Governance Model

I’m afraid it isn’t going to be super easy in the near future and I think this is unavoidable.

For it to be super easy we would need automated account creation and account deletion and account migration between Greenlight containers when service levels change and also account cancellation. None of this is in place and it would be a significant amount of work to write the software to enable this to be fully automated — it doesn’t currently exist…

I have floated the idea that this might be something we could work on together with ColloCall on to @hng in our IRC channel, but it would be complicated software project and with the best will in the world it would probably be months of work before we had something that we were able to deploy for production use even if we start on a specification for it today.

All my suggestions are based on what we can do in the next few weeks with the hardware, software, knowledge and skills that we currently have.

We will soon have the potential to spin up multiple Greenlight containers with different branding and different service levels. These containers will require manual account maintenance unless they are linked to to external authentication systems, however we haven’t yet had the time or resources to experiment with external authentication systems.

This means that when someone fills in a form and provides payment for an account we will then need somebody to manually login into the correct container and create the account and then send the user an email to inform them that their account has been created and that they can now reset their password and then login and start using the service (there is a CLI command for account creation however the corresponding commands for listing accounts, updating accounts and removing accounts are missing so we don’t have the underlying tools to start building from).

The work of account creation and maintenance is going to be tedious and laborious — I’m speaking from experience of having to do this for several systems already, this is why I’m of the view that we should delegate as much of this work as possible, the more organisations who are in charge of the account creation and maintenance the better, we will need to spread this load as much as we can.

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I’m interested in attending this meeting, but the time is too early for me here near Toronto. I’m a member of Digital Life Collective, and I’m interested in how it is currently relating to Does it need to do like it seems webarchitects has done and create a special class of shares that distinguishes who are members?

Also, living in Canada, I am interested in what options I will have to contribute to with Canadian dollars.

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I don’t think should be led by the technology - or what software already exists…

I think we should aspire to being great and providing a great service… for anyone who wants to ditch Zoom and become part of a cooperative future. To me that means we set our sights high and work around any tech issues… I completely understand that we need to be pragmatic about

what we can do in the next few weeks with the hardware, software, knowledge and skills that we currently have.

But I don’t think that (i.e. what we can do in the next few weeks) should have anything to do with our “governance model” (which is now the title of this thread…) in fact, I don’t think governance should be conflated with marketing at all (which is why i started a separate thread about Marketing specifically).

A lot of potential customers will want the services that is providing - but will not want anything to do with governance.

I agree with the governance strategy proposed by Benedict (via an email thread):

I’d like us to strike a balance, where we make sign-up really easy, but at the same time allow for paths for anyone to meaningfully participate in decision-making if they want .

me too!

RE enabling people to sign up quickly and easily for services (i.e. Marketing!) as @decentral1se said:

I would agree with leaving it the coop level but then again, I imagine that will totally confuse new customers.

Avoiding confusion and making signing up super easy is our KEY goal - if we want customers!??!

And there seems to be some disagreement about this… as @chris said:

I’m not convinced that we should have individual customers at a level

So this seems like the first thing we need to agree on … because unless we have some agreement on that we can not design a governance model or any marketing plans…

So maybe that should be a key decision for the meeting tomorrow? - NB what time and where is this meeting?!

Just for clarity (and in case I can not join the meeting) - I’m 100% behind the idea that should be able to accept individual customers as I know there is significant interest in such a service - and if it does not cater for that need then I think it will miss out on significant revenues and the potential to do many more exciting this once we have developed a strong customer base… but if doesn’t want to fill that need then that’s OK too i guess… although I can’t see why would pass up on such an amazing opportunity to become a leader in cooperation and collaboration!?

I disagree, I think we can only use (and develop to some degree) the existing technology and tools that exist in the commons, in other words existing Free software programs.

The reason for this is simple — we have very limited resources in terms of time and we have no capital.

I would suggest that these customers should have their services provided by members of

But we can’t automate this in the near future so we can’t scale it — what you are asking for can’t be done.

11:30am CEST / 10:30am BST

Hey I saw your message but I cannot make it at later times tmr. I have scheduled a medical soon after the meeting hour since @wouter confirmed the time 3 days ago. So if no one objects I’d like to stick with:

11:30am CEST / 10:30am BST

I agree with @osb that Governance != Marketing/Sales/Strategy. On the latter, I feel I am mostly in-line with @decentral1se and the resources he shared, but that should not be the focus of tomorrow’s meeting.

