(Community Design) A Franchise for a Neighborhood “Citizens Assembly,” Featuring Self-Funded Earn and Learn Opportunities

Kent Dahlgren
12 min readSep 24, 2020


Walking out your front door one evening, you stroll for about an hour in a rough loop encircling your neighborhood.

Can you bring me some Chapstick?

At a brisk pace, you’ve covered about 3 miles, and within are about 1,200 homes and about 5,000 residents, assuming that you live in a city of moderate urban density.

Although you likely have friends that live elsewhere in town, across the state, the country, or around the world, this is your local community: the foundation for health, wealth, and security in the months and years to come.

The good news: in terms of improving your quality of life, the cheapest, biggest bang for the buck lies right outside your front door.

Using our franchise model, which is about 2/3 people-powered, 1/3 technology, your neighborhood goes into business with itself, on its terms and conditions.

A self-funded citizens assembly, right?

This allows you to keep your money and affairs local, so the community can reclaim its dignity, on its terms.

Stated another way: the neighborhood adopts a self-funded model for self-governance, utilizing a framework that is ideal for public/private partnerships with the city, the county, etc.

Alternatively: a citizens assembly that is focussed entirely upon the neighborhood, and one that can fund its own economic stimulus.

Cool, huh?

This is not an either/or deal. The neighborhood improves, and the city is able to assist in the most transparent and beneficial way.

Leadership is not imported, but sourced from within the community, enabling you to leverage existing trust capital that transcends ordinary expressions of monetary value.

For example: solutions for arbitration, conflict resolution, and ordinary, non-violent examples of community policing are rooted in the kitchen and dining rooms of those who are acknowledged as the seats of wisdom, typically somebody’s grandmother.

This has been true for millennia.

Utilizing our franchise model, these “foundations of community wealth, health, and security” are recognized in a way that allows them to secure community loans, using only their earned trust and reputation as collateral.

Wait. Let’s chew on that a bit.

There are people in your neighborhood that are acknowledged experts in conflict resolution, right?

Their contribution is recognized, and they can leverage this recognized trust capital to secure private loans from other members of the community.

This immediately helps provide tangible benefits to those who are not ordinarily compensated for the value they bring to their community.

And “community banking” helps the community reduce their dependency upon predatory payday loans, because let’s face it: most people just need to borrow a couple of hundred dollars until payday, so they can fix their car.

Further, a centralized community bank is actually not necessary. I’m not talking about an actual building with an actual vault.

Within our franchise model, the functions of banking are made available to everyone in the community, enabling neighbors to loan to neighbors, family to friends, and so on.

Guess what? People have also been doing that for millennia.

Your neighborhood can continue using the US dollar, and they can use a community voucher, redeemable only within the neighborhood, which opens up some fairly dazzling opportunities.

Utilizing only your trust and reputation as collateral, you could secure a loan for haircuts, using a community voucher as a form of currency.

Or, you could find someone to fix your car until payday, using just your trust capital as collateral.

The heart of this self-funded franchise model is a marketplace that’s closed and exclusive to your community, which may be your neighborhood, but could also be your small town, right?

1,200 homes; 5,000 people. That’s bite-sized, isn’t it?

People are not able to participate within the marketplace unless they have verified their identity, so the only people in your community marketplace are those who have verified that they are neighbors, no exceptions.

This significantly mitigates the risk of fraud, because there’s no outsiders, and no fake accounts, again: no exceptions.

In terms of economics, we keep 1% of the transactions, and the community keeps the rest.

By comparison, Amazon Marketplace charges 15% per transaction, and Visa charges about 3%, resulting in an 18.3% surcharge, per transaction.

If ever you’ve wondered how Jeff Bezos became so wealthy, this provides insight: he leeches and drains local communities of money, hidden within transaction fees that most people don’t notice.

For every $100 spent within Amazon marketplace, almost $20 is going to Amazon and Visa, never to return to your neighborhood.

eBay charges about 11% per transaction, and PayPal charges about the same as Visa, resulting in about a 13.5% surcharge, per transaction.

For every $100 spent with eBay, almost $14 leaves your economy, and never returns.

If you’ve ever wondered how Elon Musk became so wealthy, this should provide insight, for he was one of the primary architects of this solution, early in his career, and he has become wealthy by leaching money from local communities.

And what has he done with the money?

Electric cars, space tours for the wealthy, and rockets headed to Mars.

Meanwhile, the only jobs within many local communities are the Dollar General, and maybe the convenient store, right?

Let’s bring this all the way back to your neighborhood community: 1,200 homes, and about 5,000 residents.

Bite-sized, and local.

