Commons-Oriented Open Cooperative Governance Model V 2.0

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Contents

Overview

This document describes a governance/economic model for self-sustaining, mission-oriented, distributed organizations.

It values pro-bono, care, and paid work with complementary metrics and dispenses payment accordingly. The purpose is to extract people from the capitalist marketplace so they can use their unique talents to do fulfilling, socially and environmentally meaningful work. The document prototypes a governance model fit for digital labor and applies it concretely to an existing organization: the P2P translation collective Guerrilla Translation which is, in turn, embedded into a larger proto-organization called the Guerrilla Media Collective.

It is a substantially developed fork of the Better Means Open Enterprise Governance Model (OEGM). The adaptations have been made to:

  1. Bypass the original model’s start-up/for profit orientation
  2. Address the needs and ideals of Open Cooperativism and Open Value Networks,
  3. benefit, commons-oriented market entities self sustain their social vision. while addressing their specific requirements and allow for future modifications.
  4. Shift the focus from technical, protocol-based solutions to relations, trust and care work.


What we offer here is an equipotential and opt-in engagement model. This means that anyone who participates in the collective as a member will have their work valued, and will be expected to participate in the decision making process. Decisions and control are shared, based on contributions and peer review. In the following sections we'll examine:

These three areas are interdependent. Roles and Responsibilities reflect a member's investment in the coop and their level of participation. This investment is not monetary, but contribution based — the more a member puts into building the Open Coop, whether through pro-bono, agency or reproductive work, the more their investment is weighted in the coop's ownership and decision making mechanisms. This investment/stake is measured through Contribution Tracking and it also affects the Decision making process.

While we have presented the three sections sequentially, the document doesn't necessarily follow a linear narrative. Each section refers to the others and the document features many page-jump links to different relevant sections[1] and related entries in the Guerrilla Translation's Wiki. [2]. For now, we recommend reading it at a your own pace, taking notes and jumping from section to section until you have a clear picture. We plan to add graphics and other support materials to improve understanding and uptake.

To see how we envision the model in practice, Guerrilla Translation is used as a showcase example, but it’s important to note that the model is designed to be useful to other organizations whether they’re part of Guerrilla Media Collective, or not.

Version History and Related Resources

This document describes the mechanics of version 2.0 of the Open Coop Governance Model. It is closely related to the following documents:

If you’re not already familiar with the model (or with contributory accounting in general), we highly recommend reading the narrative/overview article first.


A graphic overview of the mode. Click to see full size

Open Coop Governance Model v2.0 TL - DR

Here are the model's main characteristics, which can be applied as a bare bones formula for other commons-oriented service collectives:

Roles and responsibilities (in ascending order of participation)

There are various levels of engagements within Guerrilla Translation. In fact, GT has been designed to be as porous as possible with the main distinction being "casual" and "committed" relationships, (think of dating.

Casual relationships function more like commons-based peer production projects, such as Wikipedia, Firefox, GIMP or the VLC video player. Contributions are permissionless and validated after the fact (post-hoc). Everybody is welcome to contribute, but those translations will only be published when there are committed team members available for the task of validating. Additionally, paid work is not offered to casual members, and pro-bono work doesn't yield payments, although it is accounted for, because casual members may choose to become committed members in time.

Committed relationships work more like a traditional Commons, with clearly established boundaries, governance protocols and accountability mechanisms. A committed relationship is also more akin to a Coop: an initial investment is expected, the members watch out for each other, and are dependent on shared trust among themselves. Committed members are de facto worker-owners of the agency side of GT (think of it as their day job) while assuming the responsibility of maintaining the pro-bono/commons-producing side. Committed members are considered to be Guerrilla Translators.

Those wishing to become committed members need to go through a nine month process known as “dating”. Divided into three quarterly stages, the Dating stage is characterized by supportive mentoring and increasing levels of responsibility and reward.

The roles reflect levels of engagement and responsibility in ascending order. Core Members are entrusted with caring for the health of the collective and its members, while rewards are proportional to the work and sweat equity investment in the collective, not based on status or overpay (within the committed side, pay ratio is 1:1).

In the following list we will describe four roles:

Supporters

People who want to engage with the collective but are not interested or suited for its productive work (in GT's case, translation) or care work are referred to as “Supporters”. A Supporter helps ensure that GT succeeds in accomplishing its mission while remaining true to its values.

Supporter contributions could include, but are not limited to:

  • Evangelizing about GT (e.g., sharing its work on social media, word-of-mouth awareness raising, etc.)
  • Providing feedback: informing the collective of strengths and weaknesses from a new perspective. This can help keep GT accountable to its mission and values.
  • Providing moral support, including simple acknowledgement (a ‘thank you’ goes a long way).
  • Participating in open discussions: commenting on ongoing work and in forums.
  • Recommending Guerrilla Translation for paid work: Supporters can identify potential translation gigs which fit with GT's values and provide introductions.
  • Providing earned income: Any individual or entity who contracts GT for paid work is also considered a supporter.
  • Supporting the collective monetarily: This includes all non-contract income which could include donations, subscription (eg. Patreon) supporters, grantors and funders, etc.

Supporters can engage with Guerrilla Translation through email or social media, but preferably through an open Loomio group for that purpose. In time, strategies can be studied to use the Loomio group for polls etc. This follows a general pattern of ensuring that the Committed/Commons-stewardship side has sufficient momentum and resiliency. Once achieved, more resources could be allocated to the Casual/Commons-based peer production side.

Casual Relationships: Contributors

An example of a casual relationship is someone who does pro-bono translation work on their own (ie. outside the collective), and then shares it with GT to edit and publish it on the web magazine. Another example: someone in GT contacts a close associate outside the collective to see if they’d be willing to edit a pro-bono translation at their own pace if or when GT has no members free to take it on. The key here is that the people in question are qualified professionals in GT's chosen field (translation, editing) that share a friendly, ongoing relationship with GT, and who currently do not have any interest in joining the collective.

From time to time people will write to GT wanting to hook up – for example, sending a translation they’ve done – but there's no history between these people and the collective. GT might find that the work is excellent, but maybe not. If the translation (or editing) work in a proposed casual relationship isn’t up to scratch, GT probably won’t decide to date this person. Conversely, if both parts reach a clear, mutually respectful understanding, they will probably keep collaborating in some form or other. Again, extending the metaphor, these casual relationships can only happen when time and circumstances allow, and they never take precedence over committed relationships with established team members.

What are a contributor's responsibilities to the collective and vice versa?

None! First of all, if a contributor sends a translation and it causes the editor a headache, then the truth is that "we’re really not made for each other". Casual relations are consent-based and depend on clear communication.

A casual contributor doesn't really have to do anything for the collective, in terms of building our support structure and using GT's workflow tools, for instance. Contributors can get in touch whenever they feel like it and vice versa.

But here is the important bit: Contributors should be aware that they don't have priority over members of the collective, and that they won't be compensated for any of their contributions. A casual relationship is based on a respectful coincidence of wants and needs.

What contributors get out of a casual relationship with GT

If the submitted translation or editing work is of sufficient quality and the mutual experience is a happy one:

  • GT will publish and promote the work in its web magazine.
  • Contributors don’t have to worry about learning GT's practices as a Commons or undertaking any of GT member's basic responsibilities.
  • If a Contributor decides to become a member and join the collective, both parties will be ready to take the next steps. GT will already have determined whether the Contributor translates and/or edits up to standards, so no further testing will be necessary, although a call should be set up to explain what becoming a member in a committed (but not exclusive!) relationship with GT is all about. Any published translation work will be valued for eventual Love Credit compensation, once the contributor has joined.
  • After having an honest chat about what it means to be in a committed relationship role, if there isn't an agreement, there's no relationship. As stated above, casual relationships (like any others) must be based on consent, and obviously you can’t force anyone into a relationship. Contributors clearly have the same right to tell GT that they’re not interested, too.

What about non-translation casual relationships??

People can approach GT from time to time wanting to help with non-translation tasks etc. These can be treated on a case by case basis, but this poses more difficulty than the more easily measurable translation/editing work. It will be up to those dealing with care work to devote time to this but in general, we recommend that care work be dealt from within the organization, as committed members, etc.

Committed relationships and membership: Guerrilla Translators

The next step up within the organization is becoming a full fledged Guerrilla Translator (or "member"). Engaging as a member reveals the porous membrane between casual and committed relationships with the collective or, if you prefer, permissionless Commons-based peer production interactions, or those of a concrete commons cooperative. Again, for more details on casual vs. committed relationships, read Guerrilla Translation's article To be or not be a Guerrilla Translator.

