No Boss Does Not Mean No Leadership

A friend got in touch with a question…

“Do you have favorite lessons from being a professional Cat Herder? I’m working in a flat, collaborative group, but I’ve realized that by jumping in to save the day all the time I am establishing myself as the point of control. People instinctively go to me instead of the group at large with ideas and problems. Now I’m worried that if I step back, our plans could fall through.”

Leadership is the force that guides people to achieve desired outcomes through coordinated effort. It doesn’t require a boss.

My friend is running into trouble precisely because she has leadership skills, but in our society we aren’t really taught how to apply leadership outside of hierarchy.

Continue reading…

Loomio News for August 2015

Here’s a quick update with all the latest news from Loomio land for August :)

Participatory democracy sneaking into Utah

utahCivicist (the new civic tech blog from the folks at Personal Democracy Media) published this excellent piece about the Provo People’s Lobby: a collaboration between Loomio, NationBuilder, and the City of Provo, Utah.

Collective intelligence

animated cat gifLoomio co-op member Simon Tegg asks: is watching this cat gif more fun than contributing to a collective intelligence project?

Open source eco-hacking

Three of the Loomio co-op members are currently en route to POC21 in France. They are going to be supporting the teams there to develop collaborative practices to sustain their amazing open source eco-hacking projects :)

Connecting open source technologies

CollabForge explain the technological wizardry that allowed them to connect their collaboration platform Collabco with Loomio. They stitched the tools together for the Shape RMIT project: a massive collaborative strategy-setting process for RMIT University.

Highlights from the blog

Collaborating online and off

discussion turns into actionMix wrote this exquisitely illustrated article explaining how you can weave collaborative processes together online and in person.

A caring organisation

Caring Work - illustration by Lance RavenswoodHere’s a story I wrote explaining how we look after each other at Loomio: Feelings, magic and gendered work: processes, policies and structures for caring organisations.

Design for developers

We recently hosted a session at Enspiral to explain how we approach user experience design at Loomio. There’s video, notes, and slides on the blog here.

That’s it for another issue of Loomio News. Join the mailing list to receive Loomio News right in your email inbox (roughly) once a month.

Thanks for your ongoing support!
Much love from all the Loomions in Aotearoa New Zealand, France and the USA.

❤ from Rich

Evolution @ Aroha

We recently returned from one of our biannual strategy weekends.

Loomio team

The good folks from Kiwi Connect very generously hosted us in the beautiful Aroha Valley for three days of deep connection and strategic thinking.

We started by zooming 20 years into the future, envisioning the world we want to help create in 2035. With that in mind, we then asked: what do we need to achieve within 3 years? and within 3 months?

This work is complex, challenging, and intense, but we came out the other side with renewed clarity about where we’re heading, and how we’re going to get there.

feelings, magic & gendered work: processes & structures of a collaborative workplace

A Facebook friend asked this question on Friday:

“What do you think are the most critical things (I’m talking specific processes, policies, and structures rather than values) that make up non-competitive and more collaborative and caring workplaces? Spaces where people are encouraged to really praise and acknowledge someone else’s work rather than hide someone else’s contribution, where people want to spend time on the collective good rather than next personal gain, and where the often invisible and gendered work of caring and ‘organisation culture’ is prioritised and publicly valued as critically important? What are some practical things you can implement, aside from the destruction of capitalism? Ideas, you wise group of souls?”

I’ve spent the last couple of years working with an incredible bunch of people to build an organisation that is exactly like that: caring, collaborative, and non-competitive, a space where we praise and acknowledge each other, where the work of caring is shared equally, regardless of gender.

Continue reading…

More efficient in-person meetings with Loomio

Working efficiently as a group is complex. Part of the puzzle is to find a balance between in-person meetings  and online collaboration. Meetings are costly, but they allow for rich information transfer. Online collaboration allows everyone to contribute in their own time, but there are plenty of conversations you don’t want to have online. With the right balance, you can get the best of both worlds.