Assuming that your community charges just 5% per transaction, and only 1/5 of your community adopts the marketplace (1,000 neighbors), your self-governing committee will generate about $6,100 a month in revenue.

It adds up fast.

What does your community do with that money?

Our franchise model introduces five stages of adoption, and in the second phase, which we call “Plant,” suggesting a planting of crops, the community would leverage that $6,100/mo in revenue towards the adoption of “earn and learn“ programs that help members of the community become producers.

Allow me to elaborate a little, because this is very important.

Nowadays, most of us are expected to be consumers, buying everything from a store or off Amazon, which is fine, provided we have enough extra money to afford such luxuries.

But most of us are having a hard time paying our rent, and buying everything at Whole Foods just doesn’t make practical sense.

The good news is that our parents and grandparents were likely producers, selling pies, salsa, tamales, etc.

They were producers.

In fact, many people have already embraced a “side hustle“ to earn just a few extra dollars per month, so this concept can’t be that foreign to most people.

Statistically, most of are already what’s called “economic refugees” of an economy in a state of duress.

In other words: if stress if keeping you from sleeping through the night, know that you’re in good company, and we are therefore all in this together.

We are each other’s keeper, right?

Ordinarily, a discussion about an economic stimulus pertains to a check from the government for $1,000 or $2,000, which is almost immediately spent paying bills or buying necessary provisions.

In other words: we are expected to service our debts, or continue being consumers, which doesn’t break the cycle.

When people become producers, formalizing their “side hustle,“ the economics of a local stimulus become deeply-compelling.

No longer is the community’s self-governing committee generating just $6,100 a month; soon, this doubles and then triples, to $12,000 and $18,000 a month.

Why? It’s pretty simple.

The more marketplace transactions, the more transaction-based revenue is generated by the community, for the community.

The more salsa that’s sold, and the more tomatoes that are purchased from a neighborhood gardener, the more money people make, and that’s money that was previously sent to Amazon or eBay.

The benefit becomes additive, complementary, and trends towards anti-fragility, which is a system that becomes stronger as it’s placed under increased stress, especially when local producers choose to source their materials and services from within the local community.

For example, Maria pulls her Abuela‘s cookbook off the bookshelf, brushes off her famous salsa recipe, and starts purchasing tomatoes and peppers from local neighborhood gardens.

The technology supporting this franchise for self-governance enables marketplace transactions to occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means that the neighborhood could run a farmers market that never technically closes.

Again, these projections assume 5% transaction fee, which is still dramatically less than most marketplaces (such as Amazon, etc), which means that people in your neighborhood or community are incentivized to use this private marketplace for five reasons:

(1) lower risk of fraud (participation is closed to those in the neighborhood)

(2) higher profits for sellers (lower transaction fees)

(3) better value to the buyer (lower transaction fees)

(4) the proceeds go towards a self-governing committee, whose charter is ongoing education and support for improving the health, wealth, and safety of the neighborhood

(5) the entire franchise helps people become successful entrepreneurs and local service providers using a model that recognizes forms of non-monetary capital, such as trust and wisdom.

An additional, unique consideration:

The marketplace does not allow marketing or advertising. No such technology exists within the app.

The only way to elevate the prominence of your marketplace listing is through earned reputation.

This uses a built-in reputation economy that allows you to recognize forms of non-monetary capital, such as trust and wisdom, thus elevating health, wealth, and security within the community, consistent with your community’s values.

In other words: not only do you earn a reputation score; you are actually paid in community vouchers, and the way you earn vouchers is a reflection of your community’s values.

Behind the scenes and beneath the hood are some cool ways we are able to do this.

Not to get too technical, and consistent with the philosophy of “blessed are the peacemakers,“ we pay people in community vouchers if they can innovate a way to reduce the rates of arbitration, to the mutual satisfaction of all parties involved.

Technologically, we can reconcile this because peacemakers inadvertently help us optimize our system, which is fairly elegant, no?

Likewise, those who help elevate the acknowledged trust and reputation of others are rewarded with community vouchers, for the same reason: those who prioritize the needs of the meek inadvertently optimize our system.

The reputation economy was modeled on one of the oldest living codes on earth: the Pashtunwali, of the Pashtun, which live in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Although that sounds fairly exotic, we have found that this resonates deeply for ancient indigenous and contemporary communities alike.

Although our mainstream economy does not recognize these values, who isn’t in support of a solution that rewards peacemakers and cares for the least of our brethren?

It’s common for people to claim that capitalism is flawed, and we’re not here to solve that problem.

Again: our focus is on hyper-local communities, such as your neighborhood.

We provide a basis for optimization of marketplace activities that allows the community to properly calibrate the reward mechanisms to their own community values.

