A list of resources about decentralised organising collated and shared by Richard D. Bartlett finding lessons across diverse contexts, from social movements to formal workplaces.
This list was published on 21 Oct 2019. It is being added to all the time so please go to this website for the latest update.
I recently asked on Twitter and on a mailing list for examples of decentralised organisations that have a public, transparent, well-documented handbook that explains how they work (e.g. decision making, roles, communications tools, etc). The response was overwhelming so I’ve digested it into this page.
Specific examples of organisational handbooks
Permanent (e.g. workplaces, businesses, NGOs)
- Most of my organising experience is in Loomio, a software co-op with a great handbook.
- Loomio is one of many social enterprises in the Enspiral network. The Enspiral Handbook explains how we self-govern.
- The Gini Handbook is particularly strong on decision-making, with useful sections on communication skills, personal growth, and feedback.
- The GitLab Handbook is especially relevant for people working in remote teams — they have more than 800 staff in 50+ countries, and no central location.
Temporary (e.g. campaigns, events)
- Barcelona en Comú published How To Win Back The City, one year after a coallition of grassroots activists won the municipal elections.
- How We Organize the Allied Media Conference (2017 edition). This zine was organized in 2013 by the Allied Media Projects to open source their methodology for convening what is now, in its 20th year, more than a 3,000 person conference themed around “media-based organizing” in Detroit, USA. The content of the conference is generated, coordinated, and selected in an impressively decentralized manner.
- HOFFNUNG 3000 – a self-organized festival. How do we organize ourselves in our social, artistic & theoretical communities? HOFFNUNG 3000 was not simply a festival but more of a process of organizing a festival, a festival that creates itself. Through each and every participant.
- How to Create a Rent Strike
- Repair Cafe is a place to meet and fix things together. Their handbook is available on a ‘pay what you want’ basis.
- TEDx organisers guide
- Awesome Foundation Wiki. Awesome Foundation is a network of autonomous groups who make micro-grants to people working on awesome projects.
- How to start a SOUP: a microgranting dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects.
- How to start a Food Not Bombs chapter: decentralised grassroots peace movement sharing free (vegan) food with hungry people.
- Cosecha is a movement for US immigrants. They operate with a transparent strategy & structure.
- Swarmwise by Rick Falkvinge, the tactical guide from the Swedish Pirate Party
- Ouishare Fest Toolkit– a guide to organizing a participatory festival.
- Guide to the Extinction Rebellion UK self-organising system
Generalised lessons: toolkits, books, etc
More business like
- Better Work Together – stories and tools from Enspiral (network of self-managing social enterprises)
- The Toolbox Toolbox: a curated list of the best analogue and digital toolboxes and methods from companies, institutions and thinkers.
- Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux is a really influential book sharing case studies of large organisations in different sectors, successfully operating without centralised management systems. Good wiki too.
- Insights for the Journey – video series to accompany the Reinventing Organizations book by Laloux
- Going Horizontal by Samantha Slade: practices for flattening organisational hierarchies
- Repsonsive Org Playbook from Ed Elements – mashup of Holacracy, Design Thinking, Lean, Agile, etc. Includes “practice” templates.
- 12 Principles for Prototyping a Feminist Business
- Remote Only manifesto for companies that work without a central office.
- Remote Starter Kit – digital tools to support remote collaboration
- Atlassian Team Playbook – toolkit for effective self-managed teams, by the makers of Trello.
- Self-managing organizations: Exploring the limits of less-hierarchical organizing – research paper by Amy C. Edmondson and Michael Y. Lee
- Teaming by Amy C. Edmondson
- Google’s Team Effectiveness Guide Psychological safety > dependability > structural clarity > meaning > impact
- Corporate org dev consultants The Ready published their OS Canvas – a tool for mapping the present state of your org and planning future changes.
- Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea – business book by Chuck Blakeman
- HyperIsland Toolbox – a collaboration toolkit for innovation, team development
- Liberating Structures – 33 meeting formats for inclusion and creativity
- The Future of Work is Human – practices for holistic meetings, collective learning, innovation.
- Core Protocols for Effective Communication
- Beyond Empowerment: the Age of Self-Managed Organization business book by Doug Kirkpatrick from Morningstar: a pioneering self-managing company & the world’s largest tomato processers
- One from many by Dee Hock (VISA)
- Joy at work by Dennis Bakke (coined the Advice Process at AES)
- Eckart’s notes by Wintzen (BSO) – Dutch
- La belle histoire de FAVI by Zobrist
- The second cycle by Lars Kolind
- Maverick by Ricardo Semler
- Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrsytal – how the US Army developed a networked management structure to respond to urban warfare in Iraq
- A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business series by Ari Weinzweig at Zingermans
- The Haier Model by Yangfeng Cao
- Freedom, Inc.: How Corporate Liberation Unleashes Employee Potential and Business by Brian M Carney & Isaac Getz
- Future of Management by Gary Hamel
- The Holacracy Constitution 4.1
- Greater Than’s Guide to Collaborative Funding
- The Decider App: compares 9 different group decision-making methods, by NOBL Collective
- Brave New Work a book by Aaron Dignan from The Ready about how to change your organisational operating system (coming soon)
- Remodel: a free toolkit that helps you explore and develop new business models for physical products – based on open source principles.
- Transformative Scenario Planning by Adam Kahane
- Creating Breakthrough Innovation (framework) distills five practices for breakthrough innovation, with an overarching theme of bringing “cocreation” into nonprofits, philanthropy, and community groups.
- Autonomist Leadership (framework) – Autonomist Leadership is the name given to the non-hierarchical, informal and distributed forms of leadership found in emancipatory social movements, and, in particular, in networked social movements. This paper… sets out five principles that make it a distinct form of leadership.
