What are the values that we want OFN Partners to share?

Continuing from: Collaborative Governance scheme

There is a ‘working’ google doc that outlines some intentions etc about where we want OFN Global Partnerships to go. This doc says:

The Open Food Foundation is seeking to partner with values-aligned organisations in other regions to make Open Food Network available to as many people as possible and to ensure that Open Food Network “commons” can continue to grow and adapt to diverse and changing needs

So far, the Open Food Network global has grown slowly and organically as people contact us about the possibility of initiating and running OFN in their region / country. So we have been able to establish with ‘values-alignment’ through lots of skype / hangout conversations, ‘eye-balling’ and getting to know people. So all of you in the OFN Partners group have been through this and we’ve formed a ‘core group’ of people with strongly aligned values and intentions for this project. All of these partners then need to accept and agree to new formal partners.

As the numbers of contacts etc get greater, and we start to hit some curly issues around politics and positioning it seems we need a bit more discussion / clarity about what our values are and how they could affect partnerships. This could be either formal OFN partners (e.g. implementing OFN) or other partners (e.g. funding, project or technology partners)

I have a strong preference for having these discussions here in the forum, in the interests of transparency and further improving our shared understanding

So in addition to general agreement to the values in the above doc (openness; transparency; systemic; diversity and flexibility; community) here’s some other things that have come up . .

Partner Organisations must:

  1. Exist for (or include as) purpose of furthering food sovereignty and placing control over food and agricultural systems in the hands of those who produce and consume that food

  2. Be ‘non-profit’ or local equivalent - they must not distribute profits from the provision of OFN to private interests, whether they be investors, shareholders etc.

  3. Clearly and publicly state their position in relation to critical political issues, where existing OFN partners have strong agreed positions [sorry really clumsy, can anyone do better?]
    e.g. from Potential use of blockchain technologies to build our commons?:

OK, that’s a start - what else have we got? @lawrence @Selmo @serenity @MyriamBoure @eric @NickWeir etc

Thanks @Kirsten for starting this thread and sorry for taking so long to respond. I meant to get to it sooner as I believe this is a critical issue and it would benefit us greatly to have our values defined. IMHO open and participatory forum is the only acceptable way to define any governing principle.

As anyone who read the other threads you refer to no doubt deduced, I have strong and definite opinions when it comes to values. It is something I spent a lot of time thinking about and through a long deductive process I have arrived at a single maxim which can be used to gauge any query or question pertaining to ethics and values. I use it in my own life and I am happy to share it here. It is sometimes called Universal law or natural law and it states:

‘You are free to express yourself in any way you wish provided you don’t knowingly inhibit the ability of another to express themselves in any way they wish.’

Simplicity being the pinnacle of complexity, this simple statement is all encompassing. I have seen attempts at reducing it to state: “Do no harm” but that opens the debate as to what constitutes harm.

Universal law can be used then to evaluate any organisation (organisations have mission statements and are legally described in terms of their function) and the actions of any individual. For example, we want a partner organisation to be non-profit. That immediately excludes all profit driven corporations because a corporation can not deviate from it’s primary definition which is to return a profit and profit implies advantageous gain. For one party to be at an advantage, the other has to be at a disadvantage. Therefore all corporations are in violation of natural law. An organisation which functions on the principle of fair exchange and cooperation on the other hand passes the bar.

In terms of acceptance criteria we could be a tad more specific though.

I agree with points 1 and 2 as is and will attempt to shape point 3 a bit.

  1. Should any group member query the suitability of a potential partner organisation based on group values, the organisation must clearly and publicly state it’s position regrading the issue which raised the query.

One more point I would like to clarify as it is something which was raised a couple of times, is the issue of non-violence. I realise it is a bit off topic - sorry.

Non-violence principle states that one will not INITIATE violence. It does not mean that one has to meekly accept violence being done to the self or others in the interest of not being violent. This belief is a perversion of non-violence. Violence as a defensive tactic is perfectly acceptable under the non-violence principle. Allowing violence to be done to the self or others in fact violates the principle of non-violence because it not only implies consent but also tacit complicity. If you do not resist the attacker, you are aiding him.

Out planet and society is under constant attack from hierarchies which seek to dominate, exploit and subjugate through coercion, violence deceit and manipulation (a subtle form of violence) and we have the inalienable sovereign right to defend ourselves from this violent attack by creating alternative systems, speaking out against the hierarchies in terms as strong as those they use and, if need be, using physical counter violence.

Thanks all.

Thank you @Kirsten for opening this discussion. I think the five values you cite and the three “base-lines” you have stated are a good start, but I’m not sure we have to separate those three points and put them “in addition” to the values. For me they need to be “embedded” in the values, and what we should discuss here, in this wiki, are the values themselves.

To make my point more clear, I made a first attempt, based on the first 5 values you stated, and I added 4 other ones and tried to describe them all a bit more in details to include explicitly the three points you wanted to add (and I added some more that I think could be added… if of course they are shared by the community!). I asked the question “why?” and tried to identify what is the value that underlies the three points…
Here is the document, don’t hesitate to comment and modify (please use the suggesting/comment mode so that we see all the changes and contributions and we can build on each other): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1z2pKA9MaoYseN0HRYaGAQbMj4VSDLg-wwikmMufHOCs/edit?usp=sharing

What I propose is to move the content of that google doc in that wiki (or do it in the google doc if it’s easier?) and stay focused on the values that we want all the OFN partners to share, and discuss on them, work together on how we want to describe those values so that they reflect clearly the essence of our community. And in those descriptions we can be a bit more precise to make clear what we expect, regarding a given value, from OFN partners.

An additional comment on the point 3 (which for me is not needed if we embed all that in the values): for me, a community is not a group of people who have the same opinion, but a group of people who share the same values and a common vision of the project that gathers them. And being open and promote diversity is also about accepting, and being able to work with, people who don’t always have the same opinion as us, even on topics that are important to us. Which is, as illustrated by the recent discussions, already the case, we obviously don’t have the same opinions on what violence is, maybe some other people don’t have the same opinion on Israel, also because we don’t have the same stories, the same wounds, the same perceptions of things, the same sensitivity. And I really don’t want to spend hours answering on discourse and trying to convince people who don’t have the same opinion as me. I just want to be able to work with you even if I don’t have the same opinion.
Should we exclude potential partners because they don’t share some of our opinions, or should we learn how to work with people who think differently from us, as long as they share the values we have agreed upon, and share our vision and mission, of course? Do we talk about shared opinions or values? For me it is dangerous for a community to “impose” any opinion.

From my OuiShare involvement, I have another experience of a global community building, around a decentralized organization based on local communities. In OuiShare we have, at an early stage ((I was not there at that stage) gathered and brainstormed, in open forums, to write the values that are the “cement” of our community. And regularly, at summits (the global community meets every 6 months) we work on them together. And I can tell you that we have very different opinions on lots of subjects that are very important to us, and there are lots of strong personalities, and we debate a lot. But we can work together beyond that, because we know we share the values. http://ouishare.net/en/about/values.
And here is the message that introduces the OuiShare values: “This is the heart of our community: the ten values that guide all our actions and decisions. Even though we all come from diverse backgrounds and approach topics from various perspectives, these principles are what hold us together.These did not emerge overnight, but are the result of a long process that began at our second OuiShare Summit in Rome in November 2012. But as you can guess from our value “permanent beta”, this list is not final – it will evolve and be adapted as we go!”

Maybe something along the lines of:

Clearly and publicly state their position in relation to critical political issues that have become relevant to the OFN community, as demonstrated by the public agreements of other OFN partners.