DisCO Project

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DisCO stands for "Distributed Cooperative Organization", the foundation of Guerrilla Translation’s governance model.

Open Value Cooperativism and Distributed Cooperative Organizations (DisCOs)

Guerrilla Translation, as part of an umbrella organization (Guerrilla Media Collective, in development), is an Open Value Cooperative and a pilot project for Distributed Cooperative Organizations (or DisCOs)

Distributed Cooperative Organizations (or DisCOs) are a cooperative reaction to the individualistic and techno-deterministic Decentralised Autonomous Organizations (or DAOs). DAOs are blockchain-based entities that execute payments, levy penalties, and enforce terms and contracts without human interaction. By contrast, a Distributed Cooperative Organization prioritizes mutual support, cooperativism and care work among people and is a practical framework for Open Cooperativism. These are locally grounded, transnationally networked cooperatives focused on social and environmental work.

Open Value Cooperatives can be viewed as the experimental edge of the work of our allies in Platform Cooperativism movement, exploring convergences between the Commons and P2P movements along with the world of Cooperatives, Feminist Economics, Open Value Networks and the Social and Solidarity Economy.

Harnessing the potential of the blockchain while addressing its deficits, DiSCOs prototype and allow for tailoring of the Distributed Cooperative Organization (DisCO) Governance Model originally developed for Guerrilla Translation. Together, these can be greatly amplified to make distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) accessible to common people, cooperators and economically disadvantaged, breaking the monopoly of a white/male tech eliteâ's involvement and benefit.

Through this model, DisCOs offer new forms of multi-constituent ownership with blockchain enabled Open Value accounting systems. These create levels of ownership in direct relation to members' contributions to three streams: pro-bono work to create commons, livelihood work, and care work (emotional labour, often invisibilized and gendered). DisCOs also reimagine governance through care work, trust, heterarchical decision-making and open communication, mediated not by initial investment but through contributions to the social mission. Regarding entrepreneurship, the protocols build on the cooperative tradition of workplace democracy, and the mission-oriented practices of the Social Solidarity Economy, augmented with the massive potential of distributed ledger technologies, transnational P2P platforms and manufacturing, and feminist economics. DisCOs have the potential for a robust and truly collaborative economic movement that challenges the status quo.

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Guerrilla Translation, Guerrilla Media Collective and DisCOs - how do they fit together?

Guerrilla Translation (GT) is a commons-oriented communications collective using P2P accounting for value sovereignty. Their governance/economic model tracks and rewards value in three complementary streams: Livelihood Work (the collective's agency work for paying clients), Love Work (pro bono translation work so as to create knowledge commons), and Care Work (affective and reproductive labour for the collective and its members). GT is a pilot project for Open Value Cooperativism and Distributed Cooperative Organizations (or DisCOs).

Guerrilla Translation was created in 2013 as a livelihood vehicle for activist translators. Strongly influenced by the Occupy and 15-M movements, the collective built considerable social capital with progressive authors and readers by offering pro bono translations of articles dealing with the Commons and P2P, activism, environmentalism, intersectional feminism and other interrelated movements. Their work as a general communications agency is also complemented by the pro bono work, which is diffused through the collective's English and Spanish webpages.

Inspired by the P2P Foundation's work on Open Cooperativism, as well as by Open Value Accounting and Feminist Economics [1], Guerrilla Translation substantially reworked and eventually abandoned their Open Source governance model (which they had honed over the course of five years) to arrive at the "Distributed Cooperative Organization (DisCO) Governance Model," [2] a framework for purpose-oriented and DLT-enabled (but not dependent) cooperative organizations. The model allows workers to mutualize their talents while identifying value flows, making carework visible, and creating plurilingual commons.

