Fri 2 Apr 2021 11:52PM

Software used for collaboration

D Danny Public Seen by 68

A thread to discuss (through polls and comments) the software used by Biotech Without Borders in order to foster collaborations on the organizations operations and projects. Proposals may include, using a new piece of software, modifying the way we currently use a piece of software, etc.

Short history

I started this thread before we had the option of meeting in person and used the comments here to inform the way I proceeded with setting up various communication channels. We considered using Slack, but there was not a lot of engagement on it and I am personally not enthusiastic about it's use (which isn't to say it is not a good choice to use, just that someone else will likely have to spearhead it's adoption. As per our operational principle of consensus taken from Noisebridge, I am standing aside here). See the context history for more information.

Intention for a working culture at BwoB

(at least for the operational side of things)

I wrote in the introduction to this group that I am quite inspired by the help guides of Loomio. But also an article about working in a company that has no meetings. Among other things this is what stood out to me:

Instead of having meetings, people “talk” to each other via GitHub, Notion, and (occasionally) Slack, expecting responses within 24 hours. Because there are no standups or “syncs” and some projects can involve expensive feedback loops to collaborate, working this way requires clear and thoughtful communication.

Everyone writes well, and writes a lot.


But the deal we already had in place was better for what our people prioritize: freedom over growth, sustainability over speed, life over work.

I am hoping that Loomio can help with cultivating this culture and I explain how in the presentation linked on the help thread. But there are many software which we might leverage to create a working collaborative culture which is able to engage our community, members and officers.

Internal vs External

Although I believe in transparency (as per the Mission Vision and Values), I also understand a need to draw distinctions between different levels of involvement with the organization and allow folks to have spaces to discuss among themselves. There is also a difference in opening up access to software for a broader community and inviting that community to become a member in order or engage with the software. The Permission Levels refers to a conceptual separation of the the users of the software into meaningful groups that engage differently with that piece of software.

Current Software Ecosystem @ BwoB

I will revisit this later and create a mind map using FreePlane, but for now I offer a list and some short descriptions on how they work together to build a cohesive stack of software that allows the BwoB community, members and officers to work together. In bringing this stack together I have been influenced by this article as well as the discussions on this thread and 1:1. I go into more of the rationale for using Loomio and Open Collective in this presentation delivered at Biosummit 6.0



Permission Levels

Loomio (you're already here!)

Discussion and Decision making (aka consensus building)

Community, Members, Officers

External Facing (via email invite)


Email, Managing Google Ad grant, Video chat, External calendar

File storage


External Facing (via Google services


External appointments, Document Signing, Project Management, Internal calendar

Video chat (potentially via Matrix with Jitsi backend)

File storage

Members, Officers

External Facing (on a per file basis and with appointments)

Matrix (private server)

Public space

Public chat room (public server)

(E2E) Chat

Community, Members, Officers

External Facing (still working to determine the best way to integrate select channels from different DIY projects and other chat services [Slack, Discord, Signal, Telegram, Whats App, Instagram, Twitter] into a single chat room)

Open Collective

Collecting membership dues and donations, reimbursing mission aligned-purchases, transparent budget reporting


Members (still working to determine the best way to allow members manage funds for their mission-aligned projects)

Community, External Facing (payment and reimbursement only)


Mailing list, CRM


External Facing (receive only)

CiviCRM (link forthcoming pending security review)

Mailing list, CRM


Members (still working to determine the best way to allow members to manage information for their mission-aligned projects)

External Facing (once a migration from MailChimp can be completed this platform will serve as our CRM)


Sharing references

Members, Officers, External Facing

Moodle (link will change at some point to learning.biotechw...)

Developing and Delivering training

Members, Officers

Community, External Facing (pending creation of broadly applicable training)


Yuriy Fazylov Fri 2 Apr 2021 6:23PM

Great, we switched from a free platform to a pay per your time on loomio membership.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sat 3 Apr 2021 2:26PM

It's a one time cost right? If it's a one time cost, I think it works as a place to organize discussion, and it would come out to less than the cost of an electronic signature service actually, which is already a highly competitive software industry with near rock bottom pricing for added-value services, so the pricing seems reasonable. I don't know of any FOSS options that have feature parity with loomio, if we did something like Slack which might get close with polls and all we would still probably have to pay after a point. One thing that I don't like about Loomio is that compared to Slack or Discord, it doesn't really support chat, which seems like a pretty important part of collaboration. Quick private chats, threads, etc are important IMO, and making everything a part of a formal record like Loomio does can be prohibitive to open collaboration within a team. I also have thoughts on the consensus process, but that's not central to loomio necessarily.

Overall, I think this software is alright, but these all depend on how engaged people are going to be, and I do feel like it's not enough to cover all our software needs. We'll need gsuite, obviously, for email and docs. This isn't a fully formalized legal platform (and not a place to get signatures for membership agreements) so we may or may not want something along those lines. It's not a great task manager so we might want one of those as we start operations. It's not a great solution for chat, so people still tend to have chats offline. It doesn't have built in video calling, and that's an important part of collaboration. Basically, it does what it does reasonably well, and then I think it's a cost-benefit analysis of whether it's worth a one time cost (which in my opinion it probably is), but I also don't expect this to be the last bit of paid software we have to use (considering I think we already use a gsuite?)


Danny Sat 3 Apr 2021 4:30PM

Yes we have gsuite for free through our non-profit status. So yes that will certainly become part of our software suite. But I didn't see what the user agreement was which always makes me weary. I agree with your idea that there needs to be a space that is less formal for discussion like a chat. But I also think that writing on record like this asks of people to think carefully about how they interact. There should be space for both!


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sat 3 Apr 2021 4:32PM

Definitely agree that there should be room for multiple avenues of collaboration, including video and (eventually) in person!


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Sat 3 Apr 2021 5:43PM

What are loomio's data export capabilities and is there a mobile app?


Danny Sat 3 Apr 2021 10:06PM

They allow for full data export. As a JSON I think. No mobile app as far as I know I'm just using it as a tab in my Firefox browser.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Mon 5 Apr 2021 12:41AM

Another thing - it looks like loomio core is open source? I guess we could deploy our own loomio server, I think between azure/gcp/aws at least one of them offers some sort of decent free credit set for nonprofits. We could experiment with a self hosted deploy, or forking a version and developing it to our own needs, though IDK if that's worth saving $200. And self hosting would be a pain.


Danny Mon 5 Apr 2021 11:07AM

Yes I'm glad this idea crossed your mind. It was something I thought about when I first thought about this software. I don't think it's worth saving the $200 but it could be worth it for branding purposes.


Vikram Krishnamoorthy Mon 5 Apr 2021 1:05AM

Loomoo also has slack integration which would solve the needing a place to both discuss and male decisions issue


Danny Sat 17 Apr 2021 10:38PM

I put a link to our new Slack in this comment: https://www.loomio.org/d/Leq91WmU/software-used-for-collaboration/11

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