URL = https://enspiral.com/
- 1 Contextual Citation
- 2 Description
- 3 Details
- 4 Characteristics
- 5 History
- 6 Governance
- 7 Status
- 8 Discussion
- 8.1 Five Questions to Enspiral
- 8.2 Enspiral's Collective Vision
- 8.2.1 WHO WE ARE
- 8.2.2 WHERE WE ARE STARTING FROM - OUR CORE VALUES
- 8.2.3 WHERE WE ARE GOING - OUR INTENDED IMPACTS
- 8.2.4 HOW WE ARE GETTING THERE - OUR KEY STRATEGIES
- 9 More Information
"Enspiral is no ordinary environment to have a leadership position in. We are collaboratively prototyping a system of work designed to enable people to focus their energies on what is most meaningful to them and in line with this we have a pretty un-traditional org structure. Enspiral is strictly non-hierarchical which means that leadership positions come with no authority attached. No one in the network has a right to tell anyone else what to do, so making any organisational developments requires a lot of social manoeuvring — building credibility and collective motivation behind your initiatives. While outside the core the system looks pretty stable, the closer you get to the middle the more you see that the organisation is changing and evolving every day. You can’t take a lot for granted as being fixed in place. So contextual knowledge is something that needs to be continuously updated. An added challenge to this is much of what is evolving in the organisation isn’t documented — a lot of it happens informally. Making sense of it all enough to direct our efforts intelligently takes up a lot of cognitive real estate."
- Chloe Waretini 
"Enspiral is a network of professionals and companies on a mission to make the world a better place. We emphasize empowerment, collaboration, and innovation. One by one, we are disrupting every core organizational process. Then we open-source our solutions and create apps so others can do the same. This is the story of collaborative funding."
2. Josef Davies-Coates:
"Enspiral is made up of three parts: The Enspiral Foundation, Enspiral Services and Startup Ventures. I’d say they’re the best current example of an Open Co-op, but how they actually describe themselves is as “a virtual and physical network of companies and professionals working together to create a thriving society” and as an “experiment to create a collaborative network that helps people do meaningful work.” A core part of their strategy is to open source their model. In short, not only are they doing almost exactly what United Diversity wants to do — they’re also building the open source tools actually needed to do it!
The Enspiral Foundation is the charitable company at the heart of the Enspiral network. It’s the legal custodian of assets held collectively by the network, and the entity with which companies and individuals have a formal relationship. Decisions are made using Loomio and budgets are set using Cobudget.
A network of professionals work together in teams to offer Enspiral Services, a range of business services under one roof. By default members pool 20% of their invoices into a collective bucket, 25% of which goes to the Foundation. Loomio and Cobudget are then used to decide how to spend the rest. For Startup Ventures, Enspiral works with social entrepreneurs to launch start-ups who then support the work of the Foundation, and Enspiral as a whole, through flexible revenue share agreements: ventures choose their own contribution rate, usually around 5% of revenue." (http://stirtoaction.com/open-co-ops-inspiration-legal-structures-and-tools/)
3. Alanna Krause:
The story of Enspiral is the evolution of a transformative idea: we need to drastically increase the capacity of people doing meaningful work in order to solve our biggest problems. There is a trickle of human energy going toward the biggest challenges of our times, and we exist to turn it into a river.
Enspiral began in 2008, when founder Joshua Vial realized he could earn enough to live on by contracting as a computer programmer part time, leaving the rest of the time to work on social good projects. Then he realized that if he could support others to do the same, the total impact would vastly increase. By 2011, Enspiral had become a collective of passionate professionals – people who could have been freelancing independently, but instead chose to collaborate and work together to allow them the resources and flexibility to pursue charity and social impact projects. What happens when you get a bunch of ambitious, talented, values-driven people together in a vibrant coworking space and empower them to think big about positive impact? They launch social enterprise startups, of course. Enspiral grew from a collective of individuals to a collective of more than a dozen social enterprise ventures. There are no bosses at Enspiral. There is no management hierarchy. The way we work is inspired by the internet, a network of interconnected nodes and free-flowing information. We started dreaming about what the company of the future would look like and adopted a core approach of radically distributing money, information, and control, and using information systems, culture, and purpose to create an environment where people and teams self-organize. We innovate through an agile process: hear a user need, develop a fast ‘mvp’ solution, measure the result, iterate, improve, repeat. One by one, Enspiral is collectively taking on every core organizational process and disrupting it by throwing out the old, hierarchical, top-down way of doing things and coming up with new collaborative processes. After several years, a pattern is emerging: we have a problem we need to solve in order to work the way we want to work, so we start experimenting until we find a good process (usually after several failures), then we test, iterate, and improve. Once we feel we’ve honed in on the solution, we systematize the process and open-source it. It starts with scratching our own itch, but the real goal is changing the world by helping all kinds of other organizations move toward more human, inclusive, empowering ways of working. Many organizations can’t experiment the way Enspiral can – so we do the groundwork to make it possible for these new paradigm processes to scale and spread. The first example of this process was the development of Loomio (the story of which was named winner of the “Digital Freedom Challenge” M-Prize), a tool for collaborative decision-making that Enspiral developed with activists from the Occupy movement, now being used by thousands of people around the world (see how it works in this video). Another core process ripe for disruption is governance – we are in the middle of developing a process for collaborative strategy-setting to address this (if the pattern holds, watch out for an app a year from now). Now we’re disrupting budgeting, with something we call collaborative funding." (http://www.managementexchange.com/)
4. Christopher Cook:
"New Zealand’s Enspiral Network has also created an inspired model of freelancer collaboration and community. What began as a coworking space among like-minded people in Wellington six years ago has evolved into a new-fangled cooperative linking freelancers and social enterprises in a global network of mutual aid and collective action.
Like other freelancer collectives, Enspiral, has grown beyond simply sharing a physical space. The organization mixes independence and collectivism, enabling creative workers such as graphic designers, tech gurus, data whizzes, and others to pursue their ventures — with administrative and other support systems funded collectively by the group’s members.