While the governance model has interdependent provisions for levels of membership, decision-making and value-tracking, we will concentrate on the latter. The best way to visualise how value is created and distributed among the members of the collective is by understanding each of its three value streams (Livelihood, Love and Care) as shares. The first two (Livelihood and Love) are considered productive work and are tracked in credits — typically in relation to wordcount or other easily tokenized deliverables. Although externally the collective uses a sliding scale to set prices for paying clients, internally both Livelihood and Love credits are valued at the same rate. All members accrue credits in both value streams, increasing their relative shares. On a monthly basis, the shares are divested for agency and pro bono work, at a ratio of, respectively, 75 and 25%. If the collective's net holdings[3] in a given month are to be 10,000 euros, these are to be spent down to zero, with each member receiving their salary according to their shares, rather than their direct labour over the course of that month. In this way, the DisCO model functions much like an income-sharing commune, but with clearly bounded ratios for both types of productive work.

Meanwhile, reproductive work is tracked in hours, not credits. These "care hours" account for two types of care work: for the health of the collective (where the collective is seen as a living entity that needs commitment, material inputs and fidelity to its social mission); and for the living beings within the collective (the human beings within each DisCO who build mutual trust and intimacy support structures). In the former the collective itself is seen as a trust. Similarly to how a Community Land Trust (CLT) perpetuates specific social values through shared ownership structures, Guerrilla Translation's on-chain dimension upholds and enables the collective’s consent to a set of voluntary, self-organised rules. But beyond a collectively imagined ideal, the algorithmic heart of a DisCO like Guerrilla Translation is the entity described earlier. A DisCO's algorithms (whether encoded on a blockchain or not) support the collective in overseeing, simplifying and carrying out the human-level agreements and rules. Once the community's care-orientation is entrusted to the on-chain entity, it is described as a Community Algorithmic Trust (or CAT) which oversees the health of the collective. A DisCO is considered healthy when its administrative and human requirements are taken care of, i.e., all members ensure that both Livelihood and Love work are getting done at the agreed-upon ratios, that payments are received, relationships kept, websites updated, etc. — a lot of what is traditionally considered "admin" work.

In contrast to self-executing Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), which can be excessively centered on quantifiable ("tokenized") aspects, a Distributed Cooperative Organization or DisCO like Guerrilla Translation stresses human mutual support, cooperativism and care work. Its on-chain dimension is a perpetual prototype influenced by the off-chain, lived experience of the collective. DisCOs track three types of work to clarify difficult conversations, and so as not to be algorithmically subjected to an unappealable set of figures.

This leads us to the second type of carework: caring for the beings within the collective. In this sense, Guerrilla Translation has developed on the mutual support practices of Enspiral and other commons- and feminist-oriented collectives to ensure that all members are listened to, respected and empowered to express themselves, thus ensuring true (not merely declaratory) equipotentiality. Hours tallied for this type of work can then either be paid down monetarily as a different set of shares when a DisCO has start-up funding, or are simply fully decommodified and used as indicators to adjust share ratios in the two productive streams, as well as work allocations and needs. [4]

Guerrilla Translation is part of the Guerrilla Media Collective, a Distributed Cooperative Organization also working on web design, illustration, coding and other aspects of digital labor and communications. As such, it is a pilot project for DisCOs, testing out strategies for value sovereignty in the real world. The case of Guerrilla Translation is important because it adopted DLT technologies and peer-to-peer accounting as an already existing, viable collective working in markets and creating commons. Their commons-oriented feminist critique of contributive accounting is unique in the blockchain space and, as such, provides an alternative framework to build on the practices of Platform and Open Cooperativism for other sectors and publics.


Extracted from P2P Accounting for Planetary Survival by M Bauwens and Alex Pazaitis (Forthcoming)

Guerrilla Media Collective as a living prototype for DisCOS

Guerrilla Media Collective is the flagship/pilot Project for DisCOs

Guerrilla Media Collective is a commons-oriented, human-centered, living example of Open Value Cooperativism. As such, it embodies the values and carries out the practices promoted by the cooperative, open source and commons movements.

Partnerships with like-minded entities will provide Guerrilla Media Collective with the support needed to a) mature, codify and open source our cultural practices for Open Cooperatives practising contributive accounting, and b) co-develop an attractive, modular legal/technical infrastructure, easily adapted for other commons-oriented collectives, businesses and DisCOs. We believe that this combination of off-chain (cultural) and on-chain (structural) qualities is essential for any serious (non-vapourware) distributed project.

