June 23, 2022 — DJ Pangburn
What will the world look like 20 years from now? By then, Web3 will be mainstream rather than in its nascent stages. It will be reality, not hype. So how can the NEAR community work towards a future that makes everyone proud?
One question is whether Web3 will live up to its promises of creator empowerment through the coordination of decentralized systems.
Community is at the center of it all.
“For NEAR, community is not about owning the narrative by trying to eat into each others’ share of the pie,” says Harshit Tiwari, Community Activation and Adoption Specialist at NEAR. “NEAR is committed to building a Web3 ecosystem where every human can find and build a digital home. We believe that true inclusion begins at the grassroots level.”
Let’s take a look at the future of community on NEAR.
Embracing timeless, unbreakable foundations
The future of community on NEAR starts with commitments that the ecosystem is making now. From Tiwari’s perspective, several pillars define the NEAR community experience.
With a commitment to diversity, NEAR is working towards one of the most vibrant ecosystems in the world. In this diverse community, the vision is for people to have the freedom to pursue their passions and make an impact. Through shared governance, every community member will have a toolkit to protect the integrity of their ecosystem.
The culture, throughout NEAR, will inspire a sense of belonging so that everyone can find a home in the NEAR ecosystem. The overall impact is to facilitate collaborative uplifting, to make sure every person gets to enjoy upward socio-economic mobility while collaborating with people around the world.
Tiwari believes that in the coming months and years the NEAR community will become increasingly decentralized.
“NEAR is really letting community members steer the community governance and building a safe environment for people from diverse backgrounds to come and thrive,” says Tiwari. “How the community decides to govern itself and organize around ideas is decided by the community through DAOs.”
“The biggest things we are all collectively trying to figure out are equitable distribution of resources, opportunities, participation in governance experiments and decentralized ownership of ecosystem responsibilities,” adds Tiwari.
‘Phygital’ community building across cultures
India is known for its vibrant artist communities, traditional craftspersonship, and vibrant in-person marketplaces. Imagine being able to experience the rich beauty and cultural tradition of rural artists, from anywhere in the world.
It’s this “what if” that led to the creation of Naksh Marketplace, an NFT marketplace fueled by communities all over India. Founded by Srilakshmi Barathi and Nivedita Hail, Naksh grew out of the duo’s time in London working on a project in which Indian artists and artisans taught their skills to the world using a stitch kit.
“That’s when we realized the value a traditional artwork holds in the art space and we understood that there was a demand for such artwork which is associated with a cultural background of its own,” they adds. “We also saw the lack of artists in the NFT space who create their work on physical media, and lack of platforms that were accessible by the Indian audience and Indian artists.”
Initially, Naksh focused on product instead of community building. But during the build, Barathi and Hail received support from many individuals. Through this feedback, a Naksh community evolved organically.
“That’s when we started interacting way more with our communities,” says Barathi. “We set up events and spaces for them to join and give us their opinions.”
Since Naksh focuses on onboarding artists who produce work physically and not digitally, almost all onboarding efforts happen in person.
“We’ve been going to a lot of regional exhibitions and art galleries, meeting artists through some amazing curators,” say Barathi and Hail. “We have also found artists through virtual exhibitions.”
The duo see Web3 as a pathway to connect the ingenuity of rural artists with the rest of the world.
“Most rural artists are not aware of technology that can empower, educate, monetize and preserve their work,” explains Barathi. “The need for a vehicle to help Indian artists access the larger digital ecosystem with their physical products gave us an incentive to build Naksh.”
Naksh’s next iteration will invite and onboard traditional artists from around the world. Envision a platform where traditional Indian artists—oftentimes individuals who have never left the country—can join the same communities as fellow creators from around the world. It’s a first-in-history mind-meld.
“We are also trying to make our platform ‘phygital’ since all our traditional artworks have a physical asset,” says Barathi. “We aim to be the future of art exchanges.”
Once Naksh launches digital and self-minting features for artists, Barathi expects more people to join. At that point, new communities will spring up around digital artists, just as with Naksh’s traditional Indian and fine artists.
Facilitating unique collaboration
In a time of widespread negativity and distrust, that’s how Capardano, one of the project managers at BOO Monsters, has begun greeting people and signing off on emails. “It’s one of my favorite things to say,” says Capardano, who goes by “Cap” for short.
