Compensation framework

As suggested in this Circle meeting last Friday, I’d write down an initial proposal for our Compensation Framework.

We aim to iterate a practical version of contributory accounting that works now for and may evolve into something more flexible and complex in the future. We focus on the present. NOW we need urgently to put in place a Compensation Framework that deals with contributions and compensations and guarantees the necessary compensations for the team to continue to build up

So far we have started on the basis of people and organisations becoming members and making a contribution in time, money and/or other resources (like servers). Details of contribution levels are defined in the wiki:Membership and wiki:Service Levels.

Since May 2020 we set up a timetracker at and (most) active operational members have started recording their time contributions to the tracker. Operational members are expected to contribute at least 40 hours of work (or through monetary or other contributions valued as such). We seek to compensate additional work, in particular if it is considered essential to achieving our mission by the Circle of Work to which it belongs. Also we should take notice that some people have their income secured elsewhere or in other ways and don’t expect financial compensations from That leaves us with the following types of work:

Worked time registered at

  • contributed as part of the annual membership contribution of an operational member
  • no compensation is expected
  • compensation is expected: tagged as “compensation required”

In the latter case, the worker should be a member of the Circle of Work where the work relates to. We expect the work to be related to a (linked) task in the task tracker (Deck application in to be configured). Each of the Circles has relative autonomy to work within the scope and aims with the funded budget assigned and may prioritise certain work according to agile methodologies.

Calculation of Compensations
Compensation will be calculated at the end of each trimester (?).

At the end of each period each Circle reviews the registered time of its members and the budget that has arrived to the Circle and proposes a compensation that is as fair as can be. We aim for a compensation of 25 euro per hour (1). We are aware that this isn’t a high tariff for most in the Western world, but if all necessary hours are reimbursed with this tariff, then workers should be able to obtain a reasonable salary. In case more funds are available, the remaining funds will be kept as a reserve for the next period. In case too little funds were available, the registered hours will remain open for compensation until reaching the agreed hourly cost tariff.
These proposed compensations need to be presented in a designated folder in and a validation period is respected of at least 3 days until the validated proposals are ready for payment. Payment of each sum requires a valid invoice by the operational member, either as organisation or as individual.
(1)The agreed tariff doesn’t include VAT or retentions for social security or any other deductions. The persons or organisations invoicing these compensations will be fully responsible for taking care of such fiscal or social responsibilities.

Income to be distributed
We have just moved to OpenCollective and new members are making their contributions through that platform, providing transparency on membership and contributed amounts. Also OpenCollective allows us to reimburse costs and compensations with the same transparency.

The incoming funds are then distributed as follows:

  • Payment processing: ca. 9%
    • Open Collective: 5%
    • Stripe credit cards: 1,4-2,9%
    • Platform 6 as fiscal host: 2%
  • Sales (labour) compensation: 30%
  • Server costs: ca. 9% (depending on the scale of the operation)

The remaining income is the distributed over the Circles of Work:

  • Organisation Circle: 23%
  • Product Circle: 23%
  • Tech Circle: 50%
    Remains 5% that we dedicate to Legal, Insurance and Other costs. This is kind of an unforeseen budget.


  1. Members of the Product Circle are typically also engaging new members and are entitled sales compensations. Possibly we’ll want to review the Sales Compensation in combination with the Product Circle work. Right now we put a higher compensation for Sales to have the necessary incentive and compensation for working to grow, key to success until we reach near to the break even point. Eternal growth is NOT our objective, rather reaching a level where and its operational members can be sufficiently paid for the work and user members happy with the results.
  2. Contribution accounting. There are several very interesting projects in the Open Value Accounting space and it’ll be interesting to learn from them and consider possible schemes for complementary currencies and mutual credits. Given our current tools to register financial and time contributions we are already on track to have the basics covered.
  3. these % per circle or for sales can be different; we are likely to iterate this over time. And of course this is just an initial suggestion so we could do it all different as well!
  4. how do we deal with the time worked so far? We’ll need to analyse the time in detail, see what’s missing (Hypha?), deduct operational member contributions and see how we can pay off this initial investment.
  5. notice the Profit & Loss spreadsheet I created in /modeling to see how different income scenarios can work out with different compensation percentages.