In short: Guerrilla Translators can either be proven contributors who have shown that they are committed to the continued development of the collective or newcomers who would like to apply directly for membership without going through a "casual" phase. The important thing here is that Guerrilla Translators:

  • a) Go through GT's Applicant Evaluation Criteria and Procedures
  • b) Undergo initial tests to determine translation/editing/care work ability
  • c) Have an interview with a Committed GT Full member
  • d) Go through a nine month evaluation phase. This phase (also known as “Dating”) is divided into three quarterly stages where participants need to meet basic responsibilities.

As far as GT is concerned, all these steps are detailed in Joining Guerrilla Translation, our step by step guide detailing our applicant evaluation process. Here are the main points to illustrate the model:

GT applicant Evaluation Criteria and Procedures

Before getting "committed" and spending time and love on new members, GT has to make sure that the relationship will be a good fit. Of course, this is hugely subjective and there's no perfect model but clear communications and intentions are key. Guerrilla Translation is specifically looking for:

  • Ability to translate (and/or edit) into at least one target language
  • Interest in working in a co-operative collective group
  • Good skills for working independently and remotely, including time management and communication
  • Excellent communication skills (that's right, so important we said it twice)
  • Strong interest in enough of the topics we cover
  • Serious about learning our procedures, tools, and governance model
  • Ready to make a commitment to the team

This is determined through a series of procedures, including a short text by the prospective member on why she/he wants to be committed, a translation and/editing test, and a video chat. These procedures are then marked with a Commitment Statement, which is renewed quarterly by all members. Above all, we value reciprocity and care work. GT's model isn't simple and, like most self-organized collectives, involves a slow learning process. Think of it as moving in with someone or sharing a flat (our relationship metaphor doesn’t necessarily have to mean romantic for our examples to work). You can save money, have more support, build stronger futures, but the result depends on what you put into it. GT's commitment is to facilitate this process with excellent attention and availability. If the prospective member wants to commit, s/he has to be crystal clear on what is expected before taking this step. If it's a mutual "yes", the next nine months are key for learning how to work with the collective.

As of 2018, in Guerrilla Translation a maximum of two members per quarter are invited to join the collective. This quota is closely tied to the collective capacities. Typically, an Open Coop following this governance model shouldn't invite more than the equivalent of 25% of its current staff, to give enough attention and support to new members without overlooking ongoing responsibilities.

Dating phase and basic responsibilities

When both parts are happy about going forward and investing our time in the relationship they’ll still be, in the words of Sly Stone, “Checking each other out”. At this stage, the new member enters the Dating Phase, where they are considered as “Transition Guerrilla Translators” on the way to being committed. [3] . The purpose here is to help new members as much as possible and to clarify any doubts. These first few steps within the collective are summarized and detailed in GT's wiki’s “Welcome” entry.

First impressions can be great but it’s the months following that will make or break the relationship, through clear communication and consent. When we talk about a nine month period to see how everyone works this is not just limited to new members. In fact, every member of the collective is subject to the same basic responsibilities and criteria (more detail in these links):

In GT, these responsibilities basically boil down to, carework, following the rhythms of the collective and translating some pro-bono material for the web magazine [4]. This productive pro-bono work amounts to approximately two full days of work out of those three months. Concretely, 400 credits equals 5000 words of translation work and 10000 words of copyediting work (if you're not familiar with the subject, translation takes a lot longer than editing. Compared to what most translation agencies offer, this is a very high ratio for copyediting and proofreading). It makes the most sense to spread this work out over those three months. We think it’s pretty easy to meet these goals.

Regarding basic care work-related responsibilities: anyone serious about joining this or any similar collective should be able to meet or - preferably, exceed - these responsibilities. They include:

  • Reading/getting familiar with the collective's working procedures. For GT translators, there is a thorough tutorial called The Tao of the Guerrilla Translator).
  • Accruing a minimum of 400 Love credits per quarter, by doing a number of pro-bono translations, editing, or formatting tasks.
  • Learning about care work, both for the collective and within it.
  • Becoming familiar with the collective's tools, procedures and rhythms. [5]
  • Manage deadlines and commitments in a professional and responsible manner.
  • Answering any communications and keeping the collective up to date about availability.
  • Be supportive of other members (casual ones too!)

Dating phase members will be assisted and cared for at every step of the way by all Guerrilla Translators.

The dating phase normally takes place over nine months, divided into three quarters, in synch with GT's quarterly calendar. This is done so the collective can batch all team evaluations at the same time. If a Transition Translator joins in the middle of these, that's fine, but the final evaluation will take place at the end of the next quarter along with the rest of the team. During that first "partial quarter" trainees are not obliged to obtain a proportional amount of Love Credits, but it's a good metric for initial feedback.

There will be a mutual evaluation every quarter. Is the new person happy with the relationship? How about the collective? Has the person met the minimal requirements? If it's all yes, great, full speed ahead. If not, better to cut the relationship now, with no bad vibes.

Here are the three quarterly stages of the Dating phase.

Stage One (Months 1-3)

Transition Translators are expected to meet all the basic responsibilities outlined below. Additionally, they:

  • Will be compensated for any new pro-bono work partaken on a monthly basis.
  • If there is any previous pro-bono work undertaken during a casual phase, those credits may be used towards the 400 quarterly minimum. Note, these “casual stage” credits only begin to be paid down on a monthly basis during Stage Two.
  • Will perform care work, mainly learning by doing the procedures of the collective, receiving ongoing mentoring and support and beginning to take on care work tasks autonomously. This care work will be time tracked, but not compensated.
  • Will take part and vote on Loomio discussions. Their votes will be considered, but will not be binding.
  • Will be listed in bullet points under the "New Team Members" section of (in this case) Guerrilla Translation's Website, with links to the page of their choice.
  • No livelihood (paid) work is assigned at this stage.

Stage Two (Months 3-6)

Basic responsibilities aside, in Stage Two Transition Translators:

  • Are compensated for new pro-bono work on a monthly basis.
  • Previous pro-bono work undertaken during a casual phase starts to be paid down on a monthly basis at a 50% rate.
  • Care work continues as above with a stronger emphasis on autonomy. This care work is time tracked, but not compensated.
  • Will take part in and vote on Loomio discussions. Their votes will be considered but not be binding.
  • Are given a bio page in the collective's website, and added to the picture bio menu under "Other Team Members"
  • Livelihood (paid) work assigned at this Stage is paid monthly at a 50% rate. Note that the other 50% will eventually be redeemable upon becoming committed.

Stage Three (Months 6-9)

Basic responsibilities aside, in Stage Three Transition Translators:

  • Are compensated for new pro-bono work on a monthly basis.
  • Any previous pro-bono work undertaken during a casual phase begins to be paid down on a monthly basis at a 75% rate.
  • Care work continues as above with a stronger emphasis on autonomy. This care work is time tracked, but not compensated.
  • Will take part in and vote on Loomio discussions. From now now, their votes are binding, except for blocks.
  • Will receive a guerrillamediacollective.org email address.
  • Livelihood (paid) work assigned at this Stage is paid monthly at a 75% rate, and the other 25% will eventually be redeemable upon becoming committed.

For more details on the Dating Phase, including specific quarterly milestones, read the full entry on Dating Phase for Transition Translators.

Being a Guerrilla Translator

Once a member has passed the testing phase, s/he has become a fully committed Guerrilla Translator. This brings a few perks, including:

  • Autonomously choosing material to be translated according to GT's Content Curation Guidelines.[6]
  • Having binding decisions in online votes and decisions (see below)
  • Being fully paid for livelihood (paid) work
  • Take part in the monthly payment pipeline like the other Guerrilla Translators (including a payout of any accumulated percentage of Livelihood credits from during the Test Phase, or, possibly, accumulated Love credits from a preceding casual relationship with the collective)
  • Having their picture bio listed with all full team members in the Guerrilla Translation websites.
  • Being a public representative of the collective and its values[7]

All Guerrilla Translators are subject to the same responsibilities outlined through the Test Phase. Furthermore, as full committed members, they are also expected to take on the following responsibilities:

  • Evaluating (via vote) Transition Translators
  • Mentoring Transition Translators, and continual learning.
  • Declare a ‘vote-by-credit’ vote when there is a tie or block ( see below).

To be clear, Transition Translators are considered Guerrilla Translators on trust. The Dating Phase gradually increases the rights and responsibilities that apply to a fully committed Guerrilla Translator, but the nine-month period is used to build trust and familiarity with the collective's procedures and people.