Finally, GMC offers a real-world educational opportunity for those interested in things like creative work with a social and environmental benefit, open cooperativism, and non-hierarchical organising in digital spaces. We continue to share our experiences with similar workers, sharing our open-source governance model and thoroughly documenting our processes.

As a longer-term aspiration, we see ourselves as a group that operates as peer-to-peer mentors for other digital media workers, individual or collective levels, and as a prototype for similar collectives to federate the model and its digital infrastructure. Through sharing our hybrid pro-bono and paid model, we want to support more activists with digital media (or other) skills to work in ways that align with their own values. By supporting the resilience and maturation of Guerrilla Media Collective, prospective partners will invest in an already established and recognized collective that has proven to be capable of bridging its practices to commons-oriented, ethical enterprises.

The set of cooperative practices and tools we are proposing continue to be real-world tested and documented. We are committed to working alongside the cooperative movements in harnessing the potentials of the digital economy for viable socio-economic outcomes.

We are currently developing the Guerrilla Media Collective as a DisCO.

Culture and Structure: a commons generating project partnership

The Guerrilla Media Collective is seeking core/structural support, to undertake activities determined as a result of our "GT Reloaded" meeting(full documentation available here). Our team and mentors collaborated on a plan and timeline to develop GMC into both a viable livelihood mechanism and an open vale cooperative prototype to share with other activist workers. The aims of this two-stage action plan are 1) cultivating culture, and 2) building structure. Activities in each stage will take place concurrently, and we expect the entire process to take approximately two years. To achieve these plans, we will need resources to support the effort to investigate, launch and document a number of specific activities, described below.

Stage One of this structural work will begin while our translators and editors continue to work on both pro-bono and paid translations, making use of the retooled Distributed Cooperative Organization (DisCO) Governance Model as guidance for our internal operations. We describe this as working within a minimum viable legal-fiscal model. As work continues we will research and implement other viable legal structures to account for and invoice, receive and distribute funding or payments for work[5]. During this stage we are exploring partnerships with ideologically-aligned coders and collectives to inform the design and build of the technical infrastructure and more. As a Commons/P2P collective composed mainly of feminist-identifying women, we are establishing relationships with feminist tech coding collectives and proponents of the 3.0 decentralized internet (eg. Activity Pub, DAT, Scuttlebutt, Beaker) and the cutting edge of socially responsible blockchain research (OSCoin, DaoStack, Ocean Protocol, RChain, COALA). Our goal is to build community-led, resilient, distributed alternatives in the spirit of "nothing about us without us".

Other tasks in Stage One are community building, including outreach to potential team members interested in working with GMC; developing our teamwork style in a larger group through regular communication, including several in-person meetings each year; and preparation of multimedia "onboarding" materials (mentoring, educational and other how-to guidelines) for new translators, editors, and other media workers. Our team would also use the existing communication and workflow tools as a sandbox for development of a customized (tech) platform, to be approached in Stage Two. Finally, to help develop GMC into a mature, commons-oriented DisCO, we will seek additional alliances for ongoing support.

For Stage Two, our goals include development of more technical "structure". Built on Activity Pub and IFPS, we will create an open source, online platform. With this platform, we would be able to process financial transactions (eg. accounting for pro-bono, contracted work and carework; producing invoices and managing payments); communicate, share documentation and manage workflow; and also share clear, accurate information about the "health" of the collective through data visualizations on team members’ individual dashboards.

Currently, there is no feasible off-the shelf legal cooperative infrastructure for agent-centric clusters capable of quickly reconfiguring themselves into various thematic and commons-oriented collectives. There is a distinct need for plug and play legal forms that can guarantee cooperative practices on-chain. We believe the combination of blockchain infrastructure for transnational payments can adapted to develop a pioneering retribution model for Open Cooperativism and Contributive Accounting and Feminist Economics</a>.

