Transition Talks #3: Enspiral and the commons

On 12th of May Chelsea, Derek, Gina, and Genevieve from Enspiral shared their experience with Thinkfarm Berlin.The goal of this Talk was to present the Enspiral model and in particular how money is managed as a commons as well as share insights with contributors of the Thinkfarm Berlin and some other guests.

But first what is Enspiral? The answer isn’t straightforward. On its website Enspiral is defined as follows:

Enspiral is a virtual and physical network of companies and professionals working together to create a thriving society.

This short video gives a good introduction:

During this sharing session our 4 friends presented various aspects:

  • Enspiral started with programmers who decided to work as little time as possible for highly-paid jobs to be able to work on stuff that matters. This evolved into a larger network including facilitators, project managers, graphic designers who banded together through a collective venture (Enspiral services) and decided to share a portion of their income to fund collective projects. From this initial setup, the network evolved to a constellation of individual contributors and organizational contributors (there are around 12 ventures including Enspiral Services and the worker-owned coop behind the open source collective decision-making tool Loomio). This network is held together by the Enspiral Foundation.
  • So there are contributors and members. Contributors (around 150) participate in the collective decision-making of the Enspiral network and also share some of their income and/or time to bring projects to life. To do this they have developed the Cobudget tool where any contributor can submit an idea as a bucket to be funded. Members (around 35) govern the Foundation and its finances.
  • How do you become a contributor? You are coopted by an existing contributor. As simply as that.
  • How do you become a member? You need to be coopted by a member and raise no objection from other members.
  • The power of personal connections. Probably the most important insight one can draw from that session was that everything can be lost if the connection between people is lost. This means the community must be constantly cared for. It’s important to note that many contributors worked and/or lived together intensively.
  • Retreats. retreats (every 6 months) are a very precious moment to knit the community together, introduce new members.
  • Decision-making. Citizens movements like Occupy have left a strong imprint on how Enspiral takes decisions. Generally decisions are taken when there is no more objections according to the principle of consent. Objecting is a big deal. You have to substantiate your objection. Quickly it appeared to its members that with so many opinionated participants they needed a digital tool to facilitate taking decisions: so they developed their own platform. and because they felt it was so good, they open sourced it and some contributors founded a worker-owned coop called Loomio.
  • Autonomy. Nailing what the values that shape interactions within Enspiral is difficult. Autonomy of individuals and collectives was mentionned as a value that runs the DNA of the network. For instance, contributions to budgeting buckets are voluntary.

There was a lot more in this session, but one cannot report about everything! Here is a video documentation of the first 30 minutes:

We didn’t have time to look at how contributors concretely allocate money. Here is a graph that describes how Alana Krause (or any other contributor) manages her money :


Graphic credit: Enspiral

A great article and video by Alanna Krause present more in-depth how the internal economy inside Enspiral works.

More in-depth information about how Enspiral works is being gathered in the Enspiral Handbook.

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