Circles in a World Made for Triangles (with Pia Mancini)

Show Description

Baratunde learns more about experiments in digital democracy. He speaks with Pia Mancini, cofounder of Open Collective, a platform empowering collectives and mutual aid groups with new transparent, decentralized financial tools that make local grassroots efforts more feasible than ever. It is a powerful example of how the use of technology can change the power dynamics and help people citizen together where they live and across the globe. 

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Show Transcript

Baratunde Thurston  0:02  

Welcome to How to Citizen with Baratunde, a podcast that reimagines citizen as a verb, not a legal status. This season is all about tech and how it can bring us together instead of tearing us apart. We're bringing you the people using technology for so much more than revenue and user growth; they're using it to help us citizen.

It's October 2013 and a group of 30 or so revolutionaries in Buenos Aires, Argentina, are poised to infiltrate a seemingly impenetrable fortress: the government. As they approach the Palace of the Argentine National Congress, they tow with them the symbol of their movement: a 20-foot tall wooden Trojan Horse. Yeah, a Trojan Horse like from Greek mythology, and if you need a little refresher on that story, it goes like this. During the Trojan War, the Greeks built this giant Trojan Horse as a gift to the Trojans. Little did the Trojans know that the Greek warriors were actually hiding inside the horse. When the coast was clear, the Greeks emerged and totally sacked the city. Now these Argentine citizens, they've got the same plan: to sneak into Congress and disturb the political order from the inside. They are Partido de la Red, or in English, the Net Party, as in the internet. They're a new political party in Argentina tackling one of democracy's biggest problems.

Pia Mancini  2:14  

Our democracy has remained the same for the past 200 years. We are 21st-century citizens interacting with 19th-century institutions. Today, we can speak for ourselves in almost every aspect of life, but we can only tell our governments what we want once every few years and inbetween elections we must remain silent.

Baratunde Thurston  2:40  

Partido de la Red is running for seats in Congress and they have a very different platform. They created an app called DemocracyOS, where citizens could cast their own votes on legislation. If elected, the Partido de la Red representative would vote according to how citizens have voted on the app. The candidates are themselves the Trojan Horse. If they get into Congress, they would sneak every voice on DemocracyOS into Congress with them. Citizens wouldn't have to wait for years to speak, they'd have a say on every piece of legislation. As the party pulls this Trojan Horse through the streets, children run alongside the procession. An excited crowd gathers when it comes to a stop at the doors of Congress. The party chants...

Archival  3:35  

Que despierte la Red. Que despierte la Red. May the network awaken. 

Pia Mancini  3:43  

It was very powerful.

Baratunde Thurston  3:46  

In the crowd is Pia Mancini, one of the leaders of Partido de la Red.

Pia Mancini  3:52  

It's hard to make change happen, but we must move from protest to construction.

Baratunde Thurston  3:59  

Her work that October would be just the beginning of a lifelong pursuit to empower citizen voices. Since then, Pia has put her imagination to work building technologies that help people organize around the causes that matter to them. Now, eight years later, she isn't just trying to rewire broken systems from the inside, she's making whole new systems entirely. Pia has developed this platform called Open Collective, and with it she's putting economic power in the hands of communities all across the globe. So how does somebody go from protesting at Congress's doorstep to building a new economic infrastructure, and whatever happened to Partido de la Red? Pia Mancini tells us her story after the break.


Pia Mancini  5:13  

So nice to see you!

Baratunde Thurston  5:14  

It's so nice to see you too, Pia. Welcome.

Pia Mancini  5:18  

Thank you.

Baratunde Thurston  5:20  

Let's start with the basics. Can you introduce yourself and what you do?

Pia Mancini  5:27  

I'm Pia Mancini, and I'm co-founder and CEO of Open Collective, and I am the mother of an almost-six-year-old who started elementary yesterday, so it's very exciting.

Baratunde Thurston  5:42  

Are you excited about the school? 

Pia Mancini  5:44  

I am excited about school. 

Baratunde Thurston  5:46  

The amount of relief and exhaustion in your voice, I believe you 100%. 

Pia Mancini  5:52  


Baratunde Thurston  5:53  

What is Open Collective?

Pia Mancini  5:54  

Open Collective, at the core, is an open finances and transparent finances platform that lets you fundraise and spend money for your community in full transparency. We pair that with a global network of legal entities that what they do is they hold the money for those communities and they deal with reporting, and taxes, and government, so communities can focus on what they do and not focus on talking to accountants and lawyers.

Baratunde Thurston  6:26  

You say this is for communities... Who is Open Collective for more practically? Can you get specific? 

Pia Mancini  6:32  

Yes, so we are mostly working with two large ecosystems, the Open Source Ecosystem and the Solidarity Economy, so we are helping both open-source projects across the world to fundraise...

Baratunde Thurston  6:48  

Like as in open-source software projects? 

Pia Mancini  6:50  

Yeah, absolutely. Open-source communities, open-source software projects, are, in general, folks around the world who are coming together using a platform like GitHub, for example, to create software. Companies and users want to support these open-source projects; they want to give them funding so the maintainers can keep working on them because, otherwise, it's volunteer time, but they don't have where to send the money. Imagine Google trying to send $5,000 to a PayPal account in Ukraine.

Baratunde Thurston  7:25  

That will get flagged real quick.

Pia Mancini  7:27  

Real quick, so it's easier for Google to send funding to the Open Source Collective, which is one of the not-for-profits we created. We have a network of 300 not-for-profits around the world, and we give fiscal sponsorship and an umbrella organization to the open-source projects. We currently have 3,000 projects.

Baratunde Thurston  7:47  

3,000 open-source projects? 

Pia Mancini  7:48  

Yeah, yeah. 

Baratunde Thurston  7:50  

Okay. This is a good moment for me to just establish, in your definition and terms, what is open source?

Pia Mancini  7:59  

Yeah, so open source, essentially, is software where you can see how it's being made or the lines that constitute its code, and you can copy and use in whichever way you want; you can grab a part of it, you can rehash it, it's like a mashup. This is different from what is called proprietary software, that is software that is locked by the developer. Right, so Microsoft makes proprietary software because they don't want anyone to compete, to use their technology and compete. Proprietary software is almost like having a patent on your technology, and open source is just free, open technology for anyone to use. Open source enabled the startup revolution.

Baratunde Thurston  8:46  

You mentioned open-source projects. What's the other type of community that you're supporting?

Pia Mancini  8:50  

Yeah, the Solidarity Economy, totally up your alley. Look, it's mutual aid groups, land trusts, giving circles, social movements, right? COVID hit, a lot of people pulled money together to support each other, they wanted to support their neighbors, buy food for those who couldn't make it. Out of those mutual aid groups, groups are coming together to support each other, who's gonna receive the money? It's a group of neighbors. Who's going to put their own personal bank account? It's kind of weird, right? It's awkward and it might have implications for your tax reporting, so we give these communities the Open Collective platform plus a 501c3 kind of as a service. 

Baratunde Thurston  9:35  


Pia Mancini  9:35  

Yeah, so they can be up and running, receiving money without tax deductible receipts for their donors in a day, so we are radical administrators, right?

Baratunde Thurston  9:48  

Which usually doesn't go together; radical and administrative are very rarely said in unison.

Pia Mancini  9:53  

I know, I know. We abstract the difficulty, the awful, boring bits of having to raise and manage money because we think it's very unfair that if you want to just pull money together, or if you just want to try an idea, or if you don't know yet what you want to be in the world--maybe you want to be a club, maybe you want to be a not-for-profit, maybe you're just testing an idea--why should you pay upfront the costs of having an equity or having hierarchical structures that then is very difficult to transition out of? Why, why are we doing this? The metaphor that we use, we say that communities are circles in a world that is made for triangles.

Baratunde Thurston  10:36  

"Communities are circles in a world made for triangles."

Pia Mancini  10:39  

Yeah, so we kind of need to twist a little bit so we can fit into what the system understands as a legal entity.

Baratunde Thurston  10:48  

Here's the question, though, why open? What's the open part all about?

