This episode explores the difference between groups and networks as we talk to our guest Alex Worrad Andrews from another cooperative in the CoTech network, Common Knowledge. This description makes no sense? Well, listen to the episode!
Alex’s Favourite Books
- Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used by Peter Block
- We Are Open Co-op’s membership policies
- What is a CoTech?
- The difference between Groups and Networks
Tao of WAO S03 E02
Laura Hilliger: [00:00:22] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I am Laura Hilliger.
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:35] And I’m Doug Belshaw. This podcast season is currently unfunded. You can support this podcast and other are open projects and products at open collective.com forward/weareopen today. We’re joined by Alex Worrad Andrews, an engineer and member at Common Knowledge Co-op. So welcome to you, Alex.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:00:53] Thanks very much for having me.
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:55] So this is season three of our podcast. We’ve got lots of questions for you, especially co-op related. But as we usually start, could we ask you what your favourite book is and maybe why that’s the case?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:01:07] So yeah, obviously you said over the question beforehand and I have been thinking about this a little bit and I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a kind of slightly different take. I don’t know if I actually have a favourite book, Um, really, Um, but I often have books that, that I that have been very important recently to me. Um, and I think the one, the one that I probably go for at this time is I’m reading a book that’s called Flawless Consulting, which is basically a book about how to be a flawless consultant. And I really like it because the premise is, you know, you can consult being a consultancy relationship flawlessly, which I quite like because obviously, you know, you tend to, you know, being a consultant is often full with quite a lot of worry, like, am I doing a good job? Will they take my advice? Like, what am I actually what is this thing I’m doing? Providing advice for people, analysing situations and flawless consulting is very good because it gives it basically talks about the nuts and bolts of this, particularly as it relates to people’s emotions, both your emotions as a consultant and the emotions of the organisation you’re consulting for. And it’s very wise about power relations and networking, you know, basically working out those power relations and it’s very concrete and it’s quite funny at times as well. Um, and yeah, I think I would so, so it’s probably not my favourite book, but it’s a book that I’m most influenced by at the moment. Um, and yeah, I recommend it. It’s really lovely. It’s a really lovely book. It’s very well designed as well. It’s got very wide margins and he says in the introduction he’s deliberately got wide margins so you can write in it. It’s designed to be written nice. Yeah, it’s really cool.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:00] How did you come across this book? Where did it was it recommended to you or do you just. Yeah.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:03:04] So basically I, you know, at some point Googled best books on consulting and came up with this book. I think also I was kind of aware of the author whose name escapes me for the moment, but they’ve also written another book that I saw around that was on like the The politics of Community or what what community.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:26] Is it Peter Block? I’m just Googling it now, yeah.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:03:28] Peter Block So he’s written a book on kind of community as well That’s very interesting. And I’ve read completely separately in another life when I was studying philosophy. So yeah, it was interesting that he had, um, you know, written this book that is much more in a sense actually about community. Um, but he’d also worked as consultant and I find sometimes examples of people who have had a professional life as a consultant, for example, the Cybernetician Stafford Beer, who was like a consultant. I find it quite interesting. So yeah, that’s the book that I’m reading at the moment, is most influential to the way I’m thinking right now.
Laura Hilliger: [00:04:07] And do you think that this book would help me have less of a problem with the word consultant? Because I feel like the connotation of the word consultant in my I don’t know if it comes from childhood or something, but it has kind of a dirty vibe to me. And I’m just I hate calling my I am a consultant, but I hate calling myself that. And so I’m wondering if this book would help me see consultants in a better light.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:04:34] Um, I think, you know, it does basically the way that he gets around and gets this idea of flawless consulting is by lowering the bar to what that might be in a sense, but also raising the bar by kind of greedy, grasping what it is, which is, you know, partly a teaching role, partly a role where you’re kind of like clarifying situations and providing options, partly a kind of like supporting role, like a psychological role. Um, and one thing that he does say in it is that, um, he slightly reframes it, you know, consulting may be associated with like doctors, like consultants and that kind of thing, at least in my mind, outside of, you know, this kind of role. And he talks particularly about like the consultants role is not to provide a diagnosis, which I found very provocative because that’s kind of how I view consulting. Someone asks us to solve a problem for them or asks us to explain how you might solve a problem. We jump in and we’re like, okay, this, do this and, you know, provide a diagnosis. But he says, actually, one of the things you should be doing alongside firing and providing a diagnosis is to recognise the strengths of an organisation you’re working with and promote those as well as just like going, That’s wrong, that’s wrong, that’s wrong, Right? So I don’t know if it will help you about thinking being more comfortable with the term, but it’s certainly a really good book.