The results of this joint technical and legal work would help GMC emerge as the first self-defined DisCO, or "distributed cooperative organization". We see our idea of a DisCO as a needed critique and improvement, creating something that simultaneously agent-centric, associationist and which serves the ideas and core values of GMC team members.

We envision a series of target language specific Guerrilla Translation nodes. Apart from our established Spanish and English nodes, this would start with French, German, Portuguese and Italian, building on already established contacts. These are embedded in the Guerrilla Media Collective, along related communication nodes such as "Guerrilla Graphic Collective", "Guerrilla Coding Collaborative" etc. using the same tools and governance protocols developed in conjunction with our programming partners.

Beyond the GMC brand, our collaborative project will provide a plug-and-play legal structure and technical interface for incumbent DisCO's dealing with other areas such as food, fiber, distributed manufacturing, housing, and more.

Who's doing what in the DisCO project

The DisCO project involves a variety of teams brought under Guerrilla Media Collective and COALA, as well as members of our Advisory Board. The DisCO Crew is composed of:

  • Primavera De Filippi (COALA, Berkman Center, CNRS, DaoStack), Research: privacy, P2P value flows and DLTs
  • Stacco Troncoso (P2P Foundation, Commons Transition, Guerrilla Media Collective) Project Coordination
  • Jaya Klara Brekke (Durham University, Guerrilla Media Collective), Research: Feminist economics and DLTs
  • Phoebe Tickell (Enspiral, Mattereum, DGov Foundation, GMC) Entrepreneurial and business development
  • Bernie J Mitchell (Commons Transition, GMC) Open Source marketing
  • Lisha Sterling (Geeks Without Bounds, Guerrilla Coding Collaborative/GMC) Software Dev
  • Bob Haugen (Mikorizal Software, ValueFlows, Collaborative/GMC) Contributory/Open Value Accounting Dev
  • Lynn Foster (Mikorizal Software, ValueFlows, Guerrilla Coding Collaborative/GMC) Software Dev, ValueFlows integration
  • Sam Hart (OSCoin, Monadic, Radicle, Guerrilla Coding Collaborative/GMC) Technical consultant, software dev
  • Ann Marie Utratel (P2P Foundation, Commons Transition, GMC) Communications, narrative
  • Bronagh Gallagher (GMC, Connecting Scotland) Inter-team facilitation
  • Timothy McKeon (Guerrilla Translation/GMC) Communications, user community
  • Lara San Mamés (Guerrilla Translation/GMC) Communications, user community
  • Susa Oñate (Guerrilla Translation/GMC) Communications, user community
  • Mercè Moreno Tarrés (Guerrilla Graphic Collective/GMC) Interface, UX and communications, user community
  • Mireia Juan Cucó (Guerrilla Graphic Collective/GMC) Interface, UX and communications, user community
  • Sara Escribano (Guerrilla Translation/GMC) Communications, user community
  • Silvia López (Guerrilla Translation/GMC) Communications, user community
  • According to Guerrilla Translation, Open Value Cooperativism expands on the practices of Open Cooperativism by explicitly adding Open Value Accounting and Feminist Economics. Open Value Cooperativism is also the theory informing the DisCO Framework. See: https://wiki.guerrillamediacollective.org/index.php/Open_Value_Cooperativism
  • A layperson's introduction to the model can be read at: https://www.guerrillatranslation.org/our-governance-model/ . The full text model can be found at: https://wiki.guerrillamediacollective.org/index.php/Distributed_Cooperative_Organization_(DisCO)_Governance_Model_V_3.0
  • Understood as available liquidity once taxes and infrastructural costs are paid have been addressed but before payment is disbursed to members.
  • This dual stage approach to Care Hour usage is described in the Care Work Value section of the governance model: https://wiki.guerrillamediacollective.org/index.php/Distributed_Cooperative_Organization_(DisCO)_Governance_Model_V_3.0#Contribution_Tracking
  • Guerrilla Media Collective is a set up as an Andalusian Cooperative Society (a very flexible type of Spanish Coop)