Inside the reinvention of co-living communities

Allen Taylor
August 1, 2023
“The world needs more of this”— Jon Dean, Cabin

Throughout history, humans have organised in communities. From nomadic tribes to 21st century metropolises, common geography, economy, and culture has always made for a community. With thousands of members who coordinate with a token, Cabin is reinventing what that looks like.

“People in Cabin aren’t interested in diplomatic recognition,” Jon Dean tells me bluntly. “We’re about great dinner parties and solving the loneliness problem by unifying people around a common idea. I think that’s enough.”

Cabin is a digital co-operative, a type of decentralised autonomous network, or DAO, where the rules of engagement are set by those who hold the community’s ₡ABIN token and anyone can participate. One of the leading DAOs in the blockchain ecosystem, and with locations across Asia, Europe, and the Americas, the common thread is real-world co-living communities “surrounded by nature, good food, and great people.”

Today, Cabin citizens have the option to live in dozens of different locations, mostly in the US, but also in Honduras, France, Japan, amongst many other places. Jon tells me you might spend six months living and contributing as an artist in Cabin’s first neighbourhood in Texas, then move to Montaia Basecamp in the California Sierras to participate in Build Week, helping construct a greenhouse and an irrigation system. After that, it’s time for a break, as you head to the Mana Retreat, Puerto Rico, for some restful time off.

Cabin members live this way throughout the year, migrating from one location to another, sometimes working day-jobs remotely, and co-living with like-minded nature lovers. To join, new members must be vouched for by an existing citizen, who can vouch for 10 people per year. “It started as five per year,” Jon says, himself one of the senior leaders in the community, “but some members went through their vouches too quickly, so we increased it to ten.”

The community is cautious of growing too fast, and is aiming for 5,040 members by 2027, a milestone population count originally defined by Aristotle, who believed that 5,040 people made for an ideal self-governing city. Enough to allow for social, political, and economic diversity, while still maintaining the ability to cohesively self-govern. “We’re tipping our hats to ancient and indigenous ways of living that have proven sustainable over time and are community-based,” Jon says.

Jackrabbit Studios, a Cabin location in California, USA.

Upon obtaining citizenship, Cabin citizens receive a physical passport card and citizenship privileges. Those include access to Cabin locations, the ability to create new listings, and the right to attend citizen-only events. Citizens also have the right to earn ₡ABIN by completing ‘quests’, which can be proposed by those with over 1,000 ₡ABIN with a bounty to those who complete the associated task, like helping build that irrigation system.

Central to Cabin’s infrastructure are neighbourhoods and outposts, which together make up the locations that members can visit. Anyone can set up an outpost; all you need to do is make a free account on Cabin’s directory. “Someone with an extra bedroom, an RV in their backyard, or a glamping site can turn those locations into outposts,” Jon explains, adding that running an outpost is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a neighbourhood.

“We have three guiding principles: conserve, co-live, and create.”

— Jon Dean, Cabin

Neighbourhood requirements are more strict. Only Cabin citizens can run one, which must accommodate co-living with a minimum of four bedrooms and more than 20mbps internet speed. Despite often being set out in secluded areas, many neighbourhoods still manage 100mbps.

Citizens cast votes for their favourite neighbourhoods and outposts by allocating their governance tokens toward each property. Once an outpost has at least 1,000 votes, counted in ₡ABIN tokens, it can become a neighbourhood. Cabin as an organisation (its legal structure is as an unincorporated nonprofit association) doesn’t own property; that’s provided by the community. “As citizens allocate tokens over time,” Jon says, “certain neighbourhoods will rise to the top. That serves as accountability for property caretakers.”

“We’re tipping our hats to ancient and indigenous ways of living that have proven sustainable over time.”

— Jon Dean, Cabin

Cabin offers no remuneration to property owners and caretakers, nor does it receive any from the neighbourhoods and outposts. Instead, property owners collect income from co-living residents, sometimes as money, but often accepting work and contributions to build up the location instead of payment. Some offer stipends. Citizens ask for support like maintaining solar and water systems, creating a compost system, or building an outdoor recreation area. In the neighbourhoods, conflict resolution, hospitality expertise, and coordinating maintenance are also in demand. One citizen in New Mexico writes that they are searching for “artists, web3 builders, permaculturists, and off-grid tinkerers.”

“It’s been cool seeing individuals with diverse backgrounds and stories pull together for a larger vision,” Jon reflects. “We have three guiding principles for making it work: conserve, co-live, and create.”

“The world needs more of this.”

— Jon Dean, Cabin

Conserving the natural world shines throughout the Cabin ecosystem. Locations are almost always set deep in nature, and the values of independent, self-sufficient, and natural living permeate throughout. “Every Cabin member cares about the environment, and wants to do right by it,” he says.

Staying true to the commune spirit, Cabin members also embrace co-living. “The world needs more of this, frankly,” Jon asserts, referencing numerous studies that loneliness around the world is on the rise. “One of the obvious truths we’ve gathered is that humans are happiest when surrounded by people we admire. Co-living allows us to meet people from all walks of life, and that’s cool.”

Cabin citizens receive a physical passport card as well as citizenship rights.

But the root of Cabin’s culture is grounded in creativity. Cabin citizens, those who run locations and those who visit them alike, have found creator residencies to be one of the most fulfilling types of experiences to participate in. “After we did three of those residencies, it was clear there was something more going on,” Jon says. “We decided to build it into a larger network of creative energy.”

The creator category in Cabin is purposely broad. The DAO has attracted artists, painters, builders, writers, poets, software engineers, and others interested in pioneering a new way of living in the world. Growing slowly and steadily, the plan is to keep that going. “The culture is important,” Jon says, “because good vibes don’t scale.”

The Cabin lifestyle puts the natural world, community, and creativity to the fore, where what matters is being “surrounded by nature, good food, and great people.”
The Cabin lifestyle puts the natural world, community, and creativity to the fore, where what matters is being “surrounded by nature, good food, and great people.”
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Allen Taylor
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Allen Taylor is an award-winning journalist and former newspaper editor. He is the author of 'Cryptosocial: How Cryptocurrencies Are Changing Social Media', and writes Cryptocracy, a newsletter that explores the growth and development of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. He is also the co-host of Defluenced, a podcast about decentralised social media applications, and lives in a van with his wife.