During an in person meeting, discussing an Agenda Item ideally goes something like:
discussion turns into action

  1. Someone presents the Agenda Item
  2. Others weave in additional detail
  3. Discussion converges to a clear Action Point

We record Action Points with: name of the agreed action; person responsible; and maybe a due date

It’s not uncommon for discussion to raise points outside of the scope of a meeting, or to lead to complexity that can’t be resolved within the allocated time. If you can notice this happening, then you can respect this complexity and peoples time, by clearly recording the details and pushing discussion and decision making out to Loomio.

discussion in person discussion moves online

  1. Someone presents the Agenda Item
  2. Others weave in additional detail
  3. A Facilitator notices burgeoning complexity, and asks “Does this sound like a Loomio?”
  4. The group agrees to move the topic to Loomio, where it can be discussed asynchronously

It’s a good idea for the Loomio to be held by one or more people interested in the problem. This group can also facilitate great decision-making by resolving a clearer context. This might involve gathering data, seeking expert advice, or preparing a range of recommendations.

Once you’ve got a clear outcome, you can take that to the next team meeting. Online offline flow might look like this:
In person discussion goes to loomio and then back to meeting

  1. The team gathers for a meeting, and works through some Agenda Items. The second item can’t be resolved in the meeting so it’s decided to push it out to Loomio. The meeting ends.
  2. Relevant members engage with the discussion on Loomio, and come to a decision or recommendation
  3. The team meets again in person. The results of the discussion are fed back to the team.

Design for Developers

how to make a good app without wearing a turtleneck

Rich has been doing a lot of design work for Loomio lately. Today he hosted a session at Enspiral Space to explain his design process.

The presentation was primarily targeted at an audience of software developers, but will interest anyone looking for an insight into how software design works.

The recording includes a 30 minute presentation from Rich, followed by Q&A.

Slides available here.

Resources mentioned in the talk:

Peter’s notes from the session:
Peter's notes

Derek’s notes from the session.

Feel free to reach out to Rich on Twitter: @richdecibels

Heaps of exciting news from Loomio HQ :)

A quick update from Rich at Loomio HQ to let you know how things are going.

More than 86,000 people have joined Loomio, making more than 28,000 decisions in nearly 100 countries, so it’s feeling like we’re really starting to have some impact in the world!


At the end of last year we announced the first “early access” to the new version of the software (Loomio 1.0) to crowdfunding backers. Since then a big focus of the work has been on accessibility: we’re working with an international community of people with different disabilities to make sure Loomio 1.0 is going to be the most accessible discussion platform on the web.

Here’s me talking about how we’re making Loomio work for blind people

This has been a tremendous experience for me personally, especially learning how blind people navigate the web and how a small effort on the part of people building technology can make a huge difference to some people’s quality of life.

Heading for launch…

We’re progressively bringing more and more people onto the new software, iteratively improving the usability of the platform with each new batch. We’re working towards a public launch date later this year, which will be a major push to announce ourselves to the world in a big way.

We want to be in a financially sustainable position before we invite millions of people to get on board. To that end, we’ve been developing relationships with impact foundations in the US who support social good projects like this. Nothing is signed yet, but I can say we’re feeling optimistic about our prospects :)

Advisory Council


We’re also supremely honoured and excited to introduce our Advisory Council, some of the brightest minds in democracy and tech internationally:

Travel stories

A man walking down a narrow alley in Taiwan
Photo credit: Yuwei Liu / 劉毓惟

One of the benefits of doing this work is that we get invited to talk to all kinds of different groups around the world.

Here’s Alanna talking introducing Loomio to the Mix Mashup in New York, a gathering of “management innovators—pioneering leaders, courageous hackers, and agenda-setting thinkers from every realm of endeavor.”

And while Alanna was in the States talking to the management innovation community, I was in Taiwan talking to some young radicals about the future of democracy. Here’s a blog post and video from my trip.

And finally here’s Ben at the Skoll World Forum, discussing the Future of Work on a panel with Bettina Warburg from the Institute for the Future and David Jones from Microsoft. It highlights a very interesting divergence between Loomio’s vision of the future where people can use open source technologies to co-create a more sustainable equitable world, and Microsoft’s vision of a future where proprietary software makes the status quo a little more convenient.

Thank you so much for supporting this vision! It’s an ambitious journey, but it’s great to know we’re travelling together with such an amazing community of supporters like you.

♥ with infinite love and gratitude,

from Rich, on behalf of the whole Loomio Co-op