Principles for collaboration and operations in Edgeryders


#1

Content

1. Introduction

2. Values and architecture

3. Principles


1. Introduction

Over the years, the Edgeryders community and, especially, company have evolved a distinct style of working together to get things done. The word “evolved” is about right, I guess: there are strong elements of design, but people have been embracing some of the designed solutions and not others. We never voted on them, and probably never will; Edgeryders is about individual freedom rather than majority rule.

At the company retreat of May 2018, and with a view to enlarging its core group, some people expressed the need to have these principles spelled out.

2. Values and architecture

A word on Edgeryders’s main values and the architecture along which the principles are organised. Edgeryders-the-company is meant as a shared infrastructure for people to do meaningful work.“Meaningful” is defined by each person for themselves, with only a minimum of oversight to make sure personal choices do not mar the common brand. So, you could do Edgeryders dog sitting, Edgeryders space exploration or Edgeryders coffee trading (this last is in fact being tried), but not Edgeryders antipersonnel landmines. This is all predicated on maximising personal freedom. Over the years, as we grew personally closer to each other, we also developed an element of solidarity (“creating prosperity for each other”). The idea is to reduce the risks associated to all this freedom by pooling our activity: my idea might tank, but hopefully I can still make a living by working on your more successful project while I get back on my feet. Solidarity and risk pooling implies greater coordination, and potentially some extra constraint onto personal freedom.

Edgeryders architecture consists of an online community and a company living in symbiosis. The community is a place for free exchange of information and some cognitive collaboration; it is often where new ideas and projects emerge. The company is the place for delivery, and the economic and legal interface between the community and the rest of the world.

All this happens in a world with a given legal order. We do not challenge it directly, rather we seek to use it for our own purposes. In order to have a functioning legal infrastructure (sign contracts, bid for tenders, submit funding applications) we created an Estonian private limited company. This move enables all these things, but subjects our decisions to Estonian and European company law. For example, the company’s shareholders’ annual general meeting must make decisions by majority vote (“one dollar of capital conferred, one vote”). While shareholders can and do choose other methods to make decisions, in the end a vote must be held, and votes must be counted for the decision to have legal force.

3. Principles

  1. Who does the work calls the shots. Edgeryders is a do-ocracy, rather than a democracy. If people want to do something and they have the energy and resources for it, they do not need permission, and they get to choose which things are done, and how. No one who is not personally involved in doing something has the right to tell those who are how to do it, within the limits of the law (you cannot charge clients without issuing an invoice, that’s illegal) and of the good functioning of the common infrastructure (the invoice needs to be recorded on our accounting software, otherwise you’ll break our system). As a consequence, we never vote on projects, we only check that they don’t break the law nor our infrastructure.

  2. No plan is the plan. Our values make Edgeryders a very decentralized organization. The company has no overarching strategy, just values and principles for collaboration. All the intentionality is at the level of the projects: the company can be interpreted as a federation of sovereign projects.

  3. Project sovereignty. Sovereignty means that the person or group running the project is responsible for its financing (it has to find the client or backer), and it gets to allocate the project’s budget, with no interference from the board. Every Edgeryders project contributes to the common resources with 20% of its budget, and disposes of the remaining 80%.

  4. Teams. The absence of an overarching strategy has a negative consequence: you might end up going from project to project, without a real professional development trajectory and with a high risk of “getting lost”. So we try to work in small teams of twos and threes. Teams give themselves goals, and their members help each other stay on track. Teams also allow for a division of labour: it may not be efficient that we all become salespeople, but neither is it fair (or resilient) that only one or two people are responsible for dealmaking. So, we try to put financial and operational autonomy at the level of the team, rather than at that of the individual or that of the whole company.

  5. Mutual support. Project leaders are encouraged to offer each other paid, meaningful, fun work in each other’s projects. This custom does two things: it encourages people to come together in a tighter web of collaboration and it adds to our individual resilience, because everyone is looking for (good) work for everyone else. Normally, the core members of Edgeryders get first ask on paid work procured by other core members (provided they have the right skills, of course).

  6. Working out loud (and in writing). We communicate by being transparent, and letting each person decide which information she wants. This means we do not send each other emails (strongly discouraged within the company, a necessary evil when dealing with the outside world). Almost our entire workflow happens in writing on the company’s online workspace. This way, everything is written down, has a URL and is searchable. For short-lived communications (“Have you paid XYZ’s invoice?”) it’s OK to use the Matrix, but anything substantial needs to be on this platform to be findable and open. Company directors and collaborators also have access to our accounting platform, which ensures financial transparency.

  7. You are responsible for staying in the loop, not for keeping others in the loop. Once you have documented what you do on the platform, you’re good. No one can accuse you of being untransparent or not keeping them in the loop. We do this because we value doers and their work. Doing more does, in Edgeryders, come with a responsibility of documenting what you do, but no more. Once the documentation is there, no one is allowed to claim ignorance of it as a way to accuse the doer of not being proactive enough in communicating. This is a way to protect doers from vetoes or sniping from non-doers. If you want to be informed on a project, read upon it. It’s all there. For example, you can set to “tracking” the relevant categories and topics on the platform.

  8. Administrative minimalism. We recognize the need for tidy process, especially at the low level. At the same time, we are strongly averse to useless paperwork, and determined not to have anyone doing the bullshit job of creating administrative processes for others. Admin work is almost always unpaid in Edgeryders, to make sure our incentives stay aligned with not having any beyond the bare minimum. As a consequence, we are extremely cautious in adopting new common tools or procedures, because each person needs to make her own adoption decision. Occasionally we decide to give something a try, and then we promise each other to use the tool faithfully for a short period and see if the promised benefits materialise.

  9. The board stewards the common resources. Edgeryders is formally run by a management board (Estonian: juhatus). In Edgeryders, the board stays away from day-by-day (because management sovereignty) and formulates no strategy (because no plan is the plan). What it does do is care for the common resources. It (a) watches over the company’s reputation. This is done through the exclusive power of representation of the company, granted to each member of the board individually by Estonian company law. If someone tries to do something crazy or pernicious like making Edgeryders landmines, the board will simply refuse to sign the contract, and the company will never be legally implicated. (b) It decides small financial investments into business development; for example, the #research-network was funded by the board. © It maintains the common services (hosting, accountant, banking, some software development for internal use…), making sure that people and teams in the company always have a functioning vehicle for their projects.

  10. Festina lente. (Latin: “make haste slowly”). Our system is very efficient, but it reacts badly to emergencies and “I need it yesterday”. This is good. Designing the system around emergencies would just encourage us to be sloppy. Instead, we commit to respecting each other’s work. Move well ahead of deadlines, and be considerate of other people’s workflows. Never work on the day of the deadline; only exceptionally, and with abject apologies, ask others to adapt to your own emergencies. Remember that people have a right to refuse to act on others’ lack of planning.


My NELIS journey in Japan (I): co-designing a networked organization
New phase, new team: early days of a better Edgeryders
Resources for Decentralised Organising
#2

As a relevant addition to the above when it comes to day-to-day collaboration practice, I just found the “Remote Only” manifesto, a short collaborative document by remote work proponents / companies.

It was amazing to read there basically every best practice we developed over the last few years. Which means that (1) we probably got it right as others arrived at the same conclusion and (2) we should take to heart where their manifesto mentions something we don’t practice yet, because there’s a good chance it will work well for us, too.

Here it is: remoteonly.org

And since @anu is our most remote collaborator right now: I’d be curious what you have to say after reading that Remote Only manifesto: suggestions for improvements to our remote work practices, and any other input you have. (You can start a new topic for that.)


#3

Great find. I think we go a bit beyond the manifesto in some domains, but I need to read more.


#4

great great read so far!
I’m going to dig in it, thank you Matt!

I found this wiki tonight.
https://hackmd.lescommuns.org/s/SJTpHT8zm#

It’s in french.
I don’t know why but while reading it, I was definitely relating it to my small but constructive experience with Edgeryders.


#5

Hi everyone! I am Phoebe, from the Enspiral Network. I have just arrived at Edgeryders but have heard lots about it from old members of the project and had the pleasure of sharing a few calls with Hugi where we compared Edgeryders/Enspiral protocols. This list of principles is great to read - so succinct and clear! Many of these principles are implicit at Enspiral but not formulated in this way. May I ask, how did you get to the point of formalising this for the community? What was the process of distilling these points? Did it take a long time? Look forward to continuing my explorations here and understanding more about the way the community functions here.


#6

Hi @phoebe and welcome to this corner of ours of the internet :slight_smile:

I’ve been part of edgeryders from the beginning as a community manager and co-founder, and what has been constant throughout is the continuous learning and making things as we go, then having some reflection moments when posts like these (many written by @Alberto) find their way and get debated or some principles get validated or acknowledged… We don’t do counts and there is not really a decision making process for these principles to come into the world, rather they are formulated on the basis of common practice and leadership and insights from their author. They have an overarching vision behind it - and that is as simple as freedom in my books :slight_smile:

Many times, it could be that depending on who you ask in Edgeryders company or community you might get different answers and we kind of decided a while back that it is ok, in fact it is desirable that it is like that.
Not sure if what @hugi told you and how this post reflects his message (I’m actually curious!), but the closer you are and working on daily operations in edgeryders, chances are these get instilled easier… so I think Hugi sees it in a pretty compatible way.

The good thing is that while these are the lived reality in our company (much more than a manifesto or rulebook), they dont need to be formalised for the entire community. After all, we are 4500 + people from all over with very different levels of engagement in edgeryders. All we can do, those of us who are more involved, is try to grow the culture and that means it will evolve continuously.

To give you an example - in 2013 we were more along these principles for community -company, a little more loose and free as I re-read them and think with hindsight. Now we are more in an organisational transition and scaling, so you will have more preoccupation with formalizing things in the growing company and hoping they will stick in all our dealings in between…

This is my rant, I’m sure others can add their own :slight_smile: makes sense?


#7

Hello @phoebe, lovely to meet you! Welcome.

Edgeryders grew out of an online community, so we are verbalizers. And a good thing it is, as we keep hearing “you guys are so interesting – I just don’t get what it is you do, or how you do it”, and keep having to explain ourselves. After years of this, it was a relatively short stretch to commit those explanations to a wiki! As for how we distilled these items, I guess it came from participating into an emergent process that looked strong from the outside, but was really dependent on the generosity of a relatively small number of people. We wanted to make good to those people, and still do. And yes, it took a long time, and it is still evolving.


#8

It would be great if this interesting read would be linked on the discourse page top rights community or company (or both) “Menus”. Or at least be mentioned within one of the articles which have an entry there.
It sounds as if some crucial stuff is reflected here, which is not as easily accessed as it could be. Feel free to delete my post (it does not add much to the conversation here).


#9

I second that, it’s a great idea! @Matthias is chief responsible with the site architecture, so he can advise.
Curious though, how did you come across this and Edgeryders?


#10

I found edgeryders “accidentally” while searching for open source resource booking solutions.

I am not sure yet if I will open a topic to introduce myself somewhere (see below), but because you asked here:

Besides living in an intentional community I am a loose part in a couple of smaller (mostly german) movements and networks.

I looked at this page because I am interested in (or maybe more precise: in need of) proven Open Source “business” models/ sustainable approaches and company or network and (physical) community organisation (e.g. sociocracy) in general.

But to be honest I have no idea whether I will contribute much here or not, my purse is more empty and my calendar and stress-level more full than it should be. I just had and have a difficult time grasping what happens here; the landing or onboarding is probably confusing for many, but this document has a strong and enlightening feel to it. On a personal note, it sounds so much in contrast to “our” “German” bureaucracy and structure-obsession habits. Not saying that structure is bad - I love complex structures!


#11

Yes, we totally have to rework our copy / introductory texts one more time. Alberto’s text from above is probably our most advanced piece of corporate self-awareness so far … for years, we really struggled to know our own “corporate identity” :laughing:


#12

Yes. I am reluctant to push it too much to the fore, because we have a long history of writing these things about who we are and what we do, and then six months down the line someone says “hmm, that’s not clear, I don’t get it”. So we rewrite, and six months later someone else… you get the idea, @felix.wolfsteller. But hey, thanks! Maybe this is the really the good one. :slight_smile:


#13

Thanks for the honesty,
We’ve been going for over 8 years now, almost two on this Discourse platform. Never had a unique value proposition for all and any members, and it is easier when people join in a project whose calls for participation pre-empt some of the questions you might have. Which is to say they join a more curated, community broad conversation. Let us know if we can help in any way, and feel free to start a conversation on what you will need help with, at any point. Many interesting folks might just jump in and help,