Although it is important to recognize and honor the prior effort and investment of more longstanding and experienced members, we are unequivocally opposed to unjustified hierarchical relations and power asymmetries. Good intentions are assumed during the Dating Phase and Transition Members are treated with extra care and attention, as if they were "virtual" Guerrilla Translators. The gradual process ensures that collective members can get to know and understand each other, while the health of the collective is protected from potential disruptions and/or misunderstandings.

What Guerrilla Translators get out of a committed relationship

Guerrilla Translators create shared value together, and the results of this value revert back to the individual members. Members of the collective assist with its development by co-creating and facilitating commons, and are rewarded for their work. All published pro-bono translation and/or editing work has an attached value, the same as livelihood or care work. This value will be fulfilled on a regular basis as the collective continues to build an income stream.

As explained above, members share work and income proportionate to their investment and commitment to the collective. The more they sow, the more they reap. The minimum requirements are the bare minimum, and while it’s OK to stay at that level, members that put more time and effort into the collective will see this reflected.

It is important to recognize that Guerrilla Translation membership is a commitment, not a right. Under normal circumstances Membership exists for as long as the Guerrilla Translator wishes to continue engaging with the collective while meeting its requirements.

The Guerrilla Translation Trust

We have a precise vision of what constitutes a “Core Team”. All Guerrilla Translators are expected to participate in strategic planning, approve changes to the (this!) governance model, and to formally represent the collective to the outside world. They are the guardians of our principles and values, and accountable to all stakeholders.

These principles and values are deposited in a trust. This trust stewards the agreements and commitments made by the team members and ensures that GT’s values are not compromised. In practice, this trust will eventually be facilitated by a digital program we've decided to call Lucas 9000.

The following is extracted from the Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Full Report

Described as “backend, kickass platform and software” capable of taking on bad cop duties when necessary while helping everybody to transparently organize the collective’s work, Lucas 9000 would effectively be the upholder of the collective’s values. As such, the Platform becomes the core group of Guerrilla Translation, an embodiment of its collective intelligence and affectivity. Surrounding this core exists a number of rotating working groups with complementary responsibilities. These are affected by the “casual-dating-committed” membership strata described earlier, with those invited to become committed members expected to take legal, financial and emotional responsibility for the care of that organization. Becoming a committed member is a big step

Lucas 9000 would go beyond the role of bad cop or “outsourcing the difficult work of having conversations and relationships” by functioning as a Virtual Trust. Similar to how a Community Land Trust perpetuates specific social values to a shared ownership structures, Lucas 9000 represents the collective’s consent to a set of voluntary self-organised rules, while also being responsible for overseeing and carrying out those agreements and rules. As a program, it is important to stress that it would be regularly programmed by the humans affected by its actions.

At the time of writing this version (autumn 2018), Lucas 9000 has not yet been built, but such a program would not exist without the culture of trust and GT's underlying values. Prior to delegating some of these tasks to the machine", Guerrilla Translators need to be held accountable to their commitment. This is achieved through a quarterly Commitment Statement to be signed by all members, including those entering the dating phase. The commitment statement lists the expected responsibilities of members and forms the basis of the programs that will constitute Lucas 9000 as a living steward of GT’s values.

Committed Guerrilla Translators are also eligible to accrue credits for carework on a time basis as opposed to task basis. This is explained in more detail in the continuing section:

Reproductive Work

So far, we have spoken about tangibles: translations, editing, blog posting, all of which are generally known as productive work. As these tasks are mostly word-based, they are easy to quantify and assign credits for. But what about everything that leads directly or indirectly to paid work, like project management, quality control, seeking clients, building relationships and trust, etc.? All of the invisible work that holds everything together? This is reproductive work, or care work.

Care work covers two types of care:

  • Care work for the health of the collective: This is where the collective is seen as a living entity/system (to be embodied by Lucas 9000). Caring for its health implies doing the necessary admin and productive work for it to thrive;
  • Care work for the living beings within the collective: These are the Guerrilla Translators, and we mutually care for and support each other.

Caring for the health of the collective

To maintain a healthy collective, we must ensure that our collective agreements are maintained and cared for. All members are expected to keep our communication rhythms and distribute the work needed for the collective to thrive. This is detailed in our What is Care Work? article, but it includes coop and business development, seeking and attending to clients, making sure our financial accounts and administrative paperwork are up to date, maintaining active relationships with authors, publishers, following through on our commitments…everything that you’d expect from a traditional agency or co-op.

The difference in GT/GMC is that ‘‘there are no set roles’’, only working circles, but all care work items are modular, easily visualized and can be picked up by any member of the collective.

Caring for the health of the members of the collective

The collective seeks to build trust and intimacy among all members, and our cooperative practices will never be solely dependent on technology or protocols such as this model. These are only tools to facilitate and strengthen our collaborative culture. We believe that cooperative cohesion is primarily based on healthy, consent-based heterarchical relationships, and to foster these, we have committed to certain regular practices. Among these we can highlight:

  • Mentoring: In the case of Guerrilla Translation, the more experienced translators mentor new translators in the productive activities of the collective. Beyond the Open Coop's chosen craft, all members mentor each other in cooperative culture, specifically the tools and practices of the Open Coop in question. Mentoring is always bi-directional (both ways), peer to peer, and available to any committed member. The outputs of the mentoring process are recorded as part of our knowledge commons and openly shared through resources such as our handbook or this wiki. While mentoring is an ongoing process, special attention is paid to those members going through the Dating Phase. We don't expect everyone to know everything all the time, but Guerrilla Translators are expected to be able to mentor new members and each other in several areas.
  • Mutual Support: Looking after people, being attuned to other's moods, needs and larger realities beyond the collective, caring for our well being are all essential factors for creating a healthy work environment. The collective uses a system of mutual stewarding based on Loomio's practices. Every member, whether in the Dating or Fully Committed phase, has a specific person supporting them and every member supports another. Supported members have a safe space to express themselves and to be cared for and heard within the collective (while being reminded of the things things they have committed to, etc.). Conflict resolution is also handled through the mutual support system, ensuring the distribution of personal care work. In GT, "who supports who" is listed here.

For more information about how we track and value care work, read the Care work Value section below.

Patterns for Decentralised Organising

The collective also puts into practice a series of Patterns for Decentralised Organizing. Based on the book of the same name (written by Richard D. Bartlett) the patterns are:

  • Intentionally Produce (Counter) Culture
  • Systematically Distribute Care Labour
  • Make Explicit Norms and Boundaries
  • Keep Talking About Power
  • Navigating the Communication Landscape
  • Introduce New Tools With Care
  • Make Decisions Asynchronously
  • A Toolbox For Decision-Making
  • Use Rhythms to Address Information Overload
  • Generate New Patterns Together
  • Get Unstuck With An External Peer

You can click on the links above for individual descriptions for each of the patterns. All Guerrilla Translators are expected to read, reflect on and discuss the book as part of their mentoring.

Working Circles

All Guerrilla Translators are stewards of several areas. Although they may not directly work in any of these or even be the main contributors, they are ultimately responsible for their upkeep. Unlike the more "permissionless" aspects of being a Casual member or the more relaxed standards of being a Transition Translator, Guerrilla Translators are expected to continually learn and improve in the areas they are working in. These general areas are known as working circles. The circles can be flexible, but they include:

  • Community (includes mentoring, mutual support, rhythms, tools and group culture)
  • Development (includes goals, structural organizational development)
  • Media Peers (includes networking and alliances, social media, campaigns, etc)
  • Sustainability (includes lines of work, client attention, funding, etc)
  • Website Tech (includes development and maintenance of GT’s site, front and backend)
  • Finance (includes legal structure, taxes, invoices, etc.)
  • Dating (includes aptitude testing, buddy-system and mentoring)

Circles are porous and not exclusive, but certain individuals will be the stewards for a circle. Circle participants and circle stewards are revised quarterly and recorded in the collective’s availability mapping page. Transition members are also expected to join various circles through their nine-month training, and come become circle stewards after they are fully committed. Read more in our Working Circles entry.

Community Rhythms

Clear communication is essential to GT and any Open Coop. The team communicates through various rhythms, inspired by Loomio/Enspiral, except that this communication takes place mainly online. The rhythms are:

  • Daily: Synchronous summary of work done the previous day, emotional state, etc.
  • Weekly: Asynchronous follow through of team communications, decisions and tasks (currently on Loomio and Trello, respectively)
  • Biweekly: Agreeing to priorities and deadlines over two weeks. Celebrating achievements.
  • Monthly: Finances and credit payout
  • Quarterly: Retrospective, shared focus and high autonomy. Renewal of commitment statement, availability mapping and circles. Tweaks to governance model and rates.
  • Biannually: Team retreats to have a ritual of togetherness and trust-building in person.

