Wed 8 Mar 2023 4:06AM

I believe some operational roles should be paid

BTM Bjorn Toft Madsen Public Seen by 89

I worry about the long-term health of social.coop if we continue to rely on the goodwill of a few key people. I believe we should allow these roles to be remunerated on an hourly basis, for work done to operate, manage & govern the instance.

I'm convinced the people who stand to benefit (if being paid for your time could be described as "benefit") will decline and say "I'm happy to do it". But if we really want to grow a long-term instance, which is managed well, I feel like the community should feel happy compensate, even if the budget could only support symbolic compensation for now, members for the hours they put into incidents, governance, operations etc.


mike_hales Wed 8 Mar 2023 10:42AM

I basically agree. This gets complicated. In meet. coop we set out to provide core infrastructure in a commons under coop rules, and felt that core operational contributions (tech, membership, community) should be paid a fair wage. We felt/feel this is the responsible way to 'keep the lights on' and support folks (operational members, user members) who otherwise might be in fairly precarious situations. It turned out to be hard to generate sufficient revenue to pay for enough time to pay attention to all things, and the core operational members found themselves needing to do paying work elsewhere bcos . . you know, families, rent, life.. Livelihood work is something most people need to do. We're going round the loop again, seeking a more sustainable way of providing infrastructure. https://forum.meet.coop/t/evolution-of-meet-coop-background-and-framework/1292

A contrasting situation is mayfirst.coop/. As a highly politicised movement organisation they are able to sustain a load of hands-on activity - in their platform, in their community, in the Board - from gift work by movement organisers. But it's worth noting, right now they are recruiting a paid role, to handle membership relations at a more routine level. They also pay a worker who supports both tech and community. Working out stuff like this in the US non-profit sector is pretty challenging, MayFirst are doing it pretty well 馃檹 And.. social. coop is yet another kind of case.

Myself, I feel meet.coop has been misled by some of the visions of 'free software', which basically assume some kind of system of privilege (the economic capacity to do 'volunteer' work - and also the freedom to work or not work, on exactly what you choose to work on. Hobby-ism? Benevolent dictatorship, etc? Hard to say. Some libre software projects are enormously responsible, and collective, and manage to sustain..). But providing a core infrastructure for non-geeks is something else? If our conributors are also in the wage economy - perhaps, precariously - our alternative organisations ought to engage this is some explicit way, and consider payments for work contributions.?And if our contributions are in a commons, this isn't just 'anything I feel like giving', libre-fashion, it's meeting what 'users' require and depend on, making contributions the multistakeholder community approves of. The commons of a public digital infrastructure is not the same as the commons of libre code production and dogfooding? This is not the same old libre software game? Good luck social. coop, evolving in this space of very political economy 馃


Nathan Schneider Wed 8 Mar 2023 2:36PM

I think this is very reasonable and important, particularly as the stakes grow for our community.

In the context of May First, I have also been advocating for ensuring our employees are paid competitively, so it is not a sacrificial job.

Currently we do not have the budget at Social.coop to hire a single employee at a Global North level, however. But we could at least be more strategic about how we allocate funds for part-time work.


Bjorn Toft Madsen Wed 8 Mar 2023 7:42PM

@Nathan Schneider As I see it, I'm "ok" with saying "we pay $5/hour for these types of work" and bill us through opencollective. Clearly that's not a competitive wage, let alone one to sustain full-time work, but it nevertheless opens the principle that work done on behalf of us all is worth something. And should we start to struggle to get required work done, then we already have the necessary principle established and can have realistic conversations about what it will take, in terms of compensation, to get the required work done and then discuss how we raise that every month.

I've been a long-time supporter of posthaven, for example. It's $5/month but it's worth it, because unlike other platforms, the stated goal of the platform is to be a loooong-term endevour. I wish for social.coop to be the same.


Calix Thu 9 Mar 2023 2:39PM

@Bjorn Toft Madsen I think $5/hour is also not a legal wage in most jurisdictions, as well as being unsustainable


Bob Haugen Wed 8 Mar 2023 3:11PM

I also agree but would like to expand the question to think about where the money comes from to pay people.

My personal long-term goal is to evolve community economic systems that provision all of the necessities of life for their members. So for example, an organization providing online meeting facilities might be married to other organizations that grow and process food, construct and maintain housing, generate energy, etc etc. In the current surrounding economic system, the food, housing, energy, etc, would be exchanged for money which can then pay for auxiliary services like online meeting facilities.

But from long to shorter term, what would be partnerships that meet.coop could develop for other community-based economically-solvent organizations that might pay for those services?

And what are the boundaries of "community" in such discussions?

Loose talk at this stage. Hope to make it more real in the coming year.


Bjorn Toft Madsen Wed 8 Mar 2023 7:48PM

@Bob Haugen I'm perhaps less principled about growing a wider set of coops and figuring out how they work together. It's 100% worthwhile to pursue this, but in the context of social.coop, I'm simply looking for a sustainable social media platform, where the governance is by and for the members, where the budgeting is transparent and where the horizon is long-term sustainability, rather than scale to an acquisition. Paying our members to do work on our behalf seems a good first step on the longer road you describe.


