This document describes a governance/economic model for self-sustaining, mission-oriented, distributed organizations.
It values pro-bono, care, and paid work with complementary metrics and dispenses rewards accordingly. The purpose is to extract people from the capitalist marketplace so they can use their unique talents to do fulfilling, socially and environmentally meaningful work. The document prototypes a governance model fit for digital labor as applied to an existing organization: the P2P translation collective Guerrilla Translation which is, in turn, embedded into a larger umbrella organization called the Guerrilla Media Collective. Guerrilla Translation serves as the practical example to illustrate the model. The Guerrilla Media Collective is a pilot project for Distributed Cooperative Organizations or DisCOs.
The DisCO model is a substantially developed fork of the Better Means Open Enterprise Governance Model (OEGM). The adaptations have been made to:
What we offer here is an equipotential and opt-in engagement model. This means that anyone who participates in the collective as a member will have their work valued, and will be expected to participate in the decision making process. Decisions and control are shared, based on contributions and peer review. In the following sections we’ll examine:
These three areas are interdependent. Roles and Responsibilities reflect a member’s investment in the coop and their level of participation. This investment is not monetary, but contribution based — the more a member puts into building the Open Value Coop, whether through pro-bono, agency or reproductive work, the more their investment is weighted in the coop’s ownership and decision making mechanisms. This investment/stake is measured through Contribution Tracking and it also affects the Decision making process.
While we have presented the three sections sequentially, the document doesn’t necessarily follow a linear narrative. Each section refers to the others and the document features many page-jump links to different relevant sections and related entries in the Guerrilla Media Collective Wiki. . For now, we recommend reading it at a your own pace, taking notes and jumping from section to section until you have a clear picture. We plan to add graphics and other support materials to improve understanding and uptake. A mirror of this model exists in the Guerrilla Media Collective Wiki.
To see how we envision the model in practice, Guerrilla Translation is used as a showcase example, but it’s important to note that the model is designed to be picked up and adapted by other Distributed Cooperative Organizations whether they’re part of Guerrilla Media Collective, or not. To ease the narrative, the terms “Guerrilla Translation”, “the DisCO” and “the collective” are often used interchangeably.
This document describes the mechanics of version 3.5 of the DisCO Governance Model. It is closely related to the following documents:
Open Value Cooperativism, expands the practices of Open Cooperativism by explicitly adding Open Value Accounting and Feminist Economics. Open Value Cooperativism is also the theory informing the DisCO Framework.
Open Coops came about as a convergence of three movements: the Commons, Open Source, and the Cooperatives. Over the last few years, we have examined Open Coops and how they relate to their cousins in the Platform Coop movement. Although firmly embedded in the Commons, Open Cooperativism seemed to us incomplete without incorporating two more main ingredients: Feminist Economics and Open Value accounting. Whereas Open Cooperativism has four non-prescriptive principles (statutory orientation toward the common good, multi constituent nature, active creation of commons and transnational nature), we have taken the premise further, resulting in Open Value Cooperativism — the basic DNA of the DisCO
The following principles have also been presented as “The 7 DisCO principles” but they form the backbone of Open Value Cooperativism. They build on the 7 traditional cooperative principles.
With Open Coops as a starting point, DisCOs are:
Here are the model’s main characteristics, which can be applied as a bare bones formula for other commons-oriented service collectives:
There are various levels of engagements within Guerrilla Translation (GT), our practical example for illustrating the model. In fact, GT and DisCOs in general have been designed to be as porous as possible with the main distinction being “casual” and “committed” relationships, (think of dating).
Casual relationships function more like commons-based peer production projects, such as Wikipedia, Firefox, GIMP or the VLC video player. Contributions are permissionless and validated after the fact (post-hoc). In Guerrilla Translation’s case those contributions are translation or copyediting work. Everybody is welcome to contribute, but those translations will only be published when there are committed team members available for the task of validating. Additionally, paid work is not offered to casual members, and pro-bono work doesn’t yield payments, although it is accounted for, because casual members may choose to become committed members in time.
Committed relationships work more like a traditional Commons, with clearly established boundaries, governance protocols and accountability mechanisms. A committed relationship is also more akin to a traditional Coop: an initial investment is expected, the members watch out for each other, and are dependent on shared trust among themselves. Committed members are de facto worker-owners of the client-facing/commercial side of the DisCO (think of it as their day job) while assuming the responsibility of maintaining the pro-bono/commons-producing side. In GT, committed members are considered to be Guerrilla Translators.
Those wishing to become committed members need to go through a nine month process known as “dating”. Divided into three quarterly stages, the Dating stage is characterized by supportive mentoring and increasing levels of responsibility and reward.
The roles reflect levels of engagement and responsibility in ascending order. Core Members are entrusted with caring for the health of the collective and its members, while rewards are proportional to the work and sweat equity investment in the collective, not based on status or overpay (within the committed side, pay ratio is 1:1).
Again, using GT as a practical example, we will describe four roles:
People who want to engage with the DisCO but are not interested or suited for its productive work (in GT’s case, translation) or care work are referred to as “Supporters”. A Supporter helps ensure that the DisCO succeeds in accomplishing its mission while remaining true to its values.
Supporter contributions could include, but are not limited to:
Supporters can, for example, engage with Guerrilla Translation through email or social media, but preferably through an open Loomio group for that purpose. In time, strategies can be studied to use the Loomio group for polls etc. This follows a general pattern of ensuring that the Committed/Commons-stewardship side has sufficient momentum and resiliency. Once achieved, more resources could be allocated to the Casual/Commons-based peer production side.
An example of a casual relationship is someone who does pro-bono translation work on their own (ie. outside the collective), and then shares it with GT to edit and publish it on its web-magazines. Another example: someone in GT contacts a close associate outside the collective to see if they’d be willing to edit a pro-bono translation at their own pace if or when GT has no members free to take it on. The key here is that the people in question are qualified professionals in the DisCO’s chosen field (translation, editing) that share a friendly, ongoing relationship with GT, and who currently do not have any interest in joining the DisCO.