This franchise model for self-governance is not entirely dependent upon technology, but technology plays an important role, and there are seven features that are necessary for effective self-governance. I have already discussed a few.

(1) Digital identity and identity verification ensures that only people verified as a member of the community are allowed to participate, which dramatically reduces the risk of fraud.

(2) Communication is built-in, which allows you to send private or group chats, as well as make community announcements or post events for all to see.

Of course I have discussed (3) the marketplace, which allows you to announce a product or service that’s available, or request that somebody lets you know if you have a product or service for sale.

(4) Community banking allows you to store and send digital currency, as well as provide the basis of community banking on an individual, neighbor to neighbor basis.

Community banking also supports leveraging a deed or a title to property as collateral for an individual loan, which means that you could put your motorcycle up as collateral in exchange for community vouchers which might enable you to fund the creation of your own private garden/farm, thus launching your own homegrown business.

In Texas, the Texas cottage food law allows people to launch a home-based food business, and as long as they make less than $60,000 a year, no permits, licenses, or inspectors are necessary.

Pretty sweet, huh?

(5) A reputation economy enables your community to reward those who embrace and embody the values of your community, and recognize important forms of non-monetary capital.

(6) Arbitration enables the community to manage the inevitable disputes on its own terms.

And finally, (7) self-governance looks like this: policies and procedures, access and permissions, roles and responsibilities, plus a voting function.

For those of you experience in private enterprise, you might recognize those as “operations” or examples of corporate governance.

We’re not trying to solve problems on a national scale; our franchise model is something more akin to a citizens assembly with a built-in, entirely voluntary form of taxation.

And it’s not really a tax, is it?

If you don’t want to contribute, don’t use the marketplace. Pretty simple.

In terms of packaging, our mobile app is labeled in such a way that it looks like your community published the app, and we remain behind the scenes, continuing to maintain the platform on your behalf.

In other words, if your neighborhood community is called Ballard, then this would look like the Ballard self-governance solution, with its own homegrown leadership, and it’s own app.

Because the primary purpose for this model is to improve quality of health, wealth, and security, the neighborhood “citizens assembly” could structure itself as a nonprofit entity, thus mitigating its tax burden, and allowing even more money to go towards the local community.

As stated previously: we keep 1% of the transaction for ourselves, and this arrangement is designed to benefit all involved.

When the neighborhood goes into business with itself, using our franchise model, but on your community’s terms, it’s our mutual interest for your economy to grow and diversify, adding health, wealth, and security.

With that 1% we maintain the technology, and provide significant human-based services to grow local leadership from within the community.

Here’s an important and unique example:

We won’t allow an advertising architecture in our app, and therefore: we have no intention or need to use your private, personal data.

By comparison, platforms such as Facebook collect as much of your data as possible, and use it to inform advertising that’s designed to get you to spend money with advertisers.

The data they don’t use, they try and license to others.

Using our model, the community is entitled to what’s called “data sovereignty,“ which means that the data collected cannot be used unless you consent.

But we have no use for it.

In order for your community to achieve true data sovereignty, you will need to staff a data steward, and it has to come from within the community, with an established basis of trust capital.

One of the human-based services we provide is to train a data steward from within your community, which is ordinarily a role for a data scientist with a PhD in education, earning about $150,000-$200,000 a year in salary.

Of course, we would not train a local resource in the exploitation of personal and private data; our emphasis would be upon the responsible privacy and stewardship of your community’s data.

This “data steward” becomes a resource within your community, to protect the privacy and dominion of your data, on your terms.

That’s just one example.

There are several critical positions that are staffed and trained from within your community, because otherwise this cannot be considered a true model for local sovereignty, can it?

Recall that I referred to this as a franchise model; that’s because it’s one that can be picked up and adopted elsewhere.

Again, using our franchise model the neighborhood goes into business with itself, on its terms, and the primary beneficiaries are the neighbors themselves.

There are five phases to the implementation of this model, and the final phase is called “pollinate,“ where home-grown members of your community take what they have learned and share it with others.

Consistent with the philosophies of servant leadership, one learns by teaching, and one heals by healing.

This is one of the many ways we aspire to help members of your own community break the trauma of multi-generational poverty, as homegrown leadership transitions into roles with high prestige, and heal themselves by helping others heal.

Our core value is to help communities reclaim their dignity, on their terms.

It’s important to recognize that we are not bringing their dignity back; it’s been there all along.

The franchise model is designed in such a manner that members of the community are able to make the invisible visible, so their existing wealth and value can be almost immediately recognized, on its terms.



Kent Dahlgren

Product management fix-it guy. World-famous people skills. Extremely small hands. (edit) marketing lady says I’m also supposed to say “CEO of software company”