To be or not be a Guerrilla Translator
- 1 Let’s speak clearly
- 2 Types of relationships
- 3 Conclusion
- 4 Footnotes
Let’s speak clearly
We have specifically written this wiki entry to inform potential applicants about what they can expect out of their relationship with the collective, and to help them make informed choices when applying for membership. Membership in Guerrilla Translation and the Guerrilla Media Collective is an ongoing process informed and refined by our experiences in the last few years, both good and bad!
The main lesson we have learned is the importance of articulating precisely what the collective expects from members, while at the same time being attentive to what potential candidates expect from the collective.
Usually when someone contacts us asking to join, we tell them to have a good look through our websites, see the kind of material we feature and then read our Founding Principles and FAQ. If you haven't done so already, please read these documents as you proceed with the rest of this text.
Before we get into specifics, it is important to understand what Guerrilla Translation and the Commons Media Collective are and are not:
What we are
We are a self-sustaining collective building a commons comprised of the material we translate, edit, subtitle or transcribe. A commons, as defined by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, is:
- A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.
- A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.
- The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children. Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.
- A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted – and often jeopardized by the Market-State. 
What this means in practical terms is that we are a working community with a set of agreed-upon practices to manage these commons. Therefore, it is essential for any member of our commons to learn these practices. We are also:
- A Distributed Cooperative Organization (DCO) and Open Value Network caring for the livelihoods of its members so they aren’t obliged to waste their talents in the mainstream marketplace to make ends meet.
- Two (so far) language-specific web magazines featuring unique, high quality translated/edited content on socially and environmentally relevant subjects (click here to read our Content Curation Guidelines).
What we are not
- A crowd sourced platform to publish collective translations.
- A traditional, top-down, translation agency.
- A volunteer organisation dedicated to a single-issue cause.
- A place for amateur translators to hone their skills.
- A clearinghouse for no-strings-attached translation work.
As a commons-oriented collective, we value commitment and clear communication very highly. These are the qualities that, for us, define a successful, constructive relationship both within the collective and in relation to the P2P/Commons community in general. There is, however, space for other types of relationships. We would like to distinguish between these in the following section.
Types of relationships
We thought that it would be fun to describe anyone’s potential interaction with the collective by using traditional relationship terms. These are normally very well understood, and hopefully they will help us gain a clearer understanding with a little light humor.
As far as GT is concerned, you can either have a casual, FWB type of relationship, or a more committed, supportive bond (although not necessarily exclusive). The former has no strings attached whatsoever, while the latter will benefit you and the relationship itself very much, though you will have to uphold certain commitments and show that you care. The way to go from casual to committed is through dating. Let's take a look at each of these
We have some successful casual relationships in GT. One example of a casual relationship is someone who does translation work on their own and then shares it with us so we can edit it and publish it on our web magazine. Another example is when we contact a close associate outside the collective to see if they’d be willing to edit a translation at their own pace, if we haven’t any other members free to take it on. The key here is that the people in question are qualified professionals with whom we have friendly, ongoing relationships, and who currently do not have any interest in joining the collective.
At times, we’ve heard from people offering to hook up with us – sending us a translation they’ve done, or similar – who we have no history with. We 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, we’re sorry but we probably won’t be dating. Conversely, if we reach a clear, mutually respectful understanding, we 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 won’t take precedence over our committed relationships with established team members.
Your responsibilities, our responsibilities
None! To be clear: if you send us a translation and it causes the editor a headache, then we’re really not made for each other. Yes, taste is a subjective matter, but we’re all grownups here. We know what we like, what we don’t like, how to express that, and when and if to say no.
In a casual relationship, you don’t have to do anything for the collective – in terms of building our support structure and using our workflow tools, for instance. Just get in touch whenever you feel like it and we’ll do the same. But this is important: you shouldn’t imagine you’ll have any priority over members of the collective, or that you’ll be compensated for any of your contributions. A casual relationship is based on a respectful coincidence of wants and needs.
What you get out of a casual relationship with GT
If your translation or editing work is of sufficient quality and our mutual experience is a happy one:
- We will publish and promote it in GT’s web magazine.
- You don’t have to worry about learning our practices as a Commons or undertaking any of our basic responsibilities.
- If you’d like to test out as a member and join the collective “for real”, we’ll both be ready to take the next steps. We will already have determined whether you can translate and/or edit in accordance with our standards, so no further testing will be necessary, although you will follow the rest of our test procedure. Any published translation work will be valued for eventual compensation, once you have joined.
- If we find that in the end we don’t want to get involved with you for whatever reason, sorry, we’ll have to part ways. To us, casual relationships (like any others) must be based on consent, and obviously you can’t force anyone into a relationship. You have the same right to tell us that you’re not interested, too.
Ideally, though, we are looking for more committed relationships. Like most people, over time we have learned what we like and we don’t like. There can be many benefits, but they must be built through reciprocity and caretaking. 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 it’s all dependent on what you put into it.
A committed relationship with GT means that we will have to take some time to see if we truly are a good fit. This is detailed in the section and related links below.
To become a member of the collective, we will take the following steps:
- First, we want to hear from you. What do you expect from the collective and what attracted you to it? This first contact is usually done over email.
- Next, we will send you two translation and/or editing tests in the target language(s) you’d like to work in. The material chosen for the test will match whatever preferences you’ve shared on our initial correspondence. We’re trying to pick original texts that aren’t especially academic and dry, but written with a definable style. Pro tip: overly literal translations won’t get you very far. We’re more interested in sensitive and skilled translations that show some confidence and “executive decisions” taken, than a word-for-word but deadly boring version.
- Last, someone from the collective will schedule a VOIP (or, if we're lucky and in the same city, a face to face) interview to determine things like your collaborative ability, whether we share similar values and goals, your commitment level, and your expectations.
This is the first stage leading to a more established, reciprocal relationship with the collective. You can read more (and with less flowery language) in the following link: Joining Guerrilla Translation, a complete guide It will give you a good overview about the testing process.
Dating and becoming committed
If we’re both happy about going forward and investing our time in the relationship (ie, “going steady”) we’ll still be, in the words of Sly Stone, “Checking each other out”. First impressions can be great, yes, but it’s the months following that will make or break the relationship. Again, it’s all about clear communication and consent.
We like to give ourselves a full nine months to see how we work together before inviting anyone to be a full member. This "Dating Phase" is divided into three quarterly sections where we will teach you all there is to know about the collective, our values, the way we use tools and our governance model. During these nine months, you will be expected to assume progressively higher levels of responsibility which are extremely important to us. These, in turn, correspond to higher levels of rights and privileges which, at the end of the process, will be identical to those of a full fledged member. You can read all about this process in detail in the following link:
This is the kind of commitment we are talking about, and you should ask yourself whether you are ready for it or not. At their most basic, these responsibilities basically amount to keeping in touch with the team and translating some material for the web magazine. It amounts to approximately two full days of work out of those three months. It makes the most sense to spread it out, so we think it’s pretty easy.
Probono work is, however, only half of the story. If you are serious about joining the collective, we fully expect you learn all about the ways we care for the collective and its members. This is non-negotiable: If you want to become a Guerrilla Translator you have to be a Guerrilla Cooperator and learn our unique way of doing things. This isn't an agency where a management class takes care of the administrative layer, here we do things fully ourselves and we need you to learn how to do them.
The good news is that, if you pass the test and interview and are invited to go through the Dating Phase, we will be there with you all the way. During the Dating Phase you will not only learn to translate in a more human centered style, but you will also be familiarizing yourself with some of the most cutting edge digital cooperative practices in existence (and joining a community centered on care work and mutual support).
If, after you read the requirements, you really don’t see yourself following through with them…fine, but we can’t go forward with the relationship. Better to know that before making a commitment on either side. Nor should you pressure or test yourself to carry them out if you’re not really feeling it (in our experience, that turns into a wasting-time exercise with some bad feelings as an added bonus – hot!) We are a self-organized collective and self-organization and management is something you need to have a knack for, not something we – or anyone – should try to impose on you.
What we both get out of a committed relationship
We will create shared value together, and the result of this value will revert back to you. As a member of the collective, you will be assisting with its development and co-creating and facilitating commons, and we will reward you for your work. All pro-bono translation or editing work that we publish has a value attached to it, the same as paying or managerial work, and we will fulfil this value on a regular basis as we continue to build an income stream.
We will share work and income proportionate to your own investment and commitment to the collective. The more you sow, the more you reap. 
The minimum requirements are the bare minimum, and while it’s ok to stay at that level, if you decide to put more time and effort into the collective you will be adequately rewarded for it. Furthermore, your work will have a tangible use value, not just for yourself or the collective but for the larger community it provides for. Now listen, this is important – together, we will search for paying work and funds to help us sustain ourselves (including our pro-bono work), take on new projects and, ultimately, we will defend and support each other as we grow.
We hope to have made ourselves clear with our chosen metaphor. Any collaboration will result in one type of relationship or another. We wanted to express very openly the kinds of committed relationships we favour. If what we expect and what we offer resonates with you, and you see yourself being happy in such a context, we encourage you to test out with us.
If you are doubtful and all of this seems like too much responsibility, that’s perfectly ok, but we probably shouldn’t try and force a relationship that ultimately isn’t meant to be. This doesn’t mean that we can’t relate to each other in a more casual way, as explained above.
In the end, it’s about being honest about what we want with each other and with ourselves. A committed relationship takes time and effort for both parts. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time, nor do we want to have our own time wasted… we want to have good, fruitful times in good company and be able to work on what we really love and care for: the material we curate, translate and share with our peers.
If all this resonates with you and you are ready for a commitment with us, please proceed to Joining Guerrilla Translation, a complete guide to find out more.
- Source: What are P2P and the Commons and how do they relate?
- See this section of our governance model for more details
- For more info on how we track and distribute value, read this overview article on our governance/economic model.