This perspective encapsulates the spirit of BOO Monsters, a collection of 100 NFT monikers roaming the internet. So what are these BOOs about?
“We’re a group of people, who live across the world, who otherwise had no ties together,” says Cap. “We’re a DAO with decentralized project management.”
In total, there are currently 37 BOOs roaming Web3. With BOO NFTs costing as much as $300,000 USD due to supply and demand economics, the community is exclusive to high net worth individuals.
“Many of our members come from an investment perspective, with unique experiences and insights,” says Cap. “NFTs are just one gateway into our community. The money goes into the DAO to be spent across our endeavors and benefit the NEAR community.”
One vision that the BOOs are building towards is evolutionary art. So what exactly does that mean, in practical terms?
With their RPG NEAR Future, built natively into Discord, a tribe of robots evolve beyond their initial programming. BOOs also created Antisocial Ape Club, a collection of 3,333 unique, generative pixel art NFTs. And Ev3reth, a machine learning artist and composer, is partnering with artists such as GDM, whose work blends surrealism and fantasy. The BOOs also offer expertise and support to other NFT projects, like Skellies Secret Society and Few and Far.
“It’s about keeping growing, moving, and adding value to NEAR as a whole,” says Cap, who has been helping bring AnonymousFox to market.
“It’s about helping people for the sake of doing good,” says Cap. “The Boos are curious and giving. We envision a future on NEAR built on empathy. There are people here in their 20s and people here in their 50s with a lot more life experience. What we share in common is that we’re curious. We embrace that there’s a lot we don’t know. It’s an environment built on love, where we are always learning and moving forward.”
“Decentralization can be messy,” says Cap. “But we’re figuring it out with good intentions and mutual support. We see a future on NEAR built on these foundations.”
Welcoming people who are hesitant to enter the space
Understandably, many people stay away from cryptocurrencies and blockchain for reasons ranging from personal safety to confusion and barriers to technical adoption.
“I think working towards mass adoption with massive educational efforts and onboarding for more diverse folks — namely women, people of diverse genders, people of color, and people in vulnerable social and financial situations is how I would like to see NEAR shaping its community infrastructure,” says Maria Neu, community manager at Mintbase, an NFT platform.”
“It’s about giving them access not only to information but skills to work in the NEAR ecosystem,” she adds. “In terms of infrastructure and tooling, what I believe could help is a better overview of the existing guilds — and a place to research. Think of a place to insert keywords to find communities already working on certain subjects. For example: art, utility NFTs, translation, education, etc.”
In other words, the future of NEAR begins with a commitment to listening, observing, learning, and questioning assumptions.
“The NEAR ecosystem is a very friendly and open place to start getting involved with Web3 but could be optimized and simplified for those who are still reluctant to enter the space,” says Wend.
The road ahead
It’s important to remember that these are still early days for NEAR. As Cap likes to say, “Web3 is the wild west.”
It’s up to NEAR communities to create the future that they want to see. It also means that NEAR users must stretch their minds, and meet each other in a space of respect and kindness.
“My biggest takeaway about the NEAR Community is that it’s in fact a ‘Community of Communities,’” says Rebecca Halquist, a Community Team Lead at NEAR Foundation.
“It contains incredible and ever-changing multitudes,” she says. “Whether it’s a group of digital artists in the Philippines, Web3 educators in Venezuela, or digital nomads hopping from crypto conference to crypto conference, they’re finding like-minded people here sharing similar interests, language, and enthusiasm for NEAR’s mandate and vision.”
NEAR is a place where communities help new members settle in. It’s like a new family settling into a neighborhood, explains Halquist. It’s about helping people contribute where best they can.
In the future, communities on NEAR will likely fulfill several functions. They could become gathering spaces and networks for social support, hobbies, income, learning, and so much more. For this to happen, the tools, platforms, and other means of organizing will have to be as multifaceted as the communities needs. And what NEAR communities build will manifest in the real world. They have the opportunity to be counterforces to the world’s more destabilizing forces.
“It’s a steady process of organic evolving self-organization with the potential for an increasing number of connections to emerge between the different communities, between communities and dapps, and between communities and projects, the more any new group ‘settles in,’” says Halquist.
“We will need to be multifaceted enough to accommodate those needs more robustly.”
Check out the complete series on the NEAR Community: