Defining a Board for

In the first phases of, a small group of operational members has been creating the foundations and running the minimum viable product, the service. During a regular All Hands meeting, ops members came together, sometimes accompanied by user or community members, but mostly ops members, to seek consent for the way forward. All Hands by nature is focused on operational matters.

There has not been a dedicated space for defining, monitoring and adjusting the collective’s strategy. At certain moments All Hands meetings have been hijacked and converted into a Strategy meeting, or with specific workshops like in December 2020 to define the roadmap, or the first All Hands in 2022, on January 13th.

During this last All Hands we discussed the need to set up a Board, like most Cooperatives have a Board or a Council. This thread is to start of a more detailed discussion on how this Board could look and how we can start to prototype it.

Some aspects that have been suggested:

  • the Board should have representatives from Ops members, User Members and other strategic relations, such as investors
  • Ops members should have a dominant representation, or possibly half of all seats
  • Board membership is not remunerated, though possible executive or ops work by the same people can be (of course)
  • establish a clear relation between ops circles and with the (also to be defined) General Assembly.
  • the board can be instrumental in landing funding and expanding the network and membership base
  • the board sets, monitors, guides the high level roadmap, while leaving execution to ops circles, trying to care and accompany to help resolving obstacles and blockers
  • the board prepares the general assembly, possibly once a year (?) + an ongoing process for a “permanent assembly” in the online forum.

To define

  • duration of board membership
  • selection and election process
  • meeting frequency
  • chair, meeting process
  • the formal power and responsibilities

Inspirations / references

  • We can learn from’s founding member MayFirst with 26 board members
  • Tor Project
  • Wiki Media Foundation

Proposal for a board @

For discussion

Work is under way to assemble a prototype Board or Council for It is one of the central venue spaces of the coop, alongside the Standing assembly of Ops members (‘All-hands’), the operational Circles, and the General Assembly.

A board is seen as a way to elicit, enable and enact substantial contributions to stewardship and strategy from all membership classes. Active user members bring perspectives of our user communities, as well as expertise and connections. Operational members contribute in the Board as de facto members thro the existing Circle machinery (via Circle conveners), and probably carry out a majority of the implied work (although other Board members may also undertake tasks).

Central role

The Board’s central role is to act as a proxy and an agent for the General Assembly of, between assemblies. Operationally, it can operate as a Circle-of-circles.: The Board ‘services’ the General Assembly, which involves:

  • Convening/facilitating the General Assembly - which is the central venue space for stewarding the commons.
  • Provisioning the General Assembly - including configuring the tools for Assemblies and pre-publishing documents.
  • Carrying-forward the work of the General Assembly. See below: Board members’ role.

An appropriate procedural form for the board might be a collective of User and Operational members, working out in practice how their concerns (fleshing out the concerns of the General assembly) might be enacted by Operational members (who already have the monthly All-hands meeting as their Standing assembly). This is a negotiation. It is also an evolutionary and collaborative process of mutual learning and respect: Learning to cooperate.

Contributions and recognition

The contributions of members in the Board are in general gift work rather than paid work, receiving recognition of some non-wage kind(s) which might for example include mutual credit as well as ‘cultural’ forms of recognition (eg moderator, facilitator or convener roles) and privileges ‘in kind’ (free BBB accounts, …). However, it remains open for members of the Board to undertake Bounty tasks when they are qualified for these.

Individual commitments of work time in this venue should be an order of magnitude less than Operational members. Board members commit to a minimum of 10 hours per annum.

Some practical features:

  • The Board should meet every 2 or 3 months
  • It should maintain/moderate a media space in the forum for purposes of (a) external communicating with User members, and (b) internal communicating with each other and the Circles.
  • It should include Circle conveners as de facto members. Circle convener is a rotating role, on its own cycle in each circle.
  • The remainder of the Board comprises Operational and User members elected annually at the General assembly by all members.
  • The Board may also have Collaborating members, approved by elected and de-facto members.
  • Board member is a role that rotates (three-yearly? To be discussed).

Board members’ role

Elements of the role include:

  • Review membership of, propose extensions and revisions, and facilitate recruitment at ‘sector’ and member level. This is both a community building role and a revenue/livelihood building role.
  • Review the operational processes: helpdesk and user support; financial transactions, compensation framework, contribution accounting practice; routine upgrades, platform downtime and persistent usability issues.
  • Review development practices: the bounty process, improvements in how operational priorities are targeted, executed and monitored. Includes crowdfunding for development tasks.
  • Review funding machineries, propose extensions, facilitate these, build relationships, contribute to proposals, including for grants. Also perhaps ‘Sustaining member’ status. Etc
  • Review the balance of contributions in the practice of contribution accounting and the mix across three sectors of membership (see below).
  • Reviewing and developing stewardship practice for the coop-commons, within’s core principles (see below), with the aim of facilitating maximum contributions: of User members to the commons, and the commons to User members. For example:
    • Relations between classes of members (including relations between the Board and All-hands)
    • Voting rights and expression of ‘voices’ within the coop
    • Communication media and media content for Members and for the open community
    • Matters of supremacy and intersectionality
    • Needs of language communities
    • Ambitions for commons transition
    • UX in the broadest sense of ‘society as user’ and ease of access (for all kinds of spaces - venue space, media space, platform space)
  • Reviewing and facilitating practices of federation in infrastructuring the coop-commons economy. Includes alliances in regional economic development, and shared digital and cultural infrastructure generally - in the solidarity economy, the commons transition movement and fields of direct-democracy, peer-to-peer organising (see ‘sectors’ below).