A more detailed explanation can be found in the Community Rhythms entry.

Sabbaticals and Holidays

All full members are expected to follow GT’s Community Rhythms. Whenever members need time off they can announce a sabbatical quarter, six-months, a year, etc.

Once a sabbatical has been communicated, the Guerrilla Translator will:

  • have all invested credits frozen until the next active quarter (where they will be, once again, weighed as shares for the monthly payouts)
  • not have any pro-bono or care work obligations (although they are free to do pro-bono work on their own time)
  • need to accrue a total of 800 love credits during the next active quarter (or 1600 love credits if the sabbatical extends over two quarters, these could also accrue over a six-month period.)

On return they will:

  • be put at the end of the livelihood work queue if paying work is scarce on return
  • catch up on any operational decisions and/or changes
  • discuss with the collective whether extra Care Hours need to be performed in the active quarter to compensate for other member's care work during the sabbatical[8]

Two quarters is the maximum period for a sabbatical under these terms. Longer sabbaticals are discouraged, but could be negotiated with the collective.

If no sabbatical is announced but members don’t check in or communicate (basically, dropping off the map) halfway during the quarter, 400 love credits will be deducted (barring illness, family situations etc., which should be communicated to the collective ASAP).

For consistently active members, we created a Yearly work calendar with recommendations for holidays and time off.

Graduated sanctions for failing to meet quarterly quotas

Sanctions in the collective are graduated and supported by restorative community work.

  • If a pro-bono quarterly quota isn’t met, the negative Love Credit balance is brought forward and added to the next quarter’s balance.
  • If the above (basic + legacy love credit) quota isn’t met during the next following quarter (the next in sequence after the one mentioned above), the Guerrilla Translator acknowledges a serious warning. The negative balance will be added to the second consecutive quarter, and they will not be eligible to do or to be paid for prior livelihood work until the negative balance is brought up to date. Effectively, the translator is taken out of the queue in this extended negative balance period.
  • If the Guerrilla Translator fails to meet the accumulated quota in the third quarter, they are automatically released from their commitment to the collective, and all pending Love credit debts will be eliminated. Accumulated Livelihood credits will be paid down on a rolling basis (TBD by the collective).

These situations can be clearly identified well before they happen, so it is the collective's mutual obligation to warn members of any possible sanctions well in advance and in a kind, supportive way.

Pro-bono quotas aside, these sanctions also apply when there are noticeable imbalances in Care Work Hours and if Community/Communication Rhythms are broken with no explanation or justification. In this case, these care work imbalances can be restored by investing a proportional amount of care work hours, which can include receiving mentoring to help unblock any problems.

Leaving the collective

Worst case scenario: “ghosting”. Guerrilla Translators who do not communicate at all during a full quarter or haven’t announced a sabbatical are released from their commitment to the collective and not considered candidates for re-admission. All invested credit (livelihood and love) queues will be cancelled and the shares will be redistributed to the other active members.

Preferable exit scenario: Alternatively, if a Guerrilla Translator decides to announce that they're leaving the collective permanently (not a sabbatical), they will "cash out" all invested Livelihood credits. Their love credits, however, will expire altogether; this is done to prioritize Love credit pay-downs among active Guerrilla Translators in the monthly distributions. Whether the Livelihood credits owed are paid as a flat payment or staggered across several months will depend on the collective's available finances at the time, and will be decided in a vote. GMC email addresses and work tools accounts will be cancelled.

Splits are considered final. It is better to announce sabbaticals and keep a good relationship!

Contribution Tracking

Credits are the measurement by which productive work contributions are tracked. Meanwhile, reproductive work is tracked in care hours. We will start by talking about productive work credits.

A Credit typically means 1 euro in compensation. So, if an item is estimated at 100 credits, and a person completes the work and is attributed 100% of the contribution, then that person earns 100 credits and is owed 100 euros for work completed.

Having established that, we have 2 types of credits.

There are, essentially, 3 ways to account for credits:

  1. Total/Historical Credits.
    This is the total combined number of credits the member has ever earned, whether Love, Livelihood and tracked Care Hours. This number only goes up over the lifetime of the member’s participation, starting from the moment they started contributing to the collective.
  2. Invested Credits.
    These are the active credits that have yet to be paid. It is, in one form, money owed to the member by the collective. If a member earned 1,000 credits and they cashed out 600 of those credits, they would now have 400 remaining ‘invested’ credits.
  3. Divested Credits.
    These are credits that have been paid.

All active Guerrilla Translators (ie: that haven't left or aren't on Sabbatical) have equity based on the their total historical credits. Historical credits may also become relevant in certain, rare, decision making procedures, such as blocked proposals or when voting on important structural changes. Meanwhile, each members' Invested Credit ratings are used for several purposes, including prioritizing paid work allocation and determining the percentages/shares in the the Monthly Payment Pipeline.

Types of credit

As we've mentioned, there are essentially two types of credits in Guerrilla Translation: Love for pro-bono work and Livelihood for paid work. Let's summarize them and add some more details.

Love Credits

Love credits are earned through pro-bono, commons-producing, "productive work" (in Guerrilla Translation's case, translation, editing, transcribing, simultaneous translation…) In essence these are the same services GT offers as an agency. Apart from translation/communication work, tasks such as formatting for the blog, contacting authors for pro-bono translation and social media work are also tallied in Love Credits. In Guerrilla Translation all Love Credits are measured by word count.

Love credits do not lead to direct income. Love accruing tasks are decided on by the collective, not contracted by clients, it is voluntary work undertaken to meet the collective's social mission. All Guerrilla Translators accrue Love Credits through this type of work and, at the end of each month, 25% of GT's net holdings are used to pay them off. Love Credits are then distributed according to the relative percentage of Love Credits accrued by each active Guerrilla Translator (for more info on how this works read the section below).

Livelihood Credits

Livelihood credits are earned through paid work. This may also produce Commons, as GT encourages (and sets lower prices) for Commons-oriented or social or environmentally valuable work. In essence Livelihood work includes the same type of work as Pro-bono work (translation, editing and the rest of the services offered by GT)

Livelihood Credits bring direct income to the collective and are tied to specific deliverables. It is the collective's means of sustenance, but it is not used to directly reward (or pay down) only those individuals who have performed paid work. The collective is rewarded and, much like a commune, these rewards are then used to sustain pro-bono, paid, productive and reproductive work. All Guerrilla Translators accrue Livelihood credits (although some may choose to just accrue Love credits, according to their circumstances) and, at the end of each month, 75% of GT's net holdings are used to pay off Livelihood credits, according to the accrued percentage of invested Livelihood credits each member has on a monthly basis. Note, these percentages are only applicable after expenses, taxes and projected expenses have been accounted for or paid.

As mentioned above, the 75/25% ratio is based on the need to free enough time to undertake paid work for the collective. It means that Livelihood credits are paid off 3x as fast as Love credits, creating a backlog. Meanwhile, both types of credits increase Historical Credits and reflect each Guerrilla Translator's equity in the collective.

Finally, assignation of Livelihood Work is made by discussion and informed by availability, capacity and number of invested credits. Basically, if your invested credits are higher than those of other members, that means you have worked more and been paid less. You will be offered livelihood work before other members whose invested/divested ratio is more equally proportional, or leaning toward the divested .

Accelerating Love Credit Payment

Love credit payment can be accelerated by:

  • Agency work sliding scale surpluses (see section below)
  • Funds not obtained through agency work. These can include:
    • Crowdfunding for specific projects or for Guerrilla Translation itself
    • Philanthropic or project funding[9]
    • Translation-specific microdonations, until these translations are “value fulfilled” (Fiverr or similar)
    • Regular subscription-type donations (like Patreon, etc.)
    • Value may be fulfilled through means other than money, such as barter, time banking, alternative currencies or gifts.
    • Gifting Love credits: Guerrilla Translators have the option of gifting their work away. They can also "burn" accumulated Love credits, considering the value as already fulfilled.
    • Additionally, in case any pro-bono translations are published in paying media, any funds received will be used to pay Love credits (after consulting with original authors).
    • Work as a syndication agency.
    • Another source of income could be book format compilations (paper or electronic) of previously published material on a particular theme and including new, exclusive introductory text.

Whenever any income (or gift) is derived from these possibilities, it can be paid off 100% according to each Guerrilla Translator's invested Love shares as a lump, or staggered over several months and considered a bonus.