For tomorrow, I propose that we start with a modest goal, to come up with one or more options about the following, which we can try to adopt at our weekly meeting:

There have been some email threads going around, sharing resources and early thoughts ahead of the meeting. I feel those conversations are better had on here, so I am sharing some of my thoughts:

I agree that while figuring out service offerings is important as it is something concrete and core to our sustainability, but we more urgently need to codify how our multistakeholder group makes decisions, share work and profits, and the level of transparency we want to commit to.

There is a lot of potential for small local organizations, cooperatives or otherwise, to collectively maintain digital services that otherwise would be hard to provide reliably as a single small org. BBB is one example, community networks as ISP is another ( as a multistakeholder example), and I look forward to drawing from previous practices and lessons to build our own commons governance for

Some thoughts on organizational values and how they may be expressed through our organizational structure, internal processes, and external communications:

[…] how expresses our approach to technology, as a practice vs. as a consumption. Are users participants or consumers?

If we directly copy from what collocall offers to their users, then we aren’t signaling our intentions to engage users as participants. On the other hand, as in the case where "traditional leftist background found it hard to simply change their ways of practicing politics overnight”, it is hard for those who want alternatives to Zoom to all of a sudden learn about cooperative membership in order to hop on a reliable videoconference call. I’d like us to strike a balance, where we make sign-up really easy, but at the same time allow for paths for anyone to meaningfully participate in decision-making if they want.

What Luke says here seems like a good starting point: Governance Model

I think if we can formally codify and socialize how decisions are made by this week’s “everyone meeting”, we have made a huge step forward. We can then set up recurring meetings for the Governance group to work on the other problems, at a more Toronto friendly time :smiley:

I had thought that tomorrow’s meeting was a small group - Wouter, Ben, me - to hack something to bring to Thursday. But, if numbers are piling in to
11:30am CEST / 10:30am BST
then here is the rough hack that I made for tomorrow.

It contains some numbers (eg fair use) that are just illustrative, not yet synched with @chris posting above. And there are too many elements posted above to have been able to check whether all are implied in this draft. Thus, view the draft as an attempt to scope the range of governance matters, rather than to focus down on or synthesise a specific proposal yet.

The draft ranges wider than classes of accounts and convenience of the front end for sign-up - which are urgent matters but far from the end of the story. Much of this rough hack derives from the Open2020 conference, including the 12jun session on governance of tool infrastructure, which @wouter ,@petter , @osb and I contributed to.

In the rough hack on governance matters there are some thoughts on individual as well as organisational membership of, and the possibility of a ‘crowdfunding’ solidarity relationship for individuals with, as ‘funder-contributors’ in a multi-stakeholder assembly.

Notes from our June 23 meeting. @wouter will draft up membership conditions (join, leave, rights, etc.) and current member list on wiki, and @mikemh will make visual representation of it, that we hope to bring to Thursday meeting to discuss.

We are also leaning towards having a dedicated thread where important “official decisions” can be made asynchronously, with sufficient lead time to discuss, and reflect voting rights of the federation’s membership. Also to be discussed on Thursday.

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Hi, after our thematic meeting on a possible Governance model, I have started to draft such model for our current “consortium”. Taking this as an agreement between members organisations who wish to produce and use the services of The Online Meeting Cooperative. Over time we might convert this as a basis for the constitution of a new legal entity.

Please have a look and contribute to it:

There’s still a lot of doubts, and I have tried to leave out things too specific to be regulated outside the agreement. You will also see that I have kept individual members inside, although we will need to see how we can manage that in practice, especially due to the current lack of a smooth onboarding procedure where people and organisations can sign up to get a SSO user account and access one of the various GL containers. But that’s a short term hurdle I’d hope. Our governance model could still include individuals, for when and how we get a clear solution to these issues. (open for discussion as everything of course).

Also today I have grouped the forum threads about topics that are very much part of the design of our Sustainability Model under this new category. Hopefully this helps us to organise our information somewhat :wink:


For discussion at our meeting today, here is a deck of slides proposing a map of principles for governance.

Following our discussion on Tuesday and @wouter 's draft the basic problem seemed to me to be the relationship between the operational reality of managing Greenlight containers and payments for various kinds of digital service, and on the other hand, the purpose of - which is stewarding digital commons and developing a commons-cooperative economy.

So . . in the attached slide deck, the first is on the left, the second is on the right, and the schemas propose relationships between them, which need to be specified in the governance.