Pia Mancini  10:53  

Everything is transparent by design, so you know at a glance who gave money to a community and how that community is spending the money. Philosophically, I don't think that transparency generates trust, per se, because if everything is transparent, what's there to trust, right? You just see it, right? Trust gets generated when you accept that someone is doing something without you having to see that necessarily, but transparency helps a lot in situations where trust takes a lot of time to build.

Baratunde Thurston  11:27  

Give me an example of a collective that has benefited from this open, transparent-funding legal administrative support.

Pia Mancini  11:37  

One of the first collectives that really showed the quick impact that we could have was called Meals of Gratitude.

Baratunde Thurston  11:46  

Meals of Gratitude, okay. 

Pia Mancini  11:48  

Late February or March last year, so very, very early on, they realized that they needed to feed first responders in the pandemic. They were scrambling to figure out how to buy all of these meals for folks working around the clock in hospitals, and it went from zero to a gazillion in three days. Suddenly, we were pushing I-don't-know-how-many-thousand meals a day, and I'm so grateful that we're able to do this. 

Baratunde Thurston  12:14  


Pia Mancini  12:16  

Another one, more recent, is we were able to get to families of open-source developers from Afghanistan out of Afghanistan. Open source is not something the Taliban understand. You didn't see that coming.

Baratunde Thurston  12:36  

I just, "open source is not something the Taliban understand." I mean, that's... that's beautiful. Continue.

Pia Mancini  12:45  

I mean, it's very risky for developers working in open source because they're collaborating with foreign powers, or whatever the narrative is. 

Baratunde Thurston  12:54  

Yeah, and it could be the CIA. 

Pia Mancini  12:56  

Exactly. They're just doing code on something in English, and this is terrifying...

Baratunde Thurston  13:01  


Pia Mancini  13:01 we needed to very quickly raise money to get these two families out, and we spun up a collective, and in nothing we had raised enough money to get both families off to Pakistan.

Baratunde Thurston  13:14  

Wow. Sounds very disruptive, Pia.

Pia Mancini  13:19  

Look, I have to say that it is. It's been amazing, especially for me last year, 2020, personally, to see all of these different groups just coming together. We were able to deploy millions of dollars to communities across the United States and across the world because we were already set up for this, and the growth last year has been surprising. Our goal right now is finding ways of moving money from the center to the fringes. I think it's absolutely unfair that only corporations, whether they're for profit or nonprofit, that corporations are incorporated in a territory. Today, 21st century, you need to be in a territory, which is insane. They have hierarchical structures or vertical structures.

Baratunde Thurston  14:11  


Pia Mancini  14:12  

Triangles. Only triangles can receive money? That's unfair because the hard work that communities are doing to improve the state of the world is incredible. We have more and more open-source projects that are employing or contracting their maintainers full-term, so we are creating jobs. This is putting the community as a new economic unit, the community as a human, an economic unit that is able to hire, to raise money, to spend, to do everything that we give for granted, that corporations can do without having to become something that they're not.

Baratunde Thurston  14:57  

Where did all this come from, Pia? How did you come up with this idea for Open Collective?

Pia Mancini  15:02  

It wasn't my own idea.

Baratunde Thurston  15:04  

Probably a collective.

Pia Mancini  15:05  

There you go, you get it, you get it. My co-founder, Xavier, and me both had experiences where we went through this particular pain of needing to pull money to do what we wanted to do and not being able to do it because of bureaucratic hurdles. We are coming from very different contexts: my experience was in politics, his experience was in the startup movement in Belgium, mine in Argentina. We were, like, "if the two of us are going through the same, there must be other people going through this," so we started thinking about how to solve this problem and Open Collective was born in 2016.

Baratunde Thurston  15:46  

How did you get into politics in the first place?

Pia Mancini  15:49  

Goodness, my family was always very, let's say, argumentative.

Baratunde Thurston  15:56  

I can't see that at all. How did that show up? Was that at the dinner table? Was that on the way to school? What does it mean?

Pia Mancini  16:02  

Oh, my God, the dinner table. The dinner table, and then arguments in the morning for who got to read the newspaper first and what section of the newspaper, and then arguing about what we were reading. My dad and I, we were very similar in a lot of ways, and then we thought politically very differently. I grew up in an environment where politics was very much part of our lives, and I studied political science because I was interested in power dynamics and I was interested maybe because of my father... I hadn't thought about that. Hang on a second.

