Loomio
June 13th, 2018 18:48

Feature(?) request: Loomio being transparent with finances

Luke Flegg
Luke Flegg Public Seen by 479

I was always very excited by Loomio, but now more than ever. One of the things that inspires me is the sort of PayAsYouFeel model - something I believe (when done well) cultivates greater collective responsibility, smashes barriers to entry and gets social impact to reach where it's most needed.
However, it's rarely done well and lots of PAYF orgs struggle financially, so I decided to look more into how to make it work for everyone as a revenue model:

http://tiny.cc/PAYF

(I open sourced my findings [working with a researcher] and invite you to view + comment there)

My proposal here is that Loomio be transparent about its finances with a live/frequently updated account balance, also showing what income level = break even/growth/losing money; then us users can make educated contributions about how much to pay for using Loomio.

Matthew Cropp

Matthew Cropp June 13th, 2018 19:01

My understanding is that Loomio has actually moved away from a "pay as you feel" model as part of the path to financial sustainability for the co-op?

Rob Guthrie

Rob Guthrie June 14th, 2018 11:50

In short, we're struggling and not quite breaking even yet, but we have growth and investor support thanks to our current model.

I start off by saying that because being financially transparent is very time and energy consuming. We've experimented a lot with how open we are, and before we commit to doing it more, we just want to find the way to get our heads above water so we can continue to build our open source platform. As you say, most organisations which try this fail.

In the past we spent a lot of time implementing a pay what you feel/donation approach and it was a complete failure and turned away many users and consumed all our energy. Before we invest further it would be worth reporting on what we've tried and how it went.. but even then we'd need to be convinced that had a useful outcome attached to it.

Clearly stating how much our service costs and what value you will get has been much more simple for people to say yes to than a pay what you feel model. And that has enabled us to deliver our free service to more people because it's actually been reasonably successful.

Finally it's worth saying that anyone can take our source code and deployment code and setup their own Loomio for free, OR they can use loomio.org for free (with conditions) OR they can use our community application form and apply for free full featured Loomio. That's huge. And I think it entitles us to take it easy on the business model front and offer something that is predictable, easy, and works for both parties. When you're doing almost everything (open code, cooperative, social enterprise, radical investment structures) differently, it can take a lot longer to find good solutions that work.

SASS isn't easy and we've iterated though such a huge history of stuff to find a solution that works for us, including many pay what you feel offers.

I think we'd be pretty ok with releasing our current SASS figures after some discussion, but we'll need to get back to you about that.

Midi Berry

Midi Berry June 14th, 2018 17:20

Dear Robert I for one appreciate your openness and honesty sharing about where you are in Loomio.

This feels like a leading edge process for our society and for the world at large. We too in Gene Keys have experience that 'give as you feel' and 'donation only' is not yet a sustainable model, if we are also to offer our members some very basic services to enable collective decision making.

My personal sense is to keep a vision of a world free of money firmly in my mind, heart and gut, as colleagues and I keep on asking questions, experimenting, and watching the feedback.

Being patient and kind with ourselves and others seems useful. Focusing on building trust between us in so many day-to-day ways just by being our authentic selves can also help relax attitudes. Standing daily for the joy and abundance of unattached giving of our time and selves matters as much as money. Trusting in the universal law of an abundant universe is for me personally where it all starts.

I see us all as children in a world we are co-creating anew each day with our thoughts, communications and behaviours. Moving beyond a poverty consciousness mindset that many if not most of us were born into is about raising frequencies through inner work as much as outer work and information sharing!

I'm wishing love and laughter and courage and fun to us all as we make the path by walking it together. :clap: :wave:

Luke Flegg

Luke Flegg June 14th, 2018 23:07

I'm deeply inspired by Loomio and your huge contribution to it Robert, thank you for your time replying to this.

@midiberry + anyone else interested in this topic - did you look at the resource I shared on how to make PayAsYouFeel generate all the money you need?
I made a summary at the top of the 4 most important things to do if you want PAYF to work as a revenue model. Most projects implementing PAYF are doing 0-2 of these suggestions. I'd love to hear if anyone is struggling despite doing 3-4 of the suggestions.

Midi Berry

Midi Berry June 15th, 2018 01:03

Hi Luke. Thanks for sharing your resource. :ok_hand: I downloaded and skimmed it briefly and have made a note to come back to study it when priorities permit. I'll certainly share feedback if we adopt your suggestions and will also pass the doc onto other groups that I know who are experimenting too. :wave:

Rob Guthrie

Rob Guthrie June 15th, 2018 07:04

Great document Luke, I just read it. I know about most of the examples you've got there, we talked about them in our early days too.

Rob Guthrie

Rob Guthrie June 15th, 2018 07:06

@richarddbartlett and @natilombardo I invite you to share your experiences of "Pay what you feel". I think you may have some insights, perhaps particularly the contrast between in-person and online payment experiences.