From time to time people will write to GT wanting to hook up – for example, sending a translation they’ve done – but there’s no history between these people and the DisCO. GT might find that the work is excellent, but maybe not. If the translation (or editing) work in a proposed casual relationship isn’t up to scratch, GT probably won’t decide to date this person. Conversely, if both parts reach a clear, mutually respectful understanding, they will probably keep collaborating in some form or other. Again, extending the metaphor, these casual relationships can only happen when time and circumstances allow, and they never take precedence over committed relationships with established team members.
None! First of all, if a contributor sends a translation and it causes the editor a headache, then the truth is that “we’re really not made for each other”. Casual relations are consent-based and depend on clear communication.
A casual contributor doesn’t really have to do anything for the collective, in terms of building our support structure and using the DisCO’s workflow tools, for instance. Contributors can get in touch whenever they feel like it and vice versa.
But here is the important bit: Contributors should be aware that they don’t have priority over members of the collective, and that they won’t be compensated for any of their contributions. A casual relationship is based on a respectful coincidence of wants and needs.
If the submitted translation or editing work is of sufficient quality and the mutual experience is a happy one:
In other DisCOs, contributors can help with whatever productive work is taken by the particular DisCO. So, for example, in a DisCO community garden, contributors could drop in to help with the gardening when convenient and that value will be tracked for future inclusion, should they want to become dating members and, eventually, committed.
In the case of GT productive work is represented by translation. A DisCO working on video-editing would have that as it’s productive work. With this in mind, people can approach GT from time to time wanting to help with non-translation tasks etc. These can be treated on a case by case basis, but this poses more difficulty than the more easily measurable translation/editing work. It will be up to those dealing with care work to devote time to this but in general, we recommend that care work be dealt from within the organization, as committed members, etc.
The next step up within the organization is becoming a full fledged Guerrilla Translator (or, in general, as a DisCO “member”). Engaging as a DisCO member reveals the porous membrane between casual and committed relationships with the collective or, if you prefer, permissionless Commons-based peer production interactions, or those of a concrete commons cooperative. Again, for more details on casual vs. committed relationships, read Guerrilla Translation’s article To be or not be a Guerrilla Translator.
In short: DisCO members can either be proven contributors who have shown that they are committed to the continued development of the collective or newcomers who would like to apply directly for membership without going through a “casual” phase. The important thing here is that prospective DisCO members:
As far as GT is concerned, all these steps are detailed in Joining Guerrilla Translation, a step by step guide detailing GT’s applicant evaluation process. Here are the main points to illustrate GT’s model:
Before getting “committed” and spending time and love on new members, GT has to make sure that the relationship will be a good fit. Of course, this is hugely subjective and there’s no perfect model but clear communications and intentions are key. Guerrilla Translation is specifically looking for:
These, are of course, the qualities germane to Guerrilla Translation, but other DisCOs can and should develop their own. In GT the criteria is determined through a series of procedures, including a short text by the prospective member on why she/he wants to be committed, a translation and/editing test, and a video chat. These procedures are then marked with a Commitment Statement, which is renewed quarterly by all members. Above all, we value reciprocity and care work. GT’s model isn’t simple and, like most self-organized collectives, involves a slow learning process. Think of it as moving in with someone or sharing a flat (our relationship metaphor doesn’t necessarily have to mean romantic for our examples to work). You can save money, have more support, build stronger futures, but the result depends on what you put into it. GT’s commitment is to facilitate this process with excellent attention and availability. If the prospective member wants to commit, s/he has to be crystal clear on what is expected before taking this step. If it’s a mutual “yes”, the next nine months are key for learning how to work with the collective.
When both parts are happy about going forward and investing our time in the relationship they’ll still be, in the words of Sly Stone, “Checking each other out”. At this stage, the new member enters the Dating Phase, where they are considered as “Transition Guerrilla Translators” on the way to being committed.  . The purpose here is to help new members as much as possible and to clarify any doubts. These first few steps within the collective are summarized and detailed in GT’s wiki’s “Welcome” entry.
First impressions can be great but it’s the months following that will make or break the relationship, through clear communication and consent. When we talk about a nine month period to see how everyone works this is not just limited to new members. In fact, every member of the collective is subject to the same basic responsibilities and criteria (more detail in these links):
In GT, these responsibilities basically boil down to, carework, following the rhythms of the collective and translating some pro-bono material for the web magazine . This productive pro-bono work amounts to approximately two full days of work out of those three months. Concretely, 400 credits equals 5000 words of translation work and 10000 words of copyediting work (if you’re not familiar with the subject, translation takes a lot longer than editing. Compared to what most translation agencies offer, this is a very high ratio for copyediting and proofreading). It makes the most sense to spread this work out over those three months. We think it’s pretty easy to meet these goals.
Regarding basic care work-related responsibilities: anyone serious about joining this or any similar collective should be able to meet or – preferably, exceed – these responsibilities. They include:
Dating phase members will be assisted and cared for at every step of the way by all Guerrilla Translators.
The dating phase normally takes place over nine months, divided into three quarters, in synch with GT’s quarterly calendar. This is done so the collective can batch all team evaluations at the same time. If a Transition Translator joins in the middle of these, that’s fine, but the final evaluation will take place at the end of the next quarter along with the rest of the team. During that first “partial quarter” trainees are not obliged to obtain a proportional amount of Love Credits, but it’s a good metric for initial feedback.
There will be a mutual evaluation every quarter. Is the new person happy with the relationship? How about the collective? Has the person met the minimal requirements? If it’s all yes, great, full speed ahead. If not, better to cut the relationship now, with no bad vibes.
