Loomio is Co-Hosting the Open Source // Open Society Conference

Loomio is co-hosting the Open Source // Open Society conference, April 16/17 in Wellington, New Zealand, alongside GitHub, Chalkle, and Enspiral. Get your ticket and join us at the event!

We are extremely excited about this event because openness is a defining aspect of everything Loomio is about. Our mission is to enable a more open world, where transparency and accessibility in decision-making is the new normal. The work of being open is never finished, but openness has been one of our key values right from the start.

The question of the conference is What is Open?:

The recent move towards openness in the digital world was enabled by the Internet, as the most powerful communications infrastructure that has ever existed, which was built on free and open source software. This digital movement taps into the underlying human urge for openness that has always existed. OS/OS is a celebration of efforts to consciously reverse practises that deny people the right to share, to participate, to collaborate. We celebrate “the commons”, both physical and virtual, and work to improve commonly-held resources that benefit all.

Loomio’s software is of course open source (fork us on GitHub!). We have also open sourced our internal company handbook, about how we organise democratically as a worker-owned cooperative. We practice open collaboration with our enthusiastic user community, seeking their input on everything from new feature development to our financial model. We are open about our story and our roadmap.

OSOS Invitation Image

This event is a natural fit for us, and we think it’s going to be an incredibly rich experience. We’re very happy to be welcoming some of Loomio’s supporters and champions to New Zealand for the conference, such as Sascha Meinrath – founder of X-Lab & Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation, where Loomio co-founder Ben Knight is a fellow.

Sascha Meinrath

Loomio co-founder Alanna Krause will be the MC, welcoming a diverse range of participants to delve into their own questions about “Open”. She recently wrote on LinkedIn about why she thinks OS//OS will be amazing.

We’re bringing an open, collaborative approach to how we’re designing the conference itself – how could we not? We’ve launched an OS//OS Loomio community, where participants can get involved in shaping their experience. Attendees can also host an open space session, on their favorite topics related to openness….

There will be opportunities for technical experts and non-technical people alike to find their learning edge. We’ll look at Open Business, Open Data, Open Government, Open Democracy, Open Education, and more. We’re seeing a broad convergence across sectors, with people finding that open ways of doing things unlocks incredible human potential.

If you can be in Wellington April 16/17, get your ticket now, and join us in this journey to more deeply understanding the world of Open.

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Priority-setting in a human-centred organisation

This is the first article in our Cultural Technology series, where we share practices for working in a networked organisation. This is very much a work in progress but we hope it’s valuable to share what we’re learning.

Yesterday we had our first Away Day of the year.

We have an Away Day every 3 months, where we get out of the office for a day to review the past quarter and plan the next one.



The process started a fortnight earlier, with a survey.

agendaFirst we ask about the past: “What worked well in the last quarter? What was challenging? What have we learned?”

Then we ask about the future: “What should we prioritise next? If we had half the budget, what would we focus on? If we had twice the budget, what would we invest in?”

Then we have some more personal questions, to help with the final hiring decisions: “What’s your capacity for work in the next quarter? Are you interested in being a coordinator? What are you most excited to work on?”

We give people plenty of time to work on the survey and review what everyone else has said. It’s partly an information-gathering exercise, but it’s also a way to get people to shift into a different mindset, to switch the mental gears from ‘what am I working on today’ to ‘where are we heading as an organisation.’ It also provides great fodder for informal strategic conversations leading up to the Away Day.


In addition to the survey, we have a selection of reports to consider.

reportThe coordinators each write a report about the work that was delivered in their program for the past quarter, and what’s coming up on the horizon. (Check out this article if you want to know more about coordinators and programs.)

Individuals will also sometimes write their own report about their work, which is a great opportunity for personal reflection, that can then be shared with everyone else.


The day itself starts, like all good Loomio meetings, with a check-in round.

check inIn the check-in round, we hear from everyone, one at a time. It’s pretty informal and dynamic, we’re basically just trying to hear how people are feeling, what is “on top” for them as they arrive in the meeting. We want to hear from the “whole human”, beyond just the worker.

The check-in is a way for everyone to arrive. It allows people to transition from wherever they were previously, and settle into the work of the meeting ahead. It ensures that everyone’s voice has been heard. It means we all have the context to interpret what people bring to the rest of the meeting.

If I only had 3 hours sleep last night because I’m tense and stressed out, that’s relevant information when we’re trying to make a decision together!


Once we’ve all settled, the first half of the day is focussed on the past.

For yesterday’s Away Day, Mary hosted the retrospective session. She had us start by silently writing post-its in four categories: thinking about the past three months, what did you love? what did you lack? what did you long for? what did you learn?

After some time writing on our own, we read out what we’d each written. The themes that emerge from each category then provide us with some direction for the forward-looking part of the day. The process reveals what we want to do more of, and what we want to do differently next time.


Eating together is a hugely important part of culture-building.

lunchEveryone brings some food to share. As we eat, the conversation moves from the profound to the frivolous, from work to home and back again. It creates a sense of warmth, kindness, sincerity and mutual respect. It’s one of the ways we practice manaakitanga with each other.


After lunch, our attention turns to the future.

We start by setting context: how much money do we have to pay people? How much capacity to people have for paid work and unpaid work? What commitments have we made that we absolutely must adhere to? We also check in on the long-term strategy, the 3-year plan.

With the long term plan in mind, and the immediate constraints clear in our minds, we can start to think about what we’re going to aim to achieve over the next three months. Yesterday we approached this question from two angles:

Agreeing outcomes

The first approach is “top-down”: we discussed what outcomes we would commit to deliver by the end of the quarter. Having a shared target and a deadline is a great way to create a coherency of focus throughout the year, ensuring everyone’s efforts are pointing in the same direction. Every task we work on during this next quarter will be directly connected to one of the outcomes we’ve agreed.

Dot voting

dot votingThe second approach is more “bottom-up”. We wrote about 20 index cards with all the things we could work on. The cards are pretty high-level, like “capital raising” or “consulting sales”. We had a short discussion about each card, to hear from people with specific insight into that kind of work, and make sure we all have a shared understanding of what each card represents.

Then we took a few minutes to consider in silence: if you could fund only 6 of these things, what would you fund?

Once we’d all made our own decisions, we then each put 6 sticky dots on the cards we’d chosen. The distribution of dots on cards gives a clear picture of the collective understanding of what we think is most important to focus on.

Next steps

At this point in the day, we’ve revealed a lot of alignment and everyone has provided input into priorities, but there’s still plenty of work to do.

To digest all this input and turn it into a detailed work plan, we choose a couple of coordinators. The coordinators have a mandate to develop an implementation plan, and hire the staff to get it done. They’ll host another session next week, to develop that level of detail in close collaboration with the people who will be doing the work.

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Cultural technology

abstract drawing showing complex conversations weaving together through Loomio

We’re building this organisation on the principle that anyone affected by a decision should be involved in making it.

We’re building software to make that feasible, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In addition to the digital technology, we also use a lot of ‘cultural technology’ – processes, habits and frameworks that we’ve borrowed or invented to make it possible to coordinate a group of people without resorting to coercive practices.

We’re going to share some of the cultural technology that’s working for us. It’s very much a work in progress, so your feedback will really help to shape it.

First up: Priority-setting in a human-centred organisation

We’ll update this post as articles come out :)

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Participate in a study on collective intelligence!

Loomio has received a small grant from Catalyst to help Litemap and Assembl develop their collective intelligence tools. These tools enable users to map the structure of a discussion and visualise the connections between people, thought and action.

If you’re interested in participating please fill out this form.

Participants will use Loomio, Litemap, and Assembl to map out the discussion theme of “what should web-based tools for direct democracy look like in the future?”. We hope to gain a comprehensive view of this theme and insight into the best practices for generating collective intelligence online.

‘Collective intelligence’ – the idea that the intelligence of a group has the potential to be greater than any one group member acting alone – was one of the main inspirations behind Loomio. The loomio team experiences this every week. Someone will bring up a point that we had never thought of, or put into words what we were thinking but didn’t know how to say and we’ll weave these points into the decision.

The internet era has increased the potential for collective intelligence to happen on a mass scale. Other teams have been similarly inspired an created tools geared towards large-scale collective intelligence. The idea is that by allowing participants to see the overall structure of the discussion, and a more structured approach to providing syntheses in the case of Assembl, participants can gain a greater sense of what ground has been covered and where agreement and contention lie.

Assembl is being developed by Imagination For People (a non-profit which helps social entrepreneurs and engaged communities develop ideas and projects that lead to a more collaborative and responsible world) and bluenove (an open innovation consulting and technology company operating in Paris and Montreal).

Litemap is part of a research project of the UK-based Knowledge Media Institute.

Assembl screenshot

Assembl users enter comments in a discussion theme as they do in Loomio.  Users can harvest nuggets and associate them to an idea (the middle panel), and map out the discussion structure as a table of ideas (the left panel) which can subsequently be used to navigate the discussion. The Assembl team have built a feature to import discussions from Loomio using the discussion Atom feed. This will be very useful during the test discussions, and is one of the first Loomio integrations of what we hope will be many more.

Litemap screenshot

Litemap works as a browser extension and a mind map editor. Users harvest content from wherever they find it on the web, and create specific types of elements (topics, issues, ideas, and arguments), which they link together in order to form a structured mind map.

I find both of these approaches intriguing. Outside of Loomio, I work as web developer with an interest in data visualisation.  Different choices in the way information is presented will inevitably highlight some aspects of the data and obscure others.  The thrust of data visualisation is to present information for knowledge and understanding. Web-based data visualisations can also allow users to interact with and explore complex data without being overwhelmed.

Can we achieve the same thing with discussion and issue “data”? For Loomio beta we focused on a simple, accessible flow of comments with a pie chart and vote tally. This works well for small to moderate high trust groups and moderately complex issues. Different approaches may be needed for larger groups, and/or more complex issues. Presenting rich information to groups about their own activity as they generate it could lead to richer shared understandings.

Please sign up if you’re interested, and share this blog post on your own networks. The more participants, the more options we will have in the study.

Participant sign-up form

We’re looking forward to seeing the results of Catalyst project!

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Some thoughts about large scale decision-making

A comment from Loomio co-founder Richard D. Bartlett in a recent discussion about decision-making at scale:

“Personally the two models of scaling that I’m interested in are delegative & deliberative. (See Wikipedia on delegative democracy and Aaron Swartz on the deliberative model known as parpolity.)

Projects like DemocracyOS and LiquidFeedback are exploring the delegative model, where votes can be passed between people to form blocs of influence. I can imagine that being pretty awesome, and pretty problematic too.

