Open Collective
Open Collective
DisCO-One Project Grant First Project Update, August 2022
Published on August 11, 2022 by Ann Marie Utratel

August 2022: From the DisCO team, we’re happy to offer our first update, after beginning our work on the One Project grant with the support of Open Collective as our fiscal sponsor. 

We held a kick-off meeting late March as soon as funding was unlocked, and agreed on a revised and streamlined working method for the present team, and maintained our rhythms of weekly team calls and daily communication. Since then we’ve held two further in-person meetings to allow us to have longer, in-depth conversations about overall mission, vision and priorities, and to plan events; we invited collaborator Ela Kagel of Supermarkt, Berlin to attend our most recent meeting to discuss the Berlin-based community around DisCO and plan an autumn 2022 event and workshop. We initiated the co-design of the proposed African Regional DisCO Network with our colleague Brian Tinoota, heading this section of the project from his home base in Zimbabwe. 

One of our first missions was to improve communications and educational guidance for interested collectives. We began with a hand-picked group that had expressed a strong interest in DisCO, who were invited in a first iteration of the ‘DisCO Journey’, where we guide participants through a program of reflecting on the DisCO values and principles as a first step in organizing a DisCO governance model based on actual needs. We’ve been gathering feedback and observations and making adjustments and longer-range plans. Eventually, we will consolidate the Journey into a more formal, online learning format that we can host and manage, with additional supporting video calls for participants.

We have advanced in building strong, long-term alliances with collaborative partners and communities including the following organizations and projects, each with specific relevance and alignment with DisCO values and missions. The groups that benefit from DisCO activities are widespread, varied and numerous including institutions and organizations, researchers, educators, innovators, makers, maker spaces, and grassroots collectives and cooperatives, and individuals seeking to start new working groups.

Partner groups include: Greenpeace International in their Alternative Futures campaign, Platform Cooperatives Europe, EU Commission, Quebec City (Canada) municipally-supported arts based networks e.g. Sporobole and Repaire, bringing DisCO practices and governance to the municipally supported arts sector in Quebec Province , Regen Network collaboration in making their materials more accessible and deepening their understanding of the commons; work with Leap Collective in sandboxing DisCO practices in their facilitation group; MIT's Open Collectives and CareHaus projects on DisCO governance for disenfranchised communities in Baltimore, MD, also Institute for the Future of Work, RAENG, Circles UBI working with their crypto financial design and UBI to complement existing DisCO value streams, and more.

So far, we have hosted two public events and participated in many others. We arranged the first live Spanish DisCO presentation at EthicHub, Madrid (Spain) and hosted a workshop at Newspeak House, London (UK). We participated in events including Regens Unite!; IOT Week Dublin; EU Commission for the European Innovation Area Summit; participated on a panel at the Iklectik Art Lab Festival;  took part in the Radical Friends book launch event (the book includes an interview with the DisCO C.A.T.). We attended in-person meetings with: CRAIC (Creative Coops Hackney, site visit and seminar), Institute for the Future of Work, Furtherfield, MediaLab Matadero. We hosted an in-person DisCO Journey bespoke workshop for the team of SODAA (London, UK) and participated in online events: Blockchain Socialist Interview; Urban Commons lecture series; Twitter live interview. We have attended One Project-related calls and workshops including an ongoing relationship with Future Economy Lab, OP Cohort calls and follow-up with the Wellbeing Economy Alliance

As a result of work done building our DisCO African Network contact base, we have been invited to participate in the AfricaOSH Summit at MboaLab, Yaounde- Cameroon, and invited by the Royal Academy of Engineering to present at the Frontiers Symposium: Engineering Inclusive Economy, in Ethiopia (October), which will expose DisCO to researchers and innovators in this space. 

We see a strong need for adding complementary practices that serve, strengthen and embolden groups without overtaking them entirely unless they are at very early stages of considering governance and values-coherent practices; in other words, we want to help guide groups through the process of using DisCO as a model, but to not make it a larger or more time-consuming mission than necessary compared with their core work. As a learning experience, the DisCO Journey is bidirectional, designed so participants' contributions diversify and strengthen the DisCO framework with documentation of examples that can be adapted to other contexts, easing future DisCO uptake and clarifying community needs as we co-develop tools and resources. To work on this, we're retooling the Journey for better uptake and accessibility. This is the cornerstone of the whole project and the feedback we’re analysing is an important process that will result in greater quality, in fact, we are slow-rolling some other plans in favour of greater outreach and network building of actual DisCO participation at this earlier stage, to gather more DisCO Journey participant feedback (e.g. about needs we can not anticipate on behalf of other groups) for the development stages. 

We have made extensive progress in team co-development of the DisCO Governance model and updated our wiki and educational resources. We have contributed writing to publications that expand our reach and have grown and maintained our social media presence.  We have begun technical base work for planned resources (including updated wiki design, website renovation, self-hosted Loomio groups), and we’re also keeping our focus on community feedback and co-creation before locking in design for materials or tech. Constant in-team communication and evaluation of direct and indirect feedback from the prototyping cohort in the DisCO Journey, to analyze the rate of participation, follow-through and accessibility; feedback in live workshops and Q&As (including during online events). These findings are being used to co-design the first official beta version of the DisCO Journey. We have also invited specific feedback from close allies: Ela Kagel, David Bollier, Alnoor Ladha, Paula Tejón (Greenpeace International), Nathan Schneider, Primavera de Filippi, among others. As a result of Ann Marie's concurrent participation in the Rhizome Fellowship (Culture Hack Labs), we are also using new narrative-analytical tools and educational/cohort-based approaches.

We began knowing that our original governance model is best suited to livelihood-oriented coops that want to include other value streams, specifically pro-bono and care work. However, we’re receiving the most interest from creative industries / community-based arts and culture collectives operating hybrid in-person/online models with large participative communities. Many of these groups straddle non-profit and earnings-driven collective governance (DisCO-friendly hybrid non-profit models with varied types of income streams), so we are balancing between development of modular and interactive governance modeling.  We’re also seeing greater interest (and sometimes misinterpretation) from the blockchain/DAO world, some seeking new governance proposals and inviting closer collaboration and brainstorming with us. We’re working to keep our own narrative fresh as the pandemic polycrisis and future of work narratives are constantly changing. This is informing our website and design updates, forthcoming. Our new slogan is "Cultivate Hope", as we perceive the need to emphasize and nurture practices that bring hope for a better future of work in our interactions,  and we’re playing with the meme of DisCO as an ‘Open Source Conspiracy’, injecting some provocative humor, while seriously presenting a challenge and aiming to inspire others to join forces with us, rather than simply “quit their jobs” - and then what?

Next steps include these major workstreams: 1) Live events with hands-on workshops for varied communities in the US, Europe and Africa, and more online interactions and events planned include participation in the Other Internet Governance Learning Forum, and an Open Collective featured-project event. 2) Maturing the Journey prototype into a platform based, self-guided course as we gather data and continue to build complementary resources. 3) Overhaul of visual, digital and narrative presence, communication and branding as we segue into tech. 4) Fundraising for sustainability.

We are seeking additional fundraising aligned with DisCO principles, compatible with our cooperative, distributed and feminist economic model. This includes plans for an innovative donations campaign, and engagement with key philanthropic and alternative VC organizations and international public bodies encouraging the development of new economic experiments.