What big things are missing? How does this look?


Another issue, very relevant in this context is how one can qualify for receiving compensations. One condition is to be operational member and another to be member of the corresponding circle. But how do you become member of a circle? Is it invitation-only, according to some selection procedure, or completely open to all members or to just anyone interested? This isn’t defined yet, but I feel we should address this, in particular because membership of a Circle:

  • gives access to qualified information, e.g. expressions of interest in the case of the Product Circle.
  • is a precondition for becoming entitled to labour compensations
  • allows participation in the Circle’s decisionmaking

In my opinion we’d want a kind of flexible structure where people interested in participating sporadically can easily join a Circle’s meeting, when invited. that could be as guests, without becoming members just yet. They may, if mutually interested, become members later on.
Right now we have our initial members of the Circles based on people proceeding from founding operational members having expressed their interest in taking these responsibilites. Initially at least, we could leave it in the hands of this initial group of Circle members to decide who they invite either as guests or make full members of their Circle.
Note that the key decisions are discussed in the open and other interested people can observe or decide to engage whenever they want.
Does this make sense?

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Thanks for the work @wouter I think this looks quite good already.

Two comments:

  • Server costs probably need to paid before distributing money to the circles, at least until we have a stable income and know that 9/10 % of the income is enough to pay for our servers. I think it is important to make this clear so that operational members that provide servers can be sure that their costs will be met.
  • Adding to wouters last post: There will probably be members of coops that are involved in sales or sysamdin work but that don’t want to or can not be long term members of a circle. I think we could easily fix that case if we say that circles can distribute work to members of operational member coops, but distribution to work outside of the operational members needs the approval of the all hands meeting?

This all makes sense to me - especially as just an initial starting point.

circles can distribute work to members of operational member coops, but distribution to work outside of the operational members needs the approval of the all hands meeting

sounds sensible.

a few more questions which might need addressing:

  1. How many Operational Members and Circle Members are we expecting / do we want? I like the idea that these are open to anyone but really will probably only ever be able to support a small number or ‘workers’… and circle meetings with hundreds of members would get unmanageable. Should we aim to limit these somehow?
  2. How should we track / award sales compensation? It might not be clear who initiated a sales leads (and hence who to pay compensation to) unless we track conversations / outreach…?
  3. Are we expecting Operational Members to complete their “contributions” (in money / servers / time) before getting paid? It might be good if we could still pay some people before they have completed their contributions (so they can survive!) although I guess this would need to be done on the understanding that they are going to complete, and exceed, their contributions with hours of work.
  4. How to we ensure Circles are not allocating paid hours above and beyond the present budget? / What do we do if a Circle needs to exceed its budget e.g. there’s not enough in the pot but we need some SysAdmin done…?

I will keep reflecting on this and come back with any other thoughts / questions / ideas…

NB @All - for this proposal we agreed (on 30th July) * All Members - read and comment in the forum by 14 Aug > then we move to a final version we can vote on by 17 Aug- to be voted on with one week NB: this requires sorting out who can vote :and someone to volunteer to take on this task: XX To make all Members “Members” in the Forum so we can vote here using a poll

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I’m ‘just’ a user member, but I’d say that assuming they’ve both done 40+ hours that the first people who should be (back) paid are @chris and @decentral1se, no? As I understand it there wouldn’t be a product to sell if not for all their heroic hard work.

Does anyone have the notes from our July 24 WG meetings? Those aren’t posted on the wiki.

