Wed 30 Aug 2017 1:03PM

Cobudget & Collective Finance

F Francesca Public Seen by 209

Hi all,

I wanted to give you a short update on some new things I am working on that might be of interest to some of you. As many of you know, I stepped back from chairing OuiShare Fest last year and since have been thinking about which area to focus my energy on next. My explorations to other communities and networks made me realize that there is topic that has kept coming up in different aspects of my work: collective finance and resource allocation as a cornerstone for transforming organizations to become more agile, open and collaborative.

Why work on collective finance?

Having often been the person running budgets in OuiShare as well as having been part of diverse experiments around value distribution and more collaborative ways of budgeting, I keep coming to the same conclusion: we still lack the financial infrastructure, literacy and practices to make distributed leadership and emergent ways of organizing a true reality. I don’t see how we can transform organizations and society if we don’t also tackle how to make resource distribution more transparent and less centralized. Money may be one of the hardest place to start, but it is also very tangible, which is why I am personally very driven to work on this.

At the moment a team of 4 others and I are in the process of creating an organization called Greaterthan, with the mission to make collective finance easy and accessible for groups, communities, networks and organizations. In February, we took over the stewardship of Cobudget from the Enspiral network and are now working to support the developlement of an ecosystem of collective finance software tools and (human) practices.

Collective finance & OuiShare

At the moment our team is “consult-strapping” (like boot-strapping with consulting :) )and trying to learn as much as we can from this to define the direction of the development of Cobudget. This consulting work around collective finance goes hand in hand with the more general organizational transformation work already happening in the OuiShare ecosystem, so it will be also be very connected to OuiShare Experience & the Rethink & Remix project (where we’re offering a Masterclass on collective finance etc.).

If you know any organizations or groups that could be interested in exploring how they could implement collective finance, it would be great if you could put me in touch! Since this field is so new and there are not that many people working in it yet, I’m also keen to connect with any people you know looking into these topics as well (the like of Opencollective, CollectiveOne etc.).

Lastly, as many of you know, we’ve been experimenting with using Cobudget in OuiShare for about one year now. There is still A LOT to be done to make Cobudget really support OuiShare’s work fluidly, and that is one of the things I will be working on improving in the coming year. Any feedback or thoughts on this are most welcome.

Other updates

  • Excitingly, we were selected to receive a small grant of 30 K from the Prototypefund to kickstart our work
  • With Greaterthan, I applied to a program called the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (a non-paid fellowship, a little like an accelerator), a 3 year program bringing together entrepreneurs and investors that want to work on global problems from and with the ecosystem in New Zealand, and have been accepted! That means that I will be spending a few months each year in NZ starting this October.

If you are curious about learning more about this program, let me know and I’d be happy to tell you more about it!


Martin Werlen Wed 30 Aug 2017 5:31PM

Congratulations for all the work on collective finance and for the grant and the fellowship ! :smiley:


Tiberius Brastaviceanu Thu 31 Aug 2017 2:04AM

Hi @francesca keep me in your list. We are tackling this problem at a quite large scale, in the context of the Verdun Project, with a close to $8M budget for 5 years. We do have some background experience with budgeting in an open environment, procurement policies, meritocratic access to decision making about planning and spending, legal structure, etc. But this project will be a challenge and we'll need to join forces : )


Francesca Thu 31 Aug 2017 12:40PM

Great, let's definitely talk soon then!


Ana Thu 31 Aug 2017 3:20AM

@francesca , you really rock pretty lady!!
As you know I´ve been manage Cobudget for the Spanish community, we can keep on talking about the findings :)


Francesca Thu 31 Aug 2017 12:42PM

Absolutely! I hope we can talk about it at the Munich summit? Spain has actually been the most active on Cobudget so far, thanks to your faciliation, so it would be great to discuss this further :)


Jon Schull Thu 31 Aug 2017 3:00PM

I am hoping to create a project-funding pool in co-budget for e-NABLE, the global network of volunteers using 3D technologies to make prosthetic hands and arms for underserved populations. Very eager to be part of your initiative!


Francesca Sun 3 Sep 2017 4:19PM

Great to see you here Jon! I saw that you are in touch with @katebeecroft and are going to do a call with her:)


Myriam Bouré Tue 5 Sep 2017 8:01AM

Congratulation @francesca ! Of course we are very interested in OFN to follow your reflexions on all that as we are also experimenting things on our side, and are always facing the challenges you mentionned. :-)


Pauline Trequesser Tue 5 Sep 2017 8:06AM

Congrats @francesca !


Manel Heredero Wed 6 Sep 2017 7:35AM

@francesca @anamanli I have started invoicing in projects where I am using the OS brand and OS people, so hopefully there will be money coming in soon that I can use with co-budget. So here is my question: clients are from the UK and Spain, and I would like to support OS projects anywhere in the network, how does co-budget account for that? How do the funds move in the back end?


