Governance - producing a working community

During the coming months, governance is going to come back on the agenda in What that word means is something that I notice varying considerably among different communities - and sometimes it just comes down to ‘decision making’ in a conventional way - almost like a government does ‘decision making’ for a nation :roll_eyes: Whereas, for me, ‘governance’ - especially in a coop, and certainly in a commons - is basically about the self-organising of formations of people, to produce society, in a hands-on, operational way, thro labour contributions. It’s not a ‘parliament’. It’s not a board meeting, and board papers, or even debates.

Whatever . . because it’s current, I’d like to recommend this podcast to people here Alfredo Lopez on May First Movement Technology | Real Co-op Stories. A few weeks back, @anaulin also of, recorded this interview with Alfredo López, co-founder of MayFirst Movement Technology (both these organisations are members). @mnoyes @freescholar @jamie

Alfredo talks about security of data, denial-of-service attacks, coop governance, annual assemblies and processes of policy decision making, relationships between user-members/board/coordination team/ops members. Etc. It’s not clear that the way needs to run is the same as how MayFirst runs - we have different roots and memberships - but equally, the MayFirst experience and principles are definitely to be drawn on, as we get into our own working design for multistakeholder governance of a digital infrastructure?

And Alfredo is good value as a storyteller too.Enjoy :wink:



So, you have the food group organising the food, and making the decisions about how that is done, with continuous consultation with the users, the same with the child-care group, the transport group, etc., and all groups checking in regularly with each other. Local autonomy with coordination, not just new kinds of Boards or Parliaments.


And I would add further, all done with an ethos of treating all people as individuals with respect (no trolls, trashing, racism, sexism, etc.) with skills of defusing and constructively handling conflicts, with honesty and integrity, add in care for the natural world, and you have the basic formula for a society that actually works. And that is what we (I and many others here) are trying to build, from the ground up, within the existing social madness.


When I was until recently living in a cohousing community, we recognised two complementary aspects to governance. One, much less talked about, but left to volunteers equivalent to board members, was monitoring the external, and specifically legal, obligations of the company from the statutory point of view. I guess it helps to have this in mind, and to have a few people looking after it, as if it goes wrong, you’re liable to get on the wrong side of Ostrom’s principle numbered 7 in the article Elinor Ostrom - Wikipedia

The one that took far more of our attention we called “community governance”, dealing with all the practicalities of the way we agreed to govern ourselves and make decisions. This goes far beyond the legal framework, and only has a limited (though crucial) overlap. In an atmosphere of transparency and trust, this community governance can be pleasantly lightweight, but of course there must be quick reversionary processes through which anything that is found to be potentially harmful or damaging can be escalated, up to and including the legally established processes of statutory governance.

One of the matters that seemed to me most challenging was to ensure that the way in which small-scale governance was done remained in keeping with the overall values and practices of the company as group. In settings where there is more assumption than reality of transparency, it’s easy to miss signs that things aren’t going well – for example, some personality or clique may be exerting undue influence on the activities of some working group. Attention to that area is one place that seems to me very much worth the effort, if people are to avoid the build-up of factions and tension.