Baratunde Thurston  16:41  

It's okay, if you want to lay back on a couch, take some deep breaths, we can go there, Pia.

Pia Mancini  16:46  

Break through happening. Then, there was a bit of a moment where something clicked. I was campaign-managing for a friend of mine, who then became mayor of this quite large city outside of Buenos Aires. I don't know, this was maybe 2010, something like that, July, which is winter in Argentina, and it gets pretty cold. We were visiting a neighborhood talking to folks and we went into this barn, and it was stuck up to the ceiling with mattresses, and construction materials, and things like that. I'm like, "great, but are we gonna build things or housing for folks in need here in the area? What's the plan? How you doing this?" I was so excited. He looks at me, literally, like if I was from another planet. He looks at me, like, "are you crazy, Pia? Elections are next year. These are staying here." And I'm, like, "wait, what? Are we keeping this until elections because that's what we use to get votes?" Then, it just clicked, and it wasn't that my friend was corrupt, it was just that the system is what it is. And I'm, like, "what am I doing here trying to get someone elected to be mayor of a city where this is going to still happen, because the system is not going to change? It's just going to eat him up and chew him out when they're done." At the same time, I run into this absolutely crazy bunch of people doing a different type of political party called the Net Party, el Partido de la Red, so that's how I got more into politics. 

Baratunde Thurston  18:27  

Partido de la Red? 

Pia Mancini  18:28  

Partido de la Red, yes.

Baratunde Thurston  18:30  

How was that approach different from everything you just described as not ideal?

Pia Mancini  18:35  

El Partido de la Red was a hack, essentially. We wanted to influence the way decisions are made in politics, so we created DemocracyOS.

Baratunde Thurston  18:47  

Hold up, wait a minute. I'm walking this path with you and I'm, like, "okay, frustrated political system. Got it. Join a new political party. Got it. Then, we started DemocracyOS." What is this democracy operating system?

Pia Mancini  19:06  

Yeah, so please explain? Okay, got it. DemocracyOS is a platform for citizens to read on legislation that was translated from political and legal jargon that no one understands, because that's the hack of the lawyers.

Baratunde Thurston  19:26  

You make a human-readable version of legislation? 

Pia Mancini  19:29  

Yes, you got it, so we did that and it was a platform for citizens to vote how they would like their representatives to vote. If they thought they couldn't vote themselves on something because they didn't have time, they didn't want to, they didn't understand,  they knew someone else who might know better, whatever, they could delegate that vote on this other person. If there's a healthcare piece of legislation and you know folks that work in the healthcare system, but they will never access the lobby power to influence legislation because they are healthcare workers, but you trust them, you know that you would like them to vote for you, you could delegate your vote on them.

Baratunde Thurston  20:12  

That makes sense. I mean, there are people who I use right now, informally, right? "You know a lot more about this... tell me how I should vote."

Pia Mancini  20:23  

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Baratunde Thurston  20:25  

There's a technology that helps citizens weigh in, and even delegate their authority, on certain topics based on expertise and their networks.

Pia Mancini  20:36  

Yeah, that's exactly right. We created this and we were, like, "it'd be great if government, Congress used this," so we were, like, "hey, Congress, do you on this?" They  were, like, "no, thank you. Go play outside."

Baratunde Thurston  20:49  

Surprise, surprise.

Pia Mancini  20:51  

They were, like, "that's the door," and we were, like, "okay, great, so how on earth do we become valid stakeholders in this conversation? How on earth do we get them to pay attention?" We were, like, "okay, let's do what they do. Let's build a political party," but we ran for elections with this idea that if we got a seat in Congress, we would only vote according to the decision made on DemocracyOS. 

Baratunde Thurston  21:20  


Pia Mancini  21:22  

Ah, so that was the hack.

Baratunde Thurston  21:23  

Stakes are high. I mean, I've heard of campaign promises, but that's a different level of commitment.

Pia Mancini  21:32  

Yeah. For the political establishment in Buenos Aires, it was, like, "wait, what? You're gonna do what?"

Baratunde Thurston  21:40  

Did you end up getting a seat?