As these extra funds are exclusively directed towards Love Credit fulfillment, these bonus payments effectively alter the standard 75/25% Livelihood/Love ratio, with the Love ratio increasing proportionally in function of the extra funds. [10]

Credit Estimation, Translation Value and the Sliding Scale

Guerrilla Translation has the advantage of principally dealing with easily tallied productive work. All translation and editing work specifically measures its value via wordcount. Similarly, video work is measured by timestamps. Other collectives adopting and customising this model could use similar repeatable metrics. In these cases, the "quality of work delivered" is rarely evaluated post-hoc, as it is trusted that all members (in GT's case Guerrilla Translators) will deliver high quality work.

In GT, all agency work has defined prices. These follow a sliding scale, dependent on the client. Pro-bono work for the websites also has definite metrics, which also include pre-production, formatting etc. For now, let's examine the logic of the sliding scale as it affects not only the Livelihood but also the Love stream.

An important thing to distinguish is that:

  • Toward clients, we are talking about prices in cash currency. This is external.
  • Within the collective, we are talking about value, or credits which are considered internal.

External pricing that’s fair to everyone is highly important to the collective. The sliding scale was developed to:

  • Ensure fairness for Guerrilla Translators, including those working on pro-bono
  • Ensure that those clients who most need GT's support can have lower rates.

To achieve this, GT's 4-step sliding scale assigns the same internal credit value to members, regardless of external rates charged to clients.

The base price (autumn 2018) for literary translation is 0,12 € per word to the client (0,08 € to the translator, 0,04 € to the editor) [11]

For the “cheapest” external rate (which is slightly beneath GT's base price), a small part of that credit value is transferred to each Guerrilla Translator's pro-bono shares, as invested credits. When the rate charged surpasses GT's base price, the surplus income goes directly toward paying down credits in the pro-bono stream, as explained above.

Livelihood Work Sliding Scale

Here are the prices ranges for paid work [12]. For this example, we will use a literary translation — external prices and internal credit value for other services can be found in GT’s pricing page. All prices are in cents/€.

1st tier: (Corporate clients)

  • 0,16 per word to the CLIENT. Credits are assigned this way:
    • 0,08 to the translator
    • 0,04 to the editor (includes 0,01 proofreading)
    • 0,04 to the pro-bono income stream

2nd tier (Startups, large NGOs )

  • 0.14 per word to the CLIENT, to then assign:
    • 0,08 to the translator
    • 0,04 to the editor (includes 0,01 proofreading)
    • 0,02 to the pro-bono income stream

3rd tier (BASE PRICE: Free/OS software startups, small NGO's, regular co-ops)

  • 0.12 per word to the CLIENT, to then assign
    • 0,08 to the translator
    • 0,04 to the editor (includes. 0,01 proofreading)
    • 0,00 to the pro-bono income stream

4th tier (Activist collectives + ethical coops) (NOT non-profits)

  • 0.10 per word to the CLIENT, to then assign
    • 0,07 to translator
    • 0,03 to the editor
    • Translator earns 0,01 in credits, which are assigned to their pro-bono “queue”
    • Editor earns 0,01 in credits, which are assigned to their pro-bono “queue”

For an example-based explanation, see the “Sliding Scale in Action” section of The Open Coop Governance Model: an Overview.

The collective offers other services beyond literary translation, these can be found in the Commons Media Collective: External Pricing and Internal Redistribution of Credits entry.

Credit Value for Love Work

In the case of Guerrilla Translation, "productive love work" is those articles, videos etc. published in GT's website. The work put into contacting authors, Wordpress formatting and adding images, promoting in social media promotion, and republishing is quite considerable, and should be compensated in order to encourage Guerrilla Translators to take on these tasks. This is value-assigned, of course, not actual income. Happily a per-word rate based criteria works very well for such tasks, as the effort needed for the editing is usually proportional to the wordcount. Same goes for post-production (longer articles demand creating more SM posts, contacting more people to promote them, etc.).

As far as internal valuation goes, pro-bono productive work replicates the top tier of the Livelihood sliding scale. If we use pro-bono literary translation as an example, this means that it's valued a 0.16 cents per-word. Here is the Love credit breakdown:

  • 0.16 credit per-word value assigned for payment as follows:
    • 0,08 to the translator
    • 0,04 to the editor (includes 0,01 proofreading) [13]
    • 0,01 pre-production
    • 0,02 formatting
    • 0,01 post production

The translator and the editor will always be two different people. The remaining tasks can be distributed between the translator, editor or other members. Aside from translation, the collective also performs other types of productive Love Work (including video subtitling, transcription and more). A breakdown of all the credit assignations related to pro-bono love work can be found here.

Carework Value

Note: Although this section deals with value tracking, it follows on from the reproductive work section within Roles and Responsibilities above.

Due to its subjectivity, reproductive work is very complex to measure. This is the reason why the Open Coop model uses hours, instead of credits, for tallying Care Work.

Hours, however, raise many questions and problems, principally two issues:

  • Are these persons working the number of hours they say they are? (steadily working on a task as opposed to randomly working a bit, eating a sandwich, checking Twitter, etc.)
  • Are these persons proficient enough at the reproductive work they are performing that they should be awarded the same value per hour as someone who is definitely experienced?

These types of concerns can only be overcome by continually building trust, and, to bypass these problems, care work is principally steward by Committed Guerrilla Translators within working circles.

Committed Guerrilla Translators have already gone through a minimum 9 month "Dating" phase where they learn the values and practices of the collective and, just as importantly, how to relate to their peers and earn their trust. Once this trust is earned, members are encouraged to perform Care Work (and track it in hours) in areas where they have shown proficiency. This does not mean that they won't perform Care Work in areas where they are less proficient. In those cases, they will take a learning role with less responsibility.

Meanwhile, those members who are training to become part of the collective (something known as the "Dating Phase" — see above for more details) also measure their hours as they practice while being mentored and supported by more experienced team members. The difference is that Dating members are not monetarily retributed (paid) for their reproductive hours, while Full members are. We will explain this reasoning below.

As of 2018, we distinguish between two phases within the collective's mid-term strategy: the Start-Up Phase and the Stable Phase.

Start-Up Phase

The Start-Up Phase refers to the period of time during which Guerrilla Translation/Media Collective needs seed funding to build resilience and open source tools, to become a flagship example of Open Cooperativism. As of writing (August 2018) it is expected to last until mid-late 2020. Care Work performed by full members during the start-up phase is financed by seed funding obtained for collective's development.

The reasoning behind the decision to only monetarily compensate full members is explained in the following section of the Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Full Report.

"...the current core team has already accrued more than five years of unpaid reproductive work setting up Guerrilla Translation. The collective has agreed that this previous work (formerly known as “Legacy Credits”) will not be paid down with future funding, so new members are expected to also contribute their time towards building the collective during the 9 month “dating” phase.

The payment equivalence for Care Work Hours during the Start-Up phase has been calculated to roughly correspond to one paid hour of productive translation/editing/subtitling, etc., work. It is currently set at 25 € per hour. You can find the reasoning for the calculation here. As part of the collective's quarterly retrospective, all committed members need to agree on which individuals members can perform paid reproductive work in specific areas/circles, or whether certain members still need to be "in training/familiarization phase" for these tasks, whether they perform them in the future or not. These types of work roughly correspond to the quarterly work circles they belong to, and to their preferred areas of Care Work, as listed here.

Non-translators/Core Team attendees of the Reloaded Workshop are also welcome to become members of the collective during the Start-Up Phase and be paid for community building work.

Stable phase

After an estimated two years of Start-up Phase, the collective is expected to reach a mature, stable phase where no additional project development funding is required with the collective becoming self-financed. Instead of lowering productive work payment to finance Care Work hours retribution, we plan to de-commodify reproductive work and discuss hourly quotas to be partaken by all committed members. Also from the Reloaded Workshop Full Report:

Those members contributing less care hours while earning more Livelihood/Agency or Love/Pro-bono income would see a proportional deduction in their earnings, with those adjustments being redistributed toward those contributing more care hours via their livelihood queue. It is also understood that in two years, the most tedious tasks will have been automated while the core team will have become expedient at handling regular tasks. The goal is to reduce the time needed for “admin” work and give as much time as attention to community care work as needed.

These Stable Phase changes will be further detailed in a future version of this governance model.

Care Work Value and Equity

All care work hours are also translated into Historical Credits. No matter if the hours are accrued by Dating or Committed members, or whether this happens during the Start-Up or Stable Phase, or if they are monetarily retributed (paid) or not. Care work adds to your equity in the collective and determines your total stake in it.

