Governance of the commons: inputs from

After a great discussion with Simon Sarazin, a French activist very involved in the Commons and the governance of the Commons.
I wanted to share with you some inputs I got from the conversation, that could be useful for other partners:

###1- Form of incorporation
In France some non-profit organizations are starting to hack the “association” by-laws, say very few in them and say that the “quality of member”, “voting rules”, etc are described in the internal rule which is published on the decision space, Loomio. They say that the General Assembly is permanent and that any question can be raised by anyone and be decided upon following the rules describes in the internal rule. It’s in French, sorry, but maybe you can use some translating tool, so I share the Loomio page for inspiration:
For info in France, we are thinking about using an instance based Discourse for that. We want the users of the plateform to be also involved in the governance and decision making process regarding the commons they use. So we thought to have a governance section in our local Discourse and when a decision is needed, use Loomio for the formal decision making (to have a valid decision by law).

###2- About financing, and retribution of the contributors, again some interesting models

“Your margin is my opportunity”, that works whatever the commission is, so even if we take a 2% commission on the sales made on OFN… should this be a compulsory price, or a tip we encourage people to give with their heart, with the consciousness of the utility of the work done by those who take care of the platform?

###3- About actors making money by using the commons
This is also something we thought should be positive, to have companies proposing farmers to set up their online shop for them using OFN, or building their marketing and commercial strategy using OFN. That’s just one example. What relationship do we maintain with those commercial actors making money by using OFN and the work done by the contributors?
Here is again a very interesting reflexion by Simon (in English that time!): with a nice propose: encourage the commercial actors who use the commons to contribute to it either in kind (giving time) or donation, and make it visible when they contribute. See also discussion here: Selling consultancy services to food entreprises to help them set up their hub

I hope those inputs will be of some use here :smile:
I make this post a wiki so that we can add more reflexions on those topics if needed

Ping @serenity for later :slight_smile:

Simon seems to be a good person to know @MyriamBoure!!

On a related matter I have been broadly following discussion around formation of the Collaborative Technology Alliance on Hylo and there is much here I think we could learn from.

So this is an “alliance” of distributed orgs and individuals across the world committed to work together and achieve common goals. See in particular the
CTA seal document and this great document by Greg Cassel re agreement based organisations

I would like to work with you on task: “structure and process for accepting new members”. I think something akin to the seal document would work well - with individuals and orgs publicly signing up to the document. It would list out the values and responsibilities of “members/partners/signatories” in different categories. I think we should have a process where existing members formally accept a proposal by new orgs wanting to become member/partners by signing the document…

Re your point 1) - I think this sort of approach would work in principle for the global network. “They say that the General Assembly is permanent and that any question can be raised by anyone and be decided upon following the rules”. I think using discourse for general discussion and agreeing on proposals is a good idea THEN using loomio for formal decision making based on the solid/well thought out proposals developed in discourse. So in this discourse discussion thread we might be working towards something that ends up as a proposal that we formally take to the community using loomio? Maybe we could talk about this at next HO and see how people feel about trialling Loomio to make some of these big constituting decisions?

Re your point 2) I like the idea of an “expected contribution” but that this isn’t compulsory. This is how enspiral works. I think we should be clear when we are talking about fundraising of specific members (eg regional orgs) and fundraising specifically for global core (i.e separate). It would be good to maybe do a trial using Patreon - I went and had a look at it the other day and seems worth a try. I was reading about someone using this WITH Co-budget software (co-budget doesn’t yet directly handle payments/contributions; once payments were collected by Patreon, they used co-budget to decide among contributors how it would be spent).

I am excited about co-budget - the problem is it doesn’t seem to be very developed (only in closed beta and lots of dev before its ready for open beta trial). I have emailed Alanna Krause at Enspiral to see where its up to and whether its worth our while trialling the closed beta version. The thing I like about co-budget is that the group agrees on the core/admin amount to come out, then anyone from network can propose “buckets” (projects) that all contributors can allocate the remainder of their voluntary contribution to. I think it sounds like a good potential tool to manage process to “crowdfund” features, among other things.