Pia Mancini  21:43  

No, we missed that seat for not a lot. It was very close. We pushed the bar so far of what was perceived as doable. We almost made it, and we're a crazy bunch of folks with software saying, like, "we're not gonna vote what we think, we're gonna vote what people decide on this platform." Then, it was after the campaign, I think, one of the volunteers, the developers working on the DemocracyOS platform sent us a link saying, "have you folks in this?" It was DemocracyOS translated to French, used in Arabic, to discuss the Constitution in Tunisia, and we had no idea what was going on. The developers there looked for online voting, they ran into DemocracyOS, they did their own copy of DemocracyOS and they were using it themselves to discuss the Tunisian Constitution. That, for me, was mind blowing. It felt like there was an emergent need, because if something was being used at the same time in Buenos Aires and Tunisia for the same purposes, the world needed this and the world was ready to use this. I became focused on using DemocracyOS in different contexts, so we used it in Mexico, in the city of Mexico for the Constitution, in the Senate of Mexico for a piece of legislation, in Sri Lanka with a candidate, in Colombia for the referendum; the tools that we were putting out there were being picked up by the same type of groups in different languages, different purposes, different places. At one point, DemocracyOS was translated into 30 different languages, and we didn't do them. I think that that's what really holds me from open source and technologies; this ability of creating tools that you don't control, and that you just release into the world and people use, for me, is beautiful.

Baratunde Thurston  23:58  

We'll be right back.

Where in your path did technology become a tool you would use for all of the systems, power, political thinking?

Pia Mancini  24:22  

Well, we felt that technology was the missing piece in how citizens could have agency. We felt that technology was what made evident that the system was unbelievably closed, because it's not like they didn't have the tools to open up, they just didn't want to do it. They choose to hold onto the status quo because they want to stay in power.

Baratunde Thurston  24:47  

What did this experience do broadly? I mean, the experience of being rejected by the systems of power you're trying to change, the experience of finding power through the people, through technology, through community organizing... what did that experience do to your understanding of how power works?

Pia Mancini  25:09  

I think that we were very naive and we thought that you could change a system from within. We thought that if we could get there with the right tools, and the right people, and the right hacks, systems could be incrementally rewired until they worked better. I guess what we missed was, at the end of the day, power wants to stay in power, right? The status quo is never gonna devolve power because they want to remain being the status quo. There's all of this awful ego game that happens, where they're, like, "oh, you're so amazing. You're doing great things. Participatory democracy, come with us.: They change a little bit for everything to remain the same, and I think we hit a wall there. We were missing how conservative power is, even if they think they're progressive, or even if they say they're progressive, because just the system will do anything that the system can to self-perpetuate, and we didn't realize that. If you cannot transform the current system, how do you build an alternative that is appealing enough that you crystallize it in a way that inspires people? You build bridges to bring folks over, right? What tools do you have? What sandboxes to play around? What new systems can you build because you need to experiment? How do you lead through that, right?

Baratunde Thurston  26:31  

I'm very American, it's the country I've known the most, it's the country I've been in my whole life and many of my ancestors going back many generations, but I sometimes get attached to this idea of a democratic experiment. It's a sandbox, it's everything you just described, so trying things, experimenting, is absolutely ingrained in the DNA of the process. Democracy is more of a process than an end product, anyway.

Pia Mancini  27:01  

Yeah. One of the main things when we were campaigning for the Net Party that we got from people was, like, "what? Am I gonna decide?" This fear that we have in us that we can't really make decisions because we don't know, because only those in power know, or whatever... we've spent such a long history, thousands of years, being told that we couldn't be part of this decision-making process. We've inherited this notion that we can't participate, and now we believe it, right? We believe that we're not able to, so we need to lead through decision making, we need to lead through building institutions, we need to experience that to learn. There is no teaching how to decide on faith, so what sanboxes can we build so we are able to fail in our experimentation with new forms of political institutions, new form of democratic arrangements. A lot of my time shifted towards thinking alternative systems and what alternative systems need. I focused very strongly on Open Collective because it's an alternative path of having economic power and building around the territory. If you're a global network of climate activists and you don't know where you need to incorporate, we got it. It's fine. Don't worry. You don't need a territory, we'll do that for you. Open Collective has that ingrained in it, of building outside nation states. I guess one of the things that I learned is, if you can't beat them, make them obsolete.