- BOSSA nova: Company-wide Agility with Beyond Budgeting, Open Space and Sociocracy
- Inviting Leadership: Invitation-Based Change in The New World of Work
- Open Space Beta: Beta transformation just got a hell of a lot less complicated
- Team Tempo: book by NOBL Collective
- Prototyping.Work: Collaborative platform full op practices, tips and guides to reinvent the way we work.
More community like
- The Empowerment Manual: A guide for collaborative groups – excellent book by ecofeminist organiser Starhawk
- New Economy Organisers Network share their toolkit for campaigners, activists & organisers.
- Code for Canada’s Civic Tech Community Organizer Toolkit contains advice on how to start, sustain and grow a civic tech community group in your area.
- Post Consensus Cooperative Decision-making, an excellent slidedeck from Doug Webb explaining some of the limits of consensus and where you can go instead
- Rules for Radicals is the last book written by legendary community activist and writer Saul D. Alinsky about how to successfully run a movement for change.
- Horizontalism: Voices of popular power in Argentina, an oral history compiled by Marina Sitrin, told by people in the autonomous social movements, occupied factories, neighborhood assemblies, arts and independent media collectives, to the indigenous communities and unemployed workers movements.
- My book Patterns for Decentralised Organising.
- Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown: “radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live”
- The Tyranny of Structurelessness – classic essay from Jo Freeman explaining why organising with “no structure” can be more abusive than the worst boss.
- Beautiful Trouble creative tactics for nonviolent direct action
- 350.org’s Trainings site includes resources for organisers
- Networked Change report “strategies and practices that made 47 of today’s most successful advocacy campaigns work… because of their ability to open up to the new cultural forces which favor open-ness and grassroots power.”
- Campaign Bootcamp Resources for campaigners
- Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. A chronicle of one of the most interesting social transformations in contemporary USA.
- Earth First! Direct Action Manual (also available in print)
- Email Etiquette for Virtual Collectives
- Sociocracy 3.0 – a free & open guide to developing agile, resilient, consent-based orgs
- How To: Distributed Organizing guide for campaigners
- Mobilisation Lab resources: online courses, articles, videos, podcasts, reports & guides for campaigners
- How to Welcome & Engage People in Community Spaces by Danny Spitzberg
- Skessa: Collaborative Toolkit for Diverse and Inclusive Organisations
- Art of Hosting (Conversations That Matter)
- The Viable System Model, Jon Walker. How to design a healthy business: The use of the Viable System Model in the diagnosis and design of organisational structures in co-operatives and other social economy enterprises
- Many Voices One Song introduction, learned lessons and implementation assistance for sociocracy basics from Sociocracy for All
- The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications by Otto Scharmer
- It’s vacant, take it! (zine) – 3rd edition (Fall 2013) of the Homes Not Jails squatting zine. While the guide comes from a group based in San Francisco, many of the tips would be helpful for anyone squatting regardless of their location. It includes tips on finding comrades/friends to squat with, finding a building, securing a squat, dealing with the law and/or property owners, and more.
- How to organize a pirate kindergarten in your neighborhood. A little manual on collective care and parenting, starting from the specific experience of the self-managed nest Soprasotto in Milan.
- Patterns for cooperative networks and associations. A typology of structures for cooperative association.
- P2P Foundation Wiki. An international organization focused on studying, researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices in a very broad sense.
- The Do-Ocracy Handbook: organisational types and legal structures by Mark Simmonds (UK legal focus)
- Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC)
- Purpose Economy: Steward Ownership model. See Sharetribe for example
- Fairshares model for multi-stakeholder coops
- AORTA – The Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance is a worker-owned co-op supporting grassroots and social justice groups to grow their capacity.
- Ayni Institute – training for social movement organisers. A lot of their training content is available as online videos, e.g. see the Momentum Webinar Series on the science of social movements, and the SWARM Training on decentralised organising.
- Momentum “gives grassroots organizers the tools to build massive, decentralized social movements that aim to shift the terrain under policymakers’ feet”
- Ulex Project – a residential training centre in Catalunya. They practice “integral activist training”, addressing the interdependent links between individuals, organisations, and cultures.
- My little consulting company The Hum provides practical guidance for decentralised organisations.
- Organisational Misbehaviourists – corporate trainers focussed on psychological safety and collective wisdom
- PowerLabs campaigning trainers
- RAD.cat – Research Action Design (RAD) uses community-led research, collaborative design of technology and media, and secure digital strategies to build the power of grassroots social movements.
- NetChange – distributed organising campaign trainers
- Tripod Training – Training, meeting facilitation and conflict mediation to support groups to work in better alignment with their visions and values.
I think the best structure for any organising effort must be custom-fit to its local context. I don’t believe in “one size fits all” solutions, but we don’t need to start from a blank slate either. My book is a collection of “patterns”, experiences that are common in all collaborative groups. Each pattern names a common dysfunction (e.g. unfair distribution of care labour), and a response (e.g. account for care work the same way you treat other work).
My approach to organisational development:
- 🏠 understand the for this org: history, relationships, intentions, strengths, obstacles, etc.
- 🌏 zoom out to a to find an appropriate frame of reference (e.g. #agile, #teal, #sociocracy, #coops, #designthinking, #artofhosting)
- 🔎 zoom in to an (i.e. another organisation that shares something in common with this one)
- 🏡 with lessons to inform the next experiment we’ll try
So the “handbooks” listed here are examples of local context (with much gratitude to the authors who make their experience transparent for others to learn from). The “toolkits and books” are global lessons extracted from local experience.
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