The story of the Guerrilla Media Collective begins back in 2013, with the echoes of the Occupy and 15-M movements still resonating in the streets. A new kind of P2P and commons-oriented translation agency was created: Guerrilla Translation (GT). It was conceived as an innovative livelihood vehicle for activist translators, combining two compatible functions: a voluntary translation collective working for activist causes (e.g., social justice, the environment, etc.) and an agency providing translation and general communication services on a paid contract basis. The proceeds from this paid commissioned work would go, in part, toward financing the social mission by retroactively paying translators for their voluntary (aka ‘pro-bono’) work. It sounds simple, but when creating something radically new and commons-oriented from scratch, the devil is in the details.
By 2018, the collective decided it was high time to review five years of lessons learned, clarify its goals and values, and establish a more explicit governance model. To “reload” GT in an organized and sustainable way, an in-person meeting was held, welcoming allied experts in fields such as tech, decentralized/non-hierarchical organizations, facilitation, and governance to help develop the governance model and a long-term survival strategy for GT.
The meeting turned out to be a wild success. The group culture that emerged reignited the project, creating something precious in the process: a safe online space for collaboration and mutual support conjoined with a credible revenue model. After more than a year, many challenges and a staggering amount of deep personal, theoretical and practical work, Guerrilla Translation has been using many of the practices that helped create the DisCO framework: members feel happy, cared for and are committed to GT’s development as well as DisCO’s in general.
How does Guerrilla Media Collective fulfill the seven DisCOs principle? How does this work in practice? First, GMC is oriented toward positive outcomes in key areas through its values, curation criteria and founding principles, as well as its care- and commons-oriented Economic/Governance model. GMC is multi-constituent in nature by enfranchising several layers of membership with a focus on fairness and flexibility in contribution. The collective actively creates commons through its pro-bono translation work, published through its language specific blogs and by documenting, open sourcing and sharing its cooperative practices.
GMC is transnationally oriented through its federated strategy and orientation towards low-transaction, transnational cooperative structures. It is also committed to creating a translingual knowledge commons to inspire and enable systems change. GMC is centered on care work through its mutual support practises and dedication to caring for the health of the collective. It also reimagines flows of value through its governance model and the importance of its livelihood, pro-bono and care value streams. Finally, GMC is designed for organizational flexibility and modularity through its federation protocols, where scale never comes at a cost of small group trust and support. In the Guerrilla Media Collective, the neat division between theory and practice is moot. We came up with the DisCO framework precisely because there are no conceptual frameworks to validate what we are achieving in practice.