Richard D. Bartlett

Richard D. Bartlett June 15th, 2018 11:03

Hi folks, greetings from the mountains in Italy. Forgive my long answer :)

First I'd say collective transparency is expensive. I'm not just talking about the energy required to communicate our internal state in a way that makes sense to the outside world, anticipating what kind of pushback we're likely to receive from our very diverse stakeholders. Before even getting to that stage, there's the energy required to develop a coherent position internally.

E.g. Rob has shared his version of what we learned from Loomio's experiments with different payment models. That's a personal view, which gives you some idea, but it's not The Official Loomio Position. We haven't got one of those, because we haven't taken the time to all negotiate together and agree precisely on the words to describe what we've learned.

Individual transparency is a lot easier. Here's a blog I wrote recently about my experiments trying to make a living as a writer, including the real dollar amounts I've earned. I didn't have to negotiate with anyone or seek permission or develop a shared understanding with others. I just tell my own story, because it's just me.

With Loomio you have 10 co-op members, plus many other stakeholders. It takes serious energy to agree internally on our shared understanding, and then a tonne more energy to communicate that externally in a way that makes sense to our very different stakeholders. I mean, some of our closest partners are anticapitalist activists, and some of them are capitalists experimenting with philanthropy. It's super difficult to broadcast messages across that diversity of people in a way that they're likely to all understand. It's very easy to create distractions as we use some words that trigger people's anxieties, e.g. activists anxious that we've lost our values, or investors anxious that we're not a sustainable business.

We can always put more energy into this transparency effort, but that energy comes at the expense of other priorities like producing great software and building a sustainable business. So at the extreme end what you have is a totally transparent bankruptcy.

I'm working with Nati as The Hum. We're interested in making our finances 100% transparent. With just two of us, it will be fairly easy to make that decision.

We make our income from selling workshop tickets to individuals, and selling workshops to organisations. Either way, our pricing has a sliding scale. Ticket sales are always "Standard", "Discount" for low income people, and "Support" for people who want to sponsor the discounted tickets. Last year our half-day workshops were priced at the low end of the market. Across 9 workshops we averaged 50% Standard, 20% Support, 30% Discount, plus some untracked number of Free tickets. I was happy with that result, though the extra we raised from the Support tickets never covered the Discount ones.

We didn't make any profit on that tour, nearly covered all our expenses, came home with no savings and had to get government support to pay the rent. This year we have put the price up a bit, and we're seeing less Support tickets as a result.

Pricing psychology is pretty hard to work against. Empirically, people like a simple offer: you pay X and get Y. People like prices that end in .99. Perception of value is very closely tied to advertised price: as a seller, you can anchor that perception with a high price and then make more sales by offering a discount. All these psychological effects are encoded into most people at a subconscious level, regardless of their conscious intent to support the gift economy, post-money society, abundance mindset, etc. etc.

Frankly, I think a lot of the people I work with in the community/social impact/ activism space have serious personal hang ups about money, a cocktail of shame, trauma, anxiety, repulsion, etc. So do I. I've made some headway on mine, but I still notice myself projecting my own negative psychology onto other people's choices. These days I'm less interested in using creative pricing strategies to address that, and more interested in going to the root, creating therapeutic spaces to deal with the shadow rather than avoiding it with clever communication and complex payment forms.

mike_hales

mike_hales June 16th, 2018 14:50

Helpful & thought provoking @richarddbartlett thank you. I clipped part of this - on 'politics' (some of our closest partners are anticapitalist activists, and some of them are capitalists ) - into social.coop Loomio, where it maybe warrants some reflection.

Your final para touches an important nerve

"people I work with in the community/social impact/activism space have serious personal hang ups about money, a cocktail of shame, trauma, anxiety, repulsion, etc. So do I"

And then

going to the root, creating therapeutic spaces to deal with the shadow rather than avoiding it with clever communication and complex payment forms.

Turning to face the troublesome 'shadow' stuff "encoded . . at a subconscious level" rather than away from it - or just gaming it - is definitely the thing to do, I'm sure you're correct. Hard to do - takes personal time (measured in decades) and finding an adequate perceptual/skills frame or tradition is hard. Dhamma provided the frame for me - and only took 20 years to find, once I'd started looking up blind personal-development alleys! I see dealing with this shadow stuff (individually and in collectives) as a core ongoing part of the personal is political agenda of my baby-boomer generation of libertarian-socialist activists. But 'we' still don't have any clear or consensual sense of how to do this kind of development work in the heart-mind or in the 'moral economy' - as an intrinsic aspect of what is seen as 'political'. In these conditions, keeping trying - turning gently and courageously towards the difficulty - is absolutely important I think? There's a big evolutionary step to be taken - maybe in the present ecologically-challenged generation?