Hello GftW/WM Community. I'm Stacco Troncoso from DisCO.coop, co-writing this project update with my dear colleages Silvia López, Ann Marie Utratel and Caitlin Cole 1. Let us walk you through what we've done in the last couple of months and what's in store for the future.
Glad you asked! Check out this video for a short intro
DisCO stands for, "Distributed Cooperative Organization". It is a friendly and carefully planned approach for people that want to create and share value in ways that are cooperative, commons-oriented and rooted in feminist economics.
DisCOs are amplified by the power of Federated and Distributed Ledger/Blockchain technologies, harnessing the utility of tech without being completely tech-centric, emphasizing mutual trust and remembering to have fun. Yes, we're also a more grounded and inclusive alternative to DAOs!
Want to find out more? Check out our:
- Our website, DisCO.coop
- If I Only had a Heart: a DisCO Manifesto (the "Why")
- Groove is in the Heart: the DisCO Elements (the "How"... more on the DisCO Elements below).
These two papers will be complemented by the DisCO PinkPaper, coming in 2021 to round out the DisCO Trilogy.
Want a shorter intro? Read this enticingly titled article in Hackernoon: Last Night A Distributed Cooperative Organization Saved My Life: A brief introduction to DisCOs or watch the video trailer for the DisCO Manifesto
DisCO.coop, our organization, was awarded a Creative Catalyst Grant while our sister organization Geeks Without Bounds (GWOB) received a Foundational Technology Grant. Both grants have different yet complementary outputs within the DisCO Framework. They're designed to be modular, and completely intereoperable with each other, as well as available to other users of Web Monetization and Interledger. You can look up the descriptions for both projects in GftW's Grantee page.
The rest of this update will mainly cover the Creative Catalyst Grant but as we work together day to day, effectively forming a multi-node DisCO, we'll also talk about what's been happening on the Foundational Tech side.
DisCO, as stated above, is a methodology and the tools to implement it in many different contexts. DisCO has been developed through real-life, practical experiences.
Through Grant for the Web, we are extending the vision further to make it inclusive for a variety of people seeking to sustain themselves through social and enviromentally restorative work. To do this, we're "dogfooding", i.e. DisCO.coop itself functions as a worker self-directed, non-profit DisCO, in that we are working with the existing methodology and tools ourselves, and documenting the process.
We are not alone in this, there are several active DisCO LABs operating in Zimbabwe, the US and the EU, with more expected soon. The LABS are DisCO's Pilot projects. We don't conceive a hierarchical relation between DisCO.coop and the LABS; instead, we are regularly communicate and continually learn from each other, while we developing our knowledge commons and FLOSS technologies around the LABs' needs. (DisCO.coop itself is, as mentioned above, also a DisCO LAB).
DisCO Principle 5: Care Work is the Core. Click here to download an illustrated rundown of the Seven DisCO Principles
People need practical methods and knowledge to create radically democratic economies. DisCO (Distributed Cooperative Organizations, disco.coop) is a P2P methodology that uses inclusive methods drawn from Feminist Economics, Blockchain, Cooperatives and Commons to help people engage with urgent social and environmental issues in their daily work. 2
|1a.||Remedy the shortcomings of blockchain/DLT spaces||Ongoing solutions-oriented critique of normative white/male blockchain cultures.|
|1b.||Serve as an alternative to DAOs||Creation of inclusive community resources including a) DisCO Wiki; b) DisCO Elements publication; c) Videos; d) Research, interviews and articles with large-scale community outreach underway.|
|1c.||Provide an adaptable economic and governance model to reward 1: pro-bono creation of commons; 2: paid market work; 3: care and reproductive work||Governance Model 3.0 online. DisCO Gov model intro article and infographic. 1st instance of DisCO Governance Builder.|
|2: PROJECT DESCRIPTION|
|2a.||Educational & legal resources to help people launch DisCOs||Ongoing development of DisCO Wikis. Hands on mentoring with DisCO LABS.|
|2b.||Accessible value-sovereignty software||Currently being developed by GWOB in daily collaboration with DisCO.coop.|
|2c.||Mentored pilot projects||Ongoing work with DisCO LABs (see above).|
|2d.||Participatory research on distributed cooperativism||DisCO Researh circle, led by Natalia Avlona and Cindy Kohtala to explore digital economies from an intersectional perspective, leading to policy outputs and peer reviewed open access knowledge commons. Research lines are listed here.|
|3: WM TECHNOLOGY|
|3a.||Testing Interledger for tracking value among federated DisCO pilots||Testing phase. The tech team at GWOB is running trials.|
|3b.||Interoperable DLT and blockchain modes of value tracking||The DisCO DECK is currently being built by GWOB in close collaboration with DisCO. We are writing the governance modules to ensure ethical tech usage.|
|3c.||Creation of resources that benefit from web monetization to support decommodified activism work||We have enabled WM in all our platforms (DisCO Website, wiki, Guerrilla Media Collective, GWOB) and have incorporated WM in the DisCO Governance Model, with more resources and guidelines in the way. We are currently finishing the spec for gallery.disco.coop as a template to use WM to reward online art and photagraphy creators licensing their work through Creative Commons.|
|4a.||Educational resources for creating DisCOs||Resources available in DisCO Elements; DisCO Homepage; and DisCO Mothership Wiki.|
|4b.||DisCO advocacy aimed at target groups||Special focus in our outreach on the Global South, disenfranchised communities, and the precariat.|
|4c.||Build economic bridges (with DisCO Deck) between community and value tracking/distribution||In progress, in close collaboration with GWOB.|
|4d.||Mentoring pilot projects||Ongoing mentoring and documentation with Multi Talented Makerspace; Guerrilla Media Collective; Laneras; our own group DisCO.coop (see above note about "dogfooding") and Cooperation Jackson. New DisCOs in collab with Mondragon coming online in Spring 2020, starting with TazeBaez. See our list of current and prospective DisCO LABS.|
|5: SUCCESS OBJECTIVES|
|5.a||Large-scale community adoption of DisCO||Excellent progress through our alliances with Mondragón and PCC, (see above), along with the International Cooperative Association; Smart.coop; Informal Systems/Cosmos Network Circles.UBI; SuperMarkt Berlin; European Cultural Foundation; P2P Models; and many others (incl. the GftW Community).|
|5.b||Transcend dependency on external funding and charity||Excellent progress with the DisCO Foundation. Presently prototyping a DisCO Gov model for multiconstiuent collabs between DisCOs and philanthropic, public and crypto funders.|
|5c.||Creation of a dedicated DisCO Foundation||Currently underway in partnership with Mondragon (the world's largest cooperative network) and the Platform Cooperativism Consortium.|
|5d.||Mentoring pilot projects||See 5a.|
|6a.||DisCO Floor educational platform||Preparation of materials through community deliberation (DisCO.coop and LABS), prototyping and documentation. Content will be adapated from DisCO Mothership Wiki to the DisCO FLOOR|
|6b.||DisCO Handbook||Structuring phase to begin shortly, presently in the planning and predesign phases.|
|6c.||Community webinars & events||None yet, have been onboarding new members to the collective.|
|6d.||Participatory action research||Presently in funding negotiation phase.|
|7: WM COMMUNITY ENGANGEMENT|
|7a.||Diverse engagement||Ongoing engagement through webinars; ongoing social media/network presence and partnerships,|
|7b.||Engaging UX design & narratives||Redesign of DisCO.coop website with DisCO Elements design templates. Ongoing creation of infographics and video materials.|
|7c.||Focus on accessibility of accounting mechanisms and DLT||Striking a balance between layperson explanations and tech thoroughness. See Chapter 5 of Elements and Tech Wiki category.|
|7d.||Pilots||See DisCO LABS. More in the works through forthcoming funding partnership.|
|7e.||Creating commons||Open access resources on DisCO.coop and Mothership Wiki.|
|8: ASPIRATIONS FOR LEARNING|
|8a.||How pilots engage with DisCO’s message||Regular calls and mutual learning with all LABS. Forthcoming interviews and documentation.|
|8b.||How to use pilots to make the DisCO project generative||Currently in discussion with LABS.|
|8c.||Expanded practical applications||Integration of Labs' on-the-ground engagement and experiences with their bespoke DisCO Governance models.|
|9: PUBLIC COMMUNICATION|
|9a.||Social media and DisCO website||General SM outreach on Twitter, Mastodon, Instagram, LinkedIn and Telegram. Updated website, with new sections on the DisCO Team; DisCO Labs; Supporting DisCO and The DisCO Elements. The DisCO BEAT Newsletter currently has over 300 subscribers.|
|9b.||Documentation, research and narrative (also in Spanish translation)||Ongoing documentation in wiki. Research category in DisCO.coop created with forthcoming papers.|
Most of the key activities are summarized in the table above. Highlights include the publication of the DisCO Elements, its promotional campaign and video trailer. The DisCO Elements is a non-linear introduction to the "hows" of DisCO. It has already been downloaded over a thousand times since its publication on December 23rd, and the individual chapters are about to be serialised in Hackernoon. It features individual chapters on:
- How to Account for the Future of Work
- DisCO in a Nutshell
- DisCO in 7 Principles and 11 Values
- Take your time, do it right: Commons Governance
- The DisCO CAT and DisCO.Tech
- Care before Code: It's What Makes DisCOs Different
- DisCO Futures: Building Tracks
You can read the DisCO Elements on EPub, PDF or non-linearly with the stand-alone chapters above.
Beside our outreach and communication, we're deeply dogfooding by operating as as non-profit fork of the original DisCO Governance model, which is more focused towards worker-owned coops, ethical start-ups and SMEs. This process is being documented regularly on the DisCO Mothership Wiki. This practical orientation extends to our relationship with The DisCO LABs. We are paying close attention to the intersectionalities with the LABs, maintaining in our communications a careful awareness of our relative privileges. We have invited members of the LABs to join the team in a trial capacity.
Cultural and communication materials are shared ongoing through our site and social media channels. We are also documenting progress on the DisCO Stack (FLOSS suite of collaborative tools for online collective).
Ongoing work on GftW Creative Catalyst outputs includes the continued development of our Wiki, which will form the backbone of the forthcoming DisCO Ball Platform and a series of federated wikis in conjunction with the DisCO LABs. Continued outreach and networking with like minded orgs and people in the feminist, blockchain/DLT and social justice spheres. There are several events planned for the next few months which will be announced in our newsletter and social media. Finally, work on the DisCO DECK value tracking platform is ongoing in daily collaboration with GWOB.
As mentioned above, the DisCO Elements (second part of the DisCO Trilogy) has been published to great acclaim. Other DisCO resources can be found in our stories section.
DisCO.coop social media use has grown steadily in the last few months.
However, we feel that purely quantitative metrics sometimes miss the point when it comes to social media. Our social media strategy prioritises accessibility and fun, which is one of the 11 DisCO Values. It doesn't make our outreach work any less serious or relevant, but it does make it much more enjoyable for all sides.
From here until May 2021, we will continue working on the DisCO BALL, including user manuals, videos and more infographics. The same applies for documentation and resources for the DisCO DECK, as well as the first edition of the DisCO Handbook and upcoming events. See the Key Activities section above for more details on our ongoing work.
This week we will be holding a DisCO SpaceCamp with members of the DisCO.coop, GWOB and Mikorizal teams to develop, ratify and document our working methodologies, as well as specing the final 3 month sprint on the GftW grant.
Infographic on the DisCO Governace Model. Click here to download the full version.
We want to interface more regularly with this group and the general GftW community. We are taking a close look at the possibilities of WM and IL, have seen some possible blindspots, and would like to engage in further conversations.
Ways that you can engage with us include exploring whether you'd like to be a DisCO LAB, or would choose to take part in testing our upcoming DisCO Simulator, or reading our documentation. There's no shortage of intersections with many of the other grantees and projects, too. Among these, we have long-standing relationships with Metagov; Quartz OA; Kendra.io; COMPOST and, of course Geeks Without Bounds and the ValueFLows project. We welcome extending these relationships with the GftW community as well as with Coil, Creative Commons and Mozilla.
At the midway point of the project, we are evaluating what's working and what needs more help. We've acknowledged that this is 2021 and things are not "back to normal"; they may never be and arguably, never were in the first place. The Covid crisis is affecting us all, and the non-corporeal (remote, not sharing physical space) aspect of our work and how it influences our affective relationships is a major point of conversation in the collective.
Care work remains at the core of who we are, and relationality likewise remains more important than technology or killer apps. We've reflected at length on this in The DisCO Elements and other written work, not as a theoretical or ideological position, but rather as a result of our own lived experiences. One of our concerns about receiving the grant was how to avoid problems in scaling from a very small and trusted team to a multi-nodal team of 18 people newly operating as a DisCO.
As our colleague Ela Kagel mentions in her intro to Elements "..it ain't easy", but we were not expecting to find an already clear path. We feel that the challenge of appropriate and well-managed scaling is part of the work of our generation and of our pivotal moment in time. That big-picture work also implies goals at different scales, eg. how we relate to one other and also to our planet. This acknowledgement and a deep, ongoing awareness of intersectionality inform all of our work, including our technological design, the tools and proposed methodologies.
We also would like to acknowledge our gratitude, not only for this grant which has served to kickstart DisCO to the next level, but to the ongoing and agreed upon support of other partners which will allow us to further advance the project.
Web Monetization and Interledger are as yet inchoate technolgies with great potential. DisCO serves as a socially oriented and feminist critique of the mainstream blockchain space, but many of these biases can be extended to the broader tech realm. We hope to continue these conversations about who designs technology and to what end, especially in the areas of value and value transfer, which we find to be a far more apt description that "monetization".
Let's keep the conversation going, and many thanks again.
The brief project Summary for GWOB's Foundational Techonology Grant reads: "Our project will build the software described in the DisCO Manifesto as the DisCO Deck, a tool which allows cooperatives to track value flows both inside their own organization and between themselves and other cooperatives, as well as managing resources and direct payment to workers and suppliers" ↩