The slide deck ends up with a sort of ‘ontology for’. Anything in this map needs to be named in a governance agreement?

copy and pasting from email to keep all threads together:

Oli said:

Just a quick note on the nomenclature for the governance - I think the words “producer” and “consumer” are wrong for the kind of organisation we hope to build… we don’t really “produce” anything and we don’t want “members” of our co-op that might like to pool resources to build shared infrastructure too think of themselves as “consumers” - that’s OLD SKOOL capitalist language!

Please can we change those names - even if the rest of the governance has to stay the same!?

I would maybe suggest “founders” and “members” instead…

But really I think the whole governance set up is wrong… and needs VERY careful consideration before we move forward with it…. Because (as mentioned on our call - and as others have pointed out) what we do now WILL stick.

I think we should be WAY more focussed on who is in the ‘core team’ i.e. who will be doing THE WORK - and by this I don’t mean co-ops, I mean which people. Without these key people will not work - so I think they (the ‘core team’ or whatever we like to call them) should get MOST of the voting rights…

And other members classes should still be part of the coop but with less voting rights

Thanks for your comments, @osb

That must be from the Spanish cooperative culture where we have worker coops and consumer coops, as two of the various types of cooperatives. We also call consumer members: “user members”, maybe that’s a more suitable term? In any case, what we want to get away from is the term “customers”: we want people to be members and contribute both with work and with consumption. Do you agree?

About that: “Founders”: do you think it useful to create a specific group of founder members inside the governance? Maybe we could do so to somehow protect the project from “hostile” takeover and/or to assure the project follows the initial ideas and principles as we are laying down together? I mean when we have 100 o 1000 members, the governance and power may change. Or when Zoom (for example) would have a bunch of their friends join us to change and possibly kill the project? Is that a scenario we should include, of are we confident that when we grow, it will be increasingly hard to do such takeovers anyway?

How can we make sure the current governance model is just for the transition phase to get to a level where we can take the next steps as a maturing community in a maturing governance model?

Yeap, I also think we should design more carefully such core team inside the organisational structure. Not sure yet how we’d best do it, any ideas?

When and where was this established?

It’s unclear to me if this is shared among all members. Perhaps some members have a more modest goals of “reliable videoconferencing through a cooperative”.

I think what’s described in the deck is abstract and complex, and I would expect that to emerge over longer time-scale than mid-July or even September. It also needs to be discussed among members before saying “that’s what we’ll do” and that discussion I expect will happen over months.

This establishes a class of “Founders” that exclude future participation. It’s also doesn’t differentiate a “member” who uses the service vs. a “member” who stewards the service. For example:

  1. If Hypha members help build the ansibles / maintain the BBB backend, we are a Producer
  2. If Hypha runs a Greenlight front-end and sell to clients, we are a Consumer
  3. If Hypha does bothm we are a Producer-Consumer

That is very clear to me. I don’t know how to meaningfully classify our involvement into the Founder vs. Member framing.

yes :slight_smile: A frame for the discussion needs to be being put in place though - or as @osb has noted, what is being currently done, pagramtically, short-term, will set a frame for what can be done, long term.

developing a commons-cooperative economy

I find this here

some members have a more modest goals of “reliable videoconferencing through a cooperative”.

yes. This divergence of perception or ambition does need to be addressed. Short term, medium term.

what’s described in the deck is abstract and complex

Complex, yes. It’s a distributed social and technical system that is under development, going way beyond ‘code that runs’ on load-sharing servers. Abstract . . it could be presented concretely, and would take a lot of space. The slide deck is an attempt at some organisational design principles, not a design. And as above . . discussion over months. Pictures, in lieu of 1,000 words, at this point :wink:

I’m a little bit behind on progress in this fast-moving project (exciting!), but …

It also raises the problem of what a new customer would do if they are in Aotearoa (for example), and there isn’t yet a member co-op active in the country. Would they be directed to the geographically nearest co-op (eg one in Oz)? Something else?

This raises a deeper question (which may have been asked elsewhere), is;

a) a service for groups looking for a Zoom replacement for more serious meetings

b) a service for individuals looking for a Zoom replacement for casual chats

BBB can be used just as easily for one or the other. But as a business, I think needs to pick one type of customer to design for, accepting of course that users who pay for a) might also end up doing a bit of b) or vice-versa.

It would be hard to convince casual chatters to pay, especially considering there are already a bunch of options for them, eg and other more ephemeral Jitsi Meet and BBB instances. Besides, from the discussions I’ve seen so far, it seems like most of us envision as serving groups (like Loomio) b), which means customers will be negotiating on behalf of more formal groups, and won’t mind going to a bit more effort to establish a relationship.

Just some things to keep in mind. Keep up the good work!