Taking into account the hours/credits equivalence described above, 1 hour of Care Work equals 25 credits. These credits are not identified as Love or Livelihood credits, they just add to your total historical queue.

Credit retrospectives

While productive work credits are pretty much set as they're based on agency/outside prices, care or reproductive/admin work hours are more fluid and subject to closer scrutiny and ongoing evaluation. For simplicity's sake, within each quarterly self-evaluation some time must also be dedicated to discuss the value assigned for credit-based modular tasks, the per-hour rate of time-based reproductive work, and who qualifies to perform these tasks competently and be paid for them.

Once values have been decided, the collective needs to ensure that all contributors to a workstream get adequately compensated for their work, and that compensation be as fair as possible. The compensation system is based on several tenets:

  • There are no fixed salaries in an Open Commons Coop, but relative shares. This is to provide everyone the freedom to contribute as much or as little as they choose, and for the Collective to be "billed" fairly.
  • Contributions are passively assessed ongoing through holoptism and by all peers(coworkers and co-team members are the most likely to know the value of someone’s contributions).
  • This assessment is not "policing" but simply based on excellent, transparent, regular communication.
  • Peer assessment is compared with self-assessment. This is to provide an opportunity for each member,whether in the Dating or Committed Phases, to self-reflect on their assessment of their own work, as well as an indicator to all other users of each participant’s self-assessment abilities.

During the a Retrospective, all members reflect on the amount of care hours they have contributed individually and, also, in contrast to the total of care hours tallied in the collective. They will also reflect on the quality of their work, difficulties and blocks, their emotional and material realities during the quarter, and all factors affecting their productive and reproductive work capacities. Once all participants have stated their opinion, each one receives a kind but clear assessment of their work from team members. This assessment is also compared with their own assessment of themselves.

Credit retrospectives also take into account the following factors:

  • Does the current credit value for Love and Livelihood modular/set tasks reflect the effort expended to achieve them?
  • Is the current hourly rate for time-based tasks equitable with other valuations in the collective (especially productive work?)
  • Should certain set credit-value based tasks become time-based tasks or vice versa?
  • Are certain members taking up a larger share of paid work (leading to livelihood credits)?
  • Are certain members performing a noticeably higher proportion of care work?
  • Does everyone feel that their time/effort in the collective is well reflected in the credit score?

Credits Interface and Credits Queue

An Open Commons Coop requires a software interface to:

  • a) Reliably input credit values
  • b) Input member's hour-based contributions
  • c) Easily visualize each member's invested and divested credits, their relative shares, care-work hours undertaken, etc.

The software must be open source, be backed by a distributed, incorruptible ledger, and be available for public scrutiny. Once credits have been awarded, they are tracked in the Credits Interface. This interface demonstrates all the credits ever awarded, and it demonstrates which credits are active. If an individual decides to gift or volunteer their credits, they can do this from the Credits Interface. The Credits Interface is a way for people to see who has completed what, and how / when people have been compensated for their contributions.

Volunteer Credits

In addition, any productive task can be declared as a volunteer workstream. In this system, items are still tracked and estimated with credits. However, all credits earned are considered "volunteer credits" and are merely a recognition of the hard work that a person has donated to a cause they believe in.

Volunteer credits give the owner the recognition and decision-making ability of a credit, but have no monetary value: Declared volunteer credits are instantly converted into Historical Credits but are not considered invested or expected to be divested/paid down at a later date. Volunteer credits can be declared and converted to Historical Credits in both Love and Livelihood streams.

Guerrilla Translators can also volunteer portions of their invested credits or unpaid hours accrued for any given productive or reproductive work. An example of this would be if a member receives some kind of windfall income and for personal reasons, chooses not to take any additional income, yet still wants to remain a committed member of Guerrilla Translation. This person could decide to volunteer all Love credits they are accruing, and to volunteer 50% of their Livelihood credits accrued during this period. The collective's debt to itself would decrease and other member's shares increase.

Gifting Credits

Volunteering credits is a way of indirectly gifting to the collective, but members can also choose to gift credits directly to any other member of the collective. Gifting credits, essentially, implies a transfer from one individual's divested queue, to another's.

What this looks like in practice: the Monthly Payment Pipeline

The Monthly Payment Pipeline is designed to be an equitable and situation flexible distribution model. The system distributes income received across the board on a monthly basis while allowing everyone a proportional cut every time. The software interface for this system needs to be intuitively visible.

Structural Expenses

This distribution system is applied to the collectives holdings only after any taxes, expenses or projected/budgeted expenditures have been paid down. These projected structural expenses are estimated, agreed on and adjusted during the Quarterly Retrospectives and are diverted to a separate sub-bank account.

Monthly Income Distribution System

The system works the following way.

  1. At the end of each month, the collective checks the balance in the sub-account where its net income (see above for gross income) is deposited.
  2. The collective then determines the total credit balance for every contributor and member. Those total credits are a sum of the member’s credits in each of the two main value streams: Love Work and Care Work.
  3. The percentage of invested credits for each contributor and member is determined in relation to all other contributors and members in each of the two value streams.
  4. All of the funds in the account are then distributed according to these percentages.

Simplified Example

Imagine that the collective has only three members, Lisa, Violetta, and Roy, and it’s the end of the month.

The total amount in the shared account is 10,000 €. This will be divided among the three income streams. Thus:

  • 7,500 € - Livelihood credits
  • 2,500 € - Love Credits

Every member’s credit balance is calculated in each of the value streams. These are the results:

Livelihood Credits Stream (7,500 pending distribution)

  • Lisa holds 33.3 % of the total invested Livelihood Credits: She receives 2,500 €
  • Violetta holds 33.3 % of the total invested Livelihood Credits: She receives 2,500 €
  • Roy holds 33.3 % of the total invested Livelihood Credits: He receives 2,500 €

Note that all 3 members held exactly ⅓ of Livelihood Credits for the month, so each receives an equal pay share.

Love Credits Stream (2,500 pending distribution)

  • Lisa holds 50 % of the total invested Love Credits: She receives 1,250 €
  • Violetta holds 25 % of the total invested Love Credits: She receives 625 €
  • Roy holds 25 % of the total invested Love Credits: He receives 625 €

Just for variety in this example, note that each member had a different number of credits in the Legacy stream. Logically, the percentage of total credits will vary for each, so each receives a different pay share.

When the income is distributed:

  • Lisa will have a total of 3,750 € in her account
  • Violetta will have a total of 3,125 € in her account
  • Roy will have a total of 3,125 € in his account

Decision making processes

The bulk of the decisions affecting the day to day of the collective and its future are made by all committed members (Guerrilla and Transition Translators). Other decisions can be shared with the wider/casual community. Why this split? Guerrilla Translators depend on the collective for their livelihood, so decisions or votes which could be subject to harm by individuals who are not affected by the health of the collective should not be delegated beyond the committed membrane. Examples of harm would be anything from well-meaning but ill-informed or ill-considered tangents, diversions. We don't expect to face this in a trust-based group but, this would also be a defense against trolling. On the other hand, as the resilience of the committed team increases, more and more decisions could be made with participation with the casual sphere.

Guerrilla Translation's chosen tool for decision making is Loomio, which has all the features the collective needs (it fits like a glove with the original Open Enterprise Model) and is made by people GT loves and whose values it respects and celebrates. For anyone not familiar with Loomio, it is decision making platform based on the logic of Occupy and other self-organised assemblies. There are various level of privacy within Loomio Groups.

Within Loomio, the collective operates with a general policy of lazy majority. Lazy majority allows for consent-based decisions to be made without resorting to across the board consensus, and keeps the work agile and free from red tape. Loomio is also used for discussions and quick "temperature checks". The ideal is to have dynamic communication that is conducive to concrete outcomes. This blog post perfectly illustrates how Loomio discussions can improve the health of a community, please read it. That being said, our community rhythms also specify that all members check in and take part in any Loomio votes (even as "undecided") at least twice a week and continual lack of engagement in discussions and decisions will result in members reevaluating their relationship and commitment to the collective.

The Process

Decision making typically involves the following steps:

  1. Context
  2. Discussion
  3. Vote
  4. Decision.

For this example we will be centering on the committed sphere where the Guerrilla Translators group together.