Ana Wed 6 Sep 2017 2:17PM

This is super relevant aspect and I dont have it clear either. So, should we block some time during the summit to work on this? @francesca @manel2017 and whoever whats to join?


Francesca Thu 7 Sep 2017 11:49AM

Yes, let's do that at the summit :)


Francesca Thu 7 Sep 2017 11:50AM

If any of you are interested in reading more about my participation in the EHF Fellowship, see here: https://stories.ehf.org/ehf-fellow-francesca-pick-12f922fa8364


Tiberius Brastaviceanu Tue 18 Dec 2018 7:17PM

@francesca I am digging into your previous posts... I want to leave a trace here for a new experiment with Ouihare Montreal / eco2FEST 2018. @agathelehel1 can perhaps complete my short reporting.
In short, in order to execute eco2FEST 2018 we used a very reduced version of Sensorica's contribution accounting model, coupled with some level of pre-planning and budgeting. I set up the tools in a very rudimentary way, using Google spreadsheets (see everything here and dig deeper into these links). Tools are tools and methods are methods. What's most important is the social dynamic around them. This has been my main focus within the Sensorica network, observing how tools, methodologies and rules model socioeconomic behavior at the individual level.

The context is this: funding for the event came late, the Ouishare MTL community was not engaging with the calls for participation, we essentially had one month to build a team to roll out the event, a 3 weeks-long event, very heavy on programming. We had to bring people from beyond the Ouishare bobble / sphere. This is when I propose to use Sensorica's methods for open projects: set in place a contribution-based reward system, make a call for participation, build a list of potential candidates, call them into action according to their profiles - see contributor's page. Again, all this was stitched together using very rudimentary Google tools. The result was that in one week and a half, counting the time to put everything in place, we got a pretty good list of potential contributors and started the work, before we even had the money in the bank.
My first conclusion is that the contribution-based open project methodology worked well to attract contributors to the project. People kind of understood the game and it was enough for them to jump in and contribute.
Despite the fact that the tools were really simple to use, the lowest common denominator, Google forms that people had to fill and Google spreadsheets, all integrated on a website linked above, some people still found it difficult and non intuitive.
The reality is that I had one week to act, only 3 weeks before the opening day of the event, when we were only a team of 4 on the whole project. So people did not get trained on these tools. I tried as much as I could to make the whole ting stigmatic, leaving traces and hints and explanations all over the place, to lead people from one thing to another, but according to people's reports, this was not enough. And I totally understand. Very few people went on the website where all these tools were integrated or better say MacGyvered within a few days. The fact that they didn't follow the instructions, didn't use the website, shows a work culture discrepancy. And to that, I would add the obvious human laziness factor, which plays a big part in failure to use tools in collaborative communities, especially the small, informal ones.
The result is that even if people complained about the tools and being lost in fuzziness, they still logged their contributions with, I would say, 70% clarity and accuracy. Taking aside a few minor issues with the logging, we distributed the HR budget to all contributors in a way that was generally fair for everyone. No one really complained. In general I think people were happy. A bit more work ended up on Agathe's side, who was also new to this way of doing things, having to play around and adjust some contributions. Much of this extra work could have been avoided if proper tools were used, for example the Sensorica's NRP.

All that to say that I strongly believe that without this methodology eco2FEST would have been a disaster, with a team of 4 people (including myself) at only 3 weeks from the start of the event, and a non responsive Ouishare Montreal community. What Michele Bauwens calls "contributory accounting", what Sensorica calls "contribution accounting and benefit redistribution" is a good recipe to use when you want to run a project in a more open way, when you're not able to rely on a team from beginning to end, when you're in a dynamic situation. It is very important to note that tools are not everything. They need to be complemented with methodologies of work, with governance (rules), and everything works better when people share the same culture of work. Training tools, on-boarding and facilitation services are required in order to allow any new contributor to fit in and rapidly become productive (diminish the being lost, things aren't clear feelings).


Francesca Fri 21 Dec 2018 8:41AM

Very interesting, thanks for sharing Tibi! This sounds a lot like our experience with the first Ouishare Fest in Paris in 2013. One of my take aways was though that the urgency and the novelty of something is amazing for getting people to mobilize and contribute, but that if it becomes continuous, it stops working. But with the right method and tools maybe not!


Revathi Sun 23 Dec 2018 6:30AM

@francesca Congratulations on the grant and fellowship! I'm from India and collective finance is my specific area of interest. India has over 200 million members in cooperative societies and about 300 million members of self-help groups. These are mostly offline today and will need good tools in the coming few years. I'm curious to explore Cobudget and other tools and see if they can be adapted to India. What's the best way for me to learn more and get in touch?


Francesca Thu 10 Jan 2019 9:54PM

That's awesome to hear @revathi ! I've heard quite a lot from some people in the fellowship actually who do work in India and Africa about the extensive savings pools networks that exist there! Let's have a chat, we're already connected on telegram so let's talk there.