April 26, 2022
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.
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.
Featured amongst the funded projects have been a prototype for the site schoolcuts.org.uk. 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.
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
Alicia Trepat Pont
“There’s a lot of love in our network, but not enough care”, “We don’t have enough money to cover our admin costs this year”. If you’ve ever been in a supporting role related to finances or value flows in a community or network, you can surely relate to some of these situations.
Networks based on self-organizing principles have come a long way in recent years to becoming true alternatives to working in more traditional organizations —from locally based or online communities, coops, freelancer collectives, “Neo-Guilds” or DAOs. Yet when it comes to addressing questions of money, value and power, we still seem to be lagging behind.
Jaya Brekke, Kate Beecroft, Francesca Pick
Peer-to-peer networks and protocols have inspired new ideas and ideologies about governance, with the aim of using technology to enable horizontal and decentralised decision making at scale. This paper introduces the concept of ‘dissensus’ from political theory to debates about peer governance in online communities