Application to NLnet

Application form

1 Abstract: Can you explain the whole project and its expected outcome(s).

Karrot started as a free and open-source tool to support grassroots initiatives that save and share food waste. As a ditigal tool and platform, Karrot is gradually re-designed and enriched in order to become a more general purpose tool which can facilitate various groups of people (e.g. community makerspaces, community gardens, local activist organizations, resources sharing initiatives etc) that want to use the digital to better support their face-to-face activities on a local, autonomous, solidarity-driven and voluntary basis. Our vision is that Karrot will help people engage in real local non-hierarchical organising and community-building and governance in the spirit of the commons.

The same way we envision the software to be used, we are working for the governance and organisation of Karrot project itself to be community-driven, with a transparent, democratic and participatory governance.

Therefore we seek funding to support basically the following three processes:
1 - further developing features and improving existing ones so it’s actually useful to existing and new communities using Karrot
2 - building up the community and governance structure to keep the software and development process themselves a commons
3 - document the processes above and promote the outcome

2 Have you been involved with projects or organisations relevant to this project before? And if so, can you tell us a bit about your contributions?

Two of the long-term core contributors of Karrot have been directly involved in the development of, particularly in growing (Vas: creating) a developer (Vas:develloppers’) community. Out of ‘yunity’ was born. A network of people and projects, some technological and some not directly, that wishes to promote a different lifestyle based on sharing and solidarity. The housing coop Kanthaus in Wurzen, Germany has been one of yunity’s main projects and also the physical home of Karrot in its inception as well as a base for, which NLnet has also funded. Karrot has since then left its homebase in Kanthaus to explore the world, having contributors in Germany, the UK, Sweden and Greece. Some of the people in the team are, or have been, active participants, initiators and researchers of different sharing and commoning initiatives.

Recently one Karrot contributor also became involved in the very new project, which is also in the process of an NLnet funding application, and there is much overlap in the philosophy of the projects.

Beyond the core of active contributors to the project, we have established connections with many people using Karrot from groups in Sweden, Germany, Poland, Luxembourg and Austria. We’ll provide a detailed list of those connections as an attachment. The great majority of those groups are about saving food and we would like to reach out to other kinds of groups and initiatives to try out Karrot, to follow up on their use and include them in the development and design process, as per goals number 1 and 2 above.

3 Requested Amount (between 5000 and 50000 EUR)

20000 EUR

4 Explain what the requested budget will be used for? Does the project have other funding sources, both past and present? (If you want, you can in addition attach a budget at the bottom of the form)

The main use of the budget will be to cover some of the living expenses of the people recognized as regular, daily contributors. This does not imply (and is far below) market-rate prices for the kind of work and effort we put into this project which is a deliberate choice that we have made. Another part of the budget will be used to organise in-person meetings and events to connect and strenghen community ties. Toward that direction, we have used a part of a small fund we have aquired in the past to pay for train tickets (thus avoiding high-emission air travel) to support the mobility of contributors who joined a week of living in Kanthaus and working on Karrot.

In 2019 we got funding from the city of Gothenburg to adapt Karrot to a different use case, a Bike Kitchen. We’ve used this budget mainly to support the process number 1 as described above which we would like to explore more in depth and in other contexts in the near future. A considerable amount of the money is still slowly being used to help living expenses of some of the regular contributors, but it’s still far from being able to provide a sustainable income as monthly payments are of 70 EUR/person (details in attachment).

It is worth noticing that people in our project hold on a working culture of non-market driven and intrinsic (non-monetary) motivation, while also having an awareness of the privileges required to do this and the limitations of not having a budget to provide for anyone deprived of these privileges and even for people in the team to dedicate more time to its development. (Vas: do you think the previous phrase become shorter so more easy to read?) Part of working process number 2 is to continue discussing the ‘money question’ in an open and transparent way, establishing clearer guidelines on how to apply for funding in the future and how make use of it, connecting individual and community needs to the advancement of the project.

5 Compare your own project with existing or historical efforts.

There are mainly two topics of interest to compare Karrot with other efforts that relate to the 2 first working processes, respectively: the software itself and the governance (i.e. design and management) of the software project.

First, in terms of software affordances, Karrot is about the self-organisation of a group, something that could be achieved through commercial tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack and its open-source variants, Mattermost and Rocket Chat, or even less feature-specific, but more popular platforms, like Facebook (groups) and Whatsapp/Telegram/Signal groups. However, Karrot stands out because of two main set of features: activities at specific time and places for local organising that group members can create, sign up for and give feedback to, and transparent and democratic group governance. Regarding the latter there is a log of actions undertaken by group members and a trust system for giving editing permissions. While different trust levels allowing users to do different things on the software is not really new (e.g. Discourse), Karrot stands out for not having a hard admin role at the group level. If someone is not desired in the group, for example, a conflict resolution process can be started for all to discuss and vote whether a person can stay or be automatically removed from the group. Another feature of this latter set should be implemented soon, regarding the collective management and voting of group agreements (see attachment for more info) . We are aware of existing tools for democratic decision-making, like Loomio, but none that combines these features with others for team/group organising.

