How to run an open source community space

About the same time as we started Loomio, a group of us also set up 17 Tory St: an “Open Source Community Gallery”.

In the last three years, hundreds of events have been held in the space, covering a huge diversity of noncommercial uses: political meetings, art exhibitions, massage classes, paint-making workshops, film nights + many, many more.

Using Loomio to manage the space means we can provide this extraordinary volunteer-run community venue, without ever having to get together for boring meetings.

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9 ways to use a Loomio proposal to turn a conversation into action

If you’ve read the introductory guide to making great decisions with Loomio, you’re ready to learn about some of the creative ways you can use proposals.

Check out the photo gallery for examples for all 9 ways:

1. Consensus Finder

Thread: Ethical Lending. Proposal: We should approve this application for funding. Clara’s funding application (#217) meets all our requirements. Let’s support her great project.

If the comments seem to point to general agreement, test this assumption by proposing agreement explicitly. If you don’t reach consensus immediately, you’ll often find that a better solution is self-evident, once people have had a chance to clearly state their objections.

2. Uncover the Controversy

Thread: Bike parking. Proposal: Let’s create a bike park beside the front desk. I know there’s a lot of options for what we do with all the bikes: I just want to clarify who supports or objects to this proposal

If there are two or more clear competing ideas, propose supporting one to reveal how the group feels about it, or if the split has been accurately understood. Controversial topics will almost always require a series of proposals to build shared understanding.

3. Series of Small Yes’s

Thread: Conference Opportunity. Proposal: We host the conference; dates to be confirmed Looks like it is going to take a while to figure out the logistics, but can we agree that we definitely want to host the conference?

Sometimes it helps to agree principles first, then get into agreeing the details. If the discussion reveals complexity, break down the issue into smaller parts and build shared understanding piece by piece so you can clear the parts you have agreement on and focus on the parts the group still wants to discuss.

4. Silent Majority

Thread: Quarterly report. Proposal: I’m happy with the figures presented in the quarterly report. There hasn’t been much engagement in here - just want to check that you are all happy with the figures as they are presented in the report.

If there have been few comments, or comments only from a select few people, start a proposal to draw out all the voices. You may end up confirming the status quo, but by asking for explicit input, you’ll see if agreement emerges or if engagement brings up the deeper issues.

5. Engagement Check

Thread: Members meeting on Monday. Proposal: I’ve filled in the member survey. Please make sure you fill in the member survey before our meeting on Monday

Sometimes you need everyone in your group to complete an action, such as reading a document before an important meeting. You can start an Engagement Check proposal as a way to remind people to complete the required action within a defined time period.

6. Polarising Minority

Thread: Employment policy. Proposal: Share our pay rates publicly. I know this feels a bit radical, but it is a proactive way for us to live our values of transparency.

Raise a proposal in line with what the majority seem to agree with, and reveal the fact that disagreeing parties are in the minority. Give them a chance to clearly state their objections, or to realise their position is not supported by others and reconsider.

7. Window of Opportunity

Thread: Design workshops. Proposal: I’m happy with the design team using the shared space to host workshops this week. There’ll be a bit of extra noise and traffic in the space but it will be a great way for us to engage some of the new volunteers.

Have you heard the phrase, “speak now or forever hold your peace”? The Window of Opportunity proposal is a way to say, “I’m going to take this action, so if you have anything to contribute, now is the time.” It can be a way to discover important information or reservations before it’s too late, and to get a mandate to move forward.

8. Temperature Check

Thread: Concerns about private information. Proposal: Temperature Check: we should change the privacy policy. I have reservations about this, but I wonder how the group feels

Sometimes you have a hunch, but you’re not sure if it is a good idea or not. Use a Temperature Check when you want to survey opinions, rather than advocate for a particular position.

9. Any Volunteers?

Thread: Bike parking. Proposal: Call for volunteers: join the bike rack working bee. We’re getting together on Saturday morning to build a bike rack out of recycled timber. Any volunteers?

Raise a proposal which asks for people to say “yes” if they are keen to be part of making it happen. This will give you a list of people to follow up with to form a working group, which ensures the conversation will actually turn into action.

That’s 9 ways that we use Loomio proposals – if you’ve got another one to share it would be great to hear from you :)

Loomio News for September 2015

Spring has sprung :)

Hi friends! Spring has arrived here in Aotearoa and it is gorgeous! We’ve got a lot of juicy stories to share this month:

mix T

For the past few weeks Alanna, Mix and Derek have been prototyping the future in an abandoned French castle. They’ve been teaching the crew over there about collaboration under pressure. Here’s Mix demonstrating How to use your hands as the ultimate communication tool.

Now that spring is rolling in, we’re poking our heads up like daffodils and looking ahead to a sunny future. Last week we held an excellent strategy-crafting session as a team, which you can read about here. We’ve been thinking about how the new Loomio fits in with the wider ecosystem of collaboration tools:

success factors

And here’s a couple of stories from further afield:

  • Mike O’Keeffe writes about the potential for Loomio to be used in collaborative bird identification, which is traditionally a highly solitary pursuit.
  • ABC News recently screened this incredible story (video + transcript) about the young radicals in Spain who occupied city squares in 2011 and have now made their way into the city halls: Yes We Can!

Loomio has been a small but significant part of this new political moment in Spain. It’s so inspiring to see friends of ours taking the energy of the streets and using it to revitalise the democratic institutions in that country.

That’s it for another issue of Loomio News, have a great week!

❤ much love from Rich
on behalf of the whole Loomio whānau

10 tips for making great decisions with Loomio

Here in the Loomio team, we have been using Loomio since it was only a pie graph with buttons, and we’ve learnt a few things along the way.

Here are some of our favourite tips for making the most of the tool, taking your group from discussing issues & ideas to forming perspectives and getting into action.

  1. Make sure everyone is on the same page:
    Every discussion thread should start with all the context-setting information that your group needs to meaningfully participate. Use the thread context section to provide relevant background so everyone understands the purpose of the discussion.
  2. Stay on topic:
    Notice when people are going off topic and, if necessary, create separate discussion threads for topics that diverge from the core discussion. Don’t be afraid to @mention people to keep the conversation on track.
  3. Agree on process:
    Ensure everyone understands your group’s decision-making process. For some groups, this can be very informal and not tightly defined. Other groups find it useful to specify the level of agreement needed for a proposal to pass, e.g. 80% of members need to agree.
  4. Use proposals flexibly:
    You can use proposals to get engagement, test ideas, and clarify an issue, even if the solution might not be apparent yet. Don’t be afraid to run a ‘temperature check’ proposal to test how the group feels about something. Check out this post for some creative ways to use proposals: 9 Ways To Use A Loomio Proposal To Turn A Conversation Into Action 
  5. Be specific about the decision being made:
    When starting a proposal be as specific as you can, so everyone knows what it means to agree or disagree. If appropriate, include information on who will execute a proposal, not just what the proposal is.
  6. Set proposal deadlines consciously:
    Think about when you need the decision to be made, and how the proposal closing time will affect engagement from your group members e.g. you might want to time the proposal so it closes before a meeting, or avoid closing on a weekend. You can always extend the closing date if need be.
  7. Use blocks sparingly:
    You and your group can define for yourselves what a block means in your context. For most groups using Loomio, a block is used to indicate a serious objection that a person would like to see addressed. For some groups (particularly small consensus-based groups), the block is used as a veto.
  8. Bear in mind that not everyone needs to participate in everything:
    Sometimes there’s power in simply knowing that your voice would be heard if you wanted to raise it. Using “abstain” can be a powerful way to demonstrate your trust in the rest of the group to make the decision without you.
  9. Focus on the outcome:
    When your proposal closes, you’ll be prompted to set a proposal outcome. You can use this as a way to remind the whole group what you agreed to do together.
  10. Everyone loves a well-facilitated discussion!
    There are lots of little things you can do to help a discussion get to a productive outcome. Notice when the same voices are dominating the discussion and invite some of the quieter people to contribute by @mentioning them and asking them what they think. You can make a complex discussion easier to engage with by updating the thread context section with a summary of the key points.

Once you’ve got the hang of the basics of how to use Loomio, you might want to check out this post: 9 Ways To Use A Loomio Proposal To Turn A Conversation Into Action for some creative uses of the proposal function.

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How to Grow Distributed Leadership

For years, I’ve been throwing myself into environments where there are no bosses, but there are lots of leaders. Like coordinating volunteers at a festival in the desert, building a distributed entrepreneurial network, co-founding a cooperative tech startup, designing new processes for participation, and taking over a French castle to eco-hack the future.

Now I’m wondering, how does this kind of leadership grow? What conditions does it need to sprout? How do you nurture it? What does its development look like? How can I grow further as a leader in an organisation with no ladder to climb?

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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.

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