After reading A Pattern Language some years ago, I began thinking differently about our cities and the interests they were serving. Specifically, I was influenced by references to how small villages more closely match the needs of people. You walked everywhere usually together and the community created the infrastructure to support itself.
Today, we are physically more separated from each other, even before the COVID pandemic. Instead of walking with somebody, which puts you within a foot or two of the other person, we are now separated by twenty feet and encased in steel frames with engines propelling us from our homes to work.
Mind you, I am a believer in scaling big ideas, especially those that can impact our society for the better, however, some aspects of scale are detrimental. Alan Watts brought some of these ideas to light in the mere geometry of our cities. Right angles are efficient in the design of cities but don’t match the geometry of humans.
In the spirit of these thoughts, I connected with another amazing group of web3 minds aimed to change the way the world works. Kift is a geographically distributed community organized as a DAO with wildly ambitious goals.
I met with two of their founders to discuss the concept and their mission. Matai Blacklock and Cam Lindsay have rich backgrounds in technology and social good, and they are changing the way communities are organized both physically and digitally.
Tell me about Kift and how it came together.
CL: Cities are broken and building a new city is not gonna be the answer. Building a geo-distributed city that takes advantage of people’s desire for adventure, and mobility and accommodates the changing realities of the climate crisis and supply chains. It’s about shared space and shared values.
We like to live mobile. We like to be able to eat together. We like to go on adventures. We value nature. We value sustainability. We really are focusing on ensuring that equity and diversity are present inside our community.
There are all these different ways in which those values align to create this greater whole, even though we are dispersed. Some are in Discovery Bay in Seattle, some are in Lake Port in San Francisco, some are in Joshua Tree and others are going down to Baja. Our community, our city is geo-distributed via digital realms, which allows this beautiful happenstance whenever we overlap to coexist together.
It’s a shared sense of mission because we realize how much of city living is not actually made for humans or our thriving communities. It’s made for hyper-efficiency in consumption and the ability for things to be close together, which they no longer need to be.
MB: I want to emphasize the focus on community. Whether you’re onsite or offsite, the impact of people coming together to share in a collective experience is the biggest thing that resonates. We foster this culture of community through our morning virtual and on-site group check-ins, daily communal dining, fun engagement through discord, planning for special events, and all of the opportunities for connection that happen naturally within the community.
What aspects of DAOs are important to you as you build Kift?
CL: We look at it as the digitally native version of a city government. We wanted to let our members know we are serious about building a geo-distributed city that solves many problems that traditional cities no longer address. By allowing any member to create a proposal and evaluate the proposal, they can contribute in ways that feel best for them.
How will the DAO create value over time?
CL: We think about this in stages. So right now, the DAO does not own any properties. It is the container for governing and organizing our community of people. The members pay Kift, Inc, which is a corporation that received private funding and has gone a traditional route because of the upfront costs of starting a movement like this.
We sold our initial batch of NFTs that give people membership in the DAO with voting powers and the ability to create proposals. The idea would be that the DAO then creates revenue streams from our treasury. We are looking to buy a small property that we can host our members onsite and expand upon. It will be a small beta test to understand how we buy and develop properties as a community.
The DAO owns the property and Kift, Inc leases it from the DAO. Then we can set up storage units because members need to store things. Instead of going to public storage or one of the billion-dollar companies, that money would go into the DAO treasury.
As a community, we build out these resources that could be applied to food. We start a small garden and eventually look to buy a farm. As we start bringing more regenerative practices to our sites, there is this really cool evolution.
Yes, we need to be tied to society very intentionally, but we ultimately want to self-cultivate as much as possible in our community. So the goal is for the DAO to start by acquiring our first property to help our treasury gain more value.
How are you building the value exchange mechanic between your members and the DAO?
MB: When I first came to Kift, it started as an organic approach with people raising their hands and offering to help. Then we established the concept of pods with different work streams focused on governance & law, tech & design, digital & IRL community, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
We were amazed at how many people volunteered to take on lead and support roles, from building out an online booking site and member portal to planning for events, outlining the governance process for DAO decision-making, and more. DAO members are encouraged to participate to continue to cocreate and elevate the awesome experience that we are providing our community members.
Over time we will be rolling out more web3 recognition programs and funding opportunities through our Kift improvement Proposal approach that was just ratified by the DAO through an NFT holder vote.
Tell me about the Kiftable NFT and how that works with membership and the DAO treasury.
CL: We sold a little over 250 with 80% of the proceeds going into the DAO treasury. You can think of it as citizenship to our city. The thing that allows for the community to keep growing is membership fees. If you have an NFT, you can participate in governance and set proposals. You also get 50% off membership, which gives you groceries and onsite access to any of our properties.
How many locations are there for members to use?
CL: We have four right now, and the DAO is looking to acquire one more by the end of the year. We are also looking to bring on partner properties that Kift members can access.
What’s the most challenging problem you’ve had to solve for Kift?
CL: Communication. It’s unbelievable how important and it’s unbelievable how hard it is to make sure you are communicating enough. You have to put messages in so many different places at so many different times. We have to remember that for a large swath of our community, this is not their everyday life.
This is just something they’ll check in on every so often. It’s important to be realistic about expectations for members and participation. It’s a work in progress. It’s hard, but it’s the good kind of hard.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a DAO?
MB: I would encourage them to observe and participate in other DAOs to learn from their efforts and connect with other like-minded folks. web3 in general is super collaborative. Dive on in, learn to swim, and try to innovate and create.
CL: Focus on having a community first and knowing who that community is. There are so many other ways to have a really successful community without making it a DAO. Really make sure that you need a DAO to do that.
And you know that you need a DAO when you are organizing groups of people that are very far apart from one another that all have a certain mission that needs assets and resources to put behind that mission. Even that can be done without a DAO, it just becomes more useful and helpful.
What do you want the world to know about Kift?
CL: If you feel there’s more to this existence than living in our cardboard boxes or one-bedroom apartments without anybody else or a solid community, we’re cooking up some stuff here at Kift that might be just the medicine that you need.
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