@wouter there is some pieces in here that seem to deviate from what I thought we agreed on. Most specific is:

I thought what we agreed on is:

  1. Each Circle will be allocated a budget (decided at All Hands)
  2. Each Circle will be responsible for drafting tasks in NextCloud Deck, and allocate budget to high priority tasks, as budget allows (e.g. write and publish data privacy agreement)
  3. Members will take on these tasks, and if there is a monetary amount tied to it, they can claim this by invoicing OC when the task is completed and accepted by the Circle

Specifically, this is not tied to the amount of time they track on the time tracker, for the particular task, or in general, and there is no “25 euro per hour” mentioned.

I recall we came up with this scheme so we can start paying for highest priority work with our very limited budget at the moment, with the goal of expanding as sales ramp up, such that all tasks drafted by Circles can be compensated, and at the same time limit people from logging hours where the value to is not shared.

@Graham @mikemh @osb you guys were at the meeting as well. Please correct me if my understanding is incorrect. The difference between “first doing the work, then later all decide how much each person gets paid” vs. “budgeting for specific tasks and assigning a monetary amount that one is guaranteed upon completion” I think is a big distinction that I’d like to clarify before moving this forward.

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Hiya @benhylau Good to have you back online :wink:
I think you are correct about what was discussed and proposed …
but not sure it was ‘agreed’ … I think we should work with the proposal above (bcoz that’s what @wouter has put fwd) and make recommendations / suggestions for a new version we can all vote on… that was what we decided to do in the last All Hands (when u were away)

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So during our WG meeting, it was raised that allowing people to self-report hours and tag those contributions as “compensation required” run into the issue where someone may be doing tasks that are not recognized as high priority by the collective, or spending many hours on a trivial task, etc.

I also brought up that allowing individuals to tag their time as “no compensation is expected”, over time, could make the cooperative favour participation by those who are more privileged and thus do not need compensation for their work, creating a bias to who can and cannot participate. What we want to create is livelihood through work.

This is the basis on which I suggested to collectively as a Circle to decide on relative task priority, and budget for important tasks, then let people work on the tasks with certainty of how much they will be compensated. This also forces us to practice scoping tasks and clear success criteria, so we do not go down rabbit holes and burn hours and hours without concrete accomplishments that further the goal of the project.

This is the part where I feel is most problematic in @wouter’s proposal:

One must first put in hours of labour, without knowing how much compensation there will be until months afterward. Whether the work will be fairly compensated also depends on how other members decide to spend time on tasks that they self-assign priorities and value.

For example, I may think that researching X is worthwhile of 60 hours of labour, but others actually think it is a low priority item and does not further our goal too much. Now because I spent 60 hours on some rabbit hole, @osb who spent 20 hours updating the website and OC so we can receive contributions now has only 1/4 of the budget to get paid.

I honestly believe the current proposal implements the wrong incentive system. I’d like more collective prioritizing and budget allocation ahead of work, that carries more certainty than compensation that is as fair as can be upfront.

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:+1: But the possibility of disagreement over what counts as a rabbit hole is part of the evolution of a complex project. There’s foresight and there’s hindsight. No magic wand there?

What we want to create is livelihood through work

What we want to create is bigger than that? That is a core principle and a site of major constraint, as distinct from an eventual purpose. The purpose of is layered and systemic, being achieved through contributions of work of more than one kind, not just livelihood work and not just immediate tech and financial operations. This is how radical social and economic change works; organisation development too.

As a movement of change, operates in the mutual sector too, where contributions always have been made mostly with sweat equity rather than paid work. This is a truly hard balance to make - this is plain right now, in the bootstrapping phase, where some contributors are way over-committed in sweat equity within a precarious economic existence. Regarding this balance, the contribution accounting practice and governance practice of needs to go somewhere new, not falling back into one pole of the old tension between worker and consumer coops, and the old ‘solution’ of workers becoming their own bosses in an unchanged economy, still stuck in wage labour and commodity exchange. The early coop movement was organised that way, as mutualist production over and above and beyond livelihood work. The sweat equity is essential for the bootstrapping of a changed economy and society, and has to be carefully accounted for. Different folks make different contributions in this regard, over time.