Doug Belshaw: [00:05:58] That definitely I’m going to go and read this book now because I think that that definitely speaks to some of the relationships which we have and are in with some of our clients. So yeah, thank you for that. Um. Um, I guess just in parentheses before we get to the main part of what we’re talking about, I’m interested in your background in philosophy because some of, like, the idea of something being flawless is like without imperfection. And my kind of philosophical background ended up with me being a strong proponent of like, American pragmatism and that kind of philosophy and tradition where you have this asymptotic line towards what truth with a capital T might be, or, you know, something which is perfect. And it seems so that’s what that’s in my head, what I’m thinking about consulting. You’re getting close, but you’ll never get to perfect. So it’s interesting thinking about something which does actually touch and meet the the line, if that makes sense.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:06:55] I mean, the way that they do it is basically to consult flawlessly is to execute each stage of the consultancy process authentically. That’s.
Doug Belshaw: [00:07:06] He introduces the the process you do each bit perfectly and that and it’s the it’s the sum of its parts.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:07:12] Yeah yeah basically.
Laura Hilliger: [00:07:14] Yeah. So I’m also going to order this book so we can do a book club.
Doug Belshaw: [00:07:20] Excellent. Let’s do it. All right, then. Um, so, Laura, last time we recorded a podcast, we had our esteemed co-op members on it, and we talked about a couple of things. We talked about their predictions and hopes for the future, and especially 2022. But we also talked about dormancy, about the fact that we have members who can go dormant. Two of our members, including me, have been dormant and we’ve got one member who is going to go dormant. We’re not going to say who that was because if you don’t know, you should go and listen to the previous episode. But Alex, um, let’s slip as we were preparing for this episode, that you also have some kind of similar policy. So before we dig into co-ops in general and that kind of thing, maybe, Alex, you could talk about your version of dormancy at common Knowledge and also maybe just say what common knowledge does as well that would be useful.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:08:14] Sure thing. So Common knowledge is a cooperative of four members and one apprentice currently. And we build tools mainly on the web to help people organise for social change. So, you know. At the best. You know, I kind of like the coolest work that we do. We really want to do is like building bespoke tools for digital organising to make transformational change. The kind of day to day is often we like build websites and tools and provide consultancy around these matters. So that’s what we do. Yeah. So we have a policy which is called frozen membership, and it’s kind of like taken from, you know, when you have a gym and you can like freeze your membership at a gym. So that’s the mental model. And yeah, so we, we have had a few members who’ve frozen like in the early days of the co-op before we kind of all went full time on it to go and do other things. I think that we are probably minded, yeah, to modify the policy, to be honest because. We I think that I think it’s a really good idea to allow people to take a break or take some some kind of time out. But I think that what we didn’t do was really clarify, although it is clear now, like at the start, we didn’t like totally clarify like what you know, the responsibilities, the kind of like this and that of that status are. And that comes a bit of internal angst like you know about about that, to be honest and probably mutual as well. So I think that yeah, I think it’s worked out right in the end, but I think it’s a useful string in the bow of cooperatives to have this kind of rule. Particularly when they’re a little bit when they’re in the kind of formative stages for us anyway, because at that time, like it was obviously not like clear to anyone whether this whole thing was going to be a going concern or not. Um, how that makes sense.
Doug Belshaw: [00:10:17] So have you yourself been frozen at any point? Do you plan to freeze?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:10:23] No, I haven’t had a freeze. No.
Doug Belshaw: [00:10:25] Okay.
Laura Hilliger: [00:10:29] I have no idea how to say. I was about to say that I’m frozen right now because it’s really cold in winter. But then I realised that that somebody listening to this and then the summer or in Australia it’s going to. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. So anyway, I think, yeah, it’s really interesting to, to hear that common knowledge is for members and an apprentice. We are open is also for members and an intern i.e. apprentice. I don’t know if those terms are quite interchangeable, but.
