Guerrilla Translation: Multi-flow accounting for commons-based, open-value cooperativism

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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)

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Understood as available liquidity once taxes and infrastructural costs are paid have been addressed but before payment is disbursed to members.
  4. 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