We (ColloCall) are currently discussing the possibility of becoming a member and so the Governance model document seems to be the main point for orientation for us. Or are there other equally important documents that could help us in our discussion?

I already have a few question about the current draft:

Voting: Right now consumer members would have a majority of the vote. But at the same time right now there are way more producers than consumer members as it seems? This could create a imbalance, where only a few coops have a majority vote. What is the reasoning for the vote split being 60/40 and not 50/50? Note: I am not really deep into platform coops / consumer-producer coops.

The “Force Majeur” is not really clear for me, maybe this is because of language. What is idea behind this section in the document?

In general it’s not yet clear to us what it would mean for us to become a member. E.g. we would need to keep our “local” clients and probably wouldn’t bring clients in (at least for the near future) one reason being legal stuff but also business-wise. Our main contribution would probably be consulting and sharing server infrastructure/setting up infrastructure. But I guess this should be discussed at another place/time.

I think this is a very good point, at the moment we are mostly producer co-ops, I think would help if anyone had the time to write an article on how we got to where we are now so new people could quickly get up to speed.

Here I hope to summarize existing text about Membership and in relation to Voting.

At the moment we have the following definitions on the wiki’s Contributions page, followed by a table with 14 orgs (7 Producers / 3 Consumers / 4 Unclassified) in addition to 3 Individual contributions that are not an organization:

Individual contributions: basic user accounts are free so anyone can join an online session. We also want to allow people to host meetings with some restrictions (maybe 60 minutes max duration for free accounts). If you appreciate what we’re doing and/or the sessions being organised on this platforms, we encourage you to make a donation through LiberaPay to the project and session organisers. A donation of 120€ annually would make a huge contribution and will get you a hosting account plus 1 GB storage for recordings.

Consumer members: Annual membership for the first year is established at a minimum of 500€ per consumer member. That will entitle the organisation to make use of the shared services, possible limitations in group size and frequency of large group sessions may apply, the first host account will have more recording storage capacity (5 GB). Bigger organisations and those with more intense usage are encouraged to make a larger contributions. Micro-organisations could also contribute less, according to their ability.

Co-producer members: organisations who want to get involved in the actual production and take responsibility for the operation of the shared services are invited to join as co-producers. We have a team of DevOps where deployment strategies and scripts are worked on and issues and improvements are discussed. The resulting knowledge and code is published transparently under free licenses. To become a co-producer member, a contribution valued at between 500 and 1000€ is requested in the form of time (20-40 hours), server resources and/or money. Co-producer members have all the benefits of consumer members plus their direct participation in the production enables them to replicate this service for their own communities.

Then there is a Membership page that describes:

The producer members commit to dedicate time and/or money and other resources. The consumers make a financial contribution to the group of producers. Without the immediate need to set up yet another legal entity, the initial co-producers have agreed to take responsibility for the project and receive contributions from other members on behalf of the project.

This is followed by steps to become a member, through one of: Webarchitects, femProcomuns,

Then the Governance model page defines member as:

Members are those people and organisations that are actively contributing towards the sustenance of The Online Meeting Cooperative. Monetary contributions are made through any of the custodian members. Custodian members are the organisations who have taken legal responsibility for the cooperative project and take funds in custody for it to be spent according to collective agreement.

with classes:

  • Producer members (organisations)
  • User members (organisations)
  • User members (individuals)

and voting by membership class and strength:

  • Producer members (organisations): 40%
  • Consumer members (organisations): 35%
  • Consumer members (individuals): 25%

Comments people have raised here and in meetings:


  • @osb wants to avoid “producer” and “consumer”, and suggests “founders” and “members”
  • @wouter suggests “user members” > “customers” framing, and words like “founders” can be used to prevent hostile takeover
  • @benylau thinks “producer” and “consumer” makes it easy to classify organizational membership, and “founders” signals exclusivity to future members and is a confusing role
  • @chris brought up that at WebArchitects they have “user members who are workers and employees”, “members who aren’t employees”, in theory also “investors” (each has 1/3 votes)


  • @osb wants the “core team” (the people doing the work) to have more voting rights
  • @hng right now we have majority of producer members, but consumer members have majority of the vote
  • At the 25 June 2020 meeting, individual contributors can influence decisions through a coop they can join
  • At the 25 June 2020 meeting, @chris brought up Sociocracy circles (e.g. sysadmin circle, marketing circle, client support circle, etc.) and @mikemh supports moving to that asap as we map our domains of responsibilities

Looking at existing resources, I believe our first step is to agree on terminologies as the following are inconsistently used across documentation:

  • Individual contributions
  • Consumer members
  • Co-producer members
  • Producer members
  • Custodian members
  • User members (organisations)
  • User members (individuals)
  • Consumer members (organisations)
  • Consumer members (individuals)
  • Initial co-producers
  • Founders
  • Members

It is also unclear whether an org/individual can be two of the above (e.g. a Producer-Consumer Member, or a Producer-Custodian member) and if so how does it get reflected in Voting.