Here are the three quarterly stages of the Dating phase.
Transition Translators are expected to meet all the basic responsibilities outlined below. Additionally, they:
Basic responsibilities aside, in Stage Two Transition Translators:
Basic responsibilities aside, in Stage Three Transition Translators:
For more details on the Dating Phase, including specific quarterly milestones, read the full entry on Dating Phase for Transition Translators.
Once a member has passed the testing phase, s/he has become a fully committed Guerrilla Translator. This brings a few perks, including:
All Guerrilla Translators are subject to the same responsibilities outlined through the Test Phase. Furthermore, as full committed members, they are also expected to take on the following responsibilities:
To be clear, Transition Translators are considered Guerrilla Translators on trust. The Dating Phase gradually increases the rights and responsibilities that apply to a fully committed Guerrilla Translator, but the nine-month period is used to build trust and familiarity with the collective’s procedures and people.
Although it is important to recognize and honor the prior effort and investment of more longstanding and experienced members, we are unequivocally opposed to unjustified hierarchical relations and power asymmetries. Good intentions are assumed during the Dating Phase and Transition Members are treated with extra care and attention, as if they were “virtual” Guerrilla Translators. The gradual process ensures that collective members can get to know and understand each other, while the health of the collective is protected from potential disruptions and/or misunderstandings.
Guerrilla Translators create shared value together, and the results of this value revert back to the individual members. Members of the collective assist with its development by co-creating and facilitating commons, and are rewarded for their work. All published pro-bono translation and/or editing work has an attached value, the same as livelihood or care work. This value will be fulfilled on a regular basis as the collective continues to build an income stream.
As explained above, members share work and income proportionate to their investment and commitment to the collective. The more they sow, the more they reap. The minimum requirements are the bare minimum, and while it’s OK to stay at that level, members that put more time and effort into the collective will see this reflected.
It is important to recognize that Guerrilla Translation membership is a commitment, not a right. Under normal circumstances Membership exists for as long as the Guerrilla Translator wishes to continue engaging with the collective while meeting its requirements.
We have a precise vision of what constitutes a “Core Team”. All Guerrilla Translators are expected to participate in strategic planning, approve changes to the (this!) governance model, and to formally represent the collective to the outside world. They are the guardians of our principles and values, and accountable to all stakeholders.
These principles and values are deposited in a trust. This trust stewards the agreements and commitments made by the team members and ensures that GT’s values are not compromised. In practice, this trust will eventually be facilitated by a digital program we’ve decided to call Lucas 9000.
The following is extracted from the Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Full Report
Described as “backend, kickass platform and software” capable of taking on bad cop duties when necessary while helping everybody to transparently organize the collective’s work, Lucas 9000 would effectively be the upholder of the collective’s values. As such, the Platform becomes the core group of Guerrilla Translation, an embodiment of its collective intelligence and affectivity. Surrounding this core exists a number of rotating working groups with complementary responsibilities. These are affected by the “casual-dating-committed” membership strata described earlier, with those invited to become committed members expected to take legal, financial and emotional responsibility for the care of that organization. Becoming a committed member is a big step
Lucas 9000 would go beyond the role of bad cop or “outsourcing the difficult work of having conversations and relationships” by functioning as a Virtual Trust. Similar to how a Community Land Trust perpetuates specific social values to a shared ownership structures, Lucas 9000 represents the collective’s consent to a set of voluntary self-organised rules, while also being responsible for overseeing and carrying out those agreements and rules. As a program, it is important to stress that it would be regularly programmed by the humans affected by its actions.
At the time of writing this version (autumn 2018), Lucas 9000 has not yet been built, but such a program would not exist without the culture of trust and GT’s underlying values. Prior to delegating some of these tasks to “the machine”, Guerrilla Translators need to be held accountable to their commitment. This is achieved through a quarterly Commitment Statement to be signed by all members, including those entering the dating phase. The commitment statement lists the expected responsibilities of members and forms the basis of the programs that will constitute Lucas 9000 as a living steward of GT’s values.
Committed Guerrilla Translators are also eligible to accrue credits for carework on a time basis as opposed to task basis. This is explained in more detail in the continuing section:
So far, we have spoken about tangibles: translations, editing, blog posting, all of which are generally known as productive work. As these tasks are mostly word-based, they are easy to quantify and assign credits for. But what about everything that leads directly or indirectly to paid work, like project management, quality control, seeking clients, building relationships and trust, etc.? All of the invisible work that holds everything together? This is reproductive work, or care work.
Care work covers two types of care:
To maintain a healthy collective, we must ensure that our collective agreements are maintained and cared for. All members are expected to keep our communication rhythms and distribute the work needed for the collective to thrive. This is detailed in our What is Care Work? article, but it includes coop and business development, seeking and attending to clients, making sure our financial accounts and administrative paperwork are up to date, maintaining active relationships with authors, publishers, following through on our commitments…everything that you’d expect from a traditional agency or co-op.
The difference in GT/GMC is that ‘‘there are no set roles’’, only working circles, but all care work items are modular, easily visualized and can be picked up by any member of the collective.
The collective seeks to build trust and intimacy among all members, and our cooperative practices will never be solely dependent on technology or protocols such as this model. These are only tools to facilitate and strengthen our collaborative culture. We believe that cooperative cohesion is primarily based on healthy, consent-based heterarchical relationships, and to foster these, we have committed to certain regular practices. Among these we can highlight:
For more information about how we track and value care work, read the Care work Value section below.
The collective also puts into practice a series of Patterns for Decentralised Organizing. Based on the book of the same name (written by Richard D. Bartlett) the patterns are:
You can click on the links above for individual descriptions for each of the patterns. All Guerrilla Translators are expected to read, reflect on and discuss the book as part of their mentoring.
