Dance it Yourself: a 7 DisCO Principles Builder
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Dance it Yourself: a 7 DisCO Principles Builder

DisCO.coop, January 21, 2021

So, you want to create a DisCO? You’ve come to the right place! The only conditions are that:

  1. You don’t do it alone; it takes two to tango, but at least three to DisCO. They are designed for collectives, not individuals.
  2. You find creative ways to address the 7 DisCO Principles.

These principles are at the core of the DisCO Governance Model. They uphold any given DisCO’s values and agreements. But how can you enact them? We want to hear from you about how you approach this question. The 7 DisCO Principles are common challenges, but there isn’t just one way to answer them. A commons has been described as “pattern solutions to recurring problems”, to wit:

There is no single, universal template for assessing a commons. Each bears the distinctive marks of its own special origins, culture, people, and context. Yet there are also many deep, recurrent patterns of commoning that allow us to make some careful generalizations. Commons that superficially appear quite different often have remarkable similarities in how they govern themselves, divide up resources, protect themselves against enclosure, and cultivate shared intentionality. In other words, commons are not standardized machines that can be built from the same blueprint. They are living systems that evolve, adapt over time, and surprise us with their creativity and scope.

David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, Free, Fair and Alive: The Commons as a Transformative Perspective

The following exercise will take you and your group through the 7 DisCO Principles. Treat them as creative challenges to be met using your own lived experience and knowledge. The goal is for each DisCO to generate its own pattern solutions to the 7 DisCO Principles. Stay tuned for a more interactive version of this exercise at Community Rule. We are also working on other helpful tools (soon to come), including our fully featured DisCO Principles Builder, and the DisCO BLOCKS which will help you to generate your our based DisCO Governance model through a series of questions and prompts.

DisCO Principle 5: Care Work is the Core. Click here to download an illustrated explanation of the 7 DisCO Principles.

Ready to Boogie?

For this imaginative exercise, you will pretend to travel 5 years into the future in order to hear from your future self. Hey, good news! Your DisCO has been very successful, but not without its challenges. The point of the exercise is to use a bit of speculative fiction for big-picture design. After that, you can use this template to write up a text description, or you can find some other way of sharing your vision (for example, you could make a quick video of  a TED-talk style presentation about what your DisCO looks like five years from now, that you can share with others).

We recommend doing this exercise with your community. Whether it’s around a table or during a video call, discuss each point as a group and try to generate new ideas together. DisCO is not prescriptive; the more patterns we can have, the better. Write down what works for your group and its values. You may copy the prompts below on a piece of paper, use post its on a board divided by the 7 DisCO Principles. Whatever you choose, please document it and let us know if we can include your exercise in a future repository to share with budding DisCOs.

Apart from the prompts based on the 7 DisCO Principles, here are some additional points to work on:

  1. Identify invisible labor and care work.
  2. Determine what the pro-bono work is – who does it serve, how does it create a commons?
  3. Determine the paid work – is it identical to the pro-bono? If  it’s different, how are they related? What adaptations were needed?
  4. Also, imagine any challenges you may have run into. How did you solve them?

EXTRA CREDIT! If you’ve finished the exercise and want to go the extra mile, you can follow the same procedure to share your vision for meeting the 11 Values. These are intended more for orientation than the 7 Principles, but they can help to finesse your proposal and make it more compatible with other DisCOs.

DOUBLE-EXTRA! If you want more guidance, check out this PDF illustrated intro to the principles, or the 7 DisCO Principles Webinar below:

How your DisCO addresses the 7 DisCO Principles

1: Put your effort where your heart is: values-based accountability

In DisCOs, production is guided not by profit but by social and environmental priorities. Individual organizations embed these values in their cultural, productive and organizational processes, and technical/legal statutes.

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

2: Building whole-community governance

DisCOs extend decision making and ownership beyond the company structure, and enfranchise all contributors whether present in all value chains or affected by the coop’s actions. Beyond workers, this may include neighbouring communities, suppliers, clients, reproductive and affective labour, financial backers, etc. as constituents.

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

3: Active creators of commons

Unlike the typical behavior of market enterprises, DisCOs do not just remove resources from the Commons. They reciprocate by stewarding existing commons or creating new ones. These new commons are created through market and value-tracked pro bono work. Commons may be digital (code, design, documentation, legal protocols and best practices, etc.) or physical (productive infrastructure, deliberation spaces, machinery, etc.)

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

4: Rebalancing the scale: rethinking global/local economics

This has two points. First, physical production is kept local and needs-based (following the Design Global, Manufacture Local logic). Second, knowledge, resources and value flows are shared at the global level with like-minded enterprises to create political and cultural counterpower to the prevailing corporate/capitalist economy.

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

5: Care work is the core

We distinguish between two types of care work: for the health of the collective (where the collective is seen as a living entity that needs commitment, material inputs and fidelity to its social mission) and that for the living beings within the collective (the human beings within each DisCO who build mutual trust and intimacy support structures).

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

6: Reimagining the origin and flows of value

Three types of value – productive market value, pro-bono / commons-generating value, and care work value – are tracked through complementary value metrics. Value tracking is applied to all DisCO members, in turn influencing decision making, payments, work priorities, and more.

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

7: Primed for federation

While networks may or may not share common goals, federations are imbued with a shared direction. Scaling replicates the dynamics of colonialism, ie. extending a worldview from a center and razing everything in its path. DisCOs are replicated and altered through a federation protocol capable of achieving critical mass. Each primary node focuses on small group trust, intimacy and mutual support.

  • [Your DisCO’s answers here]
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • xxxxx
  • etc.

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