Worth looking at for organiseing spaces #4opens
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hackerspace-blueprint/2-do-ocracy.md

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2. Do-ocracy

In short

  • If you want something done: Just do it!
  • Have you done something? Great!, now tell others about it. Tell them what you did, and why you did it. A shared chat room or mailing list is a great place to do so. Telling other people about your actions lets them know who to thank and will give you more support.
  • If somebody complains: Either revert it, or work out a solution with the person who is complaining.

Do-ocracy is an organizational structure in which individuals choose to pick up roles and execute tasks by themselves, rather than getting them appointed by others. Responsibilities and authority are attached to people who do the work, rather than to the elected/selected officials. Doing a task is in itself justification for you being the person who does that job.

Why not Democracy or Consensus?

Democracy and Consensus suffer from the same issue: everyone has an opinion about something, and most people like giving that opinion. In those systems, a lot of time and energy is put into debating what the best solution or the best compromise is. This results in a number of issues.

  • It takes up a lot of time and energy that could be better spent actually doing stuff.
  • It's very easy for problems to not get solved because the group doesn't agree on what the best solution is. This is a big issue because a bad solution is often better than no solution.
  • It puts too much focus on the idea instead of its execution, even though research shows that the execution of a decision is often more important than the decision itself.
  • Group decision making often leads to diluted outcomes, that contain elements of everyone's opinion but that nobody fully supports. As a result, people will be less enthusiastic about putting time and energy into actually doing the thing. This will eventually lead to worse outcomes because the impact of a well-executed good idea is a lot better than that of a badly-executed perfect idea.
  • It rewards armchair critics and armchair activists. If the only thing you want to contribute is your opinion, you should not force other people to take that opinion into account.
  • It encourages long feedback loops: because it takes a long time to make a decision, decisions need to be as perfect as possible. This is because it will take a long time to fix any issues. The fear of a bad decision will cause longer, more elaborate debate which increases the time it takes to make a decision. Modern software development practices such as Agile, Scrum and Kanban all stress the importance of having short feedback loops.

How?

A do-ocracy naturally emerges when the environment is right. There are a number of important factors.

  • Allow people to fail. People need to feel safe knowing that they are allowed to try, and to fail. Thus, when people fail, we need to be kind and help them get better instead of berating them. The hackerspace gives everyone room to grow, and failure is part of that. For more information, read up on the idea of "blameless post-mortems" in the IT operations and DevOps communities.
  • Ask for help and help others.
  • Trust each other.
  • Focus on what you have in common instead of what you disagree on.
  • Recognize and reward the people doing stuff.

Noncoercive authority

"Coercive power is the ability to influence someone's decision making by taking something away as punishment or threatening punishment if the person does not follow instructions."

Coercive power plays a big role in modern society. People do what their boss tells them because they're afraid of getting fired. People don't steal because they are afraid of punishment. It is so ingrained into our society that it's sometimes hard to realise that there are other ways to convince people to do something. However, you'll get a lot better results when people are convinced of what they do.

It is a misconception that, in a do-ocracy, nobody is in charge or nobody has authority. The people doing stuff have authority over that project, although the power they have is non-coercive and they lose that power when they stop doing stuff.

A do-ocratic example: 30 people are going to Burning Man and camping together. Mary asks, “What if we organize a food pool so we can all cook and eat together?” Others answer, “Sure, I’d be a part of that,” or “I can make cake on Friday night.” Soon, Mary is calling campmates to borrow pots, pans and utensils, collating different people’s dietary restrictions, collecting money for food, and organizing trips to the store to buy supplies. At camp, she posts work signup sheets for cooking and cleanup, answers questions, and fills in when others can’t (or don’t) do their shifts.

A new campmate may grumble, “Jeez, why does Mary get to decide what everyone eats and when they work? Who put her in charge?" The answer is "the do-ocracy put her in charge". The very act of organizing the food pool puts her in charge of the food pool. She can't force you to eat the food or work a certain shift, but you have to respect her authority. This means that if you want to use the pots and pans for something different, or if you want to use the food money to order different food, you have to ask her first. However, if she disappears in the middle of the camp, leaving the food pool in disarray, she looses that authority and anyone else can step in.

Limitations

Some things are too sensitive to be handled by do-ocracy alone, or are irreversible, like throwing things away. Refer to the Sections on the board, meetings and the guidelines for more information of when strict do-ocracy doesn't apply.

In general, if an action is irreversible, do-ocracy does not apply and you should discuss it with the larger group.

A do-ocracy is not a ...

  • Democracy - In a democracy, everyone has a say in what gets done. In a do-ocracy, everyone does jobs that they think need to be done, without everyone’s input.
  • Meritocracy - In a meritocracy, the most qualified people for a job are selected for that job. In a do-ocracy, whoever does the job gets it, no matter how well they’re qualified.

Further reading