How Digital Nomads Run a Distributed Social Media Co-Op

Alanna from Loomio met Romain Chanut at POC21, a 6 week innovation camp in France focused on open source hardware for sustainability. Romain was there with his “Do It Together” JerryCan – a low cost computer you can assemble from recycled materials. We took a break from hacking on hardware to learn more about his other role, as a digital transformer in a social media collective.

Romain is an active volunteer in the MakeSense network, dedicated to helping social entrepreneurs solve their challenges with collective intelligence, and engaging citizens to help changemakers. Since its inception in 2011, MakeSense has mobilized 20,000 citizens in 45 countries to help more than 1,100 social entrepreneurs accelerate their impact.

Romain co-founded Social Media Squad, a consulting cooperative which increases the impact of social entrepreneurs & NGOs by helping them design and implement participatory social media strategies, through a range of activities.

The five associates of the cooperative are always on the move.

We work from different places. With our nomadic way of life,  we need a place where we can take decisions together in an asynchronous way.

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Romain really appreciates the objective distance that making decisions online can afford. There’s less time pressure than in a synchronous meeting, allowing space to to think through issues.

Thanks to the Loomio interface, we have time to think, and can make a comment when we feel like it, not necessarily at that precise moment. It gives a lot of flexibility.

As social media experts, the Squad members are very comfortable with all kinds of digital tools. But they found clear decision-making online a lot more challenging before Loomio.

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Facebook, emails, or other interfaces we have in cyberspace are not designed for collective action and collective change. That’s the goal of Loomio – I really love that.

The Squad has found two kinds of Loomio discussions especially useful. The first is straightforward and practical decisions that would waste precious face-time in a synchronous meeting. For example, each month the members declare their hours worked and decide their wages.

Another type of Loomio discussion they value is introducing big subjects ahead of planned face-to-face meetings. By kicking off the topic online and collecting initial comments, they are able to begin their discussion with greater shared information and understanding when they meet.

For decisions, it’s good that it’s not always in a circle of discussion, but in a remote place. If everyone agrees on the decision in cyberspace, it means they have more distance on it. It works.

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Author: Alanna

Co-founder of Loomio and a director of Enspiral. Developing cultural and digital technology for collaboration.

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