Core principles

  • Enable contributions in commons for all members.
  • Develop and steward’s spaces (platform, media, venues) under design justice
  • Facilitate formación and capacity-building in our member communities
  • Ensure economic viability of’s provisions, with fair wages for core work
  • Cultivate language equity in our spaces
  • Federate, peer-to-peer

Three sectors of membership

We engage our member communities in terms of three broad ‘sectors’ of activist commitment and productive contribution in the commons. See the schema:

2022 02 -08 - sectors

I’m not familiar with the internals of how works, but what does “supremacy” mean in this context? I’m familiar with “intersectionality”, I think, but surely we’re not promoting (say) white supremacy here? :slight_smile:

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Indeed. Presumably the intent is an ‘anti-supremacist’ practice.

@anarcat @richjensen Definitely the opposite! Rather than fall into the usual long list of forms of supremacy (patriarchy, coloniality, white supremacy, transphobia, speciesism, etc etc) the intention is to signal a commitment to a practice of ‘organising beyond supremacies of all kinds’ (as the slide above puts it). Intersectionality is then one of the perspectives that enables that?

Another way to develop the emphasis would be mutuality (which has a nice long anarcho-socialist pedigree); and pluriverse (Arturo Escobar) also helps the framing. Etc. Many facets! Of course these politics are complex, so just writing one phrase in a bullet list tends to leave things underspecified, sorry. Would have been better to write: Matters of supremacy and intersectionality. I’ll change it.

All this is part of a commitment to contribution in commons, I would say. Thanks for prompting on this.

Adding in some thoughts, with the caveat that I have a Canadian non-profit lens when looking at matters of board governance.

The framing set out here is for board members to provide strategy and stewardship, but some of the roles seem more tactical and operational to me. In my experience, boards are most useful when they are given a clear mandate to provide higher level strategy and guidance for orgs, rather than getting into the weeds of how things operate day-to-day. Of course, they can also take a more hands on approach, but that seems to be the purview of the operational Circle? As one example, I don’t think having Board members moderate a space in the forum would be the best use of their time; instead, members could have other opportunities to bring matters before the board (perhaps through a space in the General Assembly?).

8-10 hours sounds like the right amount of time, but would suggest having meetings quarterly, rather than bi-monthly. This gives more runway to try out board directions/suggestions before reporting back on whether a certain action was effective or not.

In keeping with my comments re: strategy and tactics above, perhaps consider framing the elements of the roles as ‘advise on’ rather than ‘review’. To me, review sounds more hands-on, rather than taking the long view on how to, for instance, build funding relationships.

Creating a board seems like an exciting and important steps forward for I’m interested to see how it unfolds!


Great to have your voice here @andia thanks. Yes, there are tensions and boundaries that are difficult to navigate. I guess we (@wouter @mikemh ) do have the feeling that, in some sense, the most committed and energetic Board members will ‘do work’. In this regard we take some inspiration from MayFirst for example, which has a Board elected from the User and Ops membership that does a large part of ‘the work’ - which is both organising work in the User community(ies) and platform-development and -provisioning work within the coop. So we’d like to walk in that middle zone too, to the extent that our Board members prove willing and able. To be seen! We fully expect Hypha to be present in the Board, and to bring its voice(s) and insights to the navigating of these tensions and roles.

The anticipated Board-member role in the Forum is simple enough: on one hand, as a public channel for mutual communication between Board and User members, on the other hand as a private channel for intra-Board communication (as an alternative to email, matrix or other chat-type and deliberation-type textual media). So - basically these are seen as functional supports, assisting Board members to do what the they wish to do and speak to whom they wish to speak to.

We do anticipate a lot of dependence on Discourse as a software workhorse that can be configured to furnish a number of elements in our internal and external toolstacks - not only a forum but also messaging and maybe documentation too (handbook). Thus, walking a line, between overstretching a software workhorse until it possibly becomes less than perfect in some of its usages, and an over-complex array of UIs and system admin demands, generatd by ‘too many’ apps in the stack.

‘Walking that line’ in every area? And remaining at least ‘good enough’. One of the key responsibilities of the Board? Thanks again @andia for pushing this question along.