Are Producers necessarily also Consumers? What is someone is providing service without ever using the service themselves?

I am also unsure how these map to the concept of Membership in Sociocracy Circles.

Without going into terminologies, the classification @chris uses at WebArchitects makes sense:

  • Members who are also workers
  • Members who aren’t workers
  • Investors

Our current membership excludes Investors, which I imagine to be people who neither contribute work or use the services but they give money for a return. I am fine with not having that, as I believe that’s contrary to either worker ownership or worker-consumer ownership, but I don’t know if others feel the same.

Then there is the “core team” and “founder” ideas, where very involved and very early members have disproportionate decision-making power.

We also expressed intention to try and capture how we have been making decisions, and extend from that to build a governance model. What I’ve seen so far is that “Members who are also workers” are making most of the decisions. Consumer members like Free Knowledge Institute, have given input to what the requirements are, but in the end, it is the people building the platform making the decisions. It seems we are more like a worker-owned entity.

Perhaps we can extend this into circles. We’d have functional working groups essential to sustaining Decisions that are within scope can be made within the group, but important decisions, or where working groups fail to find consensus, can be brought up to the larger circle (e.g. sysadmin circle consensed on using Greenlight frontend, but will consult larger group for how this matches up with business strategy), which is mainly made up of representatives of each circle.

In the larger circle, we can have voting strengths by working group, so organizations with members participating across many groups in the org can have more control. “Members who aren’t workers” are also invited to participate in these decisions to ensure the platform continues to serve their needs.


DevOps WG @chris @decentral1se @Yurko @hng
Business WG @mikemh @chris @wouter
Governance @mikemh @benhylau @wouter @osb
Finance WG @wouter @osb

I imagine it’s not difficult for DevOps to find consensus on most technical issues. Business may draft up service models but would want input from other members and would bring that to the larger circle, where WGs can vote for an aggregate strength of say… 70%, and “Members who aren’t workers” can vote for an aggregate strength of 30%. We can add in other classes like Founders or Investors if others feel necessary.

This is a low overhead process that allows most decisions to be made via consensus within a small group of very involved people in a domain, so we can move quickly, but also having a more laborious process available to keep things democratic and prevent cooption. If @benhylau + 3 others suddenly join the Finance WG and propose to give all the revenue to themselves, @wouter @osb can take it to the larger circle and everyone will vote him down and probably motion to to terminate his org’s membership. This also prevents orgs from joining, but practically doing nothing, and yet retain significant voting power forever. I believe the people doing the work now, and secondly those who actively depend on its service, should have the most say in the organization.


summarize existing text about Membership and in relation to Voting

Heroic labour @benhylau :+1: Really good to have thankx.
But goodness, it’s multi-dimensional isn’t it! Aka a tangle :wink:

I believe our first step is to agree on terminologies

I agree :+1: I’m working today on a schema of categories, system-mapping-style. I can’t guarantee it will map exactly on to the thinking in your last post, but will do my best to match them up and build on (or at least reference) that rather than go off at a tangent.

My basic focus in mapping is on confusions/ambiguities between:

  • On one hand - formal voting matters and transactional money-handling matters (including both payment for work and payment for services) and

  • On the other hand - practical contributions of hands-on labour (of numerous kinds) to the evolving everyday practice of the coop as a working organisation, together with

  • reward for these contributions (including credits as distinct from payments?) and
  • the ways that everyday executive choices get made (in “circles” aka functional working groups? using forum polls? etc) as distinct from ‘rulings’ and formal voting choices on strategic commitments, made in “an assembly” (aka ‘the larger circle’?) of the entire coop.

I’ve a sense this might converge with where your recent post is headed - though perhaps not in one simple phase! Fingers crossed. Thanks again for the labour on this :smiley:

the people doing the work now, and secondly those who actively depend on its service, should have the most say

The basic convergence lies there, I think. I see this as ‘contribution based’ governance, as distinct from stakeholder (share-based) governance, which is traditional in coops. In a certain sense, this makes the whole enterprise very ‘worker’ centred and ‘production’ oriented. Passive consumption isn’t allowed to have a lot of weight.

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