A working draft under The purpose of each circle proposes a systemic description of the purposes of in terms of production of and in commons. To summarise . .

  • The Organisational circle has the work of creating and stewarding a commons of organisational capability (the combined capability of the coop’s operational and user members) to make better-organised social and economic contributions to a transformed, commons-cooperative economy. This commons is constituted through work under careful accounting of members’ contributions, designed to enable fair and transparent payment for services and for work, as well as other kinds of recognition of contribution such as ‘good standing’, a voice in the coop’s assemblies, social justice and reparation, weighted votes, etc etc.
  • The Product circle has the work of creating and stewarding a commons of digital roomspace, mobilised sector-by-sector across coops and movement organisations in an evolving commons-cooperative economy, and collaboratively steered by users. This is an open and collaborative, evolving, use-oriented working relationship between the real-world users of a distributed technology/tools infrastructure (who make financial contributions to the infrastructure) and the teams who maintain operational access to the infrastructure and oversee its development - typically thro paid work as a contribution to their own livelihood.
  • The Technology operations circle has the work of creating and stewarding a commons of running code, across the coop’s devices and the users’ devices, according to principles of high quality, highly non-geek-useable, secure, privacy-oriented digital means including free-libre code, configured to enable enhanced cultural and economic capability at the distributed roots.

Fair and transparent payment for work - and other kinds of recognition - in all three intersecting areas of purpose, is a principle, to be overseen through the practice of task management in circles, and contribution accounting across all kinds of membership.

those who are more privileged and thus do not need compensation for their work

I think it’s unhelpful to apply the privilege tag to work that isn’t done for livelihood. Activists in the mutual sector always have contributed sweat equity - out of generosity, out of commitment to and belief in the movement, and always at the cost of personal hardship. We can see this happening right now in

Livelihood and ‘movement work’ sit together in varying ways. Personally for example, my own livelihood at this point in my life rests on a number of small scraps of pension derived from a lifetime of fairly precarious wage-labour and some gigging (thank you, capitalism). Throughout my ‘working life’ (stupid term!) I have done ‘movement work’ as my primary work, generally without payment, on rare occasions paid, while also getting my livelihood in some tangentially-related way - a version of the double shift. It’s a ceaseless juggling act, and a path of persistent hardship rather than privilege.

I would say that accounting with deep regard and care for the plurality of contribution and opportunity and hardship and necessity is more consistent with mutualist traditions, than applying privilege tags (which seem easily to become a weird inverted echo of the supremacy and Othering of the social order we oppose, rather than a brotherly and sisterly move to end it).

The idea that someone who goes beyond what is necessary for their personal livelihood, contributing over the odds and with generosity, is privileged, serves imho to obscure the hardship that always is part of the mix for a wage worker of whatever class-fraction, role under patriarchy or colour. I think it fails to acknowledge the bases of mutualism, which include contribution across differences, plurality of commitments and visions, recognition from the heart - and voluntary hardship for mutual ends, for the grandchildren.

I get what the privilege tag is about. And I don’t feel it’s helping here. Bootstrapping and creating the commons is hard work all round.

There is nothing stopping people from rabbit holing into what they believe is important, I am proposing that financial resource allocation are derived from collective decisions and that this be deciding be done before people start on the work.

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Good to have you back @benhylau !

Quick remarks:

  • indeed the tracking of tasks should be incorporated. We talked about it and I didn’t manage yet to include it, please can you work it into the emerging proposal?
  • fortunately I had stored a copy of the meeting notes, and just put them in the wiki (this should be part of meeting routines):
  • I personally think it is important that we do use an agreed hourly cost tariff that is the same for all, otherwise we get into endless discussions and doubtful inequalities.
  • Also often there are tasks that cannot be time / money budgeted accurately in advance, especially not with an emerging operation as this one. So I am afraid that we cannot (in all cases) put a price to things in advance and have to rely on hours worked.
  • That said, let’s see how we can prioritise and indicate estimates of effort to certain tasks and evolve collectively over time. Maybe we need categories of tasks that are more routine (like “keep membership register” or “keep finances up to date” ; “run compensations routine at the end of trimester”) while other tasks are more one-off, (e.g. “set up form in website; estimate: 5hours work” or "researching X; 20h)
  • I think you get this wrong:

