commons.hour methodology

Here we set out working protocols for the project.

Here we set out working protocols for commons.hour, the design project.

To the extent that the ongoing contribution of commons.hour is a design contribution, these are regarded as prototypes for the working protocols of commons.hour, post-project, when it becomes the primary regular public venue for multistakeholder contribution in the stewarding of the commons. A case can be made that ‘governance’ is properly seen not as a mere matter of resource allocation and ‘decision making’, but as a matter of continuous valuing and remaking/provisioning of the practices and principles/protocols of an organisation; thus, as ‘design’, aka continuous revolution.


The methodology has five main frames, each of which is a broad design protocol:

  1. Design a constitution - from a specific assembly of protocols and principles. We regard the practice of (stewarding commons of digital infrastructure in a multistakeholder community) as being sufficiently unlike familiar models of governance, to call for a fresh design vision, which amounts to some kind of unfamiliar hybrid.

  2. Design a distributed multi-stakeholder practice of contribution - notably including a practice of assemblies and deliberations (aka governance). This is a matter of operational protocols for a weave of practices, rather than merely a ’departmental’ analysis of functions or a system of nominal rules. This generates an operational picture of what does.

  3. Because the practice of is conducted in digital-mediated spaces, the preceding approach can be executed thro identifying protocols for a stack of three kinds of digital-mediated spaces: platform spaces, media spaces, venue spaces. This can be understood as designing a digital infrastructure by adopting ‘society as user’ as the design frame - a radically expanded kind of ‘UX design’. Because the intrinsically social, collective, mutualist frame of commons/commoning is adopted (rather than a frame of consumer-individual, capitalist-commercial or state-administrative usage) some of the protocols and principles depart from some dominant ones in free-libre software culture or regular UX design.

  4. Develop the principles of a practice of stewarding (of digital infrastructure) and design (under principles of design justice). This amounts to a framing of what is for. The root principle is: establishing altered relations of production, through formaciòn (the production of radical, activist formations in the mutual sector) and through infrastructuring (the systematic provisioning of radical capability to organise in a diverse community).

  5. Define the handbook structure: a container for the protocols developed above. This is grounded in a basic three-mode model of a practice of commoning.

  6. Continue to cycle thro commons.hour as an ongoing critical review and redesign venue. The handbook serves as an evolving container for working protocols (what does: what the practice in the commons is), and descriptions of intentions (what is for: principles, framing of design justice in a digital infrastructure).


1 Programme framework

For purposes of governance and strategic development, including formal incorporation as a multistakeholder coop based on a Constitution, needs to develop protocols for the following three threads of practice (which are the threads derived in area #5 above):

  • Political economy - How we provision the stack of digital spaces, via a weave of contributions and of members’ lives (both user members and operational members). This is the thread of operating the coop-commons economy . . . in-and-against a dominant (colonial-capitalist, extractive) economy, under the pressures of wage-work.

  • Intersectional community - How we maintain affordances in the spaces that we provision, that can be powerfully mobilised across plural, diverse sectors and across regions, in organising beyond the fragments. This is the thread of intentions for solidarity and mutuality . . . in-&-against the damaging cultural silos and radically uneven, unfair development that our movements find themselves embedded in.

  • Assemblies and deliberations - How we steward our evolving digital-mediated commons. This is the thread of cultivating our commons of tools for conviviality, as a ‘social machinery’ of capability for steering a commoned digital toolstack infrastructure . . . in-&-against a culture of individualistic ownership and corporately farmed, consumerised , fake digital-media 'freedom'.

2 Specific topics

We’re seeking a set of principles and protocols that can enable user-members and operational members, jointly, to steward a commons comprised of a ‘stack’ of three kinds of digitally mediated space.

There is a a big range of issues here, that we need to ‘chunk’ into discussion across a series of a dozen-or-so sessions. As a step towards this, the three mainheads of the preceding section can be deconstructed a little, as below, into ‘chunks’. The methodology then is to take each of these nine tags below as the focus for a 60-minute session, kicked off by a 15min starter presentation by one of our member organisations. In this way we mean to mobilise experience and insights from diverse sectors of the activist landscape that is the user community of

  • Political economy - Provisioning the stack of digital commons: evolving and tuning the toolstack and how it runs, maintaining it, paying a fair wage for the labour involved

  • Political economy - Contribution accounting and recognition of different kinds of contributions; including livelihood of operational members

  • Political economy - Members’ privileges and limitations in the digital commons of; obligations and sanctions. User members; operational members. Safety, privacy, defence of spaces.

  • Intersectional community - Community development in a trans-region digital-mediated landscape: ‘infrastructuring’ as community development

  • Intersectional community - Silos: why we find ourselves in silos, how to organise ‘beyond fragments’ and uneven development

  • Intersectional community - Solidarity as collaborating and federating: how to achieve mutuality across movements in our making and mobilising of venue-, media- and platform-spaces

  • Assemblies and deliberations - Operating with a membership comprising autonomous movement organisations. Working with a machinery (or ecology) of boards, annual assemblies, elections, priorities; paid and unpaid contributions.

  • Assemblies and deliberations - Coop governance - in workers’ coops, consumer coops. Working with a machinery of executive vs non-executive board members, users and workers, elections and sociocratic circles.

  • Assemblies and deliberations - Peer-to-peer organising; deliberation (in threads), text chat. Working in a flat organisation: work-circle (sociocratic?) organisation, project organisation, campaign organisation. Benevolent dictatorship and individualism as norms in the world of P2P, endless forking? The power of protocols.

Generating a running order by ‘chunking’ the content

To constitute the core of the programme, the nine ‘chunked’ subdivisions of handbook content above are matched as closely as possible with contributions grounded in the experience of particular member organisations. This is prefaced by an opening session to set the project collaborative frame,

Conclude the design project with a phase of drawing-together protocols (the handbook), abstracting principles and writing these into a constitution, and performing the first round of designing and enacting a General Assembly of the coop-commons, leading to formal, legal constitution of a coop.

See the derived Running list of sessions.

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