Loomio is currently far down the deliberative end of the spectrum. We’ve stayed away from the “hard” problems that come with scale (e.g. identity verification) and are working on the difficult “soft” problems like teaching people to engage with each other respectfully in pursuit of shared understanding.

When we’re talking about nation-scale decision-making, the problem with either electoral or delegative systems is that the point of citizen engagement is entirely discontinuous with the actual crux of governance: negotiation, compromise and consensus-building. Voting leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, it feels like I’m giving up my autonomy in the hopes that some jerk who I don’t even know is going to exercise it in my interests.

Conversely, the deliberative model is fractal, self-similar at all scales, so the grassroots participants have an insight into what operations look like at the uppermost or innermost decision-making body. Participation is an enriching experience for the individuals, and it draws out collective intelligence greater than the sum of its parts.

There are something like 25,000 Podemos members using Loomio right now, in 1,000 different groups. It’s pretty easy for me to imagine Loomio 2.0, where all those groups are associated together into one network. Imagine sending a proposal out to all the different groups in the network and seeing distinct deliberations underway in each local group, watching points of agreement or controversy or insight or initiative spreading virally throughout the network, everyone participating in their full autonomy and simultaneously contributing to a massive collective roar, or a song, a unity of unmerged voices.”

Got something to add? Join the discussion over on Loomio

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How to Engage Your Team with New Technology

Ever failed at getting your team engaged with new technology? We have.

Like many other people, we started off naively thinking that just exposing the team to new technology was enough – that once they saw it, they’d get excited to use it. Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of groups and learned a lot about how to effectively introduce new online tools.Team At Work

We have encountered a series of key questions that arise when introducing new online collaboration tools. Many people focus only on the outputs of technology. But the process of addressing these critical questions is deeply valuable in and of itself. If you engage with these questions and discover you don’t need new technology after all, you will still experience some profound benefits and learnings.

People, place, practice – and then technology


Technology is not just technology. It is about shifting habits and culture around the way things are done. People come first. You are asking them to adapt or change their work practices, and for some this will be hard. In the case of a collaborative tool like Loomio, you might be a new way of thinking about engagement entirely. People tend to raise a lot of understandable concerns, and addressing them will be an important process for your group, allowing you to develop a shared understanding of the problem the new technology is trying to solve.

Key questions

  • How will management treat my contributions? ƒ
  • How secure is the information? ƒ
  • Will I need to spend much more time online? ƒ
  • Will this really improve communications and decision making?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between the people involved? ƒ
  • How well do communications and connections work now? ƒ
  • How will this new tools fit with existing practices?
  • What is the problem with the current methods the group is using, and what are the costs? 


Consider how place and identity work in your group right now. We have found that people who are used to meeting face-to-face have a lot of concern when using online tools about losing relationships, the group dynamic, and the energy between people. We can learn from the practices of offline collaboration to make our online experiences richer and more effective.

If the group feels closest when they are together physically, then considering how to create a sense of familiar space together will be key. If there are important rituals of welcoming and checking in at the beginning of meetings, then creating new ways of arriving and acknowledging members in the online community will be important. In groups where not everyone knows each other coming in, we have found great value in creating space for people to introduce themselves.

Key Questions

  • How does place influence the way the group acts? ƒ
  • How important is identity to this group? ƒ
  • How important is neutrality? ƒ
  • In what ways does the group create identity now? ƒ
  • Where is the group’s ‘place’? Is it physical or online? ƒ
  • How does the place make online community easier or harder in the context of new technology?


Getting clear on current work practice supports success in new work practice. If people are unclear on the terms on engagement, they might not engage at all. Hosting discussions on these questions as a starting place can be a powerful step toward meaningful collaboration, and reveal the group’s true dynamics in a new way.

If the group meets face to face, having an agenda item to discuss how the new technology will be used in the next week will build the new habit. Once people understand the problem being solved by the new technology and how it relates to the current sense of people, place and process, you are much more likely to get great engagement. Consider introducing new technology as a change in work practice rather than just a new tool. ƒ

Key Questions

  • How does the group communicate now?
  • What tools are in use?ƒ
  • How does the group make decisions?
  • Is it clear how agreement is reached? ƒ
  • Does the group understand how work is delegated? ƒ
  • What decision-making or collaboration processes are already in place?
  • Who are the people who need to understand the current problem? ƒ
  • What about your current ways of doing things and group identity are important to uphold and continue? ƒ
  • How can you use current processes to support the introduction of new work practice?

Introducing the Technology

Once you’ve thought through People, Place, and Practice, then begin thinking about introducing the tool. Give people a great first experience, and provide training and resources to encourage uptake. Continue to engage with the deeper questions as the tool is rolled out. Introducing a new process often highlights the strengths and weaknesses of existing processes, and reveals understanding of the dynamics in a group.

People beginning Loomio groups are often amazed to discover they actually don’t know how decisions are currently made in their organisation. The answers you arrive at will be different for every group, but engagement with the deeper questions is the key to genuine and successful collaboration, online and offline.

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Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs to host National Energy Conference Public Engagement on Loomio

Translated from The China Times. Thank you to Audrey Tang and Finjon Kiang!

The Ministry of Economic Affairs, R.O.C. (MoEA) announced that the National Energy Conference is to be held Jan 26, 27. To follow the trends of collecting voices on the internet in nowadays, MoEA plans pre-conference discussions on the internet between Jan 14 – 20.

They chose Loomio as the platform, for an interactive mode like both the National Conference on Economic and Trade Affairs and the Youth Housing Forum have used. They will collect more comments from the internet as references for the main assembly at the National Energy Conference.

To build consensus around the issues, the MoEA initiated 8 regional deliberations and 3 interest-group deliberations. Wang Yun-Ming, the director of the Bureau of Energy, reported that nuclear issues remained the main contention point during the regional deliberations.

Issues include:

  • The fate of the currently-mothballed Nuclear Plant #4
  • The continued operation of the three existing Nuclear Plants
  • Nuclear waste disposal options and associated costs
  • Other deliberation subjects with considerable interests are
  • The restructuring of Taiwan’s industries
  • Fair pricing of electricity
  • Liberalization of electric power production
  • Legislative efforts toward greenhouse gas reduction
  • Executive efforts toward an energy tax

Wang remarked that before the National Energy Conference there will be a week of discussion during January 14-20 on Loomio forums. The host will set topics for discussion, and participants can freely bring forth their contributions. Moderators will summarize on a day-by-day basis, setting the topics of the next day based on each day’s discussions.

It is reported that when the MoEA hosted the National Energy Conference, top-level Executive officials expressed concerns over the “insufficient amount of listening on the Internet,” compared to Ministry of Education (MoE)’s work on the Youth Housing Forum.

Their main concern is that MoEA’s existing web presence and forums, while open to participation, is somewhat rigid and not sufficiently engaging. The other concern is the omission of special-interest-group style deliberations for in-depth, multi-round discussions, and the officials said MoEA has “a lot to learn” from MoE.

However, the subject of energy policies requires understanding of more specialized, hard-science background materials. With the exception of specialists and activist groups, the common citizens are prone to get “confused.”

Government officials lamented that people are often brainwashed by internet rumors even before the actual policies are communicated. They indicated that it’s the duty of all Executive functions to enhance their communication efforts on internet platforms, as participants uninformed of policy content are unlikely to deliberate well.

Loomio has also played an important part during 2014’s National Conference on Economic and Trade Affairs, where people in all areas of life deliberated on the conference’s contents online. As the succession of that inaugural attempt, the main challenge remains if the higher specialized requirements of the National Energy Conference’s topics would make it more difficult for the online world to deliberate and reach consensus.

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It’s here! Get your sneak peek of Loomio 1.0!

Well folks it has been an incredible few months and today is a very special day: we’re inviting everyone (starting with those who supported our crowdfunding campaign) to come in and check out a ‘pre-release’ version of Loomio 1.0.


It’s still rough around the edges but it’s starting to feel like a real app, so we wanted to share it now and get some early feedback. If you want to check it out, you’ll need a Loomio Beta account (go to loomio.org/community and join the group). Then once you’re logged in, you can access the new app by visiting loomio.org/angular.

Loomio app screenshot

This project has always been community-driven, so we’d love to include your ideas in the mix. If you have any thoughts and feedback about the new designs, jump into this thread and let us know what you think.

We’ve got another three weeks of intensive development ahead of us, so you can expect a lot of progress before the end of the year. Then we’ll take all the early feedback into consideration, and pick up again after the holiday break, aiming for a general public release of Loomio 1.0 early next year. (Maybe we should have another launch party…)

Your name, etched in code

Today we also launched a new page on the site, celebrating all of the wonderful crowdfunding supporters. We’ve included their names on the page so they’ll be forever etched into the Loomio code – check it out at loomio.org/crowdfunding_celebration.

Host your own Loomio

We also promised to give some crowdfunding pledgers early access to the “Docker container” – a package that makes it easy to set up and run your own independent version of Loomio. Rob has put together this super helpful screencast video to guide you through the installation process. If you have any questions, join us in the Installing Loomio discussion group and we’ll figure it out together.

♥ Thanks x10000

Walking into the office this morning, I found myself reflecting on the past few months. I don’t know if I can describe the feeling accurately, but honestly… it is such a phenomenal privilege to come in every day and work on this project as my day job. And knowing that it is all possible because of your generosity, and the generosity of thousands of other amazing people around the world… that fills my heart with the biggest goldenest gratefullest vibes. I know the rest of the team is super grateful too. Thanks again and have a great holiday :)

Much love from all of us at Loomio HQ,
♥ Rich & the team

p.s. we sent out a huge stack of postcards and artworks to crowdfunders last week, so keep an eye on your mailbox if you’re expecting something :)

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The Home Stretch: 30 days until we bring the first early access users onto Loomio 1.0!

Home page - wall feed sectionWe went out to the Loomio Community asking for feedback on the new designs for mobile/phone and desktop/tablet. In addition to some excellent suggestions for improvements on the designs, you told us you loved them! We can’t wait to release the new user interface at the end of November.

We’re on track to deliver on all the commitments to our lovely crowdfunders!

  • Mobile – Loomio 1.0 will work great on all your devices
  • Safe – Docker will make it a lot simpler to host your own instance (check out some great new documentation about this on our Github wiki)
  • Accessible – We’re working with accessibility experts, getting user testing feedback, making sure the software works with assistive technology, and more (supported by a grant from the Namaste Foundation, too!)
  • Easy – The new Loomio 1.0 interface is intuitive, simple, and delightful (well, we think it is and hope you agree!)

We’re in the process of delivering the rewards people claimed as crowdfunding backers. If you’re due to receive one, you’ll be hearing from us soon. You can also look forward to a refreshed Loomio homepage, updated help page, and more, all coming together by the end of November.

