Investing surplus for impact: Cobudgeting at Outlandish

by Kate Beecroft

January 25, 2021

This is part of a series of interviews with organizations sharing their experiences with collaborative budgeting (cobudgeting).

A web services consultancy based in London, Outlandish is a worker owned cooperative.

They use Cobudget to democratically distribute dividends to all cooperative members as a way to invest in new projects they care about, for example new tech products, social impact projects that need software, match funding of international initiatives.

Since 2015 Outlandish have spent £192,450 in Cobudget across 34 buckets.

We talked to Outlander Brian Spurling about how they have been using Cobudget.

How does Cobudgeting work at Outlandish?

At Outlandish the Cobudget process works like this: every quarter, the surplus is distributed proportionally according to the hours that people have spent working for Outlandish. This money goes to everyone’s Cobudget accounts. From there, these funds can be allocated to different ‘buckets’ — buckets are projects that people from Outlandish have proposed.

Anyone who is either a member of the cooperative or close collaborator — called ‘Outlanders‘ — can create proposals for projects to be funded.

Mandatory information for these proposals is the description of the project goals, as well as the people who will be working on the project and the estimated time and money needed for the work. The projects should all in some way or another serve Outlandish’s mission and they should not be core expenses or costs of the business.

What have been some of your most funded projects?

Featured amongst the funded projects have been a prototype for the site This site features an interactive infographic to show how your local schools are being de-funded. It turned from a successful Cobudget project into a commercial project in cooperation with the National Union of Teachers and won silver at the digital impact awards 2017.

Another big investment by Outlandish has been Daugher of Social Monitor, a project to develop an existing system into a product offering. With no sales opportunities in the pipeline, this is a great example of how Cobudget enables and encourages us to spend our surplus on long-term investment.

“Cobudget enables and encourages us to spend our surplus on long-term investment.” — Brian Spurling

One of our favourite clients (a research organisation fighting corruption in Papua New Guinea) brought us a great project idea. We identified some additional tech we could build — stuff that would be good for them and interesting for us — so we match-funded their budget (£32, 250). This was a huge success.

Screenshot of one of the projects Outlandish funded on Cobudget

What has changed since you started using Cobudget to spend your surplus?

Before Cobudget, it was easy to spend small amounts of surplus (<£5,000), because an individual member could sign this off themselves. But it was hard to do anything bigger than that because there was no defined framework on how to make those decisions.

“The way Outlandish makes decisions about our surplus has changed dramatically. Pre-Cobudget, there was a lack of transparency and the authority to spend the surplus was limited to the co-ops members.” — Brian Spurling

This could have been defined without using Cobudget, of course. But with Cobudget, not only is the spending of the surplus now transparent, but anybody working at Outlandish can propose projects, and funds can be distributed directly to individuals. It is the combination of these three elements that make it so transformative for how we manage our surplus

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