Channels of governance

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This is a proposed version of governance arrangements in meet.coop, for discussion.

Governance in meet.coop is distributed across four ‘channels', see below. A distribution of governance in this way is appropriate for a distributed coop which aims to promote and support highly diverse practices in the emerging common-cooperative economy.

Operational circles

In some central respects meet.coop is like a workers’ coop. Operational members of meet.coop contribute to operational delivery, development and review of practices across the whole range of the organisation’s internal activities and its contributions in its wider communities of use. These contributions by operational members are organised through a number of circles (see Work organisation - Circles). A circle is a peer-to-peer team of paid and unpaid workers - Operational members - who execute matters in the coop, day-to-day and week-to-week. Thus a substantial part of the governance of meet.coop is exercised by circles.

Although it has long been a principle of feminist organising, the ‘circle’ principle may also be seen as deriving from sociocracy, and it may be appropriate to have some formal consideration here of sociocratic principles. The circle principle is also derived explicitly from the DisCO Governance Model. In DisCO, decisions in circles are made on the basis of either ‘lazy majority’ or formal consensus votes:

> 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". See DisCO Governance Model

In the same way that DisCO refers here to a forum in Loomio, circles in meet.coop use the ‘permanent assembly’ of the Discourse Forum (see below) for discussions and “quick temperature checks”.

DisCO also refers to situations in which . .

> 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.

The ‘external peer’ in the case of Guerrilla Translations is a stakeholder board. In the case of meet.coop, the external peer role is fulfilled by the General Assembly (see below), or its proxy, Circle #0 Stewards. Circles operate under the overall priorities, principles and rulings established by the General Assembly.

Broadly, governance through the circles constitutes meet.coop as a form of workers’ coop.

A General Assembly

In some respects meet.coop is like a consumer coop, providing service bundles to User members under service-level agreements. The General Assembly is the locus where User members can contribute to the steering, commitments and resource allocations of the coop, in a way similar to the way in which a conventional consumer coop - based on shareholdings - might operate.

However, since meet.coop is based on contributions rather than shareholdings (and in this regard is like a workers’ coop) User members in this context are regarded as Funder-contributors. In conventional coop-governance terms, the mix of contributions constitutes meet.coop as a multi-stakeholder coop.

Proposals at the General Assembly come through circles - that is, via the continuously active contributions of Operational members over the entire year, week-on-week. In this regard, meet.coop functions like a workers’ coop (but with an unusually wide contribution of paid and unpaid workers, including members of the user community for the coop’s services).

Stewards (members of circle #0) play a particular role in assembling proposals for discussion and voting in the General Assembly, overseeing the practice of the Assembly, and taking matters to the other circles for consideration betweentimes.

Speaking in the General Assembly is open to all contributors. \[Subject to xxx ?]

Voting in the General Assembly is weighted according to classes of contributions, as follows \[Proposal, for discussion] :

Voting by circle members individually (Operational members of the coop):

  • 10% Community care work contributors (circle #7)
  • 20% Commons-transition work contributors (circle #1)
  • 20% Other organisational care work contributors (circles #2-#6)

Voting by organisations (User member organisations and Operational member organisations):

  • 20% Funder contributions (one vote per organisation)
  • 15% Operations contributions (one vote per organisation)

Voting by individual User members:

  • 15% Individual User members (one vote per member)

A casting vote is held by circle #0 Stewards.

The target composition of circles is as follows:

  • 50% women
  • 30% BIPoC (black, indigenous, people of colour)
  • 35% under age 30, 40% age 30-55, 25% over age 55

The practice proposed above depends on a comprehensive, fully functioning practice of contribution accounting - the work of circle #5.

The practice of the General Assembly

The General Assembly will probably need to be conducted according to distributed direct-democracy forms of practice, perhaps using tools such as Consul. Consul is used by collective.tools/digiDemLab, one of the founder coops of meet.coop, and is a tool to be deployed thro a skilled facilitative meeting-design practice, rather than as a tool ‘out of the box’. For an annual (or occasional) assembly of a large number of people, this might seem acceptable.

The form of the assembly, as commons governance, might be seen as similar to an old North-European form known as a ‘Thing’ . .

> A thing was a governing assembly in early Germanic society, made up of the free people of the community, presided over by lawspeakers. Folkmoot redirects here. Wikipedia

Apparently, from a Spanish speaker . .

> For Folkmoot in Spanish there are some words, one of them, still existing and active in some villages is "Concejo”.

The forum ('permanent assembly')

The practice of circles, above, includes reference to the Discourse Forum, as a ‘permanent assembly’, using comments and polling in the forum to broaden a circle’s discussion and take quick "temperature checks”. Some rules regarding duration of polls will be needed.

Circle #7 - Community

This circle is given a special status in voting in assemblies above. This is because the focus of that circle includes paying attention to the presence of various kinds of ‘voice’ in the coop:

  • women
  • BIPoC (black, indigenous, people of colour)
  • Age cohorts. This seems to matter, with regard to the significance of generational perspectives - and cross-generation dialogues and collaboration - in profound matters of stewarding wild commons and large-scale ecosystems, as highlighted by movements like Fridays-for-Future/Skolstrejk fõr klimatet.

These demographics should arguably have significant voice in the governance of a global digital infrastructure. Likewise, language communities - it’s remarkable how little Arabic presence there is for example, in communities established by organisations in the Global-North; large populations in Africa as well as the Middle East communicate in Arabic.

Commons stewardship

A foundational intention of meet.coop is to promote and enable the formation of a commons-cooperative economy. Governance should therefore in some way be formulated as commons stewardship.

Each of the circles can be seen as an organ of peer-to-peer stewardship and governance for a commons of a particular kind, as follows . .

  • 0 Stewards - A commons of movement capability and intention, in commons transition, which is constituted by all the coops and movement organisations using and providing meet.coop services, as a gathering in the General Assembly of meet.coop. This is the largest, most general of the commons contributed to and stewarded by meet.coop.
  • 1 Economy - A commons of know-how, in how to effectively conduct distributed organising, using the digital means furnished by the meet.coop platform.
  • 2 Rooms - A commons of hands-on user expertise in meeting-practice in BBB rooms.
  • 3 Front office - A commons of provisioning, of digital platform-service bundles.
  • 4 Events - A specialised version of 3, for large-scale events.
  • 5 Contribution accounting - A commons of contribution: a paid and unpaid labour commons internal to the coop; a collective of workers.
  • 6 Work organisation - A commons of organisational means and tools, internal to the coop.
  • 7 Community - A commons of sensibility, regarding relationships between the diverse challenges encountered by activists in conducting activist lives, and the ways in which these are engaged with in the coop’s platform provisions and back-office operations.

0 Stewards - and the General Assembly itself - constitute the largest, most diverse contributions to commons stewardship, followed by 1 Economy and 7 Community. The ’smallest’ commons are 5 Contribution accounting and 6 Work organisation, which are internal to the coop. All of the commons identified above weave together - and weave also with the external commons of P2P-FLOSS software - in an extended mesh or fabric or mycelium of commoning practice.

This kind of extended weave of care work or ‘articulation work’ is of the essence of commons production and stewardship. It’s the care work of weaving all these together, thro the contributions of the coop’s Operational members, and of participants in its four channels of governance, that makes meet.coop a form of commons and not simply a coop: a consumer coop servicing its User members through service level agreements, or a workers’ coop; or even a multi-stakeholder coop.

In this context, meet.coop can be seen as a ‘commons of commons’, a highly experimental but significant form of infrastructure-oriented organisation in the digital domain.