Sun 20 May 2018 1:51AM

Board/Steering Committee/High Council for Social.Coop?

MC Matthew Cropp Public Seen by 24

As we've been discussing the formation of the Ops Teams, I've been giving some thought to the question of whether our scaling will require an empowered, delegated body like a board of directors to scale our capacity to take on members and projects in a more coordinated and focused way.

So, let's use this thread to discuss (A) whether such a shift from pure participatory collective governance is desirable, at this point or at all, and (B) if so, what should the architecture look like.

To start the conversation, one approach would be for the body to be composed of a representative from each Operations Team elected by that team, and an equal number of non-operations team co-op members selected via an election or sortition process of some kind.


Matt Noyes Sun 20 May 2018 2:24AM

Thanks Matt Cropp.
A) Desirable, but not because it is a switch from pure participatory collective governance -- I see it as a way to organize actual participation and overcome structurelessness.
B) I love the spokescouncil + sortition approach. ;-)
C) I like the Negri/Hardt formulation: Strategy to the Multitude, Tactics to the Leaders. That is, whatever we call this thing, its function is effectively subordinate to the members, not steering or conducting or governing but just getting the members to decide for themselves where to go and then helping to "make it so."
My concern for this thread: I hope we can avoid getting bogged down in all the permutations of architecture. "Good enough. let's try it and see how it goes" should be our standard.


[deactivated account] Sun 20 May 2018 7:53AM

I agree with @mattnoyes here. Don’t have anything to add to his comments...I agree with them all!


emi do Sun 20 May 2018 8:53AM

A) yes, without a "place" structure to check in/check back, it disempowers members from accessing governance process
C) Yes! Let's be intentional as possible but then give something a go and iterate of need be :)


Matt Noyes Sun 20 May 2018 1:20PM

Place seems really important -- does that mean a Loomio group? A regular online chat? In offline organizations that is the spokescouncil meeting, how best to organize that in asynchronous space? One possible approach is the "worker-to-worker network," something like a two-way phone tree so that each member has someone to speak with/listen to regularly about the group... But here I go into the bog of architecture!


Risabee Sun 20 May 2018 2:17PM

I was in two labor cooperatives in the 70s and 80s.

The little one (basically one crew) had direct democracy with the president (one year that was me) chairing meetings and not making or carrying out decisions unilaterally -- because that was possible, with about 30 people, half of whom typically made it to company meetings.

The big one (12 crews) needed more structure and had a Board with rotating members chosen from crews. he Board sometimes sent crew to contracts they would have preferred not to go to, but in the interest of solidarity the directives were honored. Los of give and take and good will made everything possible. Not everyone was equally skilled in office politics or equally motivated. Innovations: a Mexican-American crew, a Women-Only crew, and a crew made up of laid-off millworkers from a very conservative town, kept everyone hopping with groups of people training one another on governance and cultural expectations.

This was about labor and income so the stakes were relatively high. While we are a group that seems to be mostly about meet-and-greet, with a high level of tooting personal interests and activities, do we need governance and structure at that level? I will defer to those more in the know, but IMHO we should maybe not grow into a structure that has its roots in vital economic activity until we have some vital economic activity. Discussions going forward, however would be valuable, and I'd love to see something that works like a Wobbly hiring hall.

Reveal: part of my interest is that have a 37 year old son who was laid off from Intel and is looking for work. Incidentally he was a two-year old when we were traveling to coop contracts, what is known as a Hoekid. Our crew had a rotating child care crew and at one point they were doing laundry in Missoula, MT while the parents were working on a unit in the Bitterroots in Idaho. Fun times.

Documents of The Hoedads, Inc., in case they are of interest to social.coop ( http://social.coop ) and/or its members, are held at the University of Oregon. http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv54919


emi do Sun 20 May 2018 11:57PM

What a rad experience! Very inspiring and another note as to something I'd love to see- a database of resources of docs from model organizations so that we can draw lessons from each others' experiences.

As per "maybe not grow into a structure that has its roots in vital economic activity until we have some vital economic activity" - I feel like that's probably what has inspired this conversation. There are areas of potential economic development and we want to try our best to mitigate issues regarding inclusion/exclusion, burn out, fair compensation etc. based on past experiences that people have had. The current 'loose' means of organizing seems to have reached it's peak and those that are putting in the most work are carrying a disproportionate load.

What would a 'wobbly hiring hall' look like and what are the areas where you feel this diverges from the current framework being presented?


Robert Benjamin Mon 21 May 2018 9:29PM

Funny. I also come from a family of "Tree Planters". Will have to connect on that some time.


Risabee Mon 21 May 2018 12:35AM

"wobbly hiring hall" very loosely expresses my hopes for either social.coop ( http://social.coop ) or something like/inspired by it for cooperatives to seek out "card-carrying" member-workers/apprentices and vice versa -- I'd like (my son for example) to be able to peruse help wanteds, craigslist style, knowing that those making the offer are producer or worker cooperatives committed to workplace democracy.

I see similar electronic "pegboards" for consumer cooperatives, farm cooperatives, heath cooperatives, housing cooperatives, consumer cooperatives, and movement-oriented credit unions committed to the financial health of cooperatives and their members.


Risabee Mon 21 May 2018 12:37AM

Sorries, "consumer" twice. 😂


Matt Noyes Mon 21 May 2018 4:18PM

Like Emi, I feel like we need more coordination to make social.coop the type of organization that can create or spawn great things like the wobbly hiring hall.


Robert Benjamin Mon 21 May 2018 9:26PM

I like where you all are heading with this. I support any ways that could make things more more organized which would make things more accesible.

There is definitely some "governance drag" going on the way things are currently laid out that makes it difficult for a lot of people to participate in the entire process or to get focus on complex initiatives..

A steering committee that has representation from the Admin Ops teams and general membership could help a lot even if it is only to organize and communicate the governance structure, pending proposals, and keep the Bylaws updated with approved changes.

It seems like the best place to start this is inside the Governance Working group.

How members become voted in, the term they serve, scope of the committee/board focus, and additional considerations needing deeper discussion of course.


Mayel de Borniol Tue 22 May 2018 6:58AM

I would be disappointed to see a central board appear, defeats the purpose in my opinion.
I also think social.coop's current challenges have to do with labour, not governance (discussions are flowing pretty well, consensus is being reached, but then who works on the "action points"?..)


Robert Benjamin Tue 22 May 2018 4:33PM

Agree that current challenges right now are more labor driven and spreading out the burden and access for operations critical roles, something that hopefully the Admin Ops teams approach will help improve.

Disagree on how well current overall governance/management of both identified and un-identified issues/needs is flowing. It seems wholly reliant on individual members spontaneously generating the right proposals at the right time and then shepherding them through the consensus process.

This seemed to work well when the community was smaller but as SC scales (which it seems like it is and needs to in order to generate enough surplus to adequately remunerate ops critical contributions and ensure continued platform existence it) it could become even-more dis-organized and overwhelming .

What seems to be missing is a managed centralized place that is at the very least "accountable" for keeping tabs on the overall outstanding issues and activities a-foot to resolve them.

A steering committee need not override group governance but rather could augment it nicely.

Though not sure if that is what you mean when you say " defeats the purpose".


Michele Kipiel Wed 23 May 2018 6:35PM

What seems to be missing is a managed centralized place that is at the very least "accountable" for keeping tabs on the overall outstanding issues and activities a-foot to resolve them.

I wouldn't call it a "centralized" place, as communication can flow among workgroups without need for such a bottleneck to exist. I'd rather see this as a workgroup itself, let's call it "Operations & Management working group" for the time being. Far from being a board or a committe, it would be the place where those members who have a talent for organizing work, events, projects etc.. would reside and help other groups orgnize themselves to their fullest potential, without acting as a top-down control entity but rather as an in-house self-management school.

Rules should be put in place on how to set up this group (eg. there will need to be at lest one person from each WG to ensure balance, or a strict rotation duty...) to avoid the group becoming a self-referential semi-bureaucratic entity, but overall it seems to be a reasonable working group to have.

What do you think?


Robert Benjamin Wed 23 May 2018 6:57PM

Doesn't sound like a bad approach to me.

On the centralized I was thinking also about the need for some info to be organized, packaged and held in a more accessible way. For people that are new, aren't on Loomio much, don't have a lot of time or inclination to go through threads, or just miss a few days on a quickly evolving thread it is a daunting task to engage and participate.

The managed is to give some accountability to that process. The who do you go to address or raise organizational issues beyond starting another thread.

Maybe a "committee" is needed and an Organizational Working Group is the answer though I kind of though that was part of the Governance/Legal WG but maybe not.


emi do Tue 22 May 2018 11:08PM

@mayel I just noticed your post regarding the appropriate use of working groups and your concern that key issues were being discussed without the larger membership being consulted. It is this question that has driven me to participate in this governance discussion.

If we refer back to the diagram being proposed for the ops team: https://loomio-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/files/000/140/156/original/SOCIAL_COOP_ORG.png
where would this 'steering committee' reside? Could the output for this 'steering committee' be a pegboard/bulletin board with proposals for the membership to vote on?


Matt Noyes Wed 23 May 2018 2:27AM

This is helpful. Per Matt Cropp's suggestion, it would be good to include an arrow from the membership, and make all the arrows bidirectional since this is primarily about organizing communication, right?


emi do Wed 23 May 2018 1:39PM

Right! Too bad I deleted the file as soon as I made it...


Matt Noyes Wed 23 May 2018 5:09PM

How about this, as an image that incorporates Emi and Robert's images?


Robert Benjamin Wed 23 May 2018 7:02PM

Not sure there is a need for an Ops team in Governance/Legal as there isn't day to day Admin requirements?

Per @michelekipiel suggest (above) could the Coordinating Committee just be an Organizational working group rather than a Committee/board of members that are voted on to serve a term? Do you @matthewcropp and @emido see some inherent advantages over a committee/board vs another working group?


emi do Wed 23 May 2018 9:26PM

I like the idea of the coordinating committee of being a working group!

About the diagram, even though the WGs are now nested within the Membership (duh!), is there should be some bi-directional arrows from working group bubbles into the general membership? Maybe the fact that there are no arrows from ops bubbles into their working groups indicates that by being nested within, there is going to be communication taking place?

Or are we imagining that the central committee (or organizational WG) will be the one disseminating info to the membership?

Perhaps as per @robertbenjamin 's comment re: there not being a need for an ops team for governance/legal, that the governance/legal ops team is the one that manages pertinent threads/conversations/decisions happening in different WGs in a way that less engaged members can access. This will play a big role into inclusion/diversity as well.


Matt Noyes Thu 24 May 2018 2:56AM

Coordination WG is a nice idea, makes it clearer that it is a functional role, not a leadership position. Robert is right about no need for an ops team in the Gov/LegaI WG. I was thinking of the arrows as indicating person/people from each working group being part of the coordinating working group (along with members at large). The arrows show that interaction, but maybe that is confusing? The working groups and ops teams could continue to function openly like we have on Loomio with posts to social.coop to share info and seek engagement.