Doug Belshaw: [00:11:02] When I hear the term apprentice I either think of the TV series with Alan Sugar pointing at people saying, You’re fired, or I think of the Magician’s Apprentice where you’re you never you know, you never finish a job because you’ve got some kind of magic going on, neither of which is awesome. So.
Laura Hilliger: [00:11:20] Yeah no, I only ever think of Fantasia where Mickey Mouse just makes. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:11:26] Yeah. That is also the thing that I. That I think about. So this is like, this is something new we’re trying. So The Apprentice is actually provided from another kind of friend of the networks we’re in, which is founders and coders. And the way their model works is it’s kind of like a code boot camp, plus you get an apprenticeship at the end of it. So. So, you know, we funded the person through the code boot camp. We get a little bit of money from the government for doing this, but mainly we fund their placing there and then we fund them to come along and work as an apprentice and, you know, ramp up to be a software engineer by September is when the apprenticeship officially ends. And yeah, so it’s a new it’s a new thing for us to do. I think we felt that it’s really important for the co-operative movement broadly to bring people at that stage of their career, um, into the kind of mix and like make them aware of like some of the, you know, strange but cool stuff that we do in the co-operative movement and like bring up someone, you know, their skill set as an engineer while also within the, within the sphere of a co-op. And also, you know, traditionally anyway, like cooperatives have always had an element of education and apprenticeship is part of that educative role.
Doug Belshaw: [00:12:44] I think outlandish are doing that as well. They’ve got a couple of apprentices and maybe Agile Collective. And the other thing I was going to mention was that I think it’s Essex University or East Anglia or somewhere down there. They have been asking the Cotet network about cooperative modules because as you say, Alex, like when you when you’re learning a new trade or job or profession, you don’t just learn the hard skills, you learn everything around it, like the norms and the expectations and stuff. Um, and I think sometimes when people say, oh, you know, well, to be a co-operator, you kind of have to unlearn capitalism. I think some people roll their eyes at that a bit and be like, Oh, you’re always anti-capitalist, whatever. But there’s definitely something about the default way of organising and the default way of of societies doing stuff that you have to unlearn a bit to create a space to be able to do something new. So what you described there with an apprenticeship is something which happens in all kinds of societies and whatever, but it’s going to take on a very different hue when people are joining an organisation which has a very flat structure where everyone owns the business, that kind of thing.
Laura Hilliger: [00:13:55] I think it’s really interesting that our co-op seemed to be on parallel tracks at the moment because we, you know, we had this conversation about starting an internship program last year in the spring time, and we also had the conversation of, you know, it’s sort of our responsibility as true believers in the cooperative movement to help people understand that there is a different way of participating in economic society and there is a different way of working that they might not have learned in school. And it seems that both of our cooperatives are having this conversation. Right. Right. About the same time, which I just find interesting given the other similarities that are that our co-ops have.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:14:36] Yeah, that’s that’s that’s all the case, I think. I think, you know, we try as much as possible to like promote like both cooperatives and like, the cooperative, like, way of working. And, you know, the ultimate form of this is, well, there’s, you know, various strategies you can employ setting up co-ops. So we always if someone contacts us and wants to set up a co-op, we will always talk to them or introduce them to someone. We have a role. We spend an hour with them. And like I just saw on the Co tech forum today, someone said, by the way, that conversation we had, we are now a co-op, so we think it’s really important. Awesome. And and then we’re like, you know, what’s the next step for that? Apprenticeships and the scale after that is probably, you know, the kind of training that you talk about, talking about. Doug the kind of university courses to do this kind of thing, you know, YouTube stuff, you know, kind of massively online, you know, that kind of thing. So yeah, it’s definitely something we think about a lot. Obviously, it’s not like our core mission per se to like grow the cooperatives, but it is something we spend we do try and do. Um, in general, yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:15:42] Yeah.
Doug Belshaw: [00:15:42] And you just, you mentioned kind of learning being central to co-ops, like it’s one of the seven cooperative values, isn’t it? And you know, people often talk about, um, number six, which is cooperation amongst co-ops, which we could be said to be doing now as producing this podcast.