To stay current with Loomio software development progress, you can always check out the roadmap, which is now IN SPACE!

What happens after crowdfunding?

In addition to delivering the commitments we made in the crowdfunding campaign, we’ve also been hard at work figuring out how to resource Loomio into the future. Our aspirations for Loomio are huge, so we want to find a scalable, sustainable business model that’s aligned with our values and social mission to make it happen.

We posed this question to the community, and the response has been incredible. If you haven’t already participated in this rich discussion, we’d love to welcome your perspective!


Thousands of people in Spain are using Loomio in the Podemos movement, and The New Yorker covered us recently in an article about technology and democracy.

Blitzer-Podemos-Reddit-690Loomio, which is still in its beta version, has been used in seventy-four countries, in twenty-five languages. Podemos is employing it on the largest scale to date. [Loomio co-founder Ben] Knight is sanguine about Podemos’s prospects, and not just because a hundred and seventy-five Loomio users have been signing up each day in Spain; he also appreciates the party’s ethos. “So much of the public discourse in Spain is about collective intelligence. How do we get the government to unlock this collective intelligence?”

Team Loomio is all over the world in the next few weeks. Ben is speaking at FusionRiseUp in Washington DC and then ArtOfChange21 in Paris. Alanna recently returned from speaking at the Participatory Budgeting Conference in San Francisco, and is heading to New York to speak at Mix Mashup. Rich just got back from Australia and next week will be presenting at the g0v summit in Taiwan.

Back in New Zealand, Loomio has been nominated for the People’s Choice in the Open Source Awards. We’re also in the running for the Knight News Challenge for our entry, “Empowering libraries to hear all voices”. You can vote for us if you’d like to see this project become a reality!

New languages


Loomio has been released in Danish and Aragonés, with Turkish on the way. We’ve been working on support for right-to-left languages, and Hebrew and Arabic are both in progress. See all the available languages at loomio.org/translation


  • On the Loomio blog: With thousands rising up in Hungary for a free internet, Ben recounts how Loomio went viral in Hungary, and even ended up on Hungarian TV!
  • We got a very flattering mention on this BBC4 radio show this week: “Loomio is set to be the the Facebook of the citizen web”
  • DemocracyOS is a partner of Loomio, and an amazing project to upgrade democracy. One of the founders, Pia Mancini, has given an incredible TED talk we think everyone should see.
  • And don’t miss Loomio co-founder Vivien Maidaborn’s inspiring TEDx talk on radical management.

Alright, time for me to put my head back down and get this software out the door! Thanks so much for your ongoing support!

♥ Love from Rich and the whole team

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Moving beyond mobilization: Hungary knows how to protest

Attila Kisbenedek /AFP/Getty Images

Attila Kisbenedek /AFP/Getty Images

By Ben Knight, co-founder, @Loomio @benjaminmknight 

Yesterday, 100,000 people mobilized in the streets of Budapest, in response to a proposed tax on Internet access.

“The Internet tax is a symbol of the government’s authoritarianism – we not only need to defeat the Internet tax, we need to believe that we are capable of criticizing and influencing the state.’
Zsolt Varadi, speaking out in a crowd of close to 100,000 protesters in central Budapest yesterday.

Two years ago, large-scale protests in Hungary against education cuts turned very rapidly into a civic movement against an increasingly authoritarian government.

In early 2012, Loomio was still in closed beta and we weren’t accepting new signups. All we had was a rough prototype, and our tiny team had no capacity to support new users. One Tuesday morning in February, a group request came in from a network of Hungarian student activists, who said they wanted to use Loomio because they were democratically organising in opposition to radical government education cuts.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but I couldn’t resist accepting the group request anyway. They got set up, rapidly became active, and within a few days had engaged hundreds of students from around Hungary in deliberative discussion about what action they could take.

The next day, we got a group request from a network of professors, teachers and academics, organising in solidarity with the Hungarian university students.

Again, I couldn’t help but approve the group. they started organising and built momentum, rallying in support of the university students.

The day after that, we got a request from a nationwide network of Hungarian high school students, organising democratically to express their objections to government’s proposed education cuts. The same thing happened. Within days, they had translated the whole Loomio app into Hungarian.

Over the next weeks, new groups formed, and hundreds of university students, academics, high-school students, teachers, professors came together to engage in the hard work of citizen deliberation and participatory democratic decision-making – co-creating the shared purpose of their movement, their principles, their strategy, right down to the daily logistics of civic protest organising.

Crowds rallying in support of the student protests, in Budapest, 2012

Crowds rallying in support of the student protests, in Budapest, 2012

A few weeks into the movement, a pro-government journalist infiltrated the Hungarian student network’s in-person meetings, posing as a student activist. He added an email address to a signup sheet, and was invited into their Loomio group.

That night, the 6 o’clock news in Hungary ran a story aiming to discredit the student movement. The students posted us a link to the video, joking that they had been doing some international advertising on our behalf – it was surreal to see the news clip, displaying screenshots of one of their Loomio discussions, slowly zooming in on highlighted provocative comments, stripped of any context, with a sinister tone playing in the background.

“In the months after we began to use Loomio, the screenshots of our group were already in the evening news of the pro-government media. This marks the importance of this kind of decision-making and the student network of Hungary as well.”

– Karex from the Hungarian student movement, Halgatoi Halozat.

The online organizing on Loomio continued in concert with in-person grassroots movement-building, and after months of struggle involving university occupations and city-wide protests, the government backed down on the proposed education cuts.

And now people in Hungary are mobilizing again.

What’s happening right now is about much more than a tax on Internet access. It’s about restricting the ability of citizens to connect with each other, to exchange and access information, and to participate in civic life.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he wants to abandon liberal democracy in favor of an “illiberal state”. The government has tightened its control over media, raided civil-society NGOs, and changed election rules to help Orban retain a constitutional majority in Parliament.

Open source developers, wherever they live, can help. We can build tools to support the collaborative capacity of these civic movements, providing tools that empower civic groups to move beyond mobilization, into sustainable constructive action – not just saying ‘no’ to oppressive regimes, but building the capacity to co-create better alternatives.

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September update from Loomio HQ

Another month has flown by, with some more huge progress in Loomio land:

Software updates

Loomio-Beta-on-mobileMobile Loomio, oh my goodness!

Huge news – Loomio Beta finally works beautifully on your mobile phone! Participate in decisions from anywhere. This first iteration is still a bit rough around the edges, but it is giving us a lot of valuable feedback as we prepare for Loomio 1.0.

That’s a whole lot of decisions

Since we released the ‘participate by email’ feature last month, we’ve seen a huge spike in activity. Last week more than 4,000 votes were cast, and we’re consistently seeing more than 11,000 new comments being added every week.

It’s mind-blowing to imagine all those comments being shared in a productive collaborative context, by all kinds of people in 26 languages.

Next up: making it easier to host your own Loomio instance

We’ve made huge progress in preparation for the upcoming Docker release for people who want to host Loomio on their own servers, and we’re nearly ready to start running the primary loomio.org installation on Docker. This means we’ll be running the same setup as all the other self-hosted Loomio installations, which will make hosting your own Loomio instance much easier. Rob and Mix have put a huge amount of work into developing technical documentation to support people who want to run their own instance too.

With all the operational and architectural work out of the way, we are now getting stuck into the front-end work for Loomio 1.0. The front end is the bit that you get to see as a Loomio user, so it’s the most exciting part to make progress on. This new interface is going to be super fast, beautiful, accessible, and designed from the ground up to work great on mobile devices.

Social impact projects

We’ve partnered with some extremely inspiring people and projects over the last few months.

namasteOne exciting social impact project is the accessibility work we’ve been able to undertake thanks to a partnership with the Namaste Foundation. They wrote a lovely blog post about working with us, and the feeling is totally mutual. Their support has been a huge boost to our work to make Loomio accessible to people with visual impairment, and we’re undertaking a full accessibility audit in the next phase, taking an accessibility-first approach to all new designs, as well as testing with the community.

Building on this work, we’ve partnered with Providence Community Library in Rhode Island to apply for Knight Foundation funding to run a pilot with their local community. The focus for the project is using Loomio to involve their whole community in collaboration about the library programs they run, including people with limited mobility and visual impairment who might have difficulty coming to in-person meetings.

We’ve also got the beginnings of a really exciting project with Loomio supporting participatory budgeting in high schools in San Jose, California. Will keep you updated as that develops!

Loomions all over the world

Alanna has just returned from an action-packed and inspiring trip to California as a result of her winning Mix Prize story about Loomio and another Enspiral tool called Cobudget. CoBudget helps groups do collaborative, transparent, strategic decision-making around budgets. The trip included an intensive Design Thinking workshop at SAP, visiting some inspiring and supportive Loomio user groups like the Wikimedia Foundation, the Embassy Network, and the Impact HUB, and speaking at the Participatory Budgeting Conference alongside inspiring changemakers working for direct democracy around the world.

gov summitThe wonderful inspiring folks at g0v.tw have very generously sponsored Rich to come to Taiwan in November! He will be at the g0v Summit, talking about open source tools for self-organising democracy.

Long-term sustainability

As we get closer to completing the massive six-month working bee that the generous support of the crowdfunding campaign enabled, we’re thinking a lot about the long-term sustainability of the project. In the last few months, we’ve been delighted to see lots of new companies, city councils, and other formal organisations using Loomio in their work. Over the next little while we’re going to be providing an easy way for commercial groups to pay a modest subscription for using Loomio.

In the long-run this will mean we can pay the rent while keeping Loomio free and open for all of the noncommercial community groups and social movements using it to do great things in the world. We’re totally committed to figuring this out without resorting to pushing ads on people, or selling user data, or other unfortunate business models that so many online companies use. Obviously this is going to start off as a trickle of income, so in the meantime we’re writing lots and lots of grant applications and talking to lots and lots of social impact foundations who support tech-for-good projects like ours. We’ll keep you posted on how all that goes!

❤ Thanks again for your continued support – this project would be nothing without you ❤

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Spring is Here, and We’re Halfway to Loomio 1.0!

It’s the first day of Spring in Aotearoa New Zealand, and it certainly feels like it. We’re now halfway between the end of the crowdfunding campaign and the pre-release date for Loomio 1.0. It’s been hard work, but immensely rewarding. We’re really motivated by all your support. All up, we’re cranking along and things are on track for November!

Software Update

We’ve pushed some huge new features out this month, including the ability to follow discussions. Following makes it easy to get all the important information you need, without drowning in noise. Now it’s easier shift from a traditional mailing list over to a Loomio group, to make decisions as well as share information.

Following Screenshot 19 Tory

It’s also now possible to participate in Loomio threads via email, making the tool massively more accessible and engaging. This is one of the keys to make it easy for people to participate in decisions online as part of their daily routine.