All Guerrilla Translators are stewards of several areas. Although they may not directly work in any of these or even be the main contributors, they are ultimately responsible for their upkeep. Unlike the more “permissionless” aspects of being a Casual member or the more relaxed standards of being a Transition Translator, Guerrilla Translators are expected to continually learn and improve in the areas they are working in. These general areas are known as working circles. The circles can be flexible, but they include:
Circles are porous and not exclusive, but certain individuals will be the stewards for a circle. Circle participants and circle stewards are revised quarterly and recorded in the collective’s availability mapping page. Transition members are also expected to join various circles through their nine-month training, and come become circle stewards after they are fully committed. Read more in our Working Circles entry.
Clear communication is essential to GT and any Open Coop. The team communicates through various rhythms, inspired by Loomio/Enspiral, except that this communication takes place mainly online. The rhythms are:
A more detailed explanation can be found in the Community Rhythms entry.
All full members are expected to follow GT’s Community Rhythms. Whenever members need time off they can announce a sabbatical quarter, six-months, a year, etc.
Once a sabbatical has been communicated, the Guerrilla Translator will:
On return they will:
Two quarters is the maximum period for a sabbatical under these terms. Longer sabbaticals are discouraged, but could be negotiated with the collective.
If no sabbatical is announced but members don’t check in or communicate (basically, dropping off the map) halfway during the quarter, 400 love credits will be deducted (barring illness, family situations etc., which should be communicated to the collective ASAP).
For consistently active members, we created a Yearly work calendar with recommendations for holidays and time off.
Sanctions in the collective are graduated and supported by restorative community work.
These situations can be clearly identified well before they happen, so it is the collective’s mutual obligation to warn members of any possible sanctions well in advance and in a kind, supportive way.
Pro-bono quotas aside, these sanctions also apply when there are noticeable imbalances in Care Work Hours and if Community/Communication Rhythms are broken with no explanation or justification. In this case, these care work imbalances can be restored by investing a proportional amount of care work hours, which can include receiving mentoring to help unblock any problems.
Members can take other jobs in the collective’s chosen productive area (in GT’s case, translation) as long as there is no overlap with the collective’s networks, preferred subject areas or clients.
For example, if a translator chooses to invoice for toaster manual translation on his/her own, that is not considered a disloyal competition with GT. However, if a translator directly contacts a potential GT client for translation of works involving activism, commons, feminist or other related areas, and engages in paid/agency work independently, this would be considered a serious breach of the governance model. Similarly, if a translator is contacted by a potential GT client with the same type of work, the job should be referred to the collective.
Translation jobs taken outside of the collective are not subject to the commitments made by Guerrilla Translators and the value distribution agreements of this governance model. Not sharing any potential jobs with the coop would be unfair and harmful to the trust within the collective. Willingly ignoring this non-competition clause will result in the member being subject to a unanimous vote of no-confidence (excepting the person who has violated the clause) which, if passed, would result in the member’s leaving the collective.
Disloyal competition is a serious issue, so in case of any doubts members are encouraged to consult with the collective before any independent action is taken. Concessions and exceptions can be made before taking action, but taking action independently without consultation will result in the vote of no-confidence described above.
Sometimes the demand for livelihood work will exceed the collective’s capacity in that moment. Using GT as an example, what would happen when a translation is offered, but there aren’t enough translators to take it on?
In this case, GT would default to other translation cooperatives, preferably with a social mission similar to GT . The work would be discussed with the other cooperatives, clarifying responsibilities like communication and coordination, and pricing. One scenario is that, if GT declines a job, it is offered in its entirety to another coop. Sharing work with other cooperatives presents more difficulty in the sense of invoicing, setting prices for the client, etc., but can be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
What the collective will not do is hire outside freelance labour. There are a several reasons for this, mainly having to do with this governance model and the politics of Open Value Cooperativism and DisCOs in general:
In summary, it is much easier to say “no” when the coop doesn’t have capacity, or to engage with partnered cooperatives, than to undermine the ideals, sense of fairness and wellbeing in the collective.
While networks may or may not share common goals, federations are imbued with a shared direction. Scaling replicates the dynamics of colonialism, extending a worldview from a center and razing everything in its path. DisCOs are replicated/altered through a federation protocol capable of achieving critical mass. Each primary node focuses on small group trust, intimacy and mutual support.
Following our example, Guerrilla Translation and Guerrilla Graphic Collective are nodes of an umbrella structure: the Guerrilla Media Collective. Within the main DisCO (Media Collective) lie various nodes: Translation, Graphics, with future proposed iterations such as coding, facilitation and more. Each node has its own adaptation of this base governance model, as translation is quite different from design or illustration work, for example, but the value redistribution logic of livelihood, pro-bono and care work remains the same. Other points in common include the legal structure, some of the working circles  and the tools used to coordinate distributed work.
These are the bare essentials needed to become a node within the Guerrilla Media Collective . GMC’s federation protocol further states that nodes cannot be larger than 15-20 people. What happens as the collective scales? Within translation, the target Spanish, English and French nodes can become independent. In the graphic collective, design and illustration can form their own nodes. Other DisCOs can choose to federate into geographic, productive or even aesthetic membranes once they surpass a certain scale; this is totally up to them.
To be clear, in the Guerrilla Media Collective all the nodes exist within the same distributed, cooperative organization and prioritise inter-node collaboration and support. But an individual’s “base node” is their home. This is where regular check-ins happen, where colleagues build trust. An individual may belong to two or more nodes simultaneously but the intensity of their engagement will vary depending on the work at hand. Some members will stay in the same “home node” while others will act more as digital nomads, adding or subtracting their time to one node or another. Wherever members may be, they will be supported.
Worst case scenario: “ghosting”. Guerrilla Translators who do not communicate at all during a full quarter or haven’t announced a sabbatical are released from their commitment to the collective and not considered candidates for re-admission. All invested credit (livelihood and love) queues will be cancelled and the shares will be redistributed to the other active members. The same applies for breaches of the Non Competition Clause.