Laura Hilliger: [00:15:58] Yeah. And you also you also mentioned there you mentioned Kotek, which I think many of our listeners maybe they’ve never heard of. So both we are open and common knowledge are part of a fairly meta idea, a network. It’s a, it’s a co-op of co-ops. So a meta co-op, I tend to call it a meta co-op. Um, but I, I’d love to know. Alex, how long has common knowledge been a part of Kotek? Have you guys been involved since the you know, since the early days of Kotek have you how often do you participate? You’re giving advice, Are you doing that on the Kotek forum and just your experience with that network?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:16:39] Yeah. So, you know, briefly, what is Kotek? So, I mean, this is something we can kind of dig into, the kind of organisational form it takes. So at the moment it’s kind of a network of cooperatives in the UK that do tech stuff. So mainly that is develop technology or consult around technology, but there’s also some kind of filmmaking kind of collectives. Blake House in the mix as well. And I guess the kind of role of the institution is, yeah, so that cooperatives and they’re mostly worker co-ops as opposed to the other type of co-ops, consumer co-ops, etcetera. Um, so anyway, you know, they, they’ll talk to each other, they network with each other. They kind of like help each other out, that kind of thing. And so we’ve been, I’ve personally been involved with Kotek since before it was like a thing before it existed because I was, was a collaborator with outlandish when they kind of were instrumental in kind of booting the network up back in, I think 2017, something like that, like certainly quite a few years ago now. And yeah, so I was at the initial meeting, I lobbied very hard for it not to be called Kotek, but unfortunately lost that argument.
Doug Belshaw: [00:17:51] And oh, just why was that? Why was that?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:17:53] I just thought it was a rubbish name.
Laura Hilliger: [00:17:56] What do you feel about it now?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:17:59] Um, it’s kind of grown on me now. It’s fine. It’s fine. Like, my argument at the time was It’s fine. It’s good enough for now. Safe enough to try as we co-operators Who do? Sociocracy would say. But like, it’s also extremely boring and not very inspirational. Um, so one of the influences on Kotek is a network called Inspiral that is based in New Zealand and Inspiral is a much more exciting and oh, what’s, what’s that kind of name or Kotek is a bit like Kotek. It’s just boring to me.
Doug Belshaw: [00:18:31] Well, yeah, for those in the UK, it’s kind of the ronseal it does what it says on the tin kind of. Thing, isn’t it? I’m just going on the tech community forum, which I tend to pay more and less attention to at different points of the year. And interestingly, Gemma from your co op is there with kind of a post about a four day work week saying that you’re, you’re trialling a four day work week and then just asking if other co ops are doing it as well. So it’s, it’s kind of chat like that I guess, but also posting jobs and funding opportunities and talking about technical stuff. And then there’s like a behind the scenes bit isn’t there, for people who are verified members of co ops as part of co tech where you can talk about um, I think because we all put money into a central pot, don’t we like discussions around that and about like meta stuff about the meta co-op, that kind of thing.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:19:30] Yeah. So there’s like, yeah, there’s obviously like, well, not obviously, but there’s a private element of the forum where you have to be a member of co tech to get access to. And to be honest like that isn’t used a vast amount. We try and keep stuff as open as possible, I think as a general rule. And yeah, so in there there might be a bit more sensitive discussions. You know, people are having difficulties, they might just bring that and ask for advice. Perennial is always, you know, bidding for work together. Like does anyone here’s this thing like probably not for us. Is it for you? Or, you know, one of the things that the network does, does and has done pretty consistently is collaborations between cooperatives. So like to give a concrete example, like last year we collaborated with, um. Agile collective, and we kind of like provided user user experience and design in the form of Gemma and basically, you know, filled a gap in their kind of capacity. And this is one of the ideas that the codec will enable, um, you know, filling gaps in capacity, filling gaps in kind of like understanding or knowledge and yeah, working together on projects and you know, in our experience at least.
Laura Hilliger: [00:20:41] Sorry, Go on. Oh, I was just going to say that we benefit from this all the time. I mean, we are currently working on a project together with some folks in Outlandish where they’re really leading on one one strand of the project and we’re leading on another. But they’re so highly related. It’s really great to be able to fill in the gaps and the types of skills that we don’t have amongst our four members. But you know that that outlandish has and vice versa as well. So we’ve I mean, we’ve certainly benefited from the from being a member of tech and being able to have some of these collaborations that that we’ve been a part of over the years.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:21:18] Mm. Yeah, totally. I mean, I think I think that, you know, one of the, the one of the desires of the co tech network. So there are occasional, you know, meetings like in real life meetings. There was one, I think in late September. Um, and yeah, so, you know, getting the vibe there is a desire for these closer collaborations and also to establish in a sense like more clear ground rules about like what these collaborations look like and in particular like making sure that if at all possible, people don’t like trip over each other and end up going for the same stuff or like, you know, if that is going to happen that everyone’s like, Oh yes, this is going to happen. Um, but I think there’s a desire in the network for closer collaborations. Um.