Next up is the most exciting feature of all: a brand-new user interface which will be fully responsive and mobile ready. This is a huge project and we’re excited to finally sink our teeth into it.


See the new Loomio Timeline for an interactive journey through the whole story of Loomio. See all the ups and downs, milestones, the team forming, the evolution of the software and the cooperative, and how we’ve come so far to where we are today.Timeline

In the Media and on the Blog

The Podemos movement in Spain has taken off in a big way, and they’re using Loomio as a community democracy tool!

Yet another example of modern technopolitics or, as some experts have put it, “the power of the connected multitudes.” Podemos (“We Can”), a new Spanish party established in March 2014, disrupted their nation’s political scene when it swept up five seats out of 54 and 1.2 million votes (8% of the total) in the European elections in May even though it was only 100-days-old.

Read more about Podemos, and how thousands of their members are collaborating on Loomio, in Tech President. Podemos users have also begun producing community-generated Loomio help resources in Spanish.

PodemosDon’t miss Ben’s write-up about his experience at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York earlier this year, alongside Loomio supporters and inspirations like Edward Snowden, Clay Shirky, Doug Rushkoff, Micah Sifry, Sue Gardener, and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Other blog posts: a profile of James about why he contributed to the project as an open source developer, Rich on mental health and entrepreneurship and the supportive culture at Loomio, and Ben announced as a New America Foundation X-Lab Fellow.

Open Source // Open Society Conference

What if you took the idea of open source and went way beyond software, into all aspects of society? What does it mean to have open government, open business, open education, and more?

To explore these questions and more, Loomio is teaming up with GitHub, Enspiral, and Chalkle to host the Open Source // Open Society Conference in Wellington in April 2015.

More new languages

Thanks to our incredible translation community, Loomio has been released in 25 languages, most recently Belarusian, Italian, and Serbian!

New Languages

As always, thank you for supporting us! Everything we do is ultimately thanks to you, our amazing community.

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Feature Update: Following, Dashboard Filters, and Reply by Email

We’ve released some exciting new ways to see what’s most important to you on Loomio!

Filter by “Unread” and “Following”

Now you can filter your dashboard content by “unread” and “following”. Unread is similar to the Inbox (which now redirects to this filter), and it shows you all discussions with content you haven’t seen yet. We were guided by the community’s feedback, and we’re pretty happy people seems to be finding it useful!


Following is something new. When you are @mentioned in a discussion, or participate in it by commenting or liking, you will start “following” it. You can also follow a discussion manually by clicking the follow button if you want to keep up to date, and you can follow a while group to automatically follow all of its discussions. So by clicking the following filter, your dashboard will show you the discussions most relevant to you.

Email Notifications for All Activity

You now have the option to be emailed instantly any time there is activity in discussions you’re Following. If you’re someone who primarily likes to interact via email, you can keep up with a Loomio discussion without ever leaving your email inbox. Alongside the other email options, this gives you powerful tools to stay up to date.

email preferences

Reply by Email to Comment in a Loomio Discussion

If you respond to an email notification of discussion activity by email, your response will be automatically posted to the Loomio discussion. We think this will make Loomio a lot more engaging, especially for people staying in the loop on the go using mobile devices.

These features was developed in consultation with the Loomio Community, and we’d love to hear your feedback about it. Join the discussion!

We’ve also added some long-requested usability features

Like the option to change your password while logged in (by going to your profile > change your password), and keyboard shortcuts (press ‘g’ to search your groups, ‘u’ for the user menu, and ‘n’ for notifications).

As always, stay in the loop about what’s coming up in Loomio feature development, and vote up what you think is important, on the Roadmap!

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Loomio at Personal Democracy Forum 2014

Ben Knight

The Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) in New York is an annual gathering of people from around the world working towards a free and open internet. In June this year, we were lucky enough to be invited to present Loomio at PDF, in a session on “The Future of the Public Internet”. Ben Knight talks about his experience speaking at this amazing event.


This was the twelfth year that PDF has run, organised by the wonderful folk at Personal Democracy Media & TechPresident: Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej. It was a privilege to present alongside some seriously impressive individuals like Sue Gardner from the Wikimedia Foundation, and Anne-Marie Slaughter from New America Foundation. PDF14 also marked the launch of Micah Sifry’s new book, “The big disconnect: Why the Internet hasn’t transformed politics (yet), which is a compelling articulation of the need for online tech to go beyond mobilisation and into sustained collective action. ”

During PDF in 2013, the first news broke about the NSA’s mass surveillance that Edward Snowden brought to light. One year on, the theme of PDF ‘14 was “Save the Internet//The Internet Saves”.

PDF Banner

Kicking off the conference with Edward coming in by video-call to speak about “Surveillance and it’s discontents” set a very close-to-home context to the whole thing. The notion that we’re at a moment in history where the internet simultaneously has the potential to be a hugely liberating force for massive decentralisation of power, and the potential to be the ultimate tool for totalitarian repression on a scale we’ve never seen, seemed to flow through the whole conference. So the urgent challenge that came up again and again, is how we can protect the online freedoms we still have, while using the internet to build our capacity for long-term sustained positive change.

Edward Snowden Speaking

It would take a week to write a blow-by-blow account of the whole conference (that much great stuff to cover!), but I wanted to convey a couple of the highlights.

Clay Shirky’s talk on ‘The changing speed of change’ was phenomenally good.

His central idea is that the internet in its current state is optimized to operate on a very short-term time signature (i.e. instant messaging, rapid mobilisation through social media like Twitter), and is ill-equipped for things that need to operate on a long time-scale. On the other hand, the political institutions that are most in need of change are really bad at operating with short time signatures, but their robust structures make them very good at operating with a long-term time signature.

Clay’s call to action is that emergent social movements need to build the capacity to operate on both time signatures at once – rapid mobilization needs to be coupled with long-term strategy. Loomio fits perfectly into this analysis, providing infrastructure to support the long-term time signature needed for sustained action.

Techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci’s amazing talk

In “Movements in a connected age: better at changing minds, worse at changing power”, Zeynep articulately suggests that earlier (pre-internet) social movements were able to achieve more lasting change because the practical work of organizing (coordinating leaflet drops, etc etc) necessitated the formation of organizational structures and strong social ties – these structures and social bonds endured through a sustained effort (over the course of years), enabling the movements to develop long-term strategy for incremental change.

She calls this “organizational capacity”. The immediacy of recent movements is great for initial mobilization, but “the problem with easy” is that it doesn’t build organizational capacity. So again, in line with Clay’s call to action about operating on a longer time-signature, the challenge Zeynep presented was moving beyond the internet’s potential for immediate mobilisation, also using online tools to support the “hard work” of building organisational capacity necessary for sustained social change.

Ben, MJ, Douglas Rushkoff, and Jon Lebkowsky

One of the best aspects to the whole experience was meeting some of Loomio’s biggest supporters and inspirations. Here’s me with Loomio member MJ Kaplan, longtime Loomio supporter and advisor Douglas Rushkoff, and author Jon Lebkowsky, who did some amazing work on networked democracy that was compiled into a book. He and was also one of the collaborators on a wonderful paper pulled together by Joi Ito on Emergent Democracy.

Loomio as “The Internet’s Missing Link”

So that was the context I spoke into – on Micah’s suggestion, framing Loomio (somewhat audaciously) as “The internet’s missing link: tools for turning talk into action”. For people who prefer text to watching a video, here are the notes:

There’s lots of evidence that human collective intelligence is increasing exponentially, and the internet is playing a huge role in this, by speeding up knowledge exchange. But somehow our actions, collectively through institutions, are getting dumber and dumber – and it’s jeapordising the future of the planet.

The Internet is powerful, but there’s a gap when it comes to turning exchanged information into real-world constructive action. If the internet is a distributed global brain, the challenge now is to connect it with the distributed global body, so we can begin to take intelligent action on a world scale.

When the wave of new civic movements happened in 2011, it was the first time a social-media fuelled grassroots mobilisation had gotten people out on the streets in huge numbers. But this was the first step – like an infant in development, the social Internet’s first word was ‘No’. Moving forward, the next steps need to be about saying ‘Yes’.

Decision-making is the bottleneck – we don’t have online tools for crossing the decision point – this requires building shared understanding and agreement around a course of action that can then be implemented. That’s where Loomio comes in – an inclusive online space engineered for building shared understanding and reaching agreement for collective action.

I’ll cover some real-world stories here – linking the Hungarian student movement through to the use of Loomio in civic movements in Brazil, Ukraine and most recently Taiwan. I’ll also mention the Wellington City Council citizen collaboration, and will touch on Generation Zero, the nationally distributed youth climate change action network in NZ organised through Loomio, who started taking its principles offline into their in-person meetings, calling the process ‘Roomio’ – demonstrating the online-offline interface (and feedback loop) that’s so important for actually getting impactful things done in the real world.

I’d like to end on a call to action – basically laying out the risks of not beating this challenge. If we don’t collectively make this happen, and soon, the space will be filled by something pretty scary – decisions will continue to be made by and for these crumbling institutions with very limited intelligence acting in their own interests and against those of most people. I’d like to emphasise that the solutions need to be public, and held in the commons. If the interface between online intelligence and real-world action is owned and controlled by private interests, corporate or government, we’re in a bad place. So let’s get in action, support the great public internet initiatives that already exist and build lots of new ones.

Some of the amazing PDF talks and works by the presenters you don’t want to miss:

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Open Source Developer Profile: James Kiesel

Loomio has always been a community-driven project, and being free and open source software is core to our philosophy and values. We have had code contributions from several dozen programmers. One of the most wonderful things about this project is it’s a beacon for people who care deeply about making a positive difference with technology.

One of those people is James Kiesel. He came to New Zealand on vacation, and didn’t think he’d be doing much programming. But then he encountered Loomio, and next thing you know he’s built RSS feed support, keyboard shortcuts, jumping to the first unread comment, in-line translations, and a whole bunch of other tweaks, fixes, and features.

“Why did you decide to contribute to Loomio as an open source developer?”

James Kiesel is a Philadelphia-based nerd who writes code for a job and makes theater for a living. He’s currently the lead rails developer at SnipSnap and the artistic director of GDP Productions. You can check out some of his past work on github or drop him a line.

If you want to get involved, check out the Loomio Roapmap and Loomio on Github. And join us in the Loomio Community!

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July update from Loomio Land

Greetings friends, wow another month has flown past so it is time for another update from Loomio HQ.

