Resources for Decentralised Organising

By Richard D. Bartlett and originally published here.

Hi I’m Richard D. Bartlett! I’m writing a book about decentralised organising, finding lessons across diverse contexts, from social movements to formal workplaces.

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.

If you have more to add, please edit this page, contribute on Twitter, or email [email protected]

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 Handbookexplains 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 400 staff and no central location.
  • Crisp DNA is the handbook from a self-organising company of 35+ autonomous consultants. They do cool things with money and ownership!
  • OuiShare Handbook – structures and practices for the distributed OuiShare network
  • A Feminist Organization’s Handbook is a beautiful resource from the Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles. They explain how they work, with the expressed intention of helping others to learn from their experience.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous operate as an “upside-down organisation”. Their manual is an up-to-date summary of 80+ years of decentralised organising at scale.
  • The IETF is the principal body governing the development of the Internet. Their open, voluntary, self-organising principles are documented in the Tao of the IETF.
  • Public Interest Research Center is a thinktank for civil society, helping social movements tell better stories. They’ve recently transitioned to a flat organisational structure. No handbook yet, but they published this excellent story about the transition.
  • Platform is an arts /education / research /activism org. No public handbook, but their Social Justice Waging System is impressive.
  • How to Start a Tool Lending Library
  • Transition Towns’ Essential Guide to doing Transition is available in many languages.
  • Valve Employee Handbook – Valve is a software company that works without bosses. They published their handbook in 2012.
  • Edgeryders is a unique online community and company, a kind of thinktank and mutual aid network. A lot of their work is done in public, e.g. see their Principles for collaboration and operations in Edgeryders. “No plan is the plan.”
  • The Borderland a collaborative community organized around an annual participatory event. It organizes itself using two processes: Dream Prototyping and Consensual Do-ocracy, also known as the Advice Process, influenced by Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations.
  • Outseta Operating Agreement – Outseta is a SaaS company with a fully distributed team that has adopted self-management. We’ve made our operating agreement public: how we make functional and financial decisions. We also published an overview of what self-management is, an overview to folks new to the subject.
  • 350 Seattle – Structure resources for a campaigning org
  • Open Coop Governance Model designed for use in the Guerilla Translation co-op, as a model for others to remix
  • Scaling Agile at Spotify: explaining how Spotify’s 250+ tech staff coordinate across tribes, squads, chapters and guilds.

Generalised lessons: toolkits, books, etc


Republished excerpts by Enlivening Edge Magazine under Creative Commons license.

Featured Image/graphic link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine.