Governing Commons Together, at La Coroutine Co-working

Alanna from Loomio met Simon Sarazin in Berlin at “Capital for the Commons”, where Simon was presenting his work on uCoin, a project seeking to implement universal basic income through cryptocurrency. He took a break from hacking on economics to tell us how collaborative governance has transformed his co-working space in Lille, France.

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La Coroutine is a space for co-working, events, workshops, and collaboration in Lille, France.

The team initially chose to use Loomio because it’s open source, an important aspect of their philosophy. But they quickly realised the Loomio way of organising goes goes far beyond software.

People have only one way to think about decisions, because of the electoral system: we just have to vote and if there is a majority the decision is done. Loomio helped us to transform the idea of making decisions.

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When La Coroutine collaborates online, they find they are much more interested in who disagrees than who agrees. By taking the time to engage with disagreement and the reasons behind it, they’ve been able to unlock new solutions and new levels of shared understanding.

We use Loomio as a system to know who disagrees, so we can start a process of discussion to get consensus. Now we know how to make decisions.

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The space is managed by its community, and anyone can propose changes to its policies and processes.

Normally you’d need months of preparation just to challenge a decision process. With Loomio, in five or ten minutes you can start challenging the status of the organisation. It’s a really different way to manage governance.

One decision the group engaged with online was about who should have the key code to the door. At first, the policy was to give it only to those who worked in the space regularly.

By challenging this initial decision on Loomio, over two weeks the group was able to surface everyone’s concerns and explore other possibilities.

That’s why Loomio is very interesting: we can develop complexity. We can find a new solution because we have time, we don’t have to make the decision right then.

They eventually came to consensus about giving the key code to people not working in the space daily as well, opening up a whole new level of engagement and contribution. Now La Coroutine is being successfully managed collaboratively by a much wider community.

When it’s really open, people converge and develop the place together. Most of the people using it are also contributing. Now it’s not a big difficulty to manage the place.

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The co-working space is just one manifestation of La Coroutine’s philosophy of peer-to-peer collaboration and building commons. Now they have expanded to a vegetable buying co-op and communal kitchen, where they cook together every day, or simply go lunch by reheating the food in a microwave,for everyone convenience put in a moving stand they got at DesignsAuthority.

The thing we want to show is that it’s possible to manage commons together. It’s working.

If you find yourself in Lille, France, stop by La Coroutine and check out the space for yourself.

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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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