Bob Haugen Wed 8 Mar 2023 8:02PM

@Bjorn Toft Madsen where do you expect the money to come from to pay members to do work?

(I like the idea, just wondering how to do it....especially sustainably.)


Bjorn Toft Madsen Wed 8 Mar 2023 9:00PM

@Bob Haugen From member contributions. We already collect quite a bit this way. And to be clear, I'm not proposing that we impose a mandatory membership fee, simply that we set a rate for work done that we believe we can afford within the current contribution level. Then, if energy wanes we have a clear principle that we do reward work done and can raise more if sufficient maintenance and governance isn't occurring.


Bob Haugen Wed 8 Mar 2023 10:06PM

@Bjorn Toft Madsen Seems ok to me.


Ed Summers Thu 9 Mar 2023 11:53AM

Thanks for this conversation thread! I like the idea or recompensing people for technical/operational work. If this can help financially support people that would of course be amazing. But I think a valuable secondary effect is it will help collectively define what work we want to do as a co-op, and will commit members to doing it on a particular time frame, and not just whenever they can find the time. If it seems like I am pointing a finger here, it is pointed directly at me :-)

As far as Technical Working Group goes I think it could be valuable to have a similar practice to the Community Working Group, where people sign up to be on call and try to carry work forward during that time. @Flancian has brought this up several times, and I think it is worth trying. I also think CWG members are paid?

At the moment the technical work is a bit catch-as-catch-can, and just barely functioning because of the good will and awesomeness of some of the TWG members who have stepped up. Maybe this is a common situation in co-ops? It would be useful for the TWG to have a bit more structure that makes this work more visible and accountable without dampening the anarchic spirit/energy.


Nathan Schneider Thu 9 Mar 2023 3:54PM

@Ed Summers One thing the TWG has going for it is a set monthly budget (which can be raised with a proposal). Maybe TWG could start experimenting with paying members within the existing budget?


Dynamic Thu 9 Mar 2023 12:14PM

Totally support this, but this is also the kind of conversation where it would be really helpful if we had more context at the outset.

What is our current budget and expenditures? How are current stipends for CWG set? Are there any other roles that are paid? How does the size of the existing pool of available funds compare with some benchmark numbers for what we would need to pay based on the number of ops roles and some sort of compensation framework (whether the $5/hour mentioned above, or something else)?


Matt Noyes Thu 9 Mar 2023 2:15PM

@Dynamic You can see all our income and expenses on Open Collective https://opencollective.com/socialcoop#category-BUDGET The CWG Ops team is paid, largely as an expression of our desire to see Social.Coop move to a more sustainable model:

26.10gbp per monthly on call shift;

7.20gbp for monthly meetings; and

14.40gbp/month for each of the two coordinators.


Dynamic Fri 10 Mar 2023 7:48PM

@Matt Noyes Thank you! And fantastic that we are so transparent about this.


Darren Thu 9 Mar 2023 1:24PM

While Im not at all offended by the sentiment I wonder if we cant be a bit more strategic with our limited finances.

I think, mainly, the tech work has been done on an entirely voluntary basis, generally by idealistic white, middle class, bros (not meaning to be derogatory and i may be being a bit presumptive 馃榿) living in rich countries who have generally also been holding down well paid tech work elsewhere (or could easily get it). They are in a position where any funds we can afford to give would, by comparison, be little more than a token to them and (unless I've missed it) they've largely appeared uninterested in taking such funding when its been suggested they should.

Im involved in an open source software project that has attracted voluntary contributions from, and later been able to fund, what likely amounts to a reasonable livelihood for developers in poorer countries.

I wonder if something similar could work for SC? Im not just (or necessarily?) talking about for tech work.

We could also, and probably more easily, find people already doing valuable organising, community or moderation work in poorer countries and pay them to do some SC stuff.

By providing flexibility we may give them some opportunity/resources that may allow them to continue with the work they are already doing elsewhere? Try and create an enabling rather than what could be considered as exploitative relationship. Ideally they'd also decide to join and become active members in SC!


jonny Thu 9 Mar 2023 4:42PM

@DarrenI would love to see this mean skillsharing, dispersing some of that technical knowledge, paid mentee time so that we can broaden the base of people that can do this kinda work to ppl who wouldn't normally be able to, eg. sit in a voice call with an idealistic FAANG engineer and troubleshoot a server or whatever.


Matt Noyes Thu 9 Mar 2023 2:18PM

I think this important discussion should happen on the basis of a larger discussion of strategy, so that we can put resources where they are most needed, according to our objectives.


Leo Sammallahti Thu 9 Mar 2023 2:32PM

Think it would ideal for the payments to be distributed among as many members as practical by splitting the tasks into as small parts as is practical.


Matt Noyes Thu 9 Mar 2023 2:48PM

Another thought, from @Matthew Cropp, is to think in terms of budgets for each working group, which the members of the group can decide how to use.