Preferable exit scenario: Alternatively, if a Guerrilla Translator decides to announce that they’re leaving the collective permanently (not a sabbatical), they will “cash out” all invested Livelihood credits. Their love credits, however, will expire altogether; this is done to prioritize Love credit pay-downs among active Guerrilla Translators in the monthly distributions. Whether the Livelihood credits owed are paid as a flat payment or staggered across several months will depend on the collective’s available finances at the time, and will be decided in a vote. GMC email addresses and work tools accounts will be cancelled.
Splits are considered final. It is better to announce sabbaticals and keep a good relationship!
A Credit typically means 1 euro in compensation. So, if an item is estimated at 100 credits, and a person completes the work and is attributed 100% of the contribution, then that person earns 100 credits and is owed 100 euros for work completed.
Having established that, we have 2 types of credits.
There are, essentially, 3 ways to account for credits:
This is the total combined number of credits the member has ever earned, whether Love, Livelihood and tracked Care Hours. This number only goes up over the lifetime of the member’s participation, starting from the moment they started contributing to the collective.
These are the active credits that have yet to be paid. It is, in one form, money owed to the member by the collective. If a member earned 1,000 credits and they cashed out 600 of those credits, they would now have 400 remaining ‘invested’ credits.
These are credits that have been paid.
All active Guerrilla Translators (ie: that haven’t left or aren’t on Sabbatical) have equity based on the their total historical credits. Historical credits may also become relevant in certain, rare, decision making procedures, such as blocked proposals or when voting on important structural changes. Meanwhile, each members’ Invested Credit ratings are used for several purposes, including prioritizing paid work allocation and determining the percentages/shares in the the Monthly Payment Pipeline.
As we’ve mentioned, there are essentially two types of credits in Guerrilla Translation: Love for pro-bono work and Livelihood for paid work. Let’s summarize them and add some more details.
Love credits are earned through pro-bono, commons-producing, “productive work” (in Guerrilla Translation’s case, translation, editing, transcribing, simultaneous translation…) In essence these are the same services GT offers as an agency. Apart from translation/communication work, tasks such as formatting for the blog, contacting authors for pro-bono translation and social media work are also tallied in Love Credits. In Guerrilla Translation all Love Credits are measured by word count.
Love credits do not lead to direct income. Love accruing tasks are decided on by the collective, not contracted by clients, it is voluntary work undertaken to meet the collective’s social mission. All Guerrilla Translators accrue Love Credits through this type of work and, at the end of each month, 25% of GT’s net holdings are used to pay them off. Love Credits are then distributed according to the relative percentage of Love Credits accrued by each active Guerrilla Translator (for more info on how this works read the section below).
Livelihood credits are earned through paid work. This may also produce Commons, as GT encourages (and sets lower prices) for Commons-oriented or social or environmentally valuable work. In essence Livelihood work includes the same type of work as Pro-bono work (translation, editing and the rest of the services offered by GT)
Livelihood Credits bring direct income to the collective and are tied to specific deliverables. It is the collective’s means of sustenance, but it is not used to directly reward (or pay down) only those individuals who have performed paid work. The collective is rewarded and, much like a commune, these rewards are then used to sustain pro-bono, paid, productive and reproductive work. All Guerrilla Translators accrue Livelihood credits (although some may choose to just accrue Love credits, according to their circumstances) and, at the end of each month, 75% of GT’s net holdings are used to pay off Livelihood credits, according to the accrued percentage of invested Livelihood credits each member has on a monthly basis. Note, these percentages are only applicable after expenses, taxes and projected expenses have been accounted for or paid.
As mentioned above, the 75/25% ratio is based on the need to free enough time to undertake paid work for the collective. It means that Livelihood credits are paid off 3x as fast as Love credits, creating a backlog. Meanwhile, both types of credits increase Historical Credits and reflect each Guerrilla Translator’s equity in the collective.
Love credit payment can be accelerated by:
Whenever any income (or gift) is derived from these possibilities, it can be paid off 100% according to each Guerrilla Translator’s invested Love shares as a lump, or staggered over several months and considered a bonus.
As these extra funds are exclusively directed towards Love Credit fulfillment, these bonus payments effectively alter the standard 75/25% Livelihood/Love ratio, with the Love ratio increasing proportionally in function of the extra funds. 
Guerrilla Translation has the advantage of principally dealing with easily tallied productive work. All translation and editing work specifically measures its value via wordcount. Similarly, video work is measured by timestamps. Other collectives adopting and customising this model could use similar repeatable metrics. In these cases, the “quality of work delivered” is rarely evaluated post-hoc, as it is trusted that all members (in GT’s case Guerrilla Translators) will deliver high quality work.
In GT, all agency work has defined prices. These follow a sliding scale, dependent on the client. Pro-bono work for the websites also has definite metrics, which also include pre-production, formatting etc. For now, let’s examine the logic of the sliding scale as it affects not only the Livelihood but also the Love stream.
An important thing to distinguish is that:
External pricing that’s fair to everyone is highly important to the collective. The sliding scale was developed to:
To achieve this, GT’s 4-step sliding scale assigns the same internal credit value to members, regardless of external rates charged to clients.
The base price (autumn 2018) for literary translation is 0,12 € per word to the client (0,08 € to the translator, 0,04 € to the editor) 
For the “cheapest” external rate (which is slightly beneath GT’s base price), a small part of that credit value is transferred to each Guerrilla Translator’s pro-bono shares, as invested credits. When the rate charged surpasses GT’s base price, the surplus income goes directly toward paying down credits in the pro-bono stream, as explained above.
Here are the prices ranges for paid work . For this example, we will use a literary translation — external prices and internal credit value for other services can be found in GT’s pricing page. All prices are in cents/€.