Baratunde Thurston  28:38  

"If you can't beat them, make them obsolete."

Pia Mancini  28:42  

Yeah, you can't beat the nation state. You cannot, so stop trying. Build around it until it becomes obsolete. Build around it until it collapses and then decays on something different. It's going to happen. It's going to evolve into something else or it's going to decay into something, but the nation states weren't always here and they're not going to be here always, right? They're a social construct. I'm very tired of being forced to think of the territory and the nation state as the vector that organizes power, so a lot of the work that I do has to do with how we abstract that layer out.

Baratunde Thurston  29:25  

Here's another question for you. The way we practice technology and the way we practice democracy, what is that relationship historically and where do you see it going?

Pia Mancini  29:35  

It's very interesting. Technology used to be mainframes and proprietary, and I guess it became open and collaborative, and it doesn't have borders, and the internet really scaled that to a whole new level. Democracies being more in the open, democracies being more on a global layer like the internet is, means that the planet becomes a new jurisdiction. We all come together as peers that share a commons that is a planet, and it doesn't matter where on earth you were born, you have agency over certain decisions that impact all of us globally. The main example of that, or the easy one, is climate change, right? 

Baratunde Thurston  30:23  


Pia Mancini  30:23  

Why on earth are we letting nation states have any say on climate change when really the ones who should decide are citizens that are coming together as a global network, because there is no such thing as a nation for climate change? It doesn't matter, right? There are no borders, they are meaningless. We now have that parallel between the internet creating this global network and these global democratic institutions that we can create on top of that. Now, ownership is not trivial here, right? As much as we try to forget about it and deny it, the cables and the water are controlled by someone, the internet infrastructure, so I think technology still needs to decentralize a heck of a lot more to be able to be the truly support system that a global democracy needs. 

Baratunde Thurston  31:25  

Yeah. Earlier, you talked about the fear many of us have when it comes to exercising our own power: "Why should I get to decide? I don't know enough. I'm not expert enough." What do you have to say to people who hear this conversation and are not excited but are terrified?

Pia Mancini  31:47  

I think we've accepted this idea that we can't participate, because we've never done it. I'm not saying it's going to work well every time, we're likely to make bad decisions; they can't be worse decisions than the ones the governments are making. It's a low, low bar. Even then, I think we should start small, and I think that cities are very powerful and are really great grounds, or sandboxes, for us to learn how to citizen. I truly believe most people are decent and are good people. I honestly believe that. I think the vast majority of humanity are just good people. We're mostly living in a system that benefits or elevates the not so good people, but, at the end of the day, most people I think are good and they will do the decent thing when it comes down to it. I've seen it happen over, and over, and over.

Baratunde Thurston  32:53  


Pia Mancini  32:55  

I think we need to start building paths to make real decisions, and participatory budgeting is a really good tool that we can use because it's an inexpensive way to learning how to have agency and see what happens to you. If deciding is not your thing, we'll find someone else that can decide for you and that you trust enough, but it's your choice.

Baratunde Thurston  33:21  

It's your choice. I love that. Pia, you mentioned participatory budgeting, and I know some people don't know what that is, basically this process where community members decide how to spend part of a public budget, giving them power over actual money. I know there's thousands of cities around the world, including my city in LA, that have used this to decide budgets on all kinds of things. It's really beautiful. What other types of infrastructure do you think we need? You're, obviously, very invested in Open Collective around legal financial administrative, or radical administrative. What other pieces of the puzzle are missing?

Pia Mancini  33:59  

I guess what we're missing is a space where a large number of people in the millions can come together from different countries around the world and decide on something. There was a really cool project that someone was trying to fundraise for and organize that was going to pull something like a billion dollars, and they were going to try to get, I think, 300 million young people from around the world to vote on a participatory budgeting process for that billion dollars. I think that the money and participatory budgeting aspect was the least interesting one; the most interesting one was building a network of 300 million young people that have collaborated at scale outside a nation state. I think networks change the world, and once you have that network and it's formed, you have that global social fabric, you can build things with that. That is going to bring about so much change into the world, so we need to build this global social tissue.