Second, according to academic literature (see attachment), a kind of “implicit feudalism” is the rule more than the exception in terms of the governance of a software project. There are a few known exceptions out there of more democratic governance, like Debian, Wikipedia and Apache. We want to develop with time not only formal mechanisms for democratic governance inspired by the above, if we ever reach that scale, but also strenghen a culture of participation that empowers users to be able to influence or be part of the process of designing and developing Karrot directly. This might be an actual insitutional innovation, as well as a challenge. We’re off to a good start already, given our connections to users and our latest design process for governance features, which resulted in the collective agreements feature.

6 What are significant technical challenges you expect to solve during the project, if any?

1 - Easy customizations for each group

As we expand to more different group use cases, instead of us having to model exactly how each group works, we want to build more generalized features so that the groups themselves can customize for their needs. We have started that process, by allowing groups to create their own types of activity (e.g. Pickups, Events, and Meetings) where they can choose the icon, colour, and certain features, but there is much more that can be done here, for instance place types (e.g. Supermarket, Bakery, Public Hall) which is already a work in progress. Other areas on the horizon are different roles within the group (e.g. driver, facilitator, welcome team).

2 - Improved contribution experience

It would be great to ease the process of supporting new contributors (developers and designers) into the project. We already support quick setup of the project, however a software development team who have recently contributed in Karrot gave us the feedback that they would have liked fewer (or better) abstractions, improved testing setup, and more documentation, particularly in the frontend. We would very much like to encourage all levels of contributions, and especially from people who are part of a group and so know the functioning from first hand experience.

3 - Going beyond the group boundary

Another part is that groups often struggle with the hard boundary between people who are in the Karrot group, and their wider networks (on social media, wider group chats, etc). We are undertaking a design process to explore this further; one early promising idea here is to allow anonymous access to some parts of the group via shareable public links (e.g. allow anonymous users to register for activities), another idea would be integration with a Telegram group.

4 - Growth and federation

As groups grow they reach practical limits, and sometimes create seperate Karrot groups, or desire to have features such as subgroups. We can also see that the creation of broader networks that groups can create and join could be useful (e.g. creating regional spaces for discussion, seperately from local organising). Additionally, as more groups start to use Karrot, we would like more people to run instances of the software, so we don’t have to maintain an ever growing main deployment. However, this could fragment the wider ecosystem if instances cannot federate in some way.

7 Describe the ecosystem of the project, and how you will engage with relevant actors and promote the outcomes?

Much of the ecosystem has been described on the question about which projects we have been involved with before. There are roughly three types of actors that we engage with and will continue to do so in the future.

1 - Community groups

The obvious and existing connections are with foodsaving groups. We would like to continue to foster those relationships and extend connections between groups. Through the active people in them we might be able to connect with other grassroots initiatives. For example, a core contributor in Gothenburg, Sweden has presented Karrot to a Bike Kitchen project, and is planning to do the same with free shops. We expect the same dynamic to play out not only by personal connections, but also through promoting the project by participating in festivals, the most recent being the foodsharing festival.

2 - Academia

We’ve got two PhD students in the field of Human Computer Interaction as regular contributors and we have been in touch as well with a few academics to discuss topics of online governance (Nathan Schneider) and anarchist cybernetics (Thomas Swann). Whatever topics we find relevant to the concept of what we’re doing we might seek contact and see whether there is potential for collaboration. Presenting papers at conferences is also something that we’ve done before with another PhD student and will continue to do when appropriate.

3 - Grassroots software projects that share similar interests/values

There is a growing ecosystem of people and software projects that have similar values to Karrot that we already have connections with (and/or direct participation in). Such as the platform, (which comes from,, and also that might become useful for hosting our internal tools, as well as allow others to self-host Karrot. The benefit of these networks is that contributors often move between projects, can provide mutual support, and share practises and tools. They are also often good routes for finding useful connections or any sort.


A list of foodsharing groups using Karrot that we have direct connections with. People in these groups are either active contributors or sporadic ones.

Gothenburg, Sweden - Karrot
Stockholm, Sweden - Karrot
EFA, Germany - Karrot
Luxembourg - Karrot
Vienna, Austria -
Warsaw, Poland -

For more detailed information on the use of previous budget and our money culture:

The design process we used for creating the agreements feature has been based on the Google design sprint, but adapted to the reality of a community “non-professional” software project, which we ran for the course of many months and are on the final phase of user testing a prototype: Karrot Prototyping

More detailed info on the governance design process here: Governance Design Process - Karrot Community

Literature reference: Schneider, N. (2021). Admins, mods, and benevolent dictators for life: The implicit feudalism of online communities. New Media & Society.

List of presentations made so far:

Extracted from pad to share some thoughts/ideas about nlnet funding - HedgeDoc where you can find extra notes