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Property & Beyond Lab

Property is a core code of our everyday.

For over 400 years, we’ve treated property as a near-natural law, as a quasi-sacred principle at the foundation of our modern world.

But by making property a be-all and end-all, we have produced deep disparities in wealth and power, and caused severe environmental degradation.

Now, a new reality of systemic crises is inviting us to reevaluate our theories and practices of managing the world through property and ownership.

Crisis-Responsive Transformation

Crises are increasingly becoming a driving force of transformation.

They expose the inadequacies of status quo institutions and worldviews and hereby open up windows of opportunity for alternatives.

Property is no exception.

We are mapping how different risks – across AI and data, climate, conflict and displacement, housing and civic infrastructure, and labor and economic security – are likely to fundamentally challenge property institutions.

And we are building proactive portfolios of alternative solutions for when they do.

Learn more about how crises are driving a new theory of change here and about the need to rethink the role of property in crisis responsiveness here.

Building Critical Capabilities

We are developing interconnected building blocks for futures of property and ownership seeding new ideas by:

  1. Demonstrating a diverse portfolio of alternative property configurations like self-ownership and collective ownership
  2. Designing enabling infrastructures that allow for alternative property mechanisms to be financed and adopted at scale
  3. Building new conversations and capabilities on crisis-responsive transformations

Pathways are opening up for different iterations of property, moving …

Beyond objectification: from dominion and control towards relationality and stewardship of land, resources, information, and labor

Beyond extraction: from commoning externalities towards outcome-based governance and long-term guardianship

Beyond centralization: from rigid bureaucracy and concentration of benefits towards distributed governance, value creation, permissioning and verification frameworks

Proofs of Possibility

To demonstrate alternative futures are possible and to address critical need spaces, we are developing real-world applications of new institutional capabilities with Proofs of Possibility.

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We are working towards realizing self-owning land with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Kjipuktuk/Halifax, recognizing land as having agency and braiding Indigenous governance and self-determination with Canadian common law in an urban context.
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We are exploring a future where homes are not just assets to own but are self-managing entities that contribute to the community and environment. This approach challenges traditional views of ownership by promoting stewardship, shared benefits, and a shift away from centralized control.
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Permissioning the City
In partnership with local governments, we aim to explore and test a citizen-centered spatial governance and permissions system, which unlocks the potential of underutilized spaces in the city to generate and capture collective benefits.
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Crofting 2.0
We are learning from crofting to design new stewardship agreements with land that balance rights and responsibilities to multiple parties beyond owner-tenant and iteratively and democratically expand the concept of ‘purposeful use’ to ecosystem services and civic assets.
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Layered Commoning
We are examining new applications of partial commons that can be layered over privately-owned properties to facilitate the development of shared green spaces or joint renewable energy projects.
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Nature Right-to-Buy/ Right-to-Reclaim
We are developing alternative pathways for land preservation and managed retreat, exploring how Self-Owning Nature Trusts could enable nature itself to buy ownerless land or reclaim land facing climate risks for the benefits of the ecosystem.
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Land Relationships Register
We are exploring how visualizing land’s web of property-, social- and ecology-based relationships could facilitate and incentivize new voluntary commitment-based agreements as new forms of partial commons.
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Carbon Storage Lease
We are exploring how long-term/perpetual instruments such as lease agreements can be used to ensure carbon remains stored throughout the lifecycle of timber, outlining obligations on its use, repair, and disposal and incentivizing multi-actor value-sharing.
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Care Sense
We are envisioning self-owning urban sensing infrastructure (street cameras) that performs and facilitates care in the city, exploring the potential of micro digital trusts, smart contracts, and AI value-guided learning to build new contracting relationships based on a duty of care.
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Open Chain Digital Trust
We are exploring Open Chain Digital Trusts as a new class of institutional intermediary in an evolving landscape of energy and circular transition markets, leveraging the leasing of components and materials, utility pricing mechanisms, and open-chain digital financing to ensure economies for critical materials do not succumb to rent-seeking and hoarding.
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We are prototyping a digital registry that compiles a building’s material, component and performance data, and aggregates this data across a neighborhood or city. Material registries can generate robust, shared datasets to facilitate material and resource stewardship, empowering public and private stakeholders to make informed decisions on embodied impacts, material flows and reuse in the built environment.


Conference What & How We Own: The Politics of Change

What financing mechanisms can support alternative and experimental property systems? How can we expand and improve community land trusts? And how might we concretely integrate Indigenous thinking, rights of nature, and self-ownership into our property institutions?

We explored these and other questions at the conference “What and How We Own: The Politics Of Change'' co-hosted by Dark Matter Labs, RadicalxChange Foundation, and a Stanford University research team, with generous support from Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network (Oakland, CA, March 1-3, 2024).

The conference was the first step in seeding a coalition of loosely-aligned actors building a new paradigm for property and ownership in the 21st century. Through the event, we crystallized a set of projects and initiatives focused on reimagined property relations that the coalition will support and pursue together.

Check out the highlights and emerging initiatives from the conference.

A deep exploration of how urban land ownership provides opportunities and barriers to just transition in the built environment.

Emerging insights on how Re:Permissioning the City platform designed for citizen-led governance of public space opens up pathways for new civic economies and responses to emerging challenges like unhoused populations and refugee communities.

Join Us

Join us in envisioning and co-designing futures of property, ownership and beyond. 


We are working closely with partners and collaborators:

Dark Matter Labs Logo
Radicle X Change Logo
Wijewinen Friendship Center Logo
Scottish Land Commission Logo
Stanford University Logo
Rockefeller Foundation Logo
Omidyar Network Logo
The Property & Beyond Lab is part of the Dark Matter Labs ecosystem. It is affiliated with both Radicle Civics and 7GenCities missions.2024
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