Doug Belshaw: [00:22:06] So you were there. I think it was Wortley. Wortley Hall. Yeah, we, I, we went to the second one of those, but not the very first one. So what was, um. I mean, I’m just looking at some of the notes we’ve made for for this episode. The difference between the original intention of the co tech network versus like where we are now. And obviously the pandemic changes everything and all of that. But have you noticed a difference between. What the rhetoric was say at that first Wortley Hall in. So Wortley Hall is a stately home which is now cooperatively owned. Yeah. What was the original intention there? Where are we now and what do you kind of think about the difference, if there is one?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:22:52] Yeah. So I think I think so. So the kind of like one of the founding kind of documents was the proposal from outlandish member outlandish called Harry about like it was called a blog post called something like a rise megazord or something like that. It’s a silly name. So his initial idea, which I think was in collaboration with a member of We Are Open, was to basically create a kind of network of cooperatives where certain like in its kind of fullest extent, certain business functions could be shared. So for example, you know, the stuff we’ve been talking about, people could bid for stuff together and, you know, get get larger contracts together. Because if we combined our forces like Megazord Megazord is one of these transformers, which is lots of little robots that become a bigger robot. And this was the idea of this, and also that there would maybe be some collaboration around like back office stuff. So there would be, you know, for example, there are certain needs that all co-ops have. They they have to have like some kind of like accounting function, some kind of HR function, blah, blah, blah things that aren’t the core stuff that the co-op is doing in its day to day.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:24:03] And, you know, there was some notion that like, Oh, well, if we pooled our resources, we’d be able to have like, you know, a really good accountant that is shared between us. And that would be like, I mean, de facto, that’s actually what a lot of the co-operative the co tech people do have. They have the same accountant third sector shout out to them, but like, you know, so that was, that was the kind of bigger vision. So it was obviously a much more formal structure than it actually is now. And then one of the ideas was also profit sharing. So at the moment there’s a very small co tech fund, which is I’m not sure quite how much money there is, but not like tons, but one of the ideas was that potentially the co-operative network, a bit like co-op, not co-ops. And you know, the co-op could like generate enough surplus that we could pull the surplus and then do cool things with it, like build products, spin out off new organisations, this kind of thing. Yeah.
Doug Belshaw: [00:24:53] And just for those listening who might be interested, like how much are you talking about? Small amounts because people bandy around the word small and large in different ways. I believe that it’s £1 per member per week. So for example, for we are open for members £4 a week, 50 weeks of the year, it’s, you know, just over £200. He times that by how many co-ops? We’re talking a few thousand pounds. Not talking loads of money.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:25:17] Yeah. It’s it’s it’s a good it’s a good fund. It probably like will keep you know basic like stuff like ticking along like the website for example. But it’s not where the original sum of the original intention was lie. So I guess where the divergence has happened, divergence has happened is there was a lot of discussion. Early days is this a network or is this some kind of organisation and like what does it look like and what are the parallels and inspiration? So I’ve already mentioned in Spiral that was certainly in a lot of the people who attended heads when we went to those first meetings. Or is it more like this is something that being John, who I know you’ve had on the podcast speak about like, is this more like the CBI? You know, the Confederation of British Industry? Is this like a lobby group for tech co-ops, you know, or is this like an you know, what what kind of format does this take? I think where it’s got to now is it’s kind of a loose network of cooperatives that collaborate with one another on a kind of more ad hoc basis. And I think that does look quite different from the original vision. But it’s still you know, it functions like it does exist and it is a real thing. And people talk about it and people do work with each other through it. And we have done, you know, a bunch of collaborations for it, and we always go to that forum and be like, Oh, hey guys, I’ve got this question or whatever. So it does, it’s useful. And yeah, so I guess that’s the divergence is at the moment it hasn’t quite cashed out at that like kind of full extent original vision that was had.