The Enspiral Foundation, a charity run by Enspiral members, provides the connective tissue between the community’s contributing members, freelancers, and social enterprises alike. Contributors voluntarily donate to the foundation, and decide democratically how to use the money to improve their social impact and business prospects. Together, contributors’ have created Enspiral Services, a “market-facing” entity where they promote their services collectively.
Among the group’s many innovations is Loomio Cooperative, whose main offering is an open source democratic decision-making platform. Launched in 2012 when Enspiral members and Occupy activists recognized a need for collaborative decision-making tools, Loomio is simultaneously a limited liability company with investors and a registered worker-owned cooperative." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-freelancers-are-reinventing-work-through-new-collective-enterprises)
From the Enspiral FAQ:
What is Enspiral?
Enspiral is a virtual and physical network of companies and professionals brought together by a set of shared values and a passion for positive social impact. It’s sort of a “DIY” social enterprise support network. At its heart, it’s a group of people who want to co-create an encouraging, diverse community of people trying to make a difference. For more see the Enspiralpage.
Video intro at https://vimeo.com/125088390
What is the structure of Enspiral? What are all these different parts?
Enspiral started as a small group of contracting computer programmers who wanted to organise their working life to put more time and energy into making a positive social impact. Then it started to attract a much larger, diverse group of professionals who also shared these social values. What evolved was a network of different companies and individuals, with different skills, focuses, and ways of working.
Now there are a range of Ventures, independent companies that maintain a voluntary relationship with the Enspiral Foundation. The Enspiral Foundation supports the whole network and holds the social mission vision of Enspiral - more people working on stuff that matters. The Foundation shareholders are the Enspiral members, who each have one share, and its budget is made up of voluntary financial contributions from the ventures. The legal structure is a limited liability company with a charitable constitution, meaning it’s not a profit making entity and all funds are reinvested.
“Enspiral” refers to the big picture concept of the network in all its diversity. There are other ventures that use the Enspiral name, but it’s important to remember that they are separate companies. These include [ http://enspiralspace.co.nz/Enspiral Space] (coworking hub in Wellington), Enspiral Services (a range of teams and freelancers, doing programming, design, and consulting work for clients), and several others.
What’s the difference between Enspiral and other aligned organisations and programmes?
Enspiral is friends, supporters, collaborators, or partners with a range of other organisations with aligned goals and values. This diversity is awesome because different people need different kinds of support.
Enspiral is generally unstructured, and tries to maximise both collaboration and autonomy. If you’re an independent, entrepreneurial person with a deep commitment to service and social change and want to discover your own way to have an impact alongside like-minded people, Enspiral is fertile ground. But you’ll need to find your own way, and there’s no programme or official support.
There are several great social enterprise programmes in New Zealand that offer more structured programmes (which are partners with Enspiral):
Lifehack Labs is a partnership between Enspiral and the Ministry of Social Development – a 5 week design-led bootcamp to kickstart impact projects for youth wellbeing.
The Akina Foundation’s mission is to grow the emerging New Zealand social enterprise sector, through workshops and an accelerator and incubator.
This list is by no means exhaustive in terms of programmes supporting social enterprise in New Zealand! There’s a lot going on we don’t even know about, and new stuff starting up all the time. We think that’s great.
How do people get involved?
Enspiral is a network primarily based on high-trust, personal relationships. We try to be as open and welcoming as possible to create a low barrier to entry, but at the same time, we don’t have a drive to do recruitment. We don’t really offer job opportunities. Everyone here has found their own way in, and their own livelihood to support them to do the work they are passionate about.
Many people get involved through working at Enspiral Space, which often hosts drinks on Fridays and afternoon teas on Tuesdays that everyone is welcome to. You can also come along to events with Social Enterprise Wellington, a meetup group jointly hosted by Akina and Enspiral. Other people get involved through working with one of the Enspiral Ventures. If you want to talk to someone at Enspiral, you can contact us and tell us about yourself and we’ll try to connect you up to someone on an ad-hoc basis.
“Joining Enspiral” means becoming a Contributor and being invited into our online communications platforms and to participate in collective decision-making. Find out how Enspiral Contributors and Members join and relate to the network, and the expectations that come with participation in the collective here. To become a Contributor, you need to be invited by an [Enspiral Member].
What is Enspiral’s culture?
Culture is at the heart of Enspiral – people choose to be part of a community and deeply respect and trust each other. Twice a year there are retreats when everyone goes away for a few days of bonding. Enspiral is a flat organisation and extremely collaborative – there is no traditional management hierarchy. You might say it’s essentially anarchist, in the best sense of the term.
Enspiral is an experiment. We are good at trying new things, failing early and learning quickly. We are continuously evolving. It’s a laboratory of innovations – social enterprise is an emerging sector where no one has the answers yet, and our approach is to encourage autonomous experimentation with company structures and business processes.
We develop new tools to make this collaboration more efficient and then open-source them. Enspiral’s pattern has been to identify a core organisational process and then figure out how to make it more collaborative, from decision-making to budgeting to strategy setting. Our culture is highly influenced by agile software development and the structure of the internet itself, with interconnected nodes and free-flowing information.
We have a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion here, which we take seriously and celebrate.
How do I find out more?
Alanna Krause :
"Anyone at Enspiral, regardless of if they have contributed funds, can start a “bucket” – a proposal to do work for Enspiral that requires funding. They write up a proposal making their case for why the work they want to do will benefit everyone, help Enspiral achieve its strategic goals, further the social mission, and why they, the proposer, are the right person to deliver the project. This process was, from day one, explicitly an experiement. Everyone understood it wouldn’t be pretty and polished until we actually all engaged with and and worked together to improve it.
People use a form on the website to submit bucket proposals. Anyone at Enspiral can propose a bucket. Everyone with allocation rights in the round – the people who contributed funds – considers the buckets and decides which ones to “fill” with their portion of the discretionary budget. If people collectively feel like a project is a good use of resources, it will get funded. If there are critical budgeting priorities taking precedence, “nice to have” projects won’t get any funds that round. Funders can split up their allocations as they like, or put it all in one bucket. In aggregate, the result is a budget that reflects the collective priorities of the group, determined in proportion to real stakeholding, in the context of the big picture goals. The entire process takes place transparently. A big reason we can run this transparent, collaborative process with minimal administrative overhead is because we use Loomio, an open-source app developed at Enspiral to solve the key question of how distributed groups can make fast, effective, inclusive decisions together, without resorting to a small group of people holding all the power. (Read the story of how Loomio grew our a meeting between Enspiral and the Occupy movement in this winning M-Prize entry). Everyone at Enspiral, even if they neither have allocation rights over funds or have proposed a bucket for funding, can see exactly what’s happening with the budget. Since we run the process on Loomio, everyone is invited to make comments and share their thoughts about what should be funded, although ultimately it’s up to those with allocation rights to make the decision about how to spend their portion. We ran the first round of collaborative funding in April 2013, and every month since. The process has been run as an MVP experiment using spreadsheets and Loomio. Now we’ve taken all our learnings from a year of collaborative funding and we’re developing Cobudget, an app that will make the process visually engaging, intuitive, and flexible – and easy to use by other organizations.
When we first began Collaborative Funding, no one had ever heard of such a process before. So the first challenge was helping everyone understand what it was about. Luckily, we have a strong culture of experimentation, so we were able to transparently say exactly that: this is an experiment, so please just give it a try. Honesty about the process being new and untested meant people were willing to put up with it being unpolished, and we consistently asked for and reacted to user feedback to improve it. Sometimes it can be hard to get people to engage with a new process, but because we were giving them direct control over funds in a way that was easy for them to understand and act on, each participant was motivated to make their choices. And because we essentially opened up an internal crowdfunding platform where anyone could pitch for a slice of the collective pie to do the work they were most interested in, people were motivated to propose buckets. Meaningful empowerment overcomes resistance to process change. The thinking behind the process is complex, but interacting with it is simple.Find your name on a spreadsheet and see how much money you have to allocate. Look at a few choices of buckets you can fill. Decide where you want your money to go. You can easily see the rest of the budget and the big picture to give context. If funders want to hold something back for a rainy day, or they aren’t impressed with the bucket options this round, they can put their funds in reserves. To propose a bucket, you just go to to a page on our intranet and fill out a simple form explaining your idea, and it will either get funded or it won’t. It’s very much like earning points. Gamification and making the process engaging overcomes resistance to “boring” budgeting. Here’s an example of how the spread sheet version of Collaborative Funding works at Enspiral (using some made up example numbers and buckets).
Debugging the Process – we began with a rough MVP and continuously improved it. One challenge we identified was the need for keeping the bigger strategic picture in mind. We’d succeeded at providing much needed context at the level of a monthly budget. But we still had questions about whether the choices we were making around funding were going to achieve our larger goals. Sometimes what seems most important one month actually isn’t when you zoom out to the level of a quarter, or a year. After completing a collaborative strategy-setting process called Mastermind (a story for another time!) we had four key pillars of a 2014 strategy. We decided to add a requirement to bucket proposals to speak to which of the four pillars a project related to, and why it was the best use of funds to achieve the larger outcomes we’d set for ourselves for the whole year. We’ll report on collaborative funding outcomes against these goals, and hope to develop metrics over time for measuring our return on investment of the funds we put in buckets. One thing we’re still finding challenging with the collaborative funding process is forward planning. In order to make sure we weren’t spending money we don’t have, we designed the process to operate on a cash basis, only allocating funds we’ve already received. This makes it difficult when an enticing opportunity arises that would need to be funded over several monthly rounds in the future. As a first step, we’ve developed several bucket types.
- Zero or Hero – must be fully funded to target amount or the project is cancelled
- Scale to Fit – the project will scale up or down to fit the budget
- Savings – the bucket will be proposed in future rounds until the target is hit
This way, people proposing buckets can determine for themselves how they’ll deal with possible funding outcomes, and people allocating funds can make decisions accordingly. For projects that need funding over multiple rounds, the proposer can start a savings bucket, which will be included in future rounds. We have successfully funded several major projects this way, such as a major redesign of the Enspiral website, and sponsoring an Enspiral member as the “designer in residence” at a social enterprise accelerator. The biggest limiting factor of our manual MVP (the process run on spreadsheets) was that the administrative practicalities required us to run a formal monthly process. Bucket proposals and allocations are announced on the 1st of the month and allocations are closed after 5 days. Any unallocated funds are decided by the Board. Once it’s all set, the funds are disbursed to the people and teams who proposed the funded buckets. We wait until the next month to run the process again. Now we’re building Cobudget, an app to make the collaborative funding process smoother, more engaging, flexible, and beautiful. The first challenge we faced was resourcing the product team to build the app. We didn’t have the finances to fund the project internally, so we used an internal process called Fairy Gold to pay for the team (yet another story for another day!). Essentially, it is a way for people to earn a percentage of future revenue generated by a project – something like earning equity, but for internal projects. This was an empowering and enticing offer that allowed us to recruit the approximately 400 hours of design and development work required to build the first version of Cobudget. Switching to the Cobudget app is allowing us to follow a much more fluid process where people can propose a bucket at any time and have it funded on a rolling basis. It also lets people put their allocations into the ‘reserves’ bucket (i.e. not spend them right away, and save them instead) and still retain control over those funds for future projects. This substantially changes the dynamic away from ‘use it or lose it’ to longer term planning. See Charlie, a developer working on Cobudget, introduce the current alpha stage of the software in this 3 minute video. Cobudget, by Charlie from Enspiral on Vimeo. Another challenge in the collaborative funding process that Cobudget will help address is that of reporting. We found it difficult to find the right process, incentives, and triggers to get bucket proposers to report back on how their project went – simply telling people they have to report back “just because” won’t go far at Enspiral. Once a project is funded, people are focused on doing the work, not reporting on it. We manually generate 6-monthly reports about raw numbers, such as where income came from and where it was spent, but generating these reports is time intensive, and the results are quatitative not qualitative. We’re designing some exciting features in Cobudget that will make reporting a natural part of the process. You will be able to visually explore reporting information like income and expenditure flows, measures of how well a project went after being funded, how results relate to the overall strategy pillars, and data on the different ways individuals, teams, and companies are contributing to and interacting with the system. This will have profound positive effects on Enspiral’s overall ability to create engaging and transparent global reports about what the network is doing and how well it’s accomplishing its collective goals.
Management time has been greatly reduced and the cognitive load of deciding what to do and where to spend our energy is spread across the whole network. Collaborative Funding has been the primary driver behind reducing our fixed staff costs by close to 80%. The number of people engaging in decision-making around the budget has gone from just a few to over 50 in some rounds, with up to another 100 involved in observing and commenting, while at the same time reducing the total cost in terms of time and stress of the overall funding process. We collectively engage, and then collectively hold the outcomes and consequences. Transparency is vastly increased. Whereas before, any Enspiral member could technically look at the financial reports generated by the accountant, the truth is that people didn’t. Real transparency isn’t about the numbers being technically available – it’s about proactively making the information accessible in a way people can understand and engage with meaningfully. Now everyone can see exactly where Enspiral spends its money each month, regardless of whether they are part of allocating or being allocated funds. This is a major boost to trust. People actually have their heads around the numbers now. If someone is advocating for their favorite project, there’s no behind the scenes politicking or quid pro quo – if you want something funded, you raise a bucket to the whole group, and it will either get backing or not during the transparent process of funding. Supporting one thing means saying no to something else, and the process has led everyone to think not in terms of their personal perspective, but in terms of how they can support the collective goals by their individual choices and contributions. We have been able to connect our budgeting and funding process directly to our strategy, considering how each and every bucket fits in with our larger goals. This makes the strategy real on a very practical level for everyone doing work and funding work in the network, and allows us to consistently reflect on our progress and our collective choices. Collaborative funding has allowed us to really “walk the talk” of collective ownership combined with empowerment and autonomy. Enspiral is literally owned by its members (each has one share representing decision-making stakeholding, and no dividends or profits are taken out). Collaborative funding lets all members act like business owners, making the hard choices about where to allocate limited resources, and what we want to achieve as an organization. At the same time, people contributing funds retain control over where those funds are directed. People know their money isn’t going to just disappear, and they will have meaningful input to direct it to projects that align with their top business and social impact priorities, so they are willing to be very generous and open. Financial contributions aren’t a tax – they represent voluntary and meaningful participation in a collective process. One result of collaborative funding has been amazing generosity. On several occasions, various Enspiral ventures have decided to increase their contribution to collective funds beyond what they initally commited for a given period. If people see that a proposed bucket will help them better achieve the social and business objectives of their venture, they opt to put in more funds voluntarily. This only happens because collaborative funding gives them meaningful say over how collective funds are spent. We actually give our accountant headaches because companies insist on just giving each other money to support various initiatives, which apparently isn’t something you normally see in the tax code! (Don’t worry, Enspiral Accounting is used to our crazy schemes at this point and has made sure it’s all above board). For instance, this year Enspiral Space is expanding into a bigger office, a project requiring an investment of resources to pull off. We’ve been running Enspiral Space very lean, in order to keep desk rent affordable for the bootstrapping social enterprise startups and charities in the office, so the company itself had limited extra capital. But since the Enspiral Space is the physical heart of the network and creates immeasurable value for all the Enspiral Ventures through hosting events, creating space for collaboartion, and facilitating deeper personal bonds through people working together, many ventures have invested in the expansion above and beyond their normal contribution to the Foundation. Another example was the Loomio Crowdfunding Campaign, which rasied over $125,000 internationally to bring a major update of the open-source decision-making app to the world. Not only is Loomio a project everyone at Enspiral intrinsically understands the value of (since we use it every day), but the campaign received international media attention and new strategic relationships that had positive ripple effects right across the network. So it makes sense that the ventures would dig deep and give extra support financially through collaborative funding. The end result is a total win-win: because we’re collaborating, what’s good for Enspiral as a whole and what’s good for its member organizatons comes into alignment, and collective and individual needs complement one another powerfully." (http://www.managementexchange.com/)
"By late 2012, the Support Crew was exhausted. All five of us have been running ourselves ragged trying to solve all the problems of a complex, unruly beast called Enspiral. This was never how it was supposed to be. The idea was that, as a collective, everyone would share coordination responsibilities, and we wouldn’t centralize management into just a few roles. But as we’d scaled up, we’d lost our way. As the collective grew from just Joshua to a a couple dozen people, Alanna came on board to help herd cats. Then the network grew even more, to nearly 150 people, and the Crew expanded to include Rebeka, Anthony, and Richard. Everyone was so busy trying to do their daily work that we’d stopped stepping back to look at the big picture. Almost before we knew it, this small group had been tasked with all the traditional responsibilities of management – setting the strategy, managing the budget, making decisions – but without any of the resources, leverage, or authority of a traditional structure. Instead of consciously designing collaborative processes, we’d just been bringing in more people to help get the work done because it seemed like the most expedient thing to do. We all believed deeply in Enspiral – but Enspiral as it was meant to be, not this. None of us had signed up to be anyone’s manager or boss. We looked at each other around the room. When had supporting the people and the network we loved become so frustrating and depressing? Only a few people were running things behind the scenes, while everyone else was disconnected from the core work. And now those few people were fed up. So we quit. Or rather, we collectively fired ourselves. We couldn’t crew this massive boat with only a few people, so we stopped trying to do the impossible. Running a large collective actually requires collective commitment and engagement, not just from a few people, but from everyone. So we let go of the rudder, stepped back, and looked at everyone else riding the SS Enspiral with us and said “OK, now what?” Either we’d collectively figure out how to steer the boat together, or we’d sink. It was the scariest and best decision we ever made. Key Innovations & Timeline When the Support Crew – the management team that had accidentally formed in our network that wasn’t supposed to have managers – made itself redundant, Enspiral had to figure out how to self-organize. It was time. The Support Crew sensed that our years spent building up a robust collaborative culture and a track record of innovative solutions meant that quitting was not an act of abandonment, but of tough love. It was less like and mutiny and more like a mother bird gently nudging a fledgling out of the nest. We didn’t know where it would go, but we knew it would fly. Everyone in the Crew moved in to focus on other projects within Enspiral – Rich on Loomio, the collaborative decision-making platform, Rebeka on Enspiral Space, a co-working hub for social enterprise, Joshua on Enspiral Dev Academy, teaching skills to new coders, and Anthony to Live the Dream, a social enterprise accelerator. We were left with just a skeleton crew with a mandate not to do anything directly, but instead facilitate collaborative processes for the entire network to manage itself. Immediately, Alanna needed a way for the collective to decide the monthly budget. Enspiral’s budget is made up of contributions from all the Enspiral companies. They can set whatever level of contribution makes sense for their business (typically around a 5% revenue share). This is not a tax or a requirement – it’s a voluntary contribution that serves as a regular recommitment to the idea that we share a set of values and we can achieve more by collaborating together than we could working in isolation, while preserving the autonomy of individual people and companies to work on whatever and in whatever manner they choose.
The benefits of becoming an Enspiral Venture are informal but powerful, and come down to one core driver: trust. At its heart, Enspiral is an altruistic network based on trust, with a vibrant gift economy. When a person or company participates actively in the network, they have a whole lot of amazing people and ventures who are in their corner and actively helping them succeed. We share leads and connections with each other generously. We lend each other money and invest in each others’ ventures. We promote each others’ projects at every opportunity. We share our learnings and hone our skills together. We grow a shared brand together to build a reputation greater than the sum of its parts. We help ventures find great staff and people to find great roles. (More details about the process of becoming an Enspiral Venture, expectations, and benefits here.) In the past, the Support Crew had done their best to spend the budget to benefit all the companies, build up the network as a whole, and help Enspiral achieve its overall social mission: more people working on stuff that matters. The companies, who were putting the funds into the collective pool, generally trusted the support crew to manage the budget, and in fact gratefully abdicated responsibility for managing it to save having to worry about it. But in practice, this meant they were very disconnected from actual decision-making and it wasn’t good in the long run. Now that a small group wasn’t going to do the financial decision-making for everyone, we needed a way to coordinate. Bootstrapping a dozen startups is not a walk in the park – everyone was already very busy with their own work and no one had time for inefficiency. It was not feasible to expect everyone at Enspiral to engage with profit and loss statements. Financial reports were left gathering digital dust unopened in people’s inboxes. Trying to force that method would not work. We needed an accessible, engaging process that allowed everyone to meaningfully engage with the budget regularly, and have real control over the funds they were contributing, without overtaxing their valuable time and energy. Getting 120 people together for meetings every time we needed to spend money was out of the question. If we could all think together, we’d gain the huge benefits of collective wisdom. But with no authoritarian leverage or bosses to exert it in the network, if the process wasn’t actually fun, interesting, and gamified, people wouldn’t opt to participate. At the same time, Enspiral itself as a company has regular expenses and obligations that need to be covered (paying the accountant, legal costs, insurance, taxes, software and hosting, and paying the skeleton crew of part time employees). We had to ensure solvency and legal compliance, while creating a space for decisions about taking risks and supporting new projects and growth. Budget decisions are about priorities – they make no sense out of context. If we say yes to one thing, we have to say no to something else. It’s very easy for people to love the idea of their pet project, but unless they can see that part of the budget in the the context of everything else the organization needs to accomplish with limited resources, it’s not a meaningful preference. So we came up with Collaborative Funding. Here’s how it works. Each month, all the contributions to collective funds are listed on a spreadsheet. Core expenses to keep the company going at the leanest level (previously collectively agreed on Loomio) are subtracted out. What’s left is the discretionary budget. Each person or company retains the right to allocate their part of discretionary funds, in proportion to what they contributed that month." (http://www.managementexchange.com/)
Discussion: What is the relation between Enspiral Foundation and Enspiral Services ?
By Derek Razo et al.:
"Derek: There is a thought that I started that I didn't end up finishing which was about the relationship between Enspiral Foundation and Services. With a bunch of these types of organizations, it seems to be that what often will happen is a big grant will come into Enspiral Foundation. We will have a community decision on how to spend it. People will make proposals. It will iterate towards some sort of consensus.
Usually what actually happens is nobody puts in the work, and a couple of people who are really passionate about something put up a pretty good proposal and it goes forward because the opportunity is there, which is fine. Then what happens is Enspiral Foundation hires Enspiral Services to implement it because most of the people who are floating on the Enspiral Network if they have done any work, they have probably done it through Services. What happens is Services becomes the contracting company of choice of the thing that doesn't necessarily make money, and so you get this dynamic which is really nice where there is a separation in the API - like this thing can still make decisions about how to spend those resources and then you utilize the network of people who need a livelihood to make those outcomes happen.
Sam: For me, that pushes dangerously into the Edgeryders territory where you only have one company that can get financial value from the network and the assets.
Mix: There's lots of groups within Services.
Sam: Maybe you can tell us how Services is structured and that will help us understand a little more.
Mix: Quite loosely, there are teams within Services. The teams don't have a legal boundary so much as like an agreement boundary. I am part of Craftworks which is a bunch of developers and sometimes some designers. We do a particular type of application online. Then there are other groups within Services who do just simple websites.
Derek: The thing about Enspiral Services is that it's a tool of the network and the network is made up of Services and the Foundation. Neither is independent of the other necessarily. They are, but they're not. They're interdependent but yeah, it's just like Mix says, there's teams and we have a clear policy for how you propose a new team. For example it's basically like, "Here is how you abide with our legal structure." The benefit of this consulting company is that all of these companies get things like a shared bank account, shared accounting services. There's a legal company. For example CoBudget, we're a year in. We have no legal structure. All of our money has come through Enspiral Foundation and is paid to us through Enspiral Services as contractors.
We have a clear team within Services because we've created the relationship there. We have adapted ourselves to the policy, but it's given us this bubble that we live in. In Enspiral Services there are also just individuals, like freelancers who are friends and they are like, "Oh man, I have to do all this accounting bullshit," and then, "Oh well, Enspiral Services employs an admin." The admin is one of the shared resources of Services, so Services is more like a co-op." (http://community.oscedays.org/t/structure-decentralization-community-consulting-a-discussion-with-enspiral/4162)
Becoming an Enspiral Venture
- New company writes a company introduction based on the existing template
- Their introduction is posted in the members Loomio, to let members know about them and provide a space for discussion, questions, comments, etc (no proposal yet).