Any Guerrilla Translator can open any discussion with the community. In order to initiate a discussion about a new idea, they add the idea to the appropriate Loomio group (groups are divided into four general work areas: pro-bono translation, agency work, care work/admin and projects) This will prompt a review and discussion of the idea. The goal of this review and discussion is to gain approval for the contribution. The collective also has ongoing discussions in Loomio which are tied to specific tasks and projects.

Loomio allows for work-items and ideas to be voted upon by the community. However, different levels of voting and approval may be needed depending on the situation. In general, as long as nobody explicitly opposes a proposal, it is recognized as having the support of the community. This is called lazy majority: those who have not stated their opinion explicitly have implicitly agreed to the implementation of the proposal, and those that showed up to vote determine the direction of the work.

Lazy majority

Lazy majority is a process that allows a large group of people to efficiently reach consensus, as someone with nothing to add to a proposal affecting a work circle they may not be involved in need not spend time stating their position, and others need not spend time reviewing it. This section describes how a vote is conducted. The following section discusses when a vote is needed.

For lazy majority to be effective, it is necessary to allow at least 72 hours before assuming that there are no objections to the proposal. This requirement ensures that everyone is given enough time to read, digest and respond to the proposal. This time period is chosen so as to be as inclusive as possible of all participants, regardless of their location and time commitments. More complex proposals which may require more thinking/reading of materials etc, can be extended.

If a formal vote on a proposal is called, all Guerrilla Translators can express an opinion and vote. Those still in the Dating Phase are fully encouraged to vote and discuss, but their votes are not binding.

Types of votes

  1. ‘agree’: agrees that the action should move forward
  2. ‘disagree’: disagree but will not oppose the action
  3. ‘block’: opposes the action, and must propose an alternative action to address the issue or a justification for not addressing the issue
  4. ‘neutral’: indicates that attention has been given to the action but abstaining from voting one way or another

Another way to abstain from the vote is for participants to simply not participate. However, it is more helpful to cast a ‘neutral’ vote than to abstain, since this allows the team to gauge the general feeling of the community if the proposal should be controversial.

When a vote receives a ‘block’, it is the responsibility of the community as a whole to address the objection but it is expected that the "blocker" takes the lead by offering a (perhaps) better alternative taking everyone's needs into account. Such discussion will continue until the objection is either rescinded, overruled (in the case of a non-binding block)[14] or the proposal itself is altered in order to achieve consensus (possibly by withdrawing it altogether). In the rare circumstance that consensus cannot be achieved, the Guerrilla Translators can influence a forward course of action by calling for a weighted-vote (which are based on Historical Credits', more on this below).

The collective can also make more informal decisions within the work circles by a quick IM based "check-in" (For example, someone proposes something in Slack and all members of that work circle give it a thumbs-up. If there's no agreement or if the working circle recognises that proposal as a larger issue, the discussion is transported to Loomio).

Voting summary:

  • Those who don’t agree with the proposal and feel it would be detrimental to the collective if pursued should vote ‘block’. However, they are expected to submit and defend a counter-proposal.
  • Those who don’t agree but don’t find it intolerably detrimental and don’t have a better idea should vote ‘disagree’. Then, if things go wrong down the line, they can say "I told you so!" (priceless).
  • Those who agree should vote ‘agree’.
  • Those who do not care either way or who find themselves on the fence should vote ‘neutral’.
  • Those who are on sabbatical or have communicated days off/holidays don't need to vote at all, but they can chime in after the vote has closed. [15]

Type of approval

Different actions require different types of approval, which are summarized below. The next section describes which type of approval should be used in common situations.

Lazy majority: 72 hours

A lazy majority vote requires more binding ‘agree’ votes than binding ‘disagree’ votes and no vetoes (binding ‘block’ votes). Once 72 hours have passed, the decision moves in the direction of the majority. Naturally if an actual majority of members vote before the 72 hours are up, the decision moves in that direction immediately.

Sometimes a lazy majority is tied with a vote threshold. This allows for decisions to be made quicker than 72 hours if enough members vote. If the vote threshold is reached before the 72 hours are up, the decision moves in the direction of the majority.

Unanimous consensus: 120 hours

All of the binding votes that are cast are to be ‘agree’ and there can be no ‘disagree’ votes or vetoes (binding ‘block’ votes)

Credit majority

In very specific cases a "vote by majority" may be declared. This means that each credit holder gets 1 vote per Historical Credit. In such cases, those with the most historical credits can apply more weigh to their vote, proportional to their historical credit total.

Credit majority votes are generally discouraged and should only come into play in certain occasions:

  • Blocked proposals with no resolution: In this case those with the most historical credits will have more influence.
  • Blocked Proposals specific to one work circle: Here those who have more credits tied to specific circles (and who will be expected to carry through the outcome of the decision) can use their circle-specific credits. [16]
  • Large structural changes to the Governance Model: By "structural" we mean the foundations and overall logic of the model, not the "amounts" such as prices, credit percentages, etc., which are discussed ongoing.

To be clear, credit majority votes do not increase influence within the collective or affect day by day work decisions. Historical Credits reflect each person's relative efforts in caring for the health of the collective and, on those occasions that our preferred consent-based system hits a block, we trust that those who have made larger efforts over the years will hold true to the collective's purpose. At the same time, this needs to be offset by a continued discussion about power and how to distribute it efficiently. While this is not a numerical discussion, new members are encouraged to accrue historical credits while older members take a step back so the collective doesn't suffer from the dreaded Founder Syndrome.

Stakeholder board

Proposals which remain blocked or stuck can be solved by one of the Patterns for Decentralized Organizing: "Get unstuck with an external peer". This doesn't need to be a dramatic decision. It can also include simply asking for advice and different perspectives.

In GT's case the Stakeholder board is comprised of all the non-GT attendees to the 2018 Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Workshop. The "Reloaded Group" has its own Loomio space, where all active Guerrilla Translators are also present. In the case of a Stakeholder Board vote, all votes from Stakeholder board and Full Committed Guerrilla Translators are binding. Transition Translators votes are accounted for and taken very seriously, but are not binding[17]

Additionally, as Loomio allows guests to be invited to specific thread, the collective can invite specific external mentors and collaborators to certain relevant threads. The relevance of these external mentor's votes will be take as advisory, but only Guerrilla Translators and Stakeholder board member's votes are binding.

Multi Constituent vote

In order to reflect the multi constituent dimension of Open Cooperativism the collective will investigate mechanisms for incorporating the voices and opinions of its wider community. In GT, beyond Transition- and Guerrilla Translators, other types of constituents could include Casual Translators, readers, authors, funders, regular clients, etc. All of this would happen in a dedicated Loomio group. We feel that this opening up should only take place during the iteration phase of our 2018-20 plan or the Stable Phase as the collective needs to thoroughly test the decision making mechanisms at a small scale before opening them up.

When is a vote required?

Every effort is made to allow the majority of decisions to be taken through lazy consensus. That is, simply stating one’s intentions is assumed to be enough to proceed, unless an objection is raised. Activities that require more control and should be recorded as part of the Open Coop's collective history are taken through lazy majority, which is still informal enough for team to stay agile. Repeated/regular tasks are generally not subject to votes, they're assumed to be "pre-approved" unless they need to be re-evaluated for whatever reason and, in that case, discussed and voted on. Our definition of "Lazy Consensus" includes acknowledgement (a "like" or neutral vote). We encourage extensive use of Loomio's participatory facilitation features, as they help focus discussions and clarify ideas and feelings. Occasional lack of participation is tolerated but discouraged. Continued lack of participation may result in a graduated sanction.[18].

However, some activities require other types of approval process in order to ensure the health and cohesiveness of the collective.

This section identifies which type of vote should be called for:

  • Regular work task: In GT this will most often be a translation. Decisions on probono/love work are not taken on Loomio, but on GT's workflow tool (currently Trello). In this instance, any Guerrilla Translator can suggest a translation, according to the collective's criteria and allocation limits. Normally the person suggesting the work item will tag other collaborators and they will make a decision in-situ. Read here for more
  • New Care Workstream: Lazy majority of all Guerrilla Translators
  • New Committed Transition Translator: Unanimous consensus of all Guerrilla Translators (Applies to all the quarterly evaluations during Dating phase)
  • New Guerrilla Translator: Unanimous consensus of all Guerrilla Translators (after 9 month dating period)
  • Guerrilla Translator removal: Unanimous consensus all Guerrilla Translators
  • Blocked discussion where no decision is made: Credit majority.
  • Structural Governance model change: Credit majority + Consultation with Stakeholder Board
  • Legal structure changes: Credit majority + Consultation with Stakeholder Board

Conclusion

Here, we've explained the model so far as exemplified by Guerrilla Translation. There are, and always will be, many unanswered questions. The nature of a commons is emergent and evolving, but this model provides a solid set of patterns for its organic development. If you've read the whole model sequentially, bless you! After you take a break, we recommend going back to the TL/DR to have a fresh view of how it all fits together.