Doug Belshaw: [00:26:55] Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I think also people go into the people go into these things for different reasons. And people who joined Kotek maybe a couple of years after we did, um, you know, you joined earlier than us obviously before it even started. Um, but people who join a couple of years after that, to what extent is that original vision? Written down anywhere that they’re going to come across, you know, versus this loose association, this loose network of of co-ops that you’ve just described. And one thing which. So Laura did some facilitation. I don’t know if you were there at that one, but Laura did some fantastic facilitation at one of the events. And one of the things that was discussed during that event was having some kind of role, like employing someone for a number of days a week to coordinate things. And that kind of was discussed and kind of died. But my understanding is that that’s now much more of a live discussion. So so where are we at with that, if you know Alex?
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:27:59] Yeah. Um, Laura, do you want to jump in and say what your understanding of that thing was briefly?
Laura Hilliger: [00:28:05] Oh, well, I mean, I. The way that I understood it, and I was facilitating the entire weekend along with a couple of other folks. I think that was Wortley Hall, 2017, I want to say. But there was a discussion about something that we called the network coordinator role. And essentially everyone who was involved in Wortley Hall at that time recognised the need for someone to spend a dedicated amount of time facilitating the network itself. So with hundreds of co ops, actually I don’t know how many members there are, but a lot. There are a lot of co ops that are part of co tech and keeping them together, pushing, pushing discussions forward, being able to make decisions on behalf of that original intention. If it is a co op, then one member, one vote, which means that each co op gets a vote when something is brought forward in the Co tech network and it’s enough members that that kind of coordination is not easy to do on the side of your desk. And it’s, you know, it’s one of those things where it really takes heart and passion to be able to do that for a long term, for, you know, for free, essentially. Yeah. And so what we discussed was, well, what if we used some of the pooled money or the sort of membership fee slash donation pool of money and funded someone who at least on a part time basis, so ten, 20 hours a week could do the work that is involved in keeping a network like this functioning, helping people to make decisions, keeping good documentation, all the things that are part of running a giant organisation, because that’s what we’re talking about.
Laura Hilliger: [00:29:57] I mean, it’s a network, but it should be funded, like people shouldn’t have to work for free. And so back then we were kind of working out what is, what is this network coordinator role actually look like? What would we be able to afford? How would we allow people to apply for it? Et cetera. Et cetera. And all of this is I think we at that time even came up with like a job description kind of thing that’s been housed on the wiki. But then, yeah, after we were all together, as these sorts of side projects tend to do, it lost a little bit of steam and now years later apparently it’s gained steam again. But in the in the between time in the last five, six years, this role has not been fulfilled. And as far as I know, there isn’t anybody that is, you know, tasked with keeping the network together or coordinating the network. It’s still all a volunteer basis, which is, you know, as as Doug said earlier, he’s you know, he’s more or less in the co tech forum and I’m exactly the same. So when I when I have time for it and sometimes I forget about it for months on end and then I’m like, oh, yeah, Kotek I should see what’s going on. But it’s not a, you know, it’s not something that I can dedicate all that much time to with other things in my life.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:31:16] So yeah, that makes sense. So.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:31:19] So, yeah, totally. That makes sense. So just, yeah, so, so basically the baton has been picked up with that particular task. And during the last in-person kotek gathering, you know, we got consent from the network as it was there to basically push this along. So there’s like a process that’s going on that is basically being kind of facilitated by myself and John from co operative to basically just put some flesh on the bones of this and bring to the next Kotek gathering, which probably will be, you know, March, April, a clear proposal that has costings and so on and so forth to bring this this role in in. So we need to ask or answer a lot of questions before this happens. You know, what legal formation does kotek have because at the moment doesn’t have any legal formation at all. You know what you know what role you know, what capacities does this person have, how much they paid, like how often do they work? Like what do they, you know, these kind of questions because I mean, our our view in common knowledge broadly and probably John’s view as well is that like this. Yeah. As you said, Laura, these kind of things like need to be someone needs to do the organising right? They need to be an organiser and this doesn’t mean to like dictate the direction, but this does mean to make sure it keeps ticking along and facilitate things.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:32:47] And I hope that this year we can see that over the line. Of course, what what the difficulty comes with, as with all these things, is like. You know what powers they have. There was some anxiety around the powers that they have. Like, is this centralising a function? Would they have too much power? Then of course, there’s you know, who’s going to pay for this and what value is returned to them. Return to the network as a whole. Now, I personally think that it will be self-evident. The value will be absolutely, you know, exponential for the network, because that’s what my organising experience. You know, we work with organisers, community organisers, you know, political organisers, this kind of thing. And we know from that work that having someone with with time to spend on this stuff like is a game changer. So yeah, my, my broad hope is that at some point this year we get that over the line and we begin to, you know, see the benefits of that and see that kotek becomes much more of a flourishing organisation. It’s not it’s not that it’s not flourishing now, but it, you know, gets the next stage.
Laura Hilliger: [00:33:54] So I just, I just put into our notes two links to help you with the task that, that you’re working on. I don’t know if you’ve seen this wiki page from Wortley Hall where we worked out what are the responsibilities, what are we looking for? All the things we have to talk about. But if you can please do, feel free to build off of very old work. Maybe it saves you some time. And I also link to a discussion in the discourse forum. I don’t know if you’ve seen these things and forgive me if I’m giving you stuff you’ve already seen, but if it saves you any time, I am a big proponent of remixing other people’s work.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:34:31] No, I mean that saves a lot of time and it kind of shows that one of the difficulties here is they’re like, you know, I didn’t know about that. And but I have been involved. But it shows that like one of the roles this person will have is like broadcasting things to the network, making sure that, like, the institutional memory is maintained. Yeah, yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:34:51] Exactly.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:34:52] It is maintained pretty well. Like there is a wiki that has a lot of information on it, but it’s just like, you know someone. And so I think as well, like having observed people with this role in other organisations or other networks, for example, the Catalyst Network, they have someone who is a network coordinator and it is like pretty. So you basically feel that someone’s on it, Someone’s like someone’s on it, like they’re doing the thing. They are making sure that the kind of like conversations flow as a good facilitator should, and that’s kind of what’s needed.
Doug Belshaw: [00:35:23] Yeah, we’re doing something similar as a co op with a platform around open badges and stuff at the moment. And you have to you have to have someone showing up, if not every day, then several times a week, just making sure that all of the stuff which is irrelevant doesn’t stay there. And that when people do the kinds of things which the community is for, that stuff gets surfaced and plus one and all that kind of thing. And one of the things that we’ve made a note of to talk about, I’m just very aware of time is the difference between people talking about networks and people talking about community. And Alex, maybe you could introduce this bit a little bit because I know that you you know, you would you were thinking and we were talking about before we started recording, about people talking about communities when maybe they mean something else.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:36:17] Yeah, I mean, just like, you know, people use the word community a lot very loosely and they’ll say like the open source community or, I don’t know, the Discord communities, or they’ll say, um, you know, they’ll just use this word quite loosely. And I was wondering and thinking about what the difference between a community and a network is. And, you know, are all communities, networks at some level of analysis? Are all networks, communities. It feels that, you know, there was some discourse around in the, you know, the early, you know, first ten years, first decade of the 21st century about, like loose ties and that kind of thing, like network coordination. There was some enthusiasm around this around the time of, um, you know, the movement of the squares. So Occupy Wall Street and also what was called the Arab Spring. There was some excitement about the possibility of networks. Obviously, there was the Web 2.0 revolution at the time. There was some excitement about this stuff and there was some also some critique about it. But what I’ve noticed out there is people talk less about networks and more about communities now. And I’m wondering what’s behind that. Is there is there a kind of difference between two ontologically in a sense, or is it merely superficial? Yeah, I don’t know what you thought about that, either of you.