For an example-based explanation, see the “Sliding Scale in Action” section of The Open Coop Governance Model: an Overview.
The collective offers other services beyond literary translation, these can be found in the Commons Media Collective: External Pricing and Internal Redistribution of Credits entry.
In the case of Guerrilla Translation, “productive love work” is those articles, videos etc. published in GT’s website. The work put into contacting authors, WordPress formatting and adding images, promoting in social media promotion, and republishing is quite considerable, and should be compensated in order to encourage Guerrilla Translators to take on these tasks. This is value-assigned, of course, not actual income. Happily a per-word rate based criteria works very well for such tasks, as the effort needed for the editing is usually proportional to the wordcount. Same goes for post-production (longer articles demand creating more SM posts, contacting more people to promote them, etc.).
As far as internal valuation goes, pro-bono productive work replicates the top tier of the Livelihood sliding scale. If we use pro-bono literary translation as an example, this means that it’s valued a 0.16 cents per-word. Here is the Love credit breakdown:
The translator and the editor will always be two different people. The remaining tasks can be distributed between the translator, editor or other members. Aside from translation, the collective also performs other types of productive Love Work (including video subtitling, transcription and more). A breakdown of all the credit assignations related to pro-bono love work can be found here.
Note: Although this section deals with value tracking, it follows on from the reproductive work section within Roles and Responsibilities above.
Due to its subjectivity, reproductive work is very complex to measure. This is the reason why the Open Coop model uses hours, instead of credits, for tallying Care Work.
Hours, however, raise many questions and problems, principally two issues:
Committed Guerrilla Translators have already gone through a minimum 9 month “Dating” phase where they learn the values and practices of the collective and, just as importantly, how to relate to their peers and earn their trust. Once this trust is earned, members are encouraged to perform Care Work (and track it in hours) in areas where they have shown proficiency. This does not mean that they won’t perform Care Work in areas where they are less proficient. In those cases, they will take a learning role with less responsibility.
Meanwhile, those members who are training to become part of the collective (something known as the “Dating Phase” — see above for more details) also measure their hours as they practice while being mentored and supported by more experienced team members. The difference is that Dating members are not monetarily retributed (paid) for their reproductive hours, while Full members are. We will explain this reasoning below.
As of 2018, we distinguish between two phases within the collective’s mid-term strategy: the Start-Up Phase and the Stable Phase.
The Start-Up Phase refers to the period of time during which Guerrilla Translation/Media Collective needs seed funding to build resilience and open source tools, to become a flagship example of Open Value Cooperativism. As of writing (August 2018) it is expected to last until mid-late 2020. Care Work performed by full members during the start-up phase is financed by seed funding obtained for collective’s development.
The reasoning behind the decision to only monetarily compensate full members is explained in the following section of the Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Full Report.
“…the current core team has already accrued more than five years of unpaid reproductive work setting up Guerrilla Translation. The collective has agreed that this previous work (formerly known as “Legacy Credits”) will not be paid down with future funding, so new members are expected to also contribute their time towards building the collective during the 9 month “dating” phase.
The payment equivalence for Care Work Hours during the Start-Up phase has been calculated to roughly correspond to one paid hour of productive translation/editing/subtitling, etc., work. It is currently set at 25 € per hour. You can find the reasoning for the calculation here. As part of the collective’s quarterly retrospective, all committed members need to agree on which individuals members can perform paid reproductive work in specific areas/circles, or whether certain members still need to be “in training/familiarization phase” for these tasks, whether they perform them in the future or not. These types of work roughly correspond to the quarterly work circles they belong to, and to their preferred areas of Care Work, as listed here.
Non-translators/Core Team attendees of the Reloaded Workshop are also welcome to become members of the collective during the Start-Up Phase and be paid for community building work.
After an estimated two years of Start-up Phase, the collective is expected to reach a mature, stable phase where no additional project development funding is required with the collective becoming self-financed. Instead of lowering productive work payment to finance Care Work hours retribution, we plan to de-commodify reproductive work and discuss hourly quotas to be partaken by all committed members. Also from the Reloaded Workshop Full Report:
Those members contributing less care hours while earning more Livelihood/Agency or Love/Pro-bono income would see a proportional deduction in their earnings, with those adjustments being redistributed toward those contributing more care hours via their livelihood queue. It is also understood that in two years, the most tedious tasks will have been automated while the core team will have become expedient at handling regular tasks. The goal is to reduce the time needed for “admin” work and give as much time as attention to community care work as needed.
These Stable Phase changes will be further detailed in a future version of this governance model.
All care work hours are also translated into Historical Credits. No matter if the hours are accrued by Dating or Committed members, or whether this happens during the Start-Up or Stable Phase, or if they are monetarily retributed (paid) or not. Care work adds to your equity in the collective and determines your total stake in it.
Taking into account the hours/credits equivalence described above, 1 hour of Care Work equals 25 credits. These credits are not identified as Love or Livelihood credits, they just add to your total historical queue.
While productive work credits are pretty much set as they’re based on agency/outside prices, care or reproductive/admin work hours are more fluid and subject to closer scrutiny and ongoing evaluation. For simplicity’s sake, within each quarterly self-evaluation some time must also be dedicated to discuss the value assigned for credit-based modular tasks, the per-hour rate of time-based reproductive work, and who qualifies to perform these tasks competently and be paid for them.
Once values have been decided, the collective needs to ensure that all contributors to a workstream get adequately compensated for their work, and that compensation be as fair as possible. The compensation system is based on several tenets:
During the a Retrospective, all members reflect on the amount of care hours they have contributed individually and, also, in contrast to the total of care hours tallied in the collective. They will also reflect on the quality of their work, difficulties and blocks, their emotional and material realities during the quarter, and all factors affecting their productive and reproductive work capacities. Once all participants have stated their opinion, each one receives a kind but clear assessment of their work from team members. This assessment is also compared with their own assessment of themselves.
Credit retrospectives also take into account the following factors:
An Open Commons Coop requires a software interface to:
The software must be open source, be backed by a distributed, incorruptible ledger, and be available for public scrutiny. Once credits have been awarded, they are tracked in the Credits Interface. This interface demonstrates all the credits ever awarded, and it demonstrates which credits are active. If an individual decides to gift or volunteer their credits, they can do this from the Credits Interface. The Credits Interface is a way for people to see who has completed what, and how / when people have been compensated for their contributions.
In addition, any productive task can be declared as a volunteer workstream. In this system, items are still tracked and estimated with credits. However, all credits earned are considered “volunteer credits” and are merely a recognition of the hard work that a person has donated to a cause they believe in.
Volunteer credits give the owner the recognition and decision-making ability of a credit, but have no monetary value: Declared volunteer credits are instantly converted into Historical Credits but are not considered invested or expected to be divested/paid down at a later date. Volunteer credits can be declared and converted to Historical Credits in both Love and Livelihood streams.
Guerrilla Translators can also volunteer portions of their invested credits or unpaid hours accrued for any given productive or reproductive work. An example of this would be if a member receives some kind of windfall income and for personal reasons, chooses not to take any additional income, yet still wants to remain a committed member of Guerrilla Translation. This person could decide to volunteer all Love credits they are accruing, and to volunteer 50% of their Livelihood credits accrued during this period. The collective’s debt to itself would decrease and other member’s shares increase.
Volunteering credits is a way of indirectly gifting to the collective, but members can also choose to gift credits directly to any other member of the collective. Gifting credits, essentially, implies a transfer from one individual’s divested queue, to another’s.
The Monthly Payment Pipeline is designed to be an equitable and situation flexible distribution model. The system distributes income received across the board on a monthly basis while allowing everyone a proportional cut every time. The software interface for this system needs to be intuitively visible.
This distribution system is applied to the collectives holdings only after any taxes, expenses or projected/budgeted expenditures have been paid down. These projected structural expenses are estimated, agreed on and adjusted during the Quarterly Retrospectives and are diverted to a separate sub-bank account.
The system works the following way.
Imagine that the collective has only three members, Lisa, Violetta, and Roy, and it’s the end of the month.
The total amount in the shared account is 10,000 €. This will be divided among the three income streams. Thus:
Every member’s credit balance is calculated in each of the value streams. These are the results:
Livelihood Credits Stream (7,500 pending distribution)
Note that all 3 members held exactly ⅓ of Livelihood Credits for the month, so each receives an equal pay share.
Love Credits Stream (2,500 pending distribution)
Just for variety in this example, note that each member had a different number of credits in the Legacy stream. Logically, the percentage of total credits will vary for each, so each receives a different pay share.
When the income is distributed:
The bulk of the decisions affecting the day to day of the collective and its future are made by all committed members (Guerrilla and Transition Translators). Other decisions can be shared with the wider/casual community. Why this split? Guerrilla Translators depend on the collective for their livelihood, so decisions or votes which could be subject to harm by individuals who are not affected by the health of the collective should not be delegated beyond the committed membrane. Examples of harm would be anything from well-meaning but ill-informed or ill-considered tangents, diversions. We don’t expect to face this in a trust-based group but, this would also be a defense against trolling. On the other hand, as the resilience of the committed team increases, more and more decisions could be made with participation with the casual sphere.
Guerrilla Translation’s chosen tool for decision making is Loomio, which has all the features the collective needs (it fits like a glove with the original Open Enterprise Model) and is made by people GT loves and whose values it respects and celebrates. For anyone not familiar with Loomio, it is decision making platform based on the logic of Occupy and other self-organised assemblies. There are various level of privacy within Loomio Groups.
Within Loomio, the collective operates with a general policy of lazy majority. Lazy majority allows for consent-based decisions to be made without resorting to across the board consensus, and keeps the work agile and free from red tape. Loomio is also used for discussions and quick “temperature checks”. The ideal is to have dynamic communication that is conducive to concrete outcomes. This blog post perfectly illustrates how Loomio discussions can improve the health of a community, please read it. That being said, our community rhythms also specify that all members check in and take part in any Loomio votes (even as “undecided”) at least twice a week and continual lack of engagement in discussions and decisions will result in members reevaluating their relationship and commitment to the collective.
Decision making typically involves the following steps:
For this example we will be centering on the committed sphere where the Guerrilla Translators group together.
Any Guerrilla Translator can open any discussion with the community. In order to initiate a discussion about a new idea, they add the idea to the appropriate Loomio group (groups are divided into four general work areas: pro-bono translation, agency work, care work/admin and projects) This will prompt a review and discussion of the idea. The goal of this review and discussion is to gain approval for the contribution. The collective also has ongoing discussions in Loomio which are tied to specific tasks and projects.
Loomio allows for work-items and ideas to be voted upon by the community. However, different levels of voting and approval may be needed depending on the situation. In general, as long as nobody explicitly opposes a proposal, it is recognized as having the support of the community. This is called lazy majority: those who have not stated their opinion explicitly have implicitly agreed to the implementation of the proposal, and those that showed up to vote determine the direction of the work.
Lazy majority is a process that allows a large group of people to efficiently reach consensus, as someone with nothing to add to a proposal affecting a work circle they may not be involved in need not spend time stating their position, and others need not spend time reviewing it. This section describes how a vote is conducted. The following section discusses when a vote is needed.
For lazy majority to be effective, it is necessary to allow at least 72 hours before assuming that there are no objections to the proposal. This requirement ensures that everyone is given enough time to read, digest and respond to the proposal. This time period is chosen so as to be as inclusive as possible of all participants, regardless of their location and time commitments. More complex proposals which may require more thinking/reading of materials etc, can be extended.
If a formal vote on a proposal is called, all Guerrilla Translators can express an opinion and vote. Those still in the Dating Phase are fully encouraged to vote and discuss, but their votes are not binding.
Another way to abstain from the vote is for participants to simply not participate. However, it is more helpful to cast a ‘neutral’ vote than to abstain, since this allows the team to gauge the general feeling of the community if the proposal should be controversial.
When a vote receives a ‘block’, it is the responsibility of the community as a whole to address the objection but it is expected that the “blocker” takes the lead by offering a (perhaps) better alternative taking everyone’s needs into account. Such discussion will continue until the objection is either rescinded, overruled (in the case of a non-binding block) or the proposal itself is altered in order to achieve consensus (possibly by withdrawing it altogether). In the rare circumstance that consensus cannot be achieved, the Guerrilla Translators can influence a forward course of action by calling for a weighted-vote (which are based on Historical Credits‘, more on this below).
The collective can also make more informal decisions within the work circles by a quick IM based “check-in” (For example, someone proposes something in Slack and all members of that work circle give it a thumbs-up. If there’s no agreement or if the working circle recognises that proposal as a larger issue, the discussion is transported to Loomio).
Different actions require different types of approval, which are summarized below. The next section describes which type of approval should be used in common situations.
A lazy majority vote requires more binding ‘agree’ votes than binding ‘disagree’ votes and no vetoes (binding ‘block’ votes). Once 72 hours have passed, the decision moves in the direction of the majority. Naturally if an actual majority of members vote before the 72 hours are up, the decision moves in that direction immediately.
Sometimes a lazy majority is tied with a vote threshold. This allows for decisions to be made quicker than 72 hours if enough members vote. If the vote threshold is reached before the 72 hours are up, the decision moves in the direction of the majority.
All of the binding votes that are cast are to be ‘agree’ and there can be no ‘disagree’ votes or vetoes (binding ‘block’ votes)
In very specific cases a “vote by majority” may be declared. This means that each credit holder gets 1 vote per Historical Credit. In such cases, those with the most historical credits can apply more weigh to their vote, proportional to their historical credit total.
Credit majority votes are generally discouraged and should only come into play in certain occasions:
To be clear, credit majority votes do not increase influence within the collective or affect day by day work decisions. Historical Credits reflect each person’s relative efforts in caring for the health of the collective and, on those occasions that our preferred consent-based system hits a block, we trust that those who have made larger efforts over the years will hold true to the collective’s purpose. At the same time, this needs to be offset by a continued discussion about power and how to distribute it efficiently. While this is not a numerical discussion, new members are encouraged to accrue historical credits while older members take a step back so the collective doesn’t suffer from the dreaded Founder Syndrome.
Proposals which remain blocked or stuck can be solved by one of the Patterns for Decentralized Organizing: “Get unstuck with an external peer”. This doesn’t need to be a dramatic decision. It can also include simply asking for advice and different perspectives.
In GT’s case the Stakeholder Board is comprised of all the non-GT attendees to the 2018 Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Workshop. The “Reloaded Group” has its own Loomio space, where all active Guerrilla Translators are also present. In the case of a Stakeholder Board vote, all votes from Stakeholder board and Full Committed Guerrilla Translators are binding. Transition Translators votes are accounted for and taken very seriously, but are not binding
Additionally, as Loomio allows guests to be invited to specific thread, the collective can invite specific external mentors and collaborators to certain relevant threads. The relevance of these external mentor’s votes will be take as advisory, but only Guerrilla Translators and Stakeholder board member’s votes are binding.
In order to reflect the multi constituent dimension of Open Cooperativism the collective will investigate mechanisms for incorporating the voices and opinions of its wider community. In GT, beyond Transition- and Guerrilla Translators, other types of constituents could include Casual Translators, readers, authors, funders, regular clients, etc. All of this would happen in a dedicated Loomio group. We feel that this opening up should only take place during the iteration phase of our 2018-20 plan or the Stable Phase as the collective needs to thoroughly test the decision making mechanisms at a small scale before opening them up.
Every effort is made to allow the majority of decisions to be taken through lazy consensus. That is, simply stating one’s intentions is assumed to be enough to proceed, unless an objection is raised. Activities that require more control and should be recorded as part of the Open Coop’s collective history are taken through lazy majority, which is still informal enough for team to stay agile. Repeated/regular tasks are generally not subject to votes, they’re assumed to be “pre-approved” unless they need to be re-evaluated for whatever reason and, in that case, discussed and voted on. Our definition of “Lazy Consensus” includes acknowledgement (a “like” or neutral vote). We encourage extensive use of Loomio’s participatory facilitation features, as they help focus discussions and clarify ideas and feelings. Occasional lack of participation is tolerated but discouraged. Continued lack of participation may result in a graduated sanction..
However, some activities require other types of approval process in order to ensure the health and cohesiveness of the collective.
This section identifies which type of vote should be called for:
Here, we’ve explained the model so far as exemplified by Guerrilla Translation. There are, and always will be, many unanswered questions. The nature of a commons is emergent and evolving, but this model provides a solid set of patterns for its organic development. If you’ve read the whole model sequentially, bless you! After you take a break, we recommend going back to the TL/DR to have a fresh view of how it all fits together.
These are the changes from Version 2.5 that have been incorporated in version 3.0, alongside the name change to “Distributed Cooperative Organization (DisCO) Governance Model”. We have divided these into general changes and the three main sections of the governance model.
First is a summary article of our GT Reloaded event, documenting the main discussions and takeaways from the encounter, where we picked apart and reimagined the governance model:
Following is a list of articles, papers, videos on things that have influenced our governance model and general philosophy. They also explore some of the tensions we have tried to reconcile: between metrics and the immeasurable, system design and lived experience, and productive and reproductive work.