- A one month “getting to know” you phase starts, which goes both ways of them getting to know us and us getting to know them. New company people come on G+ and Loomio, members make an effort to talk to them, meet for coffee, etc, and they ask any questions and clarify the value proposition and values fit on both sides.
- We ask the company if they definitely want to join, and if so, a proposal is started in the above
- Loomio discussion for members to officially approve or not.
- If approved (by consensus - with 75% member engagement), the company and the Foundation officially determine the contribution relationship (revenue share, etc).
- We have a welcome celebration!
Being an Enspiral Venture
- Revenue share - choose % and $ cap and rate
- Engagement with the Network
- Transparency, we share data and internal information with each other.
- Reporting, we take the time to summarise our activities and update the Network.
- Communications, reps from each company are active with core comms, including Loomio, responding to requests from News, and Google+
- Ventures also offer the network other in kind contributions as they wish.
- Benefits described above
- Profile on enspiral.com website
- Represent as an official enspiral company
- Full use of enspiral.com backend
- Company Box access
Special Types of Ventures
There are three additional types of Enspiral Ventures which have slightly different relationships with the network.
Enspiral Services Teams
Enspiral Services Limited houses multiple teams who share a common legal structure to increase collaboration and reduce overheads. Some of those teams may apply to be full ventures in their own right. The ones that do act as individual ventures in every other way and the fact they part of Enspiral Services is more of a legal footnote than a substantive difference.
Enspiral Branded Ventures
An Enspiral Branded Venture behaves like a regular venture except it carries the Enspiral name in its title and uses the Enspiral logo as part of its core identity. The shared branding has additional benefits and risks to the network so they have a few more criteria
All staff (directors and employees - excluding external contractors) must be Enspiral Contributors
If the venture ever leaves the network they must remove any Enspiral branding from their name or logo
Enspiral Owned Companies
An Enspiral owned company (eg Enspiral Spaces) is wholly owned by the Enspiral Foundation and are assets that are collectively held by the network." (https://github.com/enspiral/agreements/blob/master/agreements/ventures.md#becoming-an-enspiral-venture)
2015: Governance crisis and refactor process
"By the end of 2015, many felt Enspiral was at a crisis point.
Enspiral was not self-organising to create the new processes and systems it needs for further self-organisation and growth. A ‘step change’ was needed.
- Our Members were overloaded with venture work, and too few were actively initiating projects to improve the Enspiral commons.
- Our first Catalyst programme had generated a lot of good learning, but it needed a redesign and wasn’t able to self-sustain without further interventions.
- Contributors didn’t have clear pathways to help improve things, and progress their own journey toward becoming Enspiral network leaders."
The answer was a organizational re-design process, the 'Refactor' process, more details at https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/breathe-in-leadership-breathe-out-leadership-enspirals-organisational-refactor-884d0babf6b7#.jlpsy6n6d
"Enspiral is a very organic community, which grows with no predefined rules, with members joining and free to leave, all bringing a lot to the community.
Joshua Vial mentioned 3 main characteristics of the community, established as a limited liability company, which has a clause in the constitution that mandates 100% of the surplus to be spent on its social mission; first a capacity play, with highly skilled members, happy to share money and people; second a decentralized organization – in contrast with older models where money, information and control used to be centralized in the hands of a few; and then a community of business, where the main strategy consists of launching new ventures.
So far, 85 people within the community have created 12 companies. Every Monday morning, the « Enspiral village » meets: some of the mentors (3-5) meet to talk about how they can best help startups.
Some of the companies have an equity relationship – the others use a revenue share with Enspiral. We had the opportunity to visit Enspiral offices. People don’t just share open space just like “the hub” in London or Melbourne, or “La cantine” or “La ruche” in Paris. Enspiral members went a step further, with an original governance model: members of the collective own a share in the Enspiral Foundation, each share representing 1 vote, but these shares cannot be sold.
Each member of the trust decides how and how much to contribute to the trust, either financially, and or through services. A usual contribution is 20% of the contracts value, generated by the freelance consulting fees, half being distributed to the trust, half of it allocated to specific projects.
The trust generated 500K NZD the first year, 1M the second, and should double again its turnover this year. They plan to create an investment fund and to develop their concept abroad next year: Honk Kong, New York and Sidney have shown an interest. It would bring to the community the opportunity to more easily go and work abroad.
Twice yearly, they organize retreats, to protect their main assets: their business culture and high trust environment.
Joshua’s vision for the future: « all businesses should be a social business! » What about the contribution of Enspiral to this vision? « More hands on development, with a better measurement of social impact ». Convinced that what is easier and works better is more likely to be copied, he really wants to demonstrate through Enspiral that social businesses work better, so that this model inspires more people." (http://www.forachangingworld.com/2013/02/joshua-vial-enspiral-its-all-about-creating-sustainable-communities/)
Five Questions to Enspiral
Formulated by Robin Murray to Alanna Krause:
1. Has Enspiral been able to entirely eliminate what is conventionally called the overhead. Does any of the 20% have to be set aside for someone to ‘administer’ on behalf of all, or have you been able to entirely incorporate all those functions into the software and the participation of all the collaborators?
Since we met in Berlin, one enterprise that has generated great interest is the Dutch care organisations called Buurtzorg.
It is not a co-op but a social enterprise, but what is striking about it is
(i) it is largely self managed by teams of 10-12 district nurses;
(ii) there is a central platform which is key to all sorts of systemic functions;
(iii) they have cut the overhead to c. 40 staff (largely for finance) for an organisation of 9.000 nurses, and as a result can provide a much higher quality of care for lower prices than the conventional public and private care providers. But En Spiral has already gone further certainly in relation to the financial functions;
2. As Enspiral grows within its safe company space, how does it manage the interface with the state – in relation to tax and to international transactions (or are members still all in New Zealand). If a member earns $500 but invoiced through En Spiral, does Enspiral get assessed for tax at the end of the year according to the aggregated costs and earnings of the collective, or can liability remain with the individuals and their particular organisations.
