Circles: Universal Basic Income on the Blockchain

Panvala Observer Weekly Newsletter

This week we spoke with Julio Linares, Research and Community Coordinator for Circles, a protocol that puts universal basic income on the blockchain.

A Community Basic Income System

Julio Linares has traveled all over the world studying economic anthropology.  Originally from Guatemala, he has journeyed from Taiwan to London to Berlin to study and research economics and the anthropology of value—looking at what money is, how people share it, where it comes from, and how to change it.  At some point in his studies, he wondered what it would be like if instead of always having to look for money, people simply had it.  As his research began to orbit around how universal basic income could legitimately come into being, he stumbled upon Circles.

“Circles protocol is a community basic income system,” Julio told us, “It’s a monetary system where every person issues money to one another based on trusted relationships.”   Julio started working with the Circles community about 4 years ago, far before the protocol was actually live.  Today, the system is unconditional, people powered, and decentralized.  When you join Circles, you are issued your own currency—these are unique to each individual, yet collectively called Circles.  In the handbook, circles are defined as “a form of electronic money, which people have the power to issue on a periodic, individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.”  Each member is issued roughly 240 circles a month; all that is required of you is trust, which you build via common connections. “Exchange with Circles happens upon agreement between two trusted parties about the price and the quantity provided.”  The structure of trust exists to allow people to ensure that others are who they say they are—a sort of civil defense system.  “By trusting people, what you are doing is sharing the power to issue money—to issue circles, thus creating the possibility of a more distributed basic income,” Julio explained.

Why Universal Basic Income?

Julio speaks passionately about claiming the power to create and issue money from the bottom up without waiting for governments to step in and provide it.  He describes basic income as a “paradigm shift,” capable of changing the way we relate to one another and spend our time when free from wage labor.  He sees Circles as a way for people to change the systems and circumstances around them, using an example of a woman in Florida who wants to address homelessness in her community by using Circles as a platform for welfare.  This kind of work is made easier by the ability to create shared wallets, where individuals in a community can all deposit funds for a common purpose.  The work now, however, is in convincing businesses, farmers, care workers etc. to participate in the network to create circles of food, care, and beyond.  While Julio and the Circles team are making great headway in their own location in Berlin, they hold the great task of figuring out how to grow this community worldwide.

Help Circles Grow!

“We are now trying to push for more local pilots to be made,” Julio let us know.  “We want to hear from people in the league who have ties to interesting communities, local municipalities, governments, mayors and so on.”  Essentially Julio is looking for people who are excited to implement Circles in their own communities, and he would love to offer his support in figuring out how to make that work.  He let us know that you can reach out to or directly to him at and @ajmaq on Telegram.  You can also visit Circles’ website and Twitter for more information!