Alanna Irving on Distributed Leadership and Infrastructures for Commoning
It takes a lot of effort by small-scale commons to get started, especially to raise and manage money, negotiate budgets, pay people, comply with tax laws, etc. That got easier with the rise of Open Collective, a new type of platform nonprofit that helps many types of collectives gather and spend money transparently.
You can consider Open Collective an infrastructure for commoning -- a backend system that makes it easier and more normal for people to manage money fairly, collectively, and with open accountability.
In the latest episode of Frontiers of Commoning, I speak with Alanna Irving, Chief Operating Officer of Open Collective, a nonprofit that handles the complicated, messy administrative and financial work for small, often-underfunded collectives. This work includes handling donations, providing fiscal sponsorship, making payments, and so forth, which are often too costly and complex for mutual aid groups, cooperatives, commons, and other small projects to manage.
Irving comes to the challenges of network-based governance with a wealth of firsthand experience. She was an early member of Enspiral, the pioneering New Zealand group that developed new organizational structures and culture for their online community. That project had two notable offshoots that helped pave the way for Open Collective: the software platforms known as Loomio, for group deliberation and decisionmaking, and Cobudget, an app for managing shared spending and allocations of money within a collective.
As an early participant in this journey, Irving became an expert in "distributed leadership" and peer governance in horizontal, networked organizations striving to live by open source principles. She also learned about cooperative governance.... technology that is designed to be participatory.... and radically collaborative uses of money.
Irving believes that it is entirely possible for people to self-manage themselves on horizontal networks, eliciting a diversity of talent and nurturing people's personal growth while serving the common good. But this challenge usually requires "hacking organizational structures with our values," as she puts it.