Doug Belshaw: [00:37:43] When you kind of put this in the notes for something for us to talk about, it reminded me of something which is literally, what, 15.5 years ago now, more like right at the start of my career. So someone called Steven Downs, a Canadian educator who I’m hopefully going to be doing some work around Critical Literacies with soon. He did some work around groups and networks and there was a blog post. It’s always useful to be able to search your own stuff, and I quoted him in a blog post in September 2006 and he said, I’ve been thinking today about the distinction between groups and networks. Groups require unity. Networks require diversity. Groups require coherence. Networks require autonomy. Groups require privacy or segregation. Networks require openness. Groups require focus of voice. Networks require interaction. The group I am with right now is very intent on being a group that doesn’t interest me. I have no wish to lose my identity and my freedom, my empowerment, because a group is very is subject to this very objection, backlash, groupthink, the works. But a network is not. And I think if we substitute the word community for group, it might get to the nub of what we’re talking about. Here in terms of the different when people say community, they think homogenous, whereas networks are heterogeneous. And I feel like Kotek is a network, but actually I think a lot of people want it or see it as being a community.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:39:14] Apologies for my doorbell there. I don’t know if you pick that up. That’s someone someone wanting to come into the network of my house.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:39:22] Um. Yeah. I mean, I think it does to some, some degree, but I think this, this maybe gets a bit interesting here because like I would say that groups, good functional groups, functioning groups require diversity. Um, and I would say that functioning groups so like a cooperative, functioning communities also require autonomy. So it gets a bit muddy once you begin to like think through these quotes. So there are networks that require openness, of course, but there are also networks. Without wanting to take a conspiratorial turn, there are definitely networks that aren’t open. Um, and that function better because in part because they are slightly closed, because they draw boundaries between themselves and others. Because even if you think of like kotek as a network, there is there is an in and out, right? There is. You can’t not everyone can become a member of Kotek. It’s not you have to subscribe to certain norms in order to kind of get in the mix. You have to have a certain legal structure as an organisation. So yeah, I think that I think that of those things, I think that like the coherence thing is perhaps the most interesting.
Laura Hilliger: [00:40:36] I just wanted to say I think there’s something really interesting here about Self-actualisation. So if I want to be part of a community, I have a choice to be part of that community. I can get involved with it, I can learn about the norms of it. I can participate in some form or fashion, and that is my choice. Whereas I don’t see it much as a choice. Being part of a network. If you’re if you’re a node in the network, you’re a node in the network. And I’m not sure that you can sort of abstract yourself from it. So as an example, if you worked in educational technology at a certain time in the advent of the web, in the early days of the web, you might be part of sort of OG edtech kinds of people. And whether or not you participate in that network actively does not remove you from being part of it. And that a good example here would be Stephen Downes. He wrote this 15 years ago and we’re still having a conversation about it, but he’s not part of the conversation unless you’re listening. Hi, Stephen. And so I think there’s something here around your own, a community members or a network members choice in the matter. I don’t know if I’m just sort of spinning out, but coming at it from that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:41:48] So I know what you mean. Like you could have literally like a Twitter account and never interact with anyone else, but other people would mention you, which would mean that you were a node on the network. The social graph of that thing, I guess. I guess that totally makes sense.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:42:03] Yeah, yeah I think that does make sense. And it’s also like, you know, there are it does make sense. Yeah, I think that makes sense. Like a community is a much more intentional thing where you kind of describe your in and out of it, whereas a network is, is kind of like a reading of like social reality to some degree and you just happen to be an element of it. But people use communities in that kind of way, like, you know, geographically bounded communities. Like, you know, I am part of the London community. Um, would it be more appropriate to talk about a network? I’m not quite sure. Doug Did you want to say something?
Doug Belshaw: [00:42:38] Yeah, I was just. I think that the way that we would use community as people who would self-identify maybe with open source software and culture and is different to the way that people say, I don’t know, right wing politicians would use the word community. Um, whereas and you know, again, correct me if I’m wrong, but a right wing politician might use the word community to mean everything which can’t be affected directly with capital. Yeah. Whereas we might want to differentiate, let’s say open source community, we might say, well, there isn’t one really one open source community. There’s lots of different open source communities which we happen to refer to for ease of reference as the open source community. Um, so there’s a, there’s a difference in emphasis when we’re talking about. These kinds of things, if it makes sense.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:43:36] Yeah I think that’s I think that’s the I think that’s true. I think that like, I mean, one of the things that I did in my past life as a philosopher was look at this debate that happened in the in the early, late 80s and early 90s, which was called the communitarianism liberalism debate in kind of political philosophy, which was basically between, you know, perhaps the default for like Western political thought, which is liberalism, you know, sovereign individuals interacting in markets versus a kind of more Aristotelian like version of this where, you know, it’s concrete individuals operating in communities. Um, blah, blah, blah. And you know, this, this, this particular distinction had the, had this kind of like even debate in the level of public policy, um, you know, with the kind of Blair era and the Clinton era, the New Democrats and New Labour, there was a kind of communitarian thing that was talked of. And I think that yeah, