Rich has been described as “an engineer turned artist turned activist” and is one of the original forces behind Loomio. He recently gave a talk on Internet and Identity at Victoria University, so with that juicy bit of content we thought he was the perfect and timely opener for our spotlight on our people.
Name: Richard D. Bartlett
Age: 28, which is like a granddad in internet time
Title: Director of Autonomy (Richard assures us this is true and not just made up for the interview)
Team: Richard jumps between the code and community team
Why did you get involved with Loomio?
I have a background in open source hardware (as Rich Decibels) and creative community organising (with Concerned Citizens Collective). I got swept up in the Occupy movement when it arrived in Wellington in 2011. I’ve always been pretty concerned about the so-called ‘wicked problems’ facing society: runaway climate change, resource depletion, ecosystem collapse, and the pervading sense of alienation throughout society… This Occupy experience totally transformed my view on all that – it was the first time I’ve ever really had any hope for the future. My participation in that movement lead me to believe that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by an engaged community of empathetic equals. Occupy totally changed my life, and my hope is that Loomio can make that transformative experience much more sustainable, and accessible to millions of other people.
What do you do day-to-day?
I’m what they call a ‘load balancer’: I just put my skills where they’re most needed on any given day. So sometimes that means software development, user support, internal and external communications, a little bit of design and animation… I’m like the ring-in that is always available to collaborate with, whether you’re writing code or a press release.
What’s your one big tip for collaborative decision making?
Over and over again we’ve seen that an engaged group of people with diverse perspectives will come to better outcomes than anyone individual will come up with on their own. It is possible for a group to develop a culture that makes these moments of ‘radical insight’ happen more frequently: you need mutual respect, empathy, and enough context to make sure everyone is on the same page. A bit of process is good, but if you find yourself getting legalistic, or hung up on details, it probably indicates a deeper problem.
What is in store in Loomio over the next five years?
When people ask us what the future holds for Loomio, we have a joke (that is not really joke) that we plan to be bigger than email. By that I mean, in the same way that email is a standard protocol for passing messages around, we’d like to contribute to a standard protocol for decision-making. Within 5 years I would hope that the idea at the core of Loomio is second-nature to many millions of people: that you should be able to participate in decisions that affect you.
Want to hear more from Richard? Check out the talk he did recently at Victoria University below: