Commons, anti-rivalry, and a sustainable economy – learnings from ATARCA’s 2nd Policy Observatory

29 June 2022


Web3, blockchain and decentralised technologies are moving forward at extraordinary speeds. These technologies create avenues for positive changes in our economies, and can be used to challenge existing extractive economic structures.

Let’s begin from our end-goal: what is the economy we strive to build? What does it look like and how does it work? Together, Demos Helsinki and ATARCA are imagining how we can leverage DLTs to build more sustainable and fair economic models and practices.



The 2nd ATARCA Policy Observatory was hosted by Demos Helsinki on June 1st 2022. The goal was to share perspectives and explore the potential of leveraging decentralised technologies to build fairer and more sustainable economies.

To meet this ambitious goal, we gathered together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners from  blockchain, anti-rivalry, commons, economics, and web3 backgrounds to imagine and explore where we could and should go with such technologies.

We began the session with an introduction from Johannes Mikkonen from Demos Helsinki, who spoke about how the anti-rival nature of digital goods creates opportunities for alternative futures of the data economy, beyond the false scarcity and competition that define it today. The strength of anti-rival resources, including digital goods, is that they gain value the more they are used. Mikkonen proposed three directions for a new data economy:

  • Regenerative value creation. We need new value creation models and distribution mechanisms that take into account the societal and communal value of economic interaction and data sharing. We need to create non-extractive models and mechanisms to support collaboration, creativity and collective capabilities.
  • Emancipatory collaboration and economic interaction. Digital platforms have shown their power in increasing the capabilities of individual actors, and by consequence, contributing to building fairer economies . However we need to guarantee that these new capabilities are enjoyed by everyone and the benefits of them are shared equally.
  • Inclusive economic development. It is imperative that we identify and conduct new ways of organising and orchestrating our interactions and collaborations. Decentralisation should not come to mean even more predatory forms of privatisation as has been seen with some Web3 initiatives, but instead contribute to wider emancipation and democratisation.


Following Mikkonen’s introductory speech, three panelists presented on the potential of DLT-based solutions for social good: James Muldoon, Sandra Uwantege Hart, and Julio Linares. First, James Muldoon, Head of Digital Research at Autonomy, talked about the need for the democratisation of digital platforms. Sandra Uwantege-Hart, an advisor on the use of blockchain in emerging markets and development programming, shared her experiences with using blockchain in humanitarian work. Finally, Julio Linares from Circles UBI talked about community currencies and blockchain-based universal basic income. Sandra Uwantege-Hart, an advisor on the use of blockchain in emerging markets and development programming, shared her experiences with using blockchain in humanitarian work.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to have small group discussions allowing us to exchange not only our excitement and ideas, but also our struggles and setbacks in the world of DLTs and technology. As rapidly as we are moving ahead in this space, many central roadblocks remain. Our discussions opened up these tensions.



A host of questions emerged from our group discussions:

  • How can we rethink money altogether?
  • We still depend on real-world ecosystems, so how can we build things in existing structures?
  • Since our economies depend on real-world structures, how can we embed technologies within these existing structures?
  • We should create new institutions which would facilitate redistribution and exchange. How to do this?
  • In building sustainable economies with technology, should we begin or end with policy change?
  • How can we keep the powerful and influential people in this space accountable?
  • Can anti-rivalry even be codified? And what would this look like (A policy? A practice?)


In order to reach the futures we want to create, we need to, before all else, cultivate conditions to allow for this change to be possible. The following requirements emerged from our discussions. In other words, this is what we need to foster:

  • To continue testing and pushing for technologies in ‘unconventional’ environments, it’s one way that technologies will organically develop
  • Institutional adoption and long term user adoption of decentralised technologies
  • Increased digital literacy wildly in the society
  • New legal frameworks
  • Political will
  • Trust in societal institutions
  • A multitude of diverse voices and discussions in the development of DLT solutions
  • To talk about our larger values as societies, not only technical values. The conversation is more encompassing than we may think.


These conversations would not have been possible without the honest and inspiring contributions from our panelists. Find out more about Circles UBI and Julio’s work here, The UnBlocked Cash project that Sandra created here, and James Muldoon’s book Platform Socialism here.



The 3rd Policy Observatory will be organised in the Fall of 2022 to go deeper with the recommendations for the future of data economy and markets.

The upcoming session will pave the way to compiling a set of policy recommendations to the European Commission to be published in Spring 2023.

We look forward to our next session!


For more information, please get in touch with us.

Johannes Mikkonen,

Anna Björk,

Atte Ojanen,

Emma de Carvalho,




Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 964678. The content of this website does not represent the opinion of the European Union, and the European Union is not responsible for any use that might be made of such content.