Roles in a Cooperative
Journal — September 2, 2017 — language, organization
In the previous journal entry, I posed a question. I didn’t finish answering it that time, and I won’t this time, either.
Facebook is to social networks what a hammer is to a house. (source) The question is: why does this blog exist, and what does Facebook have to do with it?
Ten days ago, I wrote an article called A Cooperative, at the same time that I started to gather a team to form something like what I describe there. Since then I feel like I’m surrounded by people interested in joining my team-that-doesn’t-exist as part of my cooperative-that-doesn’t-exist.
I wish I could simply say, “Yes, come!” The only problem is, there’s nothing to come into, yet. It still needs to be created.
Counting networks is tricky business. Technically, there’s only one network on Earth, with everyone connected to everyone. I count each highly connected cluster of people as an individual network, and I have no precise definition for “highly connected”. (source) The way I think about the process of forming a cooperative involves three concepts: teams, roles, and networks.
At the moment my cooperative has no teams or roles, and at least four active networks, with something like half a dozen more that I could call on. The active networks include Tamera, which is me and most of my connections; Diogo and his connections; Cedric and his connections; and my online circling group, which includes Marc, Shirley, Barbara, and their connections.
The people I just named have all commented on this blog. I’m generally careful not to make someone a public figure or reveal their connection to me without their consent; how you’re seen on the web can have a big impact on your life, and I want to give you control over how I contribute to that.
Healthy networks have robust channels of information flow, without any narrow bottlenecks. (source) That being said, it’s very useful for me to be able to name you publically here, and to talk about you and how you relate to me. It’s a way to weave these different networks together, when at present there are very few connections between them all – in some cases, the only connection goes through me.
For that reason, I want to use this journal entry to create a role. I call it “network link”. If you agree to take it, you’re formally part of my cooperative, and you’re allowed to say “my cooperative” to refer to the same not-quite-existing entity that I do.
In Portuguese, the word for “role” is “papel”, referring to the stack of papers that tells you your role as an actor in a play. I find this very appropriate: it’s a description of what’s expected from you. “Role” has similar etymology, but it’s less obvious: it’s a roll of papyrus. (source) A role is a formal relationship, and as a relationship it consists of expectations.
As a network link, you’re expected to communicate offers and requests between the cooperative and the network of people and organizations you’re connected to. It’s a role that requires paying attention to needs and capabilities, and translating those observations into language to form agreements for cooperation.
To do that, I would first make it known in my network that I’m in this role, so that the people I’m connected to know that they can address my cooperative through me. Then, I would actively look for opportunities to create cooperation. For example, Tamera offers online courses; I might propose to the cooperative that we make a webpage to gather offerings of this sort.
People are often surprised at how easy it is to create cooperation. Most of the work is to formulate what you ask for or offer. A clear ask is amazingly powerful; if you don’t believe me, listen to Amanda Palmer. (source) An excellent network link knows how to communicate effectively, as a way to create cooperation. “Will you …?” is a more effective way to make a request than “It would be great if …”, because it’s a clear question, not a comment loaded with subtext. Simplicity and directness are valuable, here.
As a first request, I want to create a page of profiles for the various people who take roles like this, and I don’t anticipate that I’ll have time to do that in the next few weeks.
This website is now officially a free cultural work. (source) I made an open source code repository for the site, which you can find here. That should be enough information for someone to contribute, if they already have the right skills for the job.
Other ideas for cooperation will go on this page,UPDATE: As of 2017-09-24, the cooperation page was eliminated, in favor of using Kanboard. as they arise.
It’s a very modest start. Hopefully it’s enough for those of you who want to get involved, right here and right now, to contribute your time, energy and intelligence in a meaningful way.
If not, or if you have any other ideas for cooperation, please let us know in the comments.