Version 2.0 changes

These are the changes from Version 1.0 that have been incorporated in version 2.0. We have divided these into general changes and the three main sections of the governance model.

General Changes

Roles and Responsibilities

Contribution Tracking

Decision Making Processes

Suggested Reading

First is a summary article of our GT Reloaded event, documenting the main discussions and takeaways from the encounter, where we picked apart and reimagined the governance model:

  • Punk Elegance: How Guerrilla Translation reimagined itself for Open Cooperativism (article) "The future of the project seems really bright because of the clarity of vision. Doing meaningful social and political work for groups and projects isn't just an afterthought. The determination to build that into the org structure speaks volumes to the wisdom of the group: that investment of time is powerful, that translators and editors should be able to openly do passion work, following their hearts together, and that collective prioritization teaches everyone involved, and nurtures and hones shared values." See also the Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Full Workshop Report for a more detailed account.

Following is a list of articles, papers, videos on things that have influenced our governance model and general philosophy. They also explore some of the tensions we have tried to reconcile: between metrics and the immeasurable, system design and lived experience, and productive and reproductive work.

  • Patterns for Decentralised Governance and why Blockchain Doesn't Decentralise Power... Unless You Design It To (Video and article) "There is a lot of anticipation for how blockchain and other decentralising technologies are going to drastically reshape society, but do they address power? "If you take a step back from the technology, if you look at the challenges we face in wider society, and you look at the history of social change, if you step back and just consider for a minute: “how can we decentralise power?”, then “build a better database” feels like a pretty weak answer. To me, it seems obvious that some of the most urgent power imbalances fall on gender, race, and class lines."
  • Patterns for Decentralised Organising (e-book) "I’m not so interested in what you’re working on together, I’m just going to focus on how you do it. To my way of thinking, it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to build a better electric vehicle, or develop government policy, or blockade a pipeline; whenever you work with a group of people on a shared objective, there’s some stuff you’re going to deal with, some challenges. How do we decide what we’re working on? who does what? who can join our team? what are our expectations for each other? what happens when someone doesn’t fulfil those expectations? what do we do with disagreement? how do decisions get made?" [21]
  • The Financialization of Life (article). "Do we want everything in life to be a transaction, as the market totalitarians propose? Or do we want to be citizen-commoners, co-creating shared value in freely associating communities? These differences matter, and Salvatore Iaconesi has written a brilliant analysis of the potential dangers of uncritically applying the blockchain to human life."
  • Re-imagining Value: Insights from the Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace and Nature (booklet). "What is "value" and how shall we protect it? It's a simple question for which we don't have a satisfactory answer. For conventional economists and politicians, the answer is simple: value is essentially the same as price. This report explains that how we define value says a lot about what we care about and how we make sense of things — and the political agendas we pursue."
  • There is an alternative: participatory economics (interview) In this interview, Michael Albert — co-founder of Znet — reflects on the vision of participatory economics, and how it could take us beyond capitalism. "For the Occupy movements, and for other projects and movements which are rousing and continuing all around the world, to all together merge into a massive project that is truly oriented to engender a classless, feminist, inter-communalist, participatory future — I think their membership will have to be in command, not some elite at the helm. And I think those memberships will have to know the broad defining attributes of where they are trying to go, so they use tactics and strategies consistent with getting there."
  • From Platform to Open Cooperativism (article) "Two cooperative movements are important in this discussion: Platform Cooperativism, and Open Cooperativism. One may be more publicly visible right now, but they have much in common. These movements marry the power of digital networks with the rich history of the cooperative movement. How do these approaches compare? Are they redundant, complementary, mutually exclusive? What exact problems do they solve, and what outcome do they seek? In this article, we explain their origins and characteristics, and see how the actions proposed by these movements can work together, helping us form resilient livelihoods in our networked age."
  • Why do we need a contribution accounting system? (article) "With the advent of the Internet and the development of new digital technologies, the economy is following a trend of decentralization. The most innovative environments are open source communities and peer production is on the rise. The crowd innovates and produces. But the crowd is organized in loose networks, it is geographically dispersed, and contributions to projects follow a long tail distribution. What are the possible reward mechanisms in this new economy?"
  • Blockchain technology : toward a decentralized governance of digital platforms? (academic paper) "In the same way, blockchain technology has enabled the emergence of new projects and initiatives designed around to the principles of decentralization and disintermediation, providing a new platform for large-scale experimentation in the design of new economic and organisational structures. Yet, to be really transformative, these initiatives need to transcend the current models of protocol-based governance and game-theoretical incentives, which can easily be co-opted by powerful actors, and come up with new governance models combining both on-chain and off-chain governance rules. The former can be used to support new mechanisms of regulation by code, novel incentivization schemes and a new sense of ownership over digital assets, whereas the latter are necessary to promote the vision, and facilitate the interaction of commons-based projects and initiatives with the existing legal and societal framework."
  • Holo: The evolution of cloud computing (article) "This is an attempt to communicate Holo in simple, clear language (with a bit of playfulness to keep it entertaining)" and A Futurist's View on Holochain, The Evolution Of Blockchain, (video). An easy to understand video walk-through on Holo's architecture and potential.
  • Blockchain Just Isn't As Radical As You Want It To Be (article). "Today, Silicon Valley appropriates so many of the ideas of the left —anarchism, mobility, and cooperation— even limited forms of welfare. This can create the sense that technical fixes like the blockchain are part of some broader shift to a post-capitalist society, when this shift has not taken place. Indeed, the blockchain applications that are really gaining traction are those developed by large banks in collaboration with tech startups — applications to build private blockchains for greater asset management or automatic credit clearing between banks, or to allow cultural industries to combat piracy in a distributed network and manage the sale and ownership of digital goods more efficiently."

Footnotes

  1. If, after clicking on a page-jump link, you want to return to the previous section, simply press the back key in your browser
  2. Be warned that some of the material in this wiki hasn't been updated since mid-2015, and so, some of these articles are subject to change.
  3. Transition Translators are considered Guerrilla Translators but, for the purposes of this document we will use "Transition Translators" when speaking about members going through the Dating Phase and, simply, Guerrilla Translators to refer to full members
  4. Other Guerrilla spin-off collectives using the same basic governance model will have their corresponding quotas of pro-bono work whether it's code, illustration, video work, graphic design etc
  5. In GT that means Toggl, Slack, Loomio, Trello and The Wiki and how they interact. Our current mid-term strategy calls for all these to be substituted by an Open Source platform designed for this model. Loomio and elements of Mediawiki, being open source, would be grandfathered into this platform.
  6. Dating translators can choose their own pro-bono material (as long as they have already accrued 800 pro bono credits), but this needs to be approved by committed members
  7. Stage three dating members may also do this if proficient enough after consulting with full members
  8. This is always situation dependent, specially whether the collective is in Start-up or Stable phase
  9. Of course, project funding will be matched to specific deliverables and these must be met, so that can be discussed on a per case basis.
  10. For example: in a given month, Guerrilla Translation has accumulated 10,000 eu through livelihood/agency work and an additional 2,500 euros through a combination of donations, external funding for the pro-bono side and the publication of an e-book (accelerating Love Credit payment). In this case, instead of the standard 75% Livelihood/25% Love redistribution of the 10,000, the monthly distribution would be xxxx% (750 eu) for Livelihood and xxxx% for Love (500 eu)
  11. This ratio is subject to change when the editor has to work with substandard translations. In these cases the 8/4 (out of 12) ratio may be modified to 6/6 or even below, subject to the editor's criteria. Read this section of our pricing page for more details.
  12. Liable to change
  13. See footnote above for punctual exceptions to this credit value.
  14. Here we are referring to Transition member, who have the right to block (and follow suit justifying) but it's not binding
  15. If there's an emergency or the outcome of the vote has major consequences, these members will be contacted.
  16. This can be tracked retroactively through Toggl our current time-tracking tool
  17. The exception here is that Stage Three Transition Translators do have binding votes, except when it's a block.
  18. Again, as long as the member isn't on sabbatical or has an emergency
  19. This has been extensively reworked into an overview article for the model which can be read here.
  20. For Guerrilla Translators, the task for wiki entry updates can be found here.
  21. Guerrilla Translation has agreed to adapt and adopt all the patterns explained in this book. More information about this decision can be found here.