Re your point 3: Re “commercial actors”: I think we want to encourage values aligned individuals making a living off OFN commons. Maybe we can deal with them similarly to “OFN partners”. It might be a separate category on the agreement document that they publically sign up to. So we have a category for “partner orgs” (for regions) and then for “other service providers” or something like that as another category. This could also be for developers providing services (ie like our team). There might be a process where the community agrees to “endorse” / “agree” that they can become official OFN service providers and publicly sign the pledge document. Part of the agreement/pledge is that they adhere to values / decision-making process/rules and that they make a voluntary contribution of some proportion of revenue to the core. We are already modelling this in aussie dev team.

As discussed here it was Michel Bauwens suggestion that we then also change the licence so that we restrict commercial use of code to people who are members/part of community (other commercial users would need to pay a fee). I’m not sure this is necessary - it might be something to work towards in later phase.

This is a very long post!!! Maybe we should raise these issues broadly at the next HO and then maybe set up a sub-group / separate HO to discuss in more detail and come up with some draft options for the broader group?

I don’t have that much time, but coming to a resolution re both decision making rules and process for $ contributions / crowdfunding projects within the community is a priority!

Thanks again Myriam!!

1 Like

Thank you for this very detailed contribution @serenity and I would LOVE to work with you on the task you mention.
Than you also for the links, I joined the CTA Hylo group and added Open Food Network in the ecosystem mapping :wink: I think it would be very consistent if the OFN could join the Alliance and adopting the seal :slight_smile:
I also found in the thread this very good piece, Ostrom’s Design Principles for Collective Governance of the Commons. I don’t know if you read that before starting OFN but it’s impressive how OFN is aligned with that vision :wink:

I think we could even list the different tasks we need to work on around governance, and for each of them kickstart a specific discussion on Discourse (that could eventually lead to a decision on Loomio - as you say, let’s discuss it at the HO on Tuesday).

  • Write a common formulation of our goal, vision, mission, values (process have started already, but would be great to come up with something we can collectivelly adopt)

  • Structure a process for accepting new members and I would add also for excluding member (what is the permeable membrane of our community? Rules for coming in and out). I like the idea of the Seal document, but I’m not sure about if we should have a formal agreement if someone want to join the OFN Alliance. I like the idea that anyone is free to join if what we write/do resonates with them. Then if someone has a tension with how one of the partners behave, maybe we could just “hold a (public?) space” where tensions can be expressed and processed. And of course if the partner doesn’t respect what he engaged him on (the values, etc.) and if the tension processing doesn’t work (tension is not solved) then the partner should leave the cell (cross the membrane again).
    I was very inspired also by “reinventing organizations”.
    Should we have an “airlock” at the entrance, and filter at that stage “are you aligned with our community? Let us check” or let all those for whom our values and mission resonates join, and maybe they will transform themselves by operating in our community, and through tension processing we can all move forward together. That sounds a bit more inclusive to me :wink: By default, we trust you. If we feel a tension, we express it and have a constructive process to solve the tension. If we really realize there is an incompatility of vision, probably that would be so obvious that the partner would himself go out. Or we can define a process where at some point, if the situation is locked the community decide…
    Same for commercial actors, I am not sure we should limite the use of OFN and have an “agreement process” also on that (agreement processes seems a bit heavy to me!) but rather recognize and give visibility to those who use OFN but also give back (transparency and positive appreciation/feedback). If a commercial actor use OFN, and for his commercial propose develop new features that will benefit the whole community (the licence oblige him to share), it sounds ok to me. I like the broad notion of freedom, and anyone can use the software (but of course limit the use of the brand and advertise those who play by the rules and contribute also). The gift economy is for me “unconditional” :wink:

  • Write a process on distributing the value (to projects / people?). I think this is crucial to open a discussion on that point, even if that may take some time until we find how to organize that. I like your idea about using co-budget, I would definitey be in favor of giving it a try. Of course for this to be relevant we need to have money that comes in (either from crowdfunding, contributions from instances, etc.) There are two other tools that have a slightly different approach from Co-budget, but I find them also interesting: and It’s a mis between the micro-regular-donation approach but also including a distribution system between the contributors. There is no “project” approach like in Co-budget though… so maybe for the Global OFN I would favor co-budget (but we should be aware not to only propose feature based projects, I think other tasks like community building, fundraising, etc. should be recognized also on a financial dimension).
    Here is a screenshot of Co-budget (from an open discussion in the OuiShare Loomio)

    Here Gratipay is compared with Patreon:
    But maybe gratipay and liberapay are more interesting for local teams because it focuses more on people than projects… I don’t know!
    And yes you’re write @serenity it’s important to clarify the local vs global fundraising and money distribution among contributors on those two levels (of course we only need to agree on the global level, local is for local to decide :smile: )

  • Should we agree on joining the CTA and adopting the Seal? It sounds like a place we should be…

That was also a veryyyyy long post, I’m too passionate about the topic I guess :slight_smile: Let’s discuss on Tuesday and see if we can kickstart discussions seperately on all those points so that it gets more readable! Thank you @serenity for orienting the discussion toward concrete action :slight_smile:

Hello everybody!
I’m not sure this is the right place to raise the topic I’m hereby proposing. In case, please feel free to move it where is more meaningful, many thanks in advance.

I’ve read a lot about OFN governance but there’s still an open question in my mind: How do we check if hubs (farmers, group of farmers, enterprise, group of consumers) which use OFN are in compliance with Foundation and Regional values? E.g. “local” doesn’t necessarily mean “sustainable”, each producers have their own farming method which excludes the use of pesticide and fertilizer. Despite of the fact that this is what makes the difference between conventional agriculture and organic (or biodinamic) in terms of quality of soil, biodiversity etc… this status is not always clearly declared/certified in official documents (in Italy, at least).

Once @MyriamBoure has told me that “each hub creates its own trust, within its community, between the consumers and the producers they work with. And as long as this is in line with our general values and principles, we don’t intervene in that process”. I can see the point, but I’m still wondering how we can check if they are consistent with our principles once the platform it’s open and everyone can access it? I’m wondering if OFN Australia @serenity, South Africa @lawrence and UK @NickWeir have some practical guidelines or has specific procedures to evaluate the compliance with the “glocal” values subscribed - set up by each Regional platform according to Foundation principles.
Do you feel comfortable relying only on the terms of the agreement subscribed by the signatory members? Or do you plan audits to validate the conformity to the requirements? (this could take many resources). There could be two possibilities though, it’s to be duly noted, that both of them limit the Platform potential:

  1. Ask the producers for the 3rd part label (like European Organic Certification), it could guarantee the sustainability of farming though it’s worthy to consider that it’s expensive and the small farmers can’t basically afford it.

  2. And/or limit the OFN access to the Community Supported Agriculture, here in Italy we have the so called “GAS” – Fair Trade Farmer Groups. They have already built their own trust between people and farmers.

I would be grateful to receive some practical advices/opinions on this. As OFN Italy we are drafting our Statute and Regulations and this is an important topic to be developed and clarified.

Thank you in advance!


Hi @fraschelo!
I’ll let the other ones share their input, but for me there is one thing which is very important in the way I see OFN: I see it as an inclusive and educational project.
Saying that only certified producers or producers who have a specific label could use it would be against that “inclusion” principle.
Is it really a problem if you have one hub who doesn’t play the game? Hopefully someone will notice it in your ecosystem and signal this, and you will be able to moderate that case.
But sincerly I wouldn’t recommand to put to much contraints on the producers and hubs, we are all in a journey to make the food system work better, and for me even if conventional local farmers can use the system, and hopefully by entering the ecosystem they would be able to move one step forward…
The most important is the transparency, so that’s why we have the labels/tags on products/producers. So the important is that the way the products are grown is told in a transparent way.
Other inputs?