partners, support organisations. We set up a cooperative partnership, Planetmakers LLP to take the lead in the application.

  • We built a proof-of-concept prototype using the open source discussion system Discourse, a partial prototype using Holochain, and a partial user interface design.

  • We developed the Social Vision considerably, incorporating commons theory and viable systems theory.

  • We submitted an application to the EU Prize programme in time for its deadline of 3rd Sept. 2019. Our application is attached here and gives details of all of this.

We presented the project to several public events, at which we recruited more partners.

We did not win the EU prize, but because the process of applying for it moved us so far along, we decided to relaunch the project. We are continuing our development of the project infrastructure, and are recruiting new Core Teams to try it out in Norwich, England and London Fields, Hackney, London, England.

Background for the social vision

Building a collaborative sustainable society is undoubtedly the key challenge facing humanity, necessary to our future survival. We have developed our version of it over many years, building on many starting points: numerous historic examples of self-governing commons such as fisheries, grazing, and irrigation, as well as much experience and research in systems theory and cybernetics, especially Stafford Beer’s Viable Systems.

We don’t consider our vision to be a definitive version, but feel it is a good enough starting point for community trials, and is consistent with very many projects starting around the world. We will all learn more through these projects.

If you want to read more about some of our starting points, here are a few quick tasters and then a few books for more depth.

Partnership for People and Planet: Gary Alexander, 2018. A 10 page pamphlet, written shortly before the current project, describing much of the same ideas.

In Transition 2.0 - A 3 minute trailer for a film by the Transition Network, showing many starting points for the vision.

After the Crash, 2012 - A 10 minute video, prepared shortly after the 2008 recession, but very relevant today, describing much the same vision.


  • Alexander, Gary, eGaia, Growing a peaceful, sustainable Earth through communications, 2nd edition, FastPrint Publishing, 2014.

  • Bauwens, Michel, Kostakis, Vasilis, Pazaitis, Alex, Peer to Peer, The Commons Manifesto, University of Westminster Press, 2019.

  • Espinosa, Angela and Walker, Jon, A Complexity Approach to Sustainability, World Scientific, 2017.

  • Lewis, Michael and Conaty, Pat, The Resilience Imperative, Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy, New Society, 2012.

  • Ostrom, Elinor, Governing the Commons, The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

  • Books, videos and other resources from the Transition Network, including Starting Transition, The Transition Handbook, The Transition Companion, Local Food, Local Money and more.

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The Planetmakers Core Team is a cooperative partnership, Planetmakers LLP. It is registered with Companies House in the UK Company No: OC428500, and is a member of Coops UK. Its function is to coordin

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