Baratunde Thurston  35:09  

You're ridiculous, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Pia, you have given me so many more reasons to be optimistic. Thank you for pushing our thoughts to new places, thinking, literally, outside of our borders, threatening some powers that be, and being fun in the process. Really appreciate you. Thank you.

Pia Mancini  35:34  

Thank you. Thank you for having me and for listening.

Baratunde Thurston  35:45  

One thing I admire so much about Pia is her courage to just try. Partido de la Red didn't win the election, and that's okay. The goal was just to try. They wanted to see how far they could go, how far they could push our perception of what's even possible, and in that attempt they succeeded. Other folks around the world took DemocracyOS and they ran with it, mashing it up for their own democratic experiments, pushing the bar even further, and they were able to do that because Pia and her friends took the first step. Even though it may not always seem like it, there's no lack of beautiful, imaginative, good-intentioned people in this world. Some might want to help their neighbors, some might want to challenge the political establishment with their own Trojan Horses, literal and metaphorical. Whatever it is that matters to you is worth trying. Pia's a powerful reminder that we can use tech to unlock more than money, we can use it to do all the things we believe citizening means: to show up and participate, to invest in relationships--I mean, that's happening beyond the boundaries of the nation state thanks to technology--to understand power--that's what creating a new economic model is all about--and all to support the collective, an open collective. It's not too late to make a difference. We can try from within the current system, but if that fails, we can build something new. As Pia said, "if you can't beat them, make them obsolete." Next week, we go to Taiwan where a group of civic hackers succeeded in infiltrating the government and they changed the system entirely from the inside out.

Audrey Tang  37:47  

We have this digital public infrastructure that functions the same as the town hall, so that they're not forced to deliberate about important civic topics in the digital-equivalent of nightclubs like Facebook.

Baratunde Thurston  38:02  

Next time, Audrey Tang. Pia got me so fired up. I hope she did the same for you, because it's time for some action. Let's start nice and easy with something you can all do by yourself, no special equipment necessary. I want you to think about when you feel most positive or optimistic in your weak. What are you doing? Who are you around? What media are you consuming? Now, work backwards from that. Do more of those things that make you feel good. I promise, I'm not trying to be a life coach here. I just think the world needs more optimists for us to reach our collective potential, and it's hard to citizen when you're only cynical. Here's something else I want you to try: visit, just understand it more. I think of it as a combination of Patreon meets Kickstarter meets easy-to-use accounting software. Watch Pia's TED talk, it's called How to Upgrade Democracy for the Internet Era, and learn more about her beliefs and journey. Then, think about a local project or informal group, maybe a mutual aid society, that could benefit from Open Collective and tell them about it. Finally, and then we're getting real warmed up here, I want you to consider supporting an open-source project of your own while moving away from private mega-malls like Facebook. Now, that doesn't mean you have to go start a software company, it just means start using something like the Signal app instead of Facebook. That's an open-source encrypted nonprofit messaging platform, which was initially launched by the Ford Foundation. If you use open source to build your product that's making you money, then give back to the open-source community. Just because it's open source doesn't mean it's free, it was paid for by somebody's time. You know where you can find some great open-source projects to support? Over at Boom, full circle! Speaking of .com, we've got our own with links to all these actions and more at Follow us on Instagram @howtocitizen. Tag us in your post about supporting a collective. Be a circle in a world dominated by triangles. How to Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Dustlight Productions. Our executive producers are me, Baratunde Thurston, Elizabeth Stewart and Misha Euceph. Our senior producer is Tamika Adams, our producer is Alie Kilts, and our assistant producer Sam Paulson. Stephanie Cohn is our editor, Valentino Rivera is our senior engineer, and Matthew Lai is our apprentice. Original music by Andrew Eapen, with additional original music for season 3 from Andrew Clausen. This episode was produced and sound designed by Sam Paulson, with additional production help from Arwen Nicks. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Rachael Garcia at Dustlight Productions. Okay, now for the real question, Pia: which crypto should I be getting into? 

Pia Mancini  41:21  

Ethereum, definitely.

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