Full steam ahead

The good ship Loomio is steaming along at a fast pace. Most of the software work this month has been under the hood, preparing for the new interface that is coming with Loomio 1.0. In terms of new user-facing features, this month we deployed:

  • Import contacts – instead of copy/pasting email address, you can sync up with your Google account and just type in a person’s name to add them to your Loomio group.
  • RSS feeds – the URL of any public group is now an RSS/Atom feed you can subscribe to it using your favourite feed reader.
  • Group permissions – group coordinators now have many more options to configure who can do what.
  • We relaunched the Explore page, which gives you a snapshot of all the incredible groups using Loomio publicly.

explore page

We’re making friends

We’re exploring exciting partnerships with other great social tech projects focused on resilient community democracy, like DemocracyOS and Commotion. We’re also having excellent conversations with social impact foundations about supporting our work over the longer term. Nothing is confirmed yet but it is all looking very positive, so stay tuned for updates as things develop!

Out and about

This month a couple of Loomions joined Polly LaBarre for this in-depth interview about how Loomio fits into the broader Enspiral picture: a network of more than 100 people that work together without bosses.

Ben is going to be out speaking at the Democracy, Ethics and Public Good forum here in Wellington, so go join him if you’re in town. We’ll also have someone presenting at an upcoming Demos for Democracy event run by the GovLab at NYU – we’ll let you know when that date is confirmed.

That’s a lot of decisions!

As of this week, more than 10,000 decisions have been made on Loomio Beta! We can’t wait to get the fully-featured Loomio 1.0 release out and really start to see some big impact :)

decisions graph

Amazingly, people continue to keep supporting us with donations on our crowdfunding page! We are so incredibly grateful to each and every one of you for making this possible – it really is a huge privilege to get up every morning and go to work on this project. 

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Heaps of New Features!

Look at all these features

Released in the last few weeks…

Import Contacts

It just got a lot easier to add people to Loomio groups – no more having to remember or copy/paste email addresses! You can import your Google contacts, and then when you start typing a name it will just pop up. Neat! Add contact by name Join the discussion on Loomio to find out more about using this feature, and let us know what other services you’d like to see supported for importing.

Participation Permissions

We asked for your feedback, you told us about your use cases, and we designed a new tab in the group setup process called “permissions”. Permissions tab options Coordinators can now determine whether group members can invite new members, create subgroups, start discussions, edit the context panel, edit their comments (even after activity has occurred), raise proposals, and vote on proposals.

These new options will support a wide variety of use cases for participation with different levels of decision-making stakeholding.

RSS/Atom Feed Support

As per the community’s request, the URL of any public group is now an RSS/Atom feed you can subscribe to using your favourite feed reader. Loomio Community RSS Feed

Jump to First Unread Comment

It used to be that you had to click this down arrow button to jump to where you left off in an ongoing discussion thread: Jump to unread comment arrow button But now it jumps there automatically! This means when you return to a Loomio thread, you can pick up where you left off and just read the new content posted since your last visit.

Get Involved!

See what’s in the pipeline and help determine development priorities

The Loomio roadmap is a public, collaborative Trello board where you can see what’s recently been released, what’s in progress and up next, and what suggestions are in the backlog. You can participate by voting up the features you most want to see in the app. See more about the roadmap and our collaborative design process in this previous blog post. Feature Ideas group


If you have an idea that’s not already listed, post about it in the Feature Ideas group on Loomio. We regularly post about features under development and ask for feedback, ideas, and help with user testing in the Loomio Community.

Are you a developer who wants to contribute code?

There are cards on the roadmap tagged with blue, which are features we think developers might have a good experience working on. Check out Loomio on Github, especially the README, which has useful info about installing Loomio on a local machine, the development process, setting up a production server, reporting bugs, and how to find good tasks to pick up.

We’re excited to continue at a fast pace releasing features that continuously improve the Loomio user experience, and support you to make great decisions with your groups.


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Update to Loomio Supporters: July 2014 – Happy Matariki!

It’s Matariki here in Aotearoa New Zealand and we’re really feeling the winter solstice vibe at Loomio HQ – feels like it’s getting brighter every day!

Rocketing towards Loomio 1.0

In the month since you last heard from us, we’ve been hard at work making huge progress towards Loomio 1.0:

Loomio Community Group

  • Identity – groups can now customise how they look with a swanky cover photo
  • Privacy – we’ve made it much easier to control who has access to your groups. In practice, this means for example that anyone interested in the Diaspora software project can join in their discussion and decision-making at the click of a button.
  • Editing – the most-requested and most-debated feature in the project’s history, it’s now possible to edit your comments to fix up typos!
  • Email – we’ve finished the first piece of our project to make Loomio totally accessible through email. We just released the ‘Yesterday on Loomio’ summary message, which updates you with any content you’ve missed.
  • Translation – thanks to our phenomenal volunteers, the software is now available in Khmer (Cambodian), Belarusian, and Macedonian. This brings the language count up to 22, with plenty more in the works :)

We’ve also deployed a collaborative roadmapping process, which means you can contribute to our development priorities.

Building bridges with the international civic technology community

We were lucky enough to have one Loomion (Ben) flown over to the Personal Democracy Forum in New York last month. PDF is an amazing gathering of people working at the intersection between technology and politics, and speaking alongside people like Sue Gardner, Edward Snowden (via video-link), Anne-Marie Slaughter and Clay Shirky was a huge honour.

Aside from the conference, Ben spent time connecting with some truly inspiring folk, getting to know people like Tim O’Reilly, Zeynep Tufekci and Joi Ito, as well as building partnerships with groups like NYU GovLab and the Open Technology Institute’s Commotion project. Expect to hear more about those collaborations as things develop :)

So many people!

User Map

We’re seeing 2-300 new groups joining Loomio Beta each week (around 200 people per day!) from all over the world, which means that well beyond 20,000 people have signed up to Loomio now. We’re really feeling the demand from all corners of the globe.

Loomio in the news

Nathan Schneider wrote this really great editorial for Al Jazeera, contextualising the Occupy movement in the series of global movements that preceded it and continue to this day. He mentions Loomio as one of the promising outcomes of this ongoing movement of movements towards positive systemic change.

Highlights from the blog

As always, thanks again for your ongoing support, vibes, enthusiasm, and energy!

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Feature Update: Editing Content (discussions, proposals, and comments)

You spoke, we listened – “editing comments” has been the most upvoted card since we opened up the public Roadmap.

There has been a lot of discussion about this topic in the past, and sometimes it got a little heated. Listening to user feedback, we learned that people want to be able to correct typos and make clarifications, but they don’t to disturb the integrity of the content.

Taking all this into consideration, we’ve implemented some new features that will allow you to make changes to your content (comments, discussions and proposals), up until other users interact with it.

You will always be able to see when content is edited, and all edits will be saved in a full revision history.

To allow for fixing typos, all users can now edit a comment after they post it, so long as it is the most recent comment in the discussion. Optionally, you can also configure your group to allow for users to edit their comments at time.

You can now edit your proposal title and description, until someone states their position. You can change the closing date at any time.

You can now choose whether or not users can edit the title and context of each other’s discussions. While the wiki-like context panel (the description at the top of a discussion) is great for some groups, we’ve learned there are other groups where only coordinators should be able to do this.

Comprehensive list of user permissions

Coordinators can:

  • Change the group settings.
  • Edit the title and context of any discussion.
  • Move discussions between groups.
  • Invite and approve new members.
  • Send an announcement email to all group members.
  • De-activate a group.
  • Add/remove other coordinators.
  • Delete discussions.
  • Delete comments.

Members can:

  • Delete their own comments.
  • Edit their own comments, until someone has replied.
  • Edit the title and description of proposals they start, until someone has stated their position.
  • Edit the closing date of proposals they start, until they close.
  • Edit the title and context of discussions they start at any time.
  • Start a subgroup, which they become the coordinator of.

Optionally, coordinators can allow group members to:

  • Invite and approve new members.
  • Edit their own comments at any time.
  • Edit the title or context of any discussion in the group.

New options on the group settings page

New group settings options


As always, we take an iterative approach, and you can count on future changes and improvements to all of this in the future. We’re looking forward to your feedback about how these new features work for you in your groups!

Get involved in the discussion in the Loomio Community group.

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Management Hacker Gary Hamel Interviews Loomio

We talk about involvement and empowering people. Over the last 20 years one of the ways of thinking about that is giving people a share of ownership. Loomio is a cooperative, and that’s important. But I see a lot of companies with employee stock ownership plans, but no real involvement. If you want people to feel ownership, having 1% of 1% of 1% of the shares is way less important than having a voice in decisions that matter. Thank you, Loomio, for making a difference.

– Gary Hamel

Internationally renowned management expert Gary Hamel has identified Loomio and Enspiral as cutting edge innovators. This extended interview of Loomio Cooperative and Enspiral Members Alanna Krause and Vivien Maidaborn is from Business Influentials in Auckland, New Zealand, May 2014.

People will find the best solution if they feel it’s open and transparent, if they understand how you got to that decision. They can be confident all voices were considered, and other options were considered.

A couple weeks ago I was talking to the head of sales for one of the biggest high tech companies – you’d all know who it is. They’re part of the new generation and celebrated for being open and all these wonderful things. There’s 12,000 people in the organisation. They had done some kind of big reorganisation of the compensation plan, so I asked him, how did it go? He said it produced a complete shitstorm of defensive reactions.

I said, well did you blog about this to begin with? Did you say, here’s the problem, what do you guys think? He said, no, no, we wanted to do it really quickly so I brought in consultants and we did the whole thing in three months. I had to remind the guy, there’s a difference between speed to implementation and speed to success.

Read the story on Hack Management, watch the Youtube Video – Loomio is a really, really cool platform.

The story of Loomio was named the winner of the Management Innovation Exchange’s Digital Freedom Challenge, which Gary co-founded with Polly LaBarre, who we also had the pleasure of interviewing recently as part of our Inspiring Disruptors blog series.

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Polly LaBarre: The Future of Business is Mavericks, Heretics, and Activists

Polly LabarrePolly LaBarre, cofounder of the Management Innovation Exchange (MiX), and former CNN business correspondent and senior editor of Fast Company magazine,  talks to Loomio about collaboration, democracy, technology, and the need for a new paradigm based on trust and freedom. 

Inspiring Disruptors  is a series of interviews with people at the vanguard of a new way of doing things that maximises autonomy and collaboration. 

The entire interview is well worth watching. We’ve pulled out some choice quotes below.

What does “collaboration” really mean?

The foundation of all successful collaboration is something very human – trust.  More and more organisations are waking up to the power of openness and transparency. The ideology of control – controlling people, controlling information, controlling deviations from the norm – all of that stops collaboration in its tracks.

What is the relationship between organisational change and technology?

Making organisations truly resilient, truly innovative, truly inspiring – fit for the future and fit for human beings – requires a great unraveling of the way they have worked for more than 100 years, since the invention of hierarchy and bureaucracy.  We’re on the verge of a management revolution.

What inspires us are forms of organisation that are driven by web-based principles: all ideas compete on equal footing, your contribution matters more than your credentials, the wisdom of the many trumps the authority of the few, power comes from sharing not hoarding. This requires rethinking and disrupting every single management process, from how you create a budget to how you make decisions to how you set strategy.

What is the role of democracy in business?

Not just business, but all kinds of organisations have been ruled by this ideology of control. It’s not productive when you want imagination and initiative and passion, and you want to tackle complex global problems . We need a different form, based on principles of trust and freedom.

What have been your biggest learnings from the MiX?

The most high-impact case studies we’ve found have all been based in this practice of experimentation, failing fast, learning, and iterating – agile and lean from the software world meets design-led thinking. I think we’ve learned a lot about how great experiments unfold. We need activists in organisations, the merry troublemakers, the mavericks, the heretics. We need institutions that respect what we have to learn from the fringe, where the future starts to unfold.

The most successful leaders are those that create a haven for heretics, that don’t just tolerate them but invite in the contrarian and unorthodox points of view. I’m excited by how many people are actually open to that idea. We’re living more and more in an age of mavericks, heretics, and activists. They’re not trying to burn the house down, they’re trying to find a better way. That’s really inspiring to me.

Find out more at the Management Innovation Exchange.

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A Community-Driven Roadmap: Get Involved in Setting the Development Priorities for Loomio

Right from the start, Loomio has been a community-driven project. From day one, we’ve had real people using Loomio to make real decisions, and real world feedback from users has directed development all along.

The Loomio Community group is an active, enthusiastic group of supporters and contributors. Whether it’s talking about new feature ideas, exploring best practice for facilitating online collaboration, or collaborating to translate the app into 22 languages, this diverse, global community is invaluable. Those of us on Team Loomio consider ourselves members of the Loomio Community of users and supporters, not apart from it.

Loomio Community Group

We recently went back through the entire archive of the Loomio Community group (a treasure trove of over 2 years worth of content) and pulled out a list of all the ideas ever suggested for Loomio.

Loomio Roadmap: All Your Ideas & More

We’ve heard many times that the community wants a publicly viewable roadmap, so people know what’s in the pipeline, and a way for users to give feedback on it. Well, now we have one: loomio.org/roadmap.

Roadmap Trello

The backlog of ideas have come from the Loomio Community, and also include what we’ve promised to deliver for Loomio 1.0 for the crowdfunding campaign we recently completed. The public roadmap is not a static list – it’s an interactive Trello board (modeled on the Trello Dev Board).

There are five main lists of cards:

  • Inbox – new suggestions for various sources, waiting to be processed.
  • Ideas Backlog – Vote up the ones you care about most.
  • Next Up – What the Loomio dev team has prioritised.
  • In Progress – Development currently underway.
  • Live – we’ll have a monthly list so you can see what new stuff has been released.

Cards will move along from ideas to implemented features, in a public, transparent way. You can easily see if your idea has already been suggested, see what features the community as a whole wants most, and check progress on features you care about.

How We’ll Work Together: Collaborative Design Process

At the core of the Loomio philosophy is the idea that including more different perspectives in a constructive way will lead to higher quality decision outcomes. This goes for feature development in our software as well.

We’ve thought hard about how best to involve more people in the design process – the “how” that needs to go along with the “what” of feature development. No one wants to fall in the trap of “design by committee” and it’s important that everyone understands that we’re working within technical and capacity constraints (sometimes the dev team just needs to make decisions). People also want guidance about how they can most constructively give feedback. So a free-for-all approach really isn’t that productive.

Meaningfully involving diverse users in the design and testing process is absolutely the way to build the best possible application, and we’re totally committed to it. We also want to make it easier for open source contributors to pick up work the core team doesn’t have capacity for, and to do that effectively, these jobs must be integrated with the overall vision for the app, and well specced out.

We’re going to use the votes of the community to inform what to prioritise. As cards move into “next up” we will host Loomio discussions in the Feature Ideas group about them. We’ll take on the feedback, develop the feature, and then come back to update when it’s been released. We can then ask everyone to test it out and give more feedback for future iterations, or catch bugs.

We’ve already done this process recently with the New Group Privacy Settings. Read through the thread to see how this kind of collaboration at work!

Call to Action: Get Involved!

We are very excited about this new phase of increased transparency and collaboration in the development roadmap, and can’t wait to get input from the wider community! Right now, go to the Loomio Roadmap Trello board and have a look. Start voting and commenting on features. The future of Loomio will be shaped by you.

Your Input Built Loomio

Almost all the core features of Loomio were actually suggested by the community. It’s really fascinating to go back and see the discussions that led to features we now couldn’t live without.

Wow! That’s quite a list. And it’s going to keep growing….


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Feature update: new group privacy settings

Yesterday we released a whole new system for managing the privacy of your groups. Now when you start a new Loomio group, you’ll get the following options:

Group settings page

Open access groups

As part of this feature, we’ve released the first version of ‘open access groups’. Setting your group to ‘open’ means that any Loomio user can join in immediately, without needing an invitation or approval.

New options, new language

We’ve tried to provide a comprehensive set of options without being too confusing. What do you think? Could it be clearer? We’ve had some really great feedback from the user community to get to this point – we’d love you to join the conversation if you have anything to add.


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Interviewing Marama Davidson – activist and social media maven

Free West Papua Pasifika Festival Mar 2014Marama Davidson is an activist and Green Party candidate for Tamaki-Makaurau in Aotearoa New Zealand. Loomio co-founder Richard Bartlett talks with her here about social media, social justice, and the future of politics.

Inspiring Disruptors  is a series of interviews with people at the vanguard of a new way of doing things that maximises autonomy and collaboration. 

Richard: You’re an avid user of social media. Do you think we could use tools like this to make parliamentary politics more relevant, responsive, and engaged?

Marama: Yes. Social media is enticing more and more people every day to join the online community. I have nanas from my marae back home who keep an eye on me via facebook. Digital communication is particularly important for keeping us connected to rural communities, to young people, to our global movements, to those important issue networks we belong to, to alternative media commentary – I’m totally addicted. We can already see that social media has a role to play in keeping our communities informed of parliamentary politics in a way that is relevant to ordinary New Zealanders. Social media is also a useful way to stay on top of what ordinary citizens are saying and feeling.



“Clicktivism” is really easy – just click “like” – But how do you mobilise people to sustained collective action?

I think the easy ‘like’ is useful as a starting point to raise awareness. The easy ‘like’ can also be a way to maintain interest on an issue that people are already aware of. Social media on its own is not the movement. Social media should be used to compliment and support our grassroots activism – not to replace it. So we use social media to advertise protests, fundraisers, lectures, hui, tree plantings, river cleaning, submission writing etc. Then we go out and do the action. Then we come back and we post photos and stories and videos about what we did and get more people who want to join our next action. This is a simple but effective template that has been used time and time again.



Have you experienced abuse online? How do you handle it? Should making online space civil be the goal?

Of course I have experienced abuse online. I am not talking about people who disagree with my opinions. I am talking about threatening, hostile and mostly anonymous abuse. This is why your support base is important. They provide a buffer and a reality check to remind us that the abuse is not worth putting our emotions towards. And controlling your space is important. I am not interested in providing a forum for nasty anonymous trolls so they get blocked from my page and my twitter. I prefer to keep my own space welcoming for people to step into.

I don’t know if we can control that behaviour so much. I just think we can role model what we would like to see in our spaces.



You’re surely familiar with the highs and lows of collective decision-making, from bitter frustration to amazing empowerment. When you think about some of the collective decision-making processes you’ve been part of, what’s worked? What’s gone wrong?

Wow that’s a question right there! Trust. Trust is key. Trust that everyone wants the same outcome. I am involved with several different groups and kaupapa that require a consensus at every step. The more people involved the longer it takes generally. I am okay with that because it means that when a consensus is reached, it has been thoroughly debated. I have also seen processes completely stalled and it can take but one person to take hostage of a collective. Strong facilitators, clear goals set at the beginning, and a healthy mix of pragmatism and idealism seem to be around when good things happen. The reality of having to compromise can hit hard and I have seen people have to put something of themselves to the side for ‘the bigger picture’.



New technologies mean we’re living in a world of previously unimaginable access to information and interconnectedness. This brings huge promise, and also potential pitfalls. Are we heading for techno-utopia, or techno-dystopia?

My inherently optimistic nature won’t allow me to consider a techno-dystopia. It is going to be a long haul but I think technology is a crucial part of our better world that we are heading towards. We are using the information highway to share stories for how to tackle climate change. We are using social media to change the damaging neoliberal narrative that has had its day in the sun for far too long. We are using new technologies to find solidarity with other communities around the world who are singing our same song. I am encouraged by what is happening with our interconnectedness.



Russell Brand says we shouldn’t even bother voting. What do you say to that? What, for you, is the meaning of democracy beyond voting?

What does it say about any political party when they rely on people not voting at all?! The current National Party do not want you to vote – that is their big game plan. We currently have in government a political party who would prefer people to not be engaged. Their agenda depends on people not voting and not participating and not knowing about what their government is really up to.

I am always concerned about the very voices that we are NOT hearing from. It has always been that those people most negatively impacted on by policy and practice are the very voices that are often side lined in the debate. This is not to say that those groups don’t have strong leaders and advocates, they always do. But at the decision making-level there is often a disastrous lag of representation. The representation of women in parliament for example, hanging at around an abysmal 33% or so – is not cool for Aotearoa. It means that policies that harm women and children have an easier way worming through. Anything that harms women and children harms us all.

Any democracy has to provide for fairness and justice through across our lives. On smaller scales I have seen this happen with just one person leading the waka, but that person has true mana. I have seen democracy happen with consensus groups also, but as I said before the trust and clear visions among the group are solid from the start. Democracy for fairness is what I’m looking for.



For more interviews like this, check out our Inspiring Disruptors series.

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Update to Loomio Supporters: May 2014

Word of the Year: Gratitude

It’s still a bit unreal – over 1600 people contributed over $125,000 to make the Loomio crowdfunding campaign a massive success. Because the “give now” button remains live, amazingly even now donations keep coming in. It was a huge validation of what we’ve believed all along: the world wants Loomio!

Crowdfunding Results

Of course the funds we raised are critical, but in the end it was about so much more than money. We got on the radar of all kinds of people, leading to contact with inspiring aligned groups around the world and new strategic relationships. We more than doubled our reach on social media. We got amazing press coverage, like in FastCompany and Wired. And most importantly, a whole bunch of new groups have started using Loomio to make decisions every single day!

Growth and Impact

Loomio Growth and Impact

Since the campaign ended, we have taken time to do some serious planning. We are on track to bring you Loomio 1.0 – and all the crowdfunding rewards – by November as promised. And we’ll be releasing a lot of features and updates along the way before then!

We’ve released customised public Loomio group, a collaboration with Auckland Council. It’s just getting started, but it’s really exciting.

waitemata auckland council project


“I would like to live an empowered life where I get a real say in issues that affect me, and that is why I back projects like Loomio” – Dr. Roslyn Fuller discusses Loomio in this op-ed for RT

Technology reporter Robbie Allan speaks highly of Loomio in this Radio New Zealand piece.

We were really excited to read probably the most flattering blog ever written about Loomio as a tool for helping cooperatives change the world.

Ben in the USA

Ben has just landed in the USA! He was invited to speak at the Personal Democracy Forum, where he will be talking about the missing link between the collective intelligence of the internet, and real-world action.

You’ll be Hearing from Us!

Transparency is one of our core values, so expect updates like this about once a month. If you’d like to get the news more often, we’ll be updating this Loomio thread weekly, making regular posts to the Loomio Blog, and communicating on Twitter and Facebook.

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Loomio Crowdfunding: That’s a wrap!

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Successful crowdfunding

We did it!

Thanks so much to the 1600+ people who supported the development of Loomio 1.0, collectively giving $US125,000.

The campaign was the biggest high-pressure project that most of us have been involved in. By the end we felt overwhelmed with gratitude but also pretty tired.  Luckily the end of the campaign coincided with Easter holidays so we’ve had time to recharge the batteries. We’ve spent the last couple of days putting detail into our plans for the next six months, and making sure we can deliver as much value as possible in a way that meets our values.

Loomio featured in Wired and FastCompany

It was encouraging to get  featured in FastCompany and Wired right at the end of the campaign Loomio was! We’re pretty chuffed :).

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What’s Next?

We’re pretty excited about what we’ve got in store. A big part of our mission is enabling organisations to be more democratic and this includes practices outside of just using Loomio. You can anticipate blog posts on the Loomio 1.0 plans, what we’ve learnt about running a democratic organisation efficiently, and also on what we learned running a successful crowd funding campaign.

There’s also plenty of people that helped out behind the scenes to whom we happily owe favours -too many to mention here, other than to say we’ve got your back!


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Crowdfunding update: 2 days to go!

After an incredible couple of days, the target is within reach! It’s truly overwhelming to see so many generous people getting behind this project, reminding us that we’re not crazy to pour our lives into it for the last 18 months :)

graph of contributions to date

We’ve got some excellent new content to share too:

Since our last update we’ve added some wonderful interviews to our series of Inspiring Disruptors:

  • Jacqui Graham, social entrepreneur CEO of the Wise Group, on meaningful engagement in a large organisation.
  • Marianne Manilov, grassroots organizer, writer, media strategist on Occupy, democracy, love, movement building, and self-care.
  • Heather Marsh: activist, programmer, political theorist and former Editor in Chief at Wikileaks Central, on new models for 21st Century governance, autonomous movements around the globe, and knowledge as a commons.

New Zealand Herald logo

The New Zealand Herald wrote an encouraging piece about Loomio this week. Nice to see them predicting our success!

And finally, check out this incredibly moving story Inga Jensen wrote about her experience of Occupy as a visually impaired person, and how Loomio’s commitment to inclusivity inspires her.

❤ Thanks friends, we’re so close to the target now! Keep sharing the love: http://love.loomio.org

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Heather Marsh: government as mass collaboration

Heather Marsh is a human rights and internet activist, programmer, political theorist, and former Editor in Chief at Wikileaks Central, and the author of Binding Chaos, a compelling blueprint for 21st century governance. An excerpt:

Binding Chaos - book by Heather Marsh We can do better than [representative democracy]. We can govern by user groups, respect individual rights and global commons, and collaborate using stigmergy. We can belong to overlapping societies voluntarily by acceptance of social contracts. Where necessary, elite expertise can be contained and used through transparent epistemic communities with knowledge bridges while control remains with the user group.

Loomio co-founder Richard D. Bartlett had the very good fortune to interview Heather recently, as part of our ongoing interview series: Inspiring Disruptors.


I’m really excited about your concept of “stigmergic collaboration, epistemic communities and knowledge bridges”. How would you describe these ideas to my 8 year old niece? (She is pretty smart).

Stigmergic collaboration is what happens when people who don’t have to talk to each other or know each other work on the same project and build something together. There has to be one idea that everyone understands and agrees on as a goal but beyond that no one is the boss or telling anyone how to work or even if they should work.

If you go into your doctor’s office and she has a puzzle on a table that other patients have been working on that is an example of stigmergy. You don’t know who has worked on it before or after you, but you know what to do and you are free to add a few pieces if you like.

There are much bigger ideas too, like “Information wants to be free”. There are many nodes under that stigmergical idea, everything from whistleblowers, MOOCs, file sharers, projects such as Wikipedia and Telecomix, open source everything and much more. Everyone is free to further the idea in their own way, the only commonality is the goal.

Epistemic communities are a way to provide elite expertise for projects without relinquishing control to an elite oligarchy. People or ideas are peer promoted from within the user group and communities remain transparent and permeable to everyone. Acceptance or rejection of the ideas is always up to the user group to avoid an unassailable oligarchy.

Knowledge bridges are people who help disseminate information from an expert to a novice level of understanding and collectively audit what the epistemic community is doing. Besides being essential for education and auditing, this is important to avoid demagogues who have the ability and time to develop mass appeal but are not the source of expertise at the level the world needs. Epistemic communities and knowledge bridges allow elite expertise a direct path of communication to the entire user group and provide a path for anyone in the user group to achieve elite expertise if they wish.

Your niece would understand this if she has ever looked up math games on the Internet. The Internet provides many knowledge bridges which help lead her to the epistemic community of elite mathematicians and allow her to become one if she chooses to study that hard.


Where are you seeing these ideas take hold? What do you see happening in the world that gives you hope?

Anywhere information can be very rapidly disseminated, verified, audited and acted upon is fertile ground for stigmergy, epistemic communities and knowledge bridges. I love the way MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) forums sometimes act as a job seeking forum with employers and collaborators finding talent by watching people work in a real setting instead of relying on official certification, like musical collaborations used to result from jam sessions. I also love the local affinity groups and friendships created from those courses.

The progress that gives me hope is in the areas which strive to get more people connected to collaborative networks and more amplification to silent voices. Stigmergy has always been our most powerful collaborative method and stigmergy follows ideas, so efforts to bypass control by corporate media, politicians, thought leaders and other representatives and allow people to contribute ideas directly with their own voices are essential.


Your conception of government as mass collaboration has really influenced my thinking in designing for Loomio. Do you have any ideas about the practice of making this idea real for people in their everyday lives?

Governance to me is action not an organization. It is something people have to just do. It is only after governance by the people is established that politicians can be lobbied into supporting it until it makes them obsolete. My first goal is to enable every person to participate, to write software, platforms and guides and provide outreach of all kinds to help people participate wherever their interests lie.

Unofficial ministries for each system should be set up as permanent open epistemic communities regardless of what government is in power. Currently, lobby groups are sometimes formed to attempt to influence policy but what is needed are full and permanent shadow cabinets by the people. When this shadow cabinet is established and effective, there will be no need for any other. The unofficial ministries which represent the will and peer promoted expertise of the people will guide policy or the elected politicians will face the consequences. The power of the voters is in the contribution of their ideas and actions far more than their ballot vote every four years or so. Official organizations and positions can be replaced by communities which are open to all to participate in. The unofficial ministries can call their own referendums and submit their own bills to elected MP’s when needed. In many cases the involvement of elected officials is not necessary, epistemic communities can guide policy through education and participatory discussion instead of official government policy.


Binding Chaos maps out a pretty compelling blueprint for a new way of structuring society; can we iterate towards it? Do you have ideas about fertile places to start? Whose job is it?

We have to start everywhere. It is everyone’s job to fight for their own autonomy and their own freedom to participate where they feel most excited and fulfilled. The world right now is full of people breaking out of the boundaries set for them, whether they are joining plenums in Bosnia or autodefensas in Mexico, scaling borders between Morocco and Melilla, breaking into a US nuclear weapons plant like 85 year old Sister Megan Rice, making themselves personally responsible for feeding and sheltering homeless people like OpSafeWinter, or fighting for justice for another human like the Free Omar Khadr Now group. Every person who decides to conduct their lives in a way that makes better sense to them and refuses to accept the status quo is participating. Not all ideas will be good, but if we all try we can iterate towards something that is better. And if we all try we can’t be stopped.


Have you had any thoughts about tools to enable this transition? Have you seen any promising approaches?

Collaborative problem solving tools like Loomio, etherpads and many others emerging now are a great help in shaping the way we work. Our methodologies need to change, and these tools will teach the new methodologies to a great extent. We need tools which are free of corporate or centralized control, which are part of their user communities and responsive to them. Organic community cooperatives like Loomio and Lorea are wonderful examples of responsive tool development.

I talked a bit in Binding Chaos about Twitter, Klout and other social media and their tendency to replicate and exaggerate our societal tendencies towards oligarchies. Digital currencies also currently facilitate our trade economy with almost all of its flaws intact. The social influence and currency algorithms both need to be re-examined to not just replicate our old methods but create new ways of interacting and relating to each other. An expiring currency would help to create a more sharing economy. A social influence algorithm that rewarded less on attracting celebrity attention and more on boosting unheard voices would change the impact of celebrity influence. We need more experimentation with the fundamental concepts behind influence and currency.

One of the key areas I would love to see progress is in knowledge repositories as global commons. We can’t have open, permeable epistemic communities on platforms with centralized control. The news will remain as transient spectacle until we have the tools to build knowledge from that information. Wikipedia by itself is not stigmergy, it is a tightly controlled cooperative. We need innovation in data modeling tools that will scale and connect and are not under centralized or corporate control.


What do you think can be done to create safe spaces online? Where have you seen this work well?

We have a lot of work to do first to decide what our definition of safe is. There is a sliding scale between free speech and freedom from the hate speech which is paradoxically a form of censorship. It is interesting to see different populations gravitate to different tools for playing with public influence, amplification and interaction depending on their ideas of where the ideal position on the scale is. I don’t think comfort levels are ever going to be uniform for different people and applications. Diversity of options and freedom from outside spying and control are essential.

Despite the obvious issues with Twitter it is the most interesting place to watch for global political communication, the only place you can publicly see politicians and participants in wars communicating with their opponents. Watching Twitter fights between Israeli forces and Gazans, the M23 militia and the FARDC military in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda politicians and the son of the man they are accused of just assassinating pushes the boundaries of communication about as far as I can imagine. To see these conversations cut short by censorship would be a huge loss.

There has been a great deal of discussion about trolls on Twitter and elsewhere, but they are to some extent the bottom feeders that keep the pond clean and are very self correcting in a troll eats troll platform. In a platform designed around celebrity and majority influence the unpopular opinions are left to the trolls so they are essential. The worst offenders in the name of free speech are those posting child abuse and other violations of privacy and personal integrity. In a self governed and open platform they can be dealt with by either the majority or a vigilante minority with support from law enforcement where crime is committed. The vigilante aspect is quickly reversed and turned on the vigilante if the public feels it is not justified. If a society agrees that certain behaviour cannot have anonymity it won’t for long. It is possible to design a platform where proxy routing anonymity can be tied to social approval so it would not be up to centralized control to decide.

A society with extreme free speech is too uncomfortable for many so it is essential to have both quiet places to work and open forums uncensorable by anything but public opinion and existing laws against child abuse and similar. Also essential is permeability, especially to influential forums. We now have a permanent Nemesis in astroturfing campaigns and attempts to game influence, plus spam. We have to somehow detect and block all that white noise while still maintaining both anonymity and ease of entry. This is definitely one of the most challenging puzzles we have to deal with right now, both socially and echoed in our tools.


How can we support your work?

In the interest of practicing what I preach, I have tried to not trade any of my work by manufacturing scarcity or withholding effort. It is my hope that people will one day pay for value already received by using the donate buttons at the top right on my blog instead of expecting a Kickstarter type campaign or funding drives. I also hope ideas will one day travel through peer promotion and knowledge bridges, not through personal brands or corporate promotion, so I do nothing with my work besides posting it on my blog. People who donate, share my work, use Amazon to share with prisoners, talk about it, translate it and encourage others to support it, leave me free to write and are very appreciated, even more since they are actively changing the world by using the methods described in Binding Chaos.


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Marianne Manilov: Grassroots Organising and Looking After Yourself

This week in our Inspiring Disruptors interview series, Alanna talks to Marianne Manilov – a grassroots organizer, media strategist and writer and cofounder of The Engage Network. Manilov’s 20-plus year career included running campaigns and programs for groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace International and recently helping to organise Wal-Mart workers to stand up for better rights. She is also the co-founder and former Executive Director of The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education.

Marianne 2

In what way did Occupy change organising for you?

There were big differences for me between studying distributed circles of people organising from afar, and then actually experiencing it firsthand in New York. It was enormous to watch it live, and the learnings I took from that will influence my organising for the rest of my life – especially the parts that didn’t work. There was sometimes a tension between the parts that did and didn’t work, and occasional violent events in the park, yet still hundreds got fed every day.  Just like real life.

I learned a lot about about community of care – Occupy fed people and had libraries and medics. Occupy showed that you can do some things coming from care.  There is a lot of fear about care at scale – we’ve seen this in the Wal-Mart work. We used the model of holding small circles and distributed organising in working with Wal-Mart employees, which helped develop the structures that allowed co-creativity. Quite Occupy-esque.

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of Occupy?

There is strength in co-creativity and the fact that anyone can start a small circle. So small and local can build up to really big, huge impact results.

A weakness was that everywhere the Occupy movements were following one model. There was some reflecting of corporate culture and structures, and mirroring it rather than differentiating. For example, everyone set up in parks, with a kitchen. Maybe that wasn’t necessarily the best thing for everyone to do. Because there is no longer a big glaringly obvious presence in the park, there is a misconception that Occupy has died. As the movement grows, General Assemblies may not be for everyone. We’re seeing diversification of Occupy in OccupyOurHomes and OccupyStudentDebt. There is strength in the diversity and the ability to respond to local needs, and come up with unique solutions that are best for each situation, while at the same time sharing a common identity.

Occupy hasn’t died down. It has diversified. It’s going through its natural life cycle. I’m more interested in the permaculture practice of Occupy.

What is the role of media and technology? And the interplay between the online and the offiline?

Throughout these change movements, we’re seeing a move from broadcast media to people media.

People on the ground respond faster and with more flexibility. We’re in a time of co-creation. People-led movements are what’s coming – flat organising, small circles. At Occupy, people on the ground were really important, people who were just learning about media.

Technology is great for reflecting and helping people to organise. It has increased the ability of people to find common interests. But there is always a need for a field team on the ground taking live action. Without something on the ground, it’s a different approach – you need an interplay between both.

What I like that about Loomio is that it feels like a meeting. Anyone has the ability to put out a question, and it’s also like a note-taker at the same time. At General Assembly, inherently there is a bias towards people who talk more, speak English, who are male, who are like myself from New York who are able to interrupt and are more aggressive verbally – whereas with Loomio it’s a little bit different and levels the playing field.  

What is needed to collectively practice the skill of everyday democracy?

On one level, the ability to participate in democracy is linked to needs. Sometimes the movement is too positioned towards direct action – in that way it’s not accessible to people in poverty.  With the Wal-Mart groups, we have done a lot of appreciation and positive feedback as a community – for some people, it was the first time someone had ever considered them a leader.

I think that some people feel like they don’t have a voice. The first practice of democracy is the encouragement in a circle, a network, a community that everyone has a voice, and making sure that people are told that they are valuable over and over again until they can see that for themselves.


You’ve talked about the very human importance of love in your work. How do you bring love into organizing and movement building?

Within any social movement, there will be the people who post on Facebook, the people who cook for everyone, the people who do daycare – it’s about naming the differences and valuing everyone at an equal level.

Within organisations, people reaching out over blocks brings people closer together. In real movements, work life and family life become one. But people get afraid that if they bring their whole selves, it will get in the way of getting ‘the goal’ or the ‘real work’ done. We need a balance between community and goals.

Too much community without goals is what you had sometimes at Occupy. Too much focus on goals and leadership without community characterizes the non-profit industrial complex, which really doesn’t get much done. The right balance is defined differently by every village, and every movement.

Can you speak to the connection between internal self-care or looking after yourself and external work looking after others?

Organising is relationship-building, and relationship-building is based in our ability to put aside our fear and love more deeply. And that’s not easy.

There will always be relationship breakdowns, so it’s a good skill to have to be the bridge rather than part of the breakdown. Working on yourself will make you a better relationship builder.

We’re on cusp of big world change, which I am feeling physically. I’ve been deepening my practice, doing more yoga and meditation.

People in the meditation and yoga fields who are afraid to take action, they need to break through and get over that. And for people who are live in action, saying they don’t have time to do deep work, they need to get over that too.

For me personally, learning to look after myself was a means of protection while growing up in challenging situations. You learn not to be afraid to sit with people who are in pain, to just be with them. I try to see the best in people, and be the voice who sees love, both intra- and inter-organisationally.

A question to ask yourself is: “Are we bonding over everything that’s broken and everyone who is messed up, or are we trying to move forward in broken systems?”


What is your advice for people who want to help make positive change but don’t know where to start?

Don’t think that a small team of people can’t do anything. Take one thing, figure out what is really your calling, and do that thing well in a sustained manner. There is going to be a moment in the global movement – be enough in touch with your inner voice to recognize that moment and stand up. I think everyone is called differently on that.

The most important thing is to just begin something. There is greatness in beginning a practice, and seeing where that leads. Be ready to act. The wave is here. If people move with it, it is rising and it will break. Some people are like, “Oh I don’t know, I don’t have time….” A group of seven mums with three hours a week can do something!

How do you deal with uncertainty or doubt when you’re getting tired out, and feel like it’s all too massive?

Take a break. After 27 years, I believe in my body. I want to know where something lands in my body. There’s this idea that we have to sacrifice everything for every moment, and I think you have to be really careful and listen to your body on that.

I know now where my boundary is on financial stability. If I can’t believe in sustainability for myself, what about others who are under even more financial strain? Who am I locking out because it’s not sustainable?

You definitely don’t want to be in that position where everyone’s exhausted. You should be looking at how you rest more and how are you going to take care of yourselves. When it comes down to it, try not to be too attached to the outcome. Don’t set yourself up to think that you’ve failed if you don’t get the outcome you are after.

Sometimes there are iterations. Was Occupy a success? It was an iteration of something that’s going to be enormously successful.

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Crowdfunding Update: Week Four

After an amazing week, the $100K target is now well within reach! We’re blown away by our team of more than 850 people supporting us to make this project happen!

A tool for activists AND a tool for managers

At the same time as Loomio was being lauded as a winner of the MIX Prize Digital Freedom Challenge, an international management innovation award, we were being featured on RT America as “a fantastic new app for protesters”.


“The beauty of Loomio is that it transcends the tradeoff between efficiency and engagement. And, unlike most conflict-based, majority-rules approaches to group decision-making, it gives a truly diverse mix of perspectives and voices a meaningful role in the conversation, builds a deeply shared understanding of the issue at hand, and generally leads to higher-quality outcomes.” – Polly LaBarre, editor of the MIX Prize and co-founder of Fast Company Magazine

Another $5000 donor!

Law For Change – a growing young organisation of New Zealand law students & graduates dedicated to harnessing legal skills to serve the public interest – has become the second group pledged for a major $5000 Kickstart Collaboration from Loomio, courtesy of a grant from a benefactor in the Dunedin tech community. Law For Change will be using their customised Loomio community to support great decision-making and coordination.

The translation party continues

Thanks to the ongoing work of our wonderful community volunteers, Loomio has now been released in Swedish!

Loomio in Swedish

That brings us up to 20 languages – if you want to get involved in translating Loomio, get in touch with Mix: [email protected]

Interview on Redecentralize.org

redecentralize logo
Redecentralize is a new initiative to support projects that are working to make the Web a safer, freer space.

They interviewed Loomio co-founder Richard D. Bartlett this week, in a fascinating conversation that bounces from decentralised decision-making, to the challenge of online privacy, to the importance of user-centred design in the free software community.

Loomio in the Media

Dutiee, the premiere blog on social startups, featured Loomio this week: “you know a product is truly desired when thousands of people flock to use it even before its launched.”

Open Democracy, based in the UK, published an in-depth review of how Loomio supports “democracy as a skill we can practice with people wherever we are.”

NZ Entrepreneurs shows their support for Kiwi innovation and the Loomio vision: “Software like Loomio is putting the New Zealand tech scene on the map. Even if you don’t think you will use Loomio 1.0, donating is worth it.”

The home stretch

We’ve got one more week to go and we are so close! If everyone who has supported this project can reach out and find one more person to contribute, we’ll blow this target out of the water.

Graph of contributions to date
If you have a minute, send a few people a quick message and ask them to pitch in at: http://love.loomio.org

❤ Thanks so much, and keep sharing the love! ❤


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