Delight in Uncertainty…. Gulp.

Stories from the Road

Loomio Co-op Member and Director MJ Kaplan has been all over the US in recent months, at conferences exploring impact, collaboration, the economy, the future of work, and more.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-3-25-14-pmI was invited to New York by Coburn Ventures, a unique investment firm that is passionate – maybe even obsessed – with understanding complex, deep transformation in the world.  They convened a diverse group of 100 people to explore, reflect and reimagine the dynamics that affect investment and, more broadly, are influencing how we live and work.

Not far from our meeting, a parade of potential cabinet members arrived at Trump Towers, while protestors expressed their dismay at the ‘new normal’ in the U.S. Meanwhile, my beloved Loomio team was back in New Zealand assessing whether our office was safe after a 7.8 earthquake rocked the country.

Delight in uncertainty.  Gulp is right!  Personally, I’m not feeling the love to embrace change right now.

In spite of my trepidation about the year ahead, 2016 has been full of huge progress for Loomio, in the US and globally. I’ve been learning heaps and making new friends as I travel across the US.  No matter where I go, I bump into delighted Loomio customers and supporters.  It’s so amazing to arrive at a large conference to be greeted with ‘I just love Loomio!’

Loomio is trusted.  People are tired of being barraged by ads and having their personal data exploited.  Our users know that Loomio was created for them – to pursue meaningful work in an online space that honors their privacy.  Amidst a noisy crowd of new apps and old platforms, Loomio stands out for its integrity and commitment to customers.


Themes from 7 Recent Conferences

  • Change Sucks.
    Most people hate change, yet we live in a world facing deep, transformative change.  This precariousness instills fear and we/they mental models on the one hand, and inspires openness, inclusion, and resilience among others.  Paradoxes abound.
  • Do Well + Do Good Enterprise Transcends Sector Boundaries.
    Social impact is emerging in new forms, ranging from traditional businesses to self-managed networks to platform cooperatives. Progress depends on local and global experimentation to test, iterate, learn, share and adapt innovative solutions.  Form isn’t as important as values and results.
  • Humans Matter!
    Humanity is the secret sauce that fuels purposeful work.  As machines take over many roles, we need to appreciate and leverage uniquely human contributions, and re-create workplaces to support peoples’ needs.


The New York Times New Work Summit featured corporate execs such as Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, talking about culture, and Stuart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, musing about leadership.

Ironically for me, a lifelong pacifist, I was most impressed by General Stan McChrystal. He discarded a century of conventional wisdom and created a network combining transparent communication with decentralized decision-making to combat Al Quada in Iraq when he took over command of the Joint Special Operations in 2013.  In Team of Teams he describes how he had to unlearn leadership beliefs and practices honed through a long career to lead this bold transformation.

The changing nature of teams and networks was also a major topic at Next Economy: The Future of Work.

IBM CIO Jeff Smith described how they are reorganizing to engage and tap employees’ creativity and passion in self-managed teams.  Matt Jorgenson shared about Josephine, a food start-up that describes its work as practicing empathy. Jeff says they aim to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes even when (especially when) it’s difficult, inconvenient, and when others around us aren’t. Qualities that are uniquely human, such as empathy and integrity, will differentiate the value people can contribute from the growing role of machines.


I spoke at two forums with little focus on technology – Participatory Budgeting and National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation.

My talks highlighted that technology isn’t a substitute for in-person collaboration.  Technology is an enabler that can increase access and engagement for some people who may never get to a meeting.  The power of both in-person forums and online work expands who contributes and how people work together.

Participants at Feedback Labs Summit: From Talk to Action were primarily NGO’s working in international development.

This network is introducing new tools to make sure that clients gain a stronger voice.  Loomio is adding value to provider networks that are sharing practices and innovating collectively.  They crave new tools that are easy to use across enterprises and help them move more nimbly from talk to action.

The Platform Cooperativism gathering had quite a different tone –a taste of post-traumatic shock taking place just a few days after the election.

Eventually, optimism shone through from the stories of efforts to dramatically improve digital workers’ rights. Start-ups such as Green Taxi Cooperative in Colorado and Loconomics Cooperative in the Bay Area are creating new economic models that benefit both workers and the broader community.  They are harnessing the power of the internet and cooperative structures, so that “service providers can reap the fruits of their own labor” according to organizer Trebor Schulz.

To close out the year, I’m heading back to New Zealand to get hugs from my team (it’s hard working 9,000 miles away) and scheme 2017 strategy.  Delight in uncertainty.  Hmmm.  I have a long plane ride to meditate on this provocation.

image-12-4-16-at-5-16-pmI borrowed the title for this post from Pip Coburn from Coburn Ventures. He shared the following quote from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book “The Art of Communicating”.

“As powerful as compassionate communication can be when we use it in our individual relationships, its power is magnified when we bring it to our communities. Both communication and community have the same Latin root, communicare, meaning to impart, share, or make common. We need to go in the direction of reconciliation and understanding, not just with our friends and family, but in our neighborhoods and workplaces. We can create and inclusive, compassionate foundation as the basis from which we interact with everyone. A community that is committed to mindful speech and deep listening can be very effective in making society better. These two practices could be part of a global ethic that would be available to people of any culture or religion readtion to reduce conflict and restore communication.”

These words are the reason Loomio exists. These words inspire me to get up in the morning amidst set backs in the U.S. (and elsewhere) that seem unimaginable. These words guide me to delight in uncertainty. Gulp.

Upcoming events in Wellington & special offer for local organisations

Friday Dec 2, 4:00 PM
Documentary Screening: A New Economy

Join us for the New Zealand Premiere of an inspiring new film featuring Loomio alongside other cooperative organisations.

“What if working together for the good of all was the most common business model? Watch, as several organisations strive towards building a more cooperative future.”


Friday Dec 2, 7:00 PM
Loomio’s 5th Birthday Party

Join us in our new office at 17 Garrett Street (level 2), to celebrate the journey of the last five years, and look forward to the next five years.

Doors open at 7PM. At 7:30 we’ll have a few words from the team.


Tuesday Dec 6, 11:30 AM
Free Training Workshop

Let us help you get the most from Loomio! We go over the basics of setting up your group, onboarding and engaging group members, and using proposals to build shared understanding. Learn how other groups are using Loomio, and tips to help improve your group’s collaboration experience.

Special Offer for Local Organisations

Successful team collaboration and stakeholder engagement online takes skill and experience. In partnership with a network of consultants and experienced online facilitators, Loomio offers a customised services tailored to your needs.

How Loomio helped Statistics New Zealand with citizen engagement around the national census.

Following the recent earthquakes we stayed out of our office while safety checks were carried out, like most in Wellington.  However, apart from feeling a bit shaken, we were able to maintain business continuity through online collaboration. If you have been displaced and would like to know how to stay productive together even if you’re unable to meet physically.

 Check Out Loomio

Statistics New Zealand use Loomio for Citizen Engagement

Statistics New Zealand (Tatauranga Aotearoa) is a government department gathering statistics on a wide range of subjects.

They used Loomio to engage citizens in refining the questions for the 2018 Census.

We talked with Susan Riddle, Sophie Davies, and Tom MacDiarmid to find out about the challenges and successes of using Loomio:

“Loomio was for us a new tool: untested waters. Just having a widely-available public discussion was new for us!

It allowed us to expand on what would typically be the local town hall meeting, and reach many more people. We reached people that otherwise wouldn’t have contributed to the conversation, including marginalised populations and youth.”

— Tom MacDiarmid, Statistics New Zealand


Need to engage a wider group of people in your consultation project?

Loomio is easy to use and accessible, enabling you to engage with people in a facilitated conversation. Data and analytics reports provide a record of the engagement.

You can start your own Loomio group now, or contact us if you need direct support.

Loomio has a network of experienced consultants and facilitators who can help you set up your group, and train & coach your team in online facilitation.

News November 2016: Imagine if Elections Worked More like Loomio

It’s been quite a month…

Here in New Zealand we’ve been shaken by a 7.5 earthquake, while the world has been shaken politically.

Alanna Krause
Loomio co-founder Alanna

Luckily our team is safe after the quake, apart from a couple things knocked off shelves. A lot of people are feeling knocked off balance in their understanding of the world right now, and we’re right there with you.

Real social change doesn’t come from going to the polls once every few years. Nor does it come from clicking around social media in polarised bubbles. It comes from feeling heard enough that you’re open to changing your mind. It comes from really knowing and committing to each other as fellow citizens and human beings.

How might it be different if elections were more like Loomio, with a context box, an abstain option, and a block button? Imagine a constructive deliberation, where you changed your position through really listening to others. Imagine if we considered the whole pie chart…. Continue reading “News November 2016: Imagine if Elections Worked More like Loomio”

Move the Advice Process Online in 3 Steps

In a self-managed company, everyone is a decision-maker. You need an effective process that enables group input while empowering individuals to act – and effective tools for running it.

The Advice Process in one sentence:

Every person can make a decision, as long as they seek advice from those who will be meaningfully affected and people with relevant expertise.

Continue reading “Move the Advice Process Online in 3 Steps”

Ours To Hack and To Own: a Review

Platform cooperativism is the radical idea that the internet would do more good if its major properties were democratically owned and governed.

The Platform Cooperativism conference is coming up this month in NYC: the second major gathering of this emerging new movement attempting to reboot the internet as if workers rights mattered. In preparation for the event, Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider (the movement’s two daddies) have launched a new collection of essays on the topic: Ours To Hack and To Own.

“Put it on the blockchain” is no substitute for a critical analysis of power.

We reviewed the book review here…

Podcast: how organisations and groups can self-organise at scale.


In this new interview, Loomio cofounder Richard D. Bartlett shares insights from Enspiral, Occupy Wall Street and Loomio, exploring the question How can organisations and groups self-organise?

Big thanks to the Cucumber crew for hosting us on the podcast!

(Also available on iTunes)