Is effective governance always illegible?
I don’t think the person I kicked out was a bad person. For my part, they seemed mostly fine. I didn’t enjoy their presence either but I’d have been fine to put with it, and I expect on a one-on-one basis I’d have had a perfectly reasonable conversation with them and everything would have been fine.
But I do think leaving them in would have wrecked our community, which is why I took action. I hope they find a community better suited to them.
The problem is, fundamentally, that their presence makes the rest of the community unable to function. It was, for lack of a better term, a failure of culture fit. The gap between how they expected to behave in a community and the way the community needs to function was too large—we didn’t think they were able to learn to be one of us, and we didn’t think we would be able to be us if they didn’t.
Communities are like this. I’ve got into a big fight in the past because someone was trying to argue that communities should have clear and transparent purposes and anyone aligned with that purpose should be welcome. This is, bluntly, a fucking terrible idea, and can only be held by someone who has never run or experienced a functioning community. Communities have to function first and foremost as communities, and this requires either a certain level of cultural and interpersonal alignment, or they fail.
- See also Github’s open governance: How to have meaningful management of open source projects and some other ideas.
Sociocracy sounds interesting; it claims to be a formalised version of Society of Friends decision processes.
Sociocracy is a system of governance that seeks to create psychologically safe environments and productive organizations. It draws on the use of consent, rather than majority voting, in discussion and decision-making by people who have a shared goal or work process
Dedicated website: Sociocracy for all - basic concepts and principles.
I do not know much about this but I am bookmarking it here because it seems to be an attempt to build community-led processes of accountability for transgressions, which also assumes a process of redress, change, and attempts to get this without appealing to external authorities. I am increasingly sympathetic to these goals, although I might have issue with the methods here when I dig deeper. Let us see.
COmmunities with interesting example governance structures
DIY socials are an interesting case study in community governance. The first example I ran into of running the organisational infrastructure of an indy social network for and by the users: Social.coop, an Oregon-based social network. They document their toolset for barnraising a local, accountable community network including governance. Their actual network runs on the federated mastodon system. Open collective gives them transparent community organising for the governance and expenses. They use loomio for decision making. I don’t know how they keep these systems all in sync. The broader Mastodon project in turn uses patreon to fund itself.
PledgeBank was a mySociety project, running from 2005 to 2015. It let people set up pledges in the form: ‘I will do something, if a certain number of people will help me’.
But how about for projects weightier or more intimate than online volunteerism? How do you run a housing cooperative, or a cafe, or a militia, or a government in exile?
Common Knowledge produces a bunch of community social organising thingies.
We are a not-for-profit worker cooperative building digital tools for grassroots activists.
Our team shares a vision of an abundant democratic culture in which people are confident in their capacity to self-organise.
Our aim is to empower people to directly resist all forms of oppression, form more resilient and autonomous communities, and organise themselves at ever larger scales.
What we do
- Build digital tools and infrastructure
- Increase the overall capacity of the movement through consultancy and education
- Facilitate activists to share knowledge and resources with each other
On process and accountability
Over at institutions for angels I muse about movement design that presupposes its members are good enough to require little governance or process.