Loomio
Thu 18 Nov 2021

Proposal: Restart the finance working group (with a new app!)

NS Nathan Schneider Public Seen by 78

TLDR, I propose:

  • We elect a three-member Finance committee, which requires two approvals for every expense

  • We use a new app called the Metagov Gateway to approve expenses

  • In the process, we a pilot for a new approach to facilitate governance in virtual co-ops like us


For just about the entire existence of Social.coop, I have been the Finance committee. This has basically meant that I have sole responsibility for approving expenses and distributing the precious contributions of our membership. We technically have a Finance committee, but functionally it is pretty much just me. Not a good look! This is a proposal to change that.

I propose that we create an actual finance committee so that no one person has sole discretion around approving funds. It's not a lot of work, but it's important work, and I think it should be done by people who are actually approved by the membership and who can look over each other's shoulders a bit.

A three-member committee should do it, with any two members necessary to approve an expense in Open Collective.

But wait, you say: Open Collective doesn't have a system for community governance and multiple approvals! How would that work? Would we have to create a new proposal in Loomio for every expense that shows up in Open Collective? That's annoying!

Well, have I got an app for you. Fans of the Open Collective blog might have noticed the recent post, "Govern Your Collective with Metagov Gateway." This is a tool that facilitates online community governance, and it now works with Loomio and Open Collective (as well as Slack, Discourse, and others). With this, we can design a policy whereby expenses posted on Open Collective automatically create a new proposal in Loomio, which the Finance committee members can then vote to approve in Loomio. If the proposal passes, the funds are automatically released on Open Collective.

Pretty nice, eh? Even nicer are the broader range of possibilities that might emerge when you can connect Loomio to governance events of all kinds on different platforms. That's what we're piloting here.

I'm on the Metagovernance Project team behind the Metagov Gateway, so I can help with getting the technical stuff working. @Matthew Cropp has generously offered to volunteer with me to help pilot this approach on the new Finance committee. Anyone else want to join us?

From here, I anticipate the following:

  • Feedback on this idea? Let's discuss here!

  • Based on feedback, I'll make a formal proposal to establish the more formal Finance committee

  • We'll run a little election to select the committee members

  • Boom!

Thoughts?

MN

Matt Noyes Fri 19 Nov 2021

love it - would be great if we could use sortition for this so that many members would have a hand in it, but good to have a little stability, too. Very cool to help test this new OC tool,

NS

Nathan Schneider Fri 19 Nov 2021

The sortition idea is really interesting, and I'd love to have an excuse to implement that. I wonder if this is the right use-case. I think it could be. Particularly if we have a well documented process for how best to confirm the validity of expenses.

LW

Laurie Wayne Fri 19 Nov 2021

Hi Nathan, I am feeling like this is three proposals: one, to (re?)enact a 3-person finance committee with the responsibilities that you have carried on your own - that is, expense approval (anything else a finance committee should/would do?); two, to design a policy whereby expenses posted on Open Collective become a new proposal in Loomio, which the finance committee members can then vote to approve in Loomio (so that the approval is visible to the whole community and open for comments and questions) and release funds on Open Collective; and three, to implement a new tool to automate the Open Collective-Loomio flow. Is that correct?

Second question: how did it come to pass that have you been the only person doing the finance work? I certainly agree that it should be a multi-person responsibility in almost any organization, and I wonder why this is not happening now and whether a proposal is needed that addresses the barriers to broader participation (or whether it is just organizational momentum, which totally happens)? Would you be one of the three people on the committee?

My intuition is that the finance committee would be best suited for approving, setting up, and using a new tool like the API Gateway app you suggest (which does indeed look neato). Does it make sense to have the finance committee either recommend or select outright the tool that will automate and communicate their approval, maybe as their first official committee act?

I am super new to this conversation, so please forgive my ignorance of history and context here (and please feel free to point be towards some schoolin' I should do before pitchin' in with my opinion)!

NS

Nathan Schneider Fri 19 Nov 2021

Thanks for this!

I think reinstating the Finance committee (which technically we already have—see the text atop the main loomio.org/socialcoop page) with a real process for approving expenses would be one proposal. And then adding the Metagov tool would simply be an experiment in how to implement that process that the committee could feel empowered to try out (as you suggest). So I think all that could be one proposal. The second proposal would be to elect the members of the committee.

I think the main reason we don't have more people on Finance is that, given how Open Collective works (relying on admin approval), it is easier to just have one person do it, and with lots of other things to do, people have not expressed interest in doing it. I am eager to bring more people into the process, and if elected I would be happy to serve on the committee to facilitate the transition.

Welcome to the conversation! Thanks for your thoughts.

NS

Nathan Schneider Fri 19 Nov 2021

See history of Finance working group discussions here: https://www.loomio.org/g/Zq69RToJ/social-coop-finance-working-group

BH

Bob Haugen Sat 20 Nov 2021

I support the proposal but also think @Laurie Wayne posed some excellent questions.

MN

Matt Noyes Tue 23 Nov 2021

I wonder if @Laurie Wayne, whose plate runneth over already, might nonetheless want to join the finance group -- it's not a big time commitment and some of what is discussed might be useful for OFN as well?

LW

Laurie Wayne Tue 23 Nov 2021

@Matt Noyes it is very tempting and may or may not be prudent. I am seeking more details below 🐝

NS

Nathan Schneider Mon 22 Nov 2021

One further thought, actually: I'm not sure we need a proposal for a finance group, since the Bylaws (https://wiki.social.coop/rules-and-bylaws/Bylaws-for-social.coop.html) already have one. So I'd propose that we move on to simply electing new members of it. Does that sound okay? Would anybody like to join me and @Matthew Cropp in running?

cc: @Bob Haugen @Laurie Wayne @Mica Fisher @Ed Summers @Matt Noyes

LW

Laurie Wayne Tue 23 Nov 2021

@Nathan Schneider can you help those possibly interested understand the time commitment for each person doing the work of the finance committee, based on your experience thus far? Is the plan for a monthly or fortnightly meeting (say) of all three finance group members, or could they do their work asynchronously? Can you provide a ballpark for how much time a finance group member would spend? Wondering as well about the expected length of service term - thoughts? (omg so many question marks - sorry!)

JD

Josh Davis Mon 22 Nov 2021

Thanks for stewarding the finances this far, Nathan. I agree that we should probably just start by electing a finance committee, and then go from there re Metagov, etc. Also, I'll throw my hat in the ring for the committee.

NS

Poll Created Mon 22 Nov 2021

Are you interested in joining the finance group? Closed Thu 25 Nov 2021

Outcome
by Nathan Schneider Fri 26 Nov 2021

5 people expressed interest! We'll go ahead and run a quick election.

Briefly: We have been neglecting our finance group, and we want to get it started in earnest with at least 3 members. This is an opportunity for exploring new approaches to overseeing Social.coop finances.

See the associated thread for context.

Results

Results Option % of voters Voters
Yes 3% 5 NS MC JD LS CW
Undecided 97% 140 DS ST JD CZ BH LF F BM SH KT C G AM MSC CCC AW SC PA RB FSF SB MN JG MP D SJK MS K TMG MB N R K AW EM JB GIM NS TD NP WM A J LO CCE DU CB L BMH @ RH M JI N ED CS JW NS M DM GSF DVN MAS CD JB C P ES DM NRV W G JC DU DU JB B HJS BH ID Q M TS B JR AR MS JA JP DU IS BH D M N C H AU SS AR MF AK W BM CL J JG TBS A GB BD Z RD M YK LW DC AW C GL F B BM LM A GM B MP MSH WW MH SW IL HC RRW C F CC AM

5 of 145 people have voted (3%)

JD

Josh Davis
Yes
Mon 22 Nov 2021

I've been looking for a way to be more involved in social.coop, apart from posting, and this seems like a good way to do that.

LS

Leo Sammallahti
Yes
Mon 22 Nov 2021

Yes, would love to participate and see if we can use the money in ways that both helps us grow our community, deepen member-to-member relationships and support the wider cooperative movement.

MC

Matthew Cropp
Yes
Mon 22 Nov 2021

I'm game!

CW

I am willing to join this committee. Honestly, I may not have time. Since the pandemic began, I haven’t had my own space to work (and aim an introvert). And, I am traveling to too-many-countries in the next few months. Include me anyway, and I’ll try to join meetings and read message threads. I suspect I can’t give it my undivided attention.

F

Flancian Tue 23 Nov 2021

I am not particularly interested in joining the finance group, but I'd be happy to contribute to the technical aspect of this proposal (setting up [[metagov]], etc.) if that is needed.

NS

Nathan Schneider Tue 23 Nov 2021

Thanks for this—we should be able to get the Metagov team to handle the implementation.

J

JohnKuti Thu 25 Nov 2021

No. But I will try to follow their work and ask questions about it.

NS

Nathan Schneider Thu 2 Dec 2021

I just spoke with the Metagov team, and a few things:

  • They're super excited about the idea of trying a sortition model. (Here's looking at you, @Matthew Cropp!) It could be something like: A new poll gets created and invites votes from a random set of Start.coop members in Loomio, who then make the decision.

  • They're also interested in working with you, @Flancian, as an experiment in working with a local dev, rather than just doing all the dev-ing themselves. So if you're down for that, it'd be great to have you be the technical point-person on our side.