3. Related to this (and to point 1) does someone in the collective have to interface with the state on behalf of all members, and have there yet been any instances where Enspiral has been asked to undertake a project as the collective (and if so is there a method about how the work is shared out)
4. Have you found any difficulties that have emerged as the size of Enspiral has grown; I remember you saying that real face to face relations were as important to the organisation as the virtual ones; does that become less easy with the expansion of the network (this has been one of the great issues for co-ops, who in the pre digital age have tried to solve it through nested organisations).
5. One of the things your You Tube talk throws light on is the nature of the distinction between the 80% and the 20%. From what I understood, the distinction is not so much dependent on the locus of decision (since the earner of the $500 – in this case you – can decide how to spend the 80% but also it seems the 20%). The difference is rather that the 20% has to be spent on jointly proposed projects, which will usually require more than any one person can cover and therefore became a jointly funded project – a kind of internal crowd funding. Some of the 80% can also no doubt go to such projects, but is not confined to that. Have I got it right, and that all the income and expenditure, the 80% and the 20% are all included in the Co-Budget? (email, April 2016)
"1. has Enspiral been able to entirely eliminate what is conventionally called the overhead.
We do have some overhead, and we have a team focused on this work - Enspiral Operations - whom different ventures pays to carry out admin work. You can see their scope of work for the Foundation here. Most of what they do is financial admin (processing invoices, putting funds through to Cobudget, etc), software admin (adding and removing contributors from all our systems as they join or leave), and stuff like shareholding paperwork when new members come on, etc. We do not pay any managers or bosses. For a network of 300 people, we resource 20 hours/week of admin time. We've recently kicked of an experiment called "Catalysts", who are people focusing on leadership and strategic coordination, but they are self-funded.
2. as Enspiral grows within its safe company space, how does it manage the interface with the state
Enspiral is a network of ventures, each of which is a separate legal and financial entity (company). We have a large internal economy, with a third to half the money earned by the ventures coming from other Enspiral ventures. It's an interesting measure of our interdependence. However, all these transactions are invoiced an accounted for like any other exchange of services and money between separate companies (eg, we pay GST when Enspiral Academy hires a consultant through Enspiral Services, or when ActionStation hires a Loomio facilitator). Yes, tax liability accrues to each company based on its income, and we have some challenges around money sitting in people's Enspiral accounts looking like company profit from the outside, and being taxed as such. We also have interesting issues with generosity, which is not in the tax code - eg Enspiral companies often want to just give money to each other but that's not allowed so we have to come up with various arrangements. We're currently working with some tax experts to figure some of this stuff out better.
3. Related to this (and to point 1) does someone in the collective have to interface with the state on behalf of all members, and have there yet been any instances where Enspiral has been asked to undertake a project as the collective (and if so is there a method about how the work is shared out)
Yes. Each Enspiral venture is a registered company, with directors, the Enspiral Foundation included (of which I am a director myself). So they interface with the state as any normal company. We have indeed been approached with large opportunities as a collective... some examples have been Lifehack (a government partnership), a major grant from the Namaste Foundation, and the Open Source // Open Society Conference. In each case, we held the resulting project within the Foundation, as the home of cross-venture collaboration. However, we've recently decided to radically simplify the Foundation and implement a "minimum viable board", and thus will be directing such opportunities in the future into their own legal entities (for example, OS//OS is now run by EXP, and Lifehack is becoming an independent venture in its own right).
4. Have you found any difficulties that have emerged as the size of Enspiral has grown
This is a learning edge for us right now. In the past 6 months, we've had our first international Enspiral gatherings (in San Francisco and Melbourne), and another is coming up next month in Paris. Many of our systems were built for a local, smaller network, and we're now evolving. We've recently been through something we called the Enspiral Refactor (report attached), a change process to help set us in a good direction to respond to growth and evolution. But no one can predict what the future might hold, and these challenges will continue arising. I think the future will look like multiple semi-autonomous hubs, with the Foundation's focus turning to how they can interrelate and share knowledge and skills. One recent evolution that mirrors this is a change from twice yearly retreats for the whole network, to one big gathering a year and a series of smaller retreats with different themes at different times.
5. Have I got it right, and that all the income and expenditure, the 80% and the 20% are all included in the Co-Budget?
The 80% does not go into Cobudget, which are funds for collective use (but allocated to projects by the individual), but to the individual's Enspiral account (funds for their personal use). If they want to, they can take some of their personal funds and put it into Cobudget - it's completely up to them what they do with it. We try to create spaces for all different levels of thinking: individual on individual needs, individual on collective needs, collective on collective needs, collective on individual needs. I didn't go into it in the talk, but we have another funds (Reserves/Special Projects) which is determined by collective decision of the members. Diversity of financial decision-making allows all kinds of different outcomes (people just doing stuff, people doing stuff but transparently, some people funding things together, everyone funding together)." (email, April 2016)
Enspiral's Collective Vision
WHO WE ARE
Enspiral is a network of professionals working together to create a thriving future. We come from diverse disciplines and across sectors to work on projects we care about. We collaborate on innovative products, services, experiences and businesses that raise up our communities, while creating value for clients, investors and ourselves.
Enspiral has three parts:
Enspiral Services - Talented professionals working together as teams to offer a comprehensive spectrum of services, from web design to accounting for clients across sectors.
Enspiral Ventures - Pioneering social entrepreneurs forming start-ups to launch innovative products and services that create value for society as a part of their core operations.
Enspiral Foundation - All of us are contributing to a new kind of business network that increases capacity for social entrepreneurship around the world.
WHERE WE ARE STARTING FROM - OUR CORE VALUES
Service with Intention
The drive to have a positive impact on a critically stressed world guides our work at Enspiral. We use our time to discover the most direct paths to a future of thriving local and global societies, and then direct our energy into clearing the way so that others can follow.
Outstanding talent is a prerequisite. From there, we continuously improve what we deliver, and how we work with our clients and each other. We hold ourselves to world-leading standards.
An Empowering Culture
We value each other and the strength, resilience, and fulfillment that come from a richly diverse and equitable workplace. Each of us has the freedom to work as we choose. This is the fertile ground for people to lead happy professional lives.
Our way of working gives rise to a new era of entrepreneurship that puts productive capital behind the innovation and lasting changes we need to make. Everyone at Enspiral has the opportunity and the support to pursue the social business ideas and innovations they’re most passionate about.