What I wanted to convey, but please review, is that the time worked is compensated with the agreed hourly cost tariff, and maybe in one period there’s not yet enough revenue to compensate it fully, so we keep that work open to be compensated later.
As said, please work into that the task relevance.
The end result should be that the working operational members, after having contributed their annual contribution, get compensated the hourly cost tariff for the relevant tasks. The circles work out their understanding of what is “relevant”.

that’s an important one, as in some cases at least more than one person/cooperative is involved in getting on board a new member. Which work do we track as part of the Sales process?

I also think we need to pay back the initial hours invested, and Chris did indeed the most hours. We should devise a plan that is reasonable in paying back the initial investment while also compensating the other team members. Maybe we could include a X% in the compensation framework that goes to pay back those initial hours? Study the registered hours until end august, withdraw annual operational contribution and payback each period with whatever revenue we generate (X% of that).

I leave it up to you and be back to review in 10 days approx, for a quick connect. Cheers!


I think that’s fine. The basis of estimates is probably always “time” anyways, and then we are here agreeing on a rate multiplier.

I think this happens often with software development tasks. I think it’s okay we are off by a factor of 2 in the beginning, then get better at it. However, if I am working on task X, and it turns out to be 10x the size, the responsible thing for me to do is to bring this new finding to my Circle, and say “well turns out it will cost 10x more” and we propose to revise the budget (if this task is still absolutely critical) or we say “well then we rather abandon it” collectively. This is actually exactly what I mean by preventing rabbit holes that somehow I am personally attached to but in reality, it accomplishes little for the project.

Okay this part we are in agreement. The way I imagine to do this is for the Circle to put a paid tag on a task, as in Sample task 1. This is a task that people can invoice Open Collective for.

Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 7.31.39 PM

The part I want to also raise is, it’s easy to put a $ value on this task from the start. For example, if the Circle thinks this is 4 hours of work, we put EUR 100. If I spend 3h or 5h to complete it, I’d still log actual hours and claim the EUR 100. I think operationally this is simple, and accounting-wise we can budget easily.

If it turns out this is going to be 40 hours of work, I better go back to my Circle and justify this, and decide together if we want to put EUR 1000 towards this task, before diving right in.

I also acknowledge the conversations around sales and back-compensation for already invested labour, and hope to find “operationally cheap” (i.e. does not require detailed spreadsheets multiplying tiny numbers over time and awkward invoice cycles) ways to handle them, but will keep those separate from this post.

Thanks for checking in during vacation @wouter :slight_smile:

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I am proposing that we still track all of member time spent to account for sweat equity, but have that detached from budget allocation at our current phase, so we can stay focused on tasks we collectively deem important.

Once we become wildly profitable, we can find schemes to compensate for all sweat equity financially. Before then, I fail to see other forms of compensation. We are not an integral cooperative with a mutual credit system. We can recognize people for their contribution, but as multiple members have already expressed financial precarity, I see the current subject to be ensuring members can participate in livelihood work.

I think if someone chooses to complete a task with a financial compensation attached to it, they can always decline the compensation by not invoicing the OC and have the $ contributed back to the pool of resources. I think it’s still important that Circles designate compensation amounts for tasks, as an acknowledgement of that pending labour. Upon completion of the task, the member is entitled to the payment. We can have a policy on whether this declined amount goes back to the Circle or the global pool, etc?

This emerging principle of “a conversation of a contributor, with/within the circle, about the contribution” is a good one :slight_smile: Does it have a sociocracy name @aaronhirtenstein ? I see it as an example of the live practice of valuING, that underlies a workable system of openvalue accounting. Templates and boilerplate goes only so far.