WHERE WE ARE GOING - OUR INTENDED IMPACTS
Systemic Solutions to Critical Social and Environmental Problems
We’ve reached a point where the social and biological fabric that supports our communities and all of humanity are under acute stress or in outright crisis. Critically, these systems are intertwined in fundamental ways, meaning we cannot afford to work in isolated silos. We aim to have impact on entire systems, developing better ways of providing for all our basic needs and beyond.
Increased Resources Devoted to Building Social and Environmental Value
The challenges we and our communities face need millions more problem solvers. Enspiral is helping talented people who are driven to do good for the world use their professional lives and business ideas to tackle social challenges, instead of contributing to them.
We recognise that in order to reach our creative and productive potential, we must ensure the “who” of each member of our organisation isn’t lost in the “what” and “how” of getting the job done. By building a work environment that values people for who they are, rather than just what they produce, we are significantly increasing their capacity to do good work.
A Network-Native Model for Business
Applying the new architectures developed in IT to building network-native ways of organising business unlocks enormous capacity for innovation. Enspiral is pioneering an open model for how to organise knowledge workers into a network that is leaner, fairer, and more productive and resilient than traditional businesses. By building a diverse network of first-rate professionals we can create teams and solve client problems with incredible speed and agility.
HOW WE ARE GETTING THERE - OUR KEY STRATEGIES
WEAVE A NETWORK OF OPPORTUNITY
The core of the Enspiral strategy is connecting a diverse collection of talented professionals who share a common set of values, so we can work on things we really care about. Together we are building a new kind of business network. From our varied interactions, transformative opportunities emerge for ourselves, our clients, our customers, and our communities - opportunities to build things with inspiring individuals and create real improvements in people’s lives.
BUILD DIVERSE PROFESSIONAL TEAMS
The needs of our clients often don’t fall into tidy boxes. Our network of professionals is intentionally diverse, because including a spectrum of abilities and perspectives is the only way to continuously solve the toughest problems. Our networked approach allows leading practitioners across disciplines to form teams with the specific skills that will solve our clients’ real needs.
LAUNCH AND SCALE SOCIAL VENTURES
We give our members access to potential collaborators, service providers, mentors, and funders. We are a platform for a rich collection of shared information and knowledge about social entrepreneurship, creating a place optimised to germinate social ventures. Lack of a supportive community is one of the most serious problems social entrepreneurs face - Enspiral is a solution.
DESIGN NETWORKED BUSINESS MODELS
Inspired by the open Web and cultures of sharing, we are designing networked business models optimised for innovation and social impact. We develop new ways of communicating internally, making inclusive decisions, and distributing financial control throughout our organisations. These processes truly harness the abilities, inventions and connections of our members to drive social entrepreneurship.
CREATE BETTER WAYS TO BE PRODUCTIVE
We invent new ways of organising how work gets done. We are authentic and engaged in how we collaborate with clients and colleagues. We give people complete transparent information, collective decision-making responsibility, an environment that supports learning, and the autonomy to create their dream job. We’re figuring out how entrepreneurism and humanism can integrate into an organisation’s DNA, collectively, individually and as teams and companies.
BUILD BRIDGES TO MEANINGFUL WORK
Enspiral provides opportunities for passionate people to spend their working life doing the things that are most meaningful to them and useful for society. Productive capital, human and financial, is the nutrient that feeds the innovation and lasting changes we want to make. Building long-term financial strength is an essential part of engaging people in doing good through their work.
Extracted from Enspiral's FAQ
- Interviews with eight Enspiral people about what it's like working in a collaborative, supportive environment
- Mavericks Hangout with the Management Exchange: Creating the Source Code for the Organization of the Future
- The story of Loomio, and how Enspiral does collective decision-making.
- The story of Cobudget, and how Enspiral does collaborative funding.
- Joshua’s inspiring talk on programming for social impact.
- Alanna’s talk on disruptive, trust-based leadership.
- Alanna and Vivien being interviewed by management expert Gary Hamel about Enspiral and Loomio from a business perspective.
- Ben’s talk at the Personal Democracy Forum on Loomio and the wave of social change of which its a part.
- MJ Kaplan’s report including Enspiral: Growing the Next Generation of Social Entrepreneurs and Start-ups in New Zealand]
- A long list of media articles about Enspiral and Enspiral companies.
The following list was provided by Alanna Krause in December 2015.
- Enspiral Website - lots of good stuff in every section, links to articles and video content, etc.
- Enspiral Blog is regularly updated
- Open Enspiral - a series of short video presentations from different Enspiral Ventures, which we did as part of the Open Source // Open Society conference (which I organised earlier this year) - good way to get a sense of the people and diversity of activities.
- Intro to Cobudget slidedeck - the tool we use to distribute our discretionary budget.
- Recently released talk about Loomio from Bioneers - Ben and I co-founded Loomio (along with a couple others) in 2011. It's probably Enspiral's most internationally known startup/product so far.
- My talk from Mix Mashup last year, about Enspiral's digital and Cultural Technology, geared toward the 'management innovation' crowd
- I have written some blog posts that have gained some traction, on bossless leadership and growing distributed leadership - these distill some of my learnings from being at Enspiral (hope to write more soon!)
- The Collaborative Technology Alliance arose from a recent Enspiral gathering in the Bay Area - the vision is something like "don't try to build the alternative Facebook, instead take a bunch of useful tools and make them work together beautifully as a modular open source dashboard for new-paradigm networked orgs/communities" - this is the emerging philosophy of software dev at Enspiral, I think.
- There's a lot of organisational documentation open sourced on Enspiral's Githuband Loomio's Github.
- There's a whole emerging space related to education, with Enspiral Dev Academy (programmer school) and related programmes, and Chalkle (peer-to-peer teaching and learning)
- There's a whole neighborhood of ventures focused on youth development, including Lifehack (mental wellbeing+tech social lab) and Orientation Aotearoa (alternative gap year for changemakers).
- There are several professional services companies that do mostly client work, but with a grounding in the Enspiral values, including Enspiral Accounting, Rabid, and several others.
- There's a vibrant activist culture at Enspiral, who engage more directly with social issues such as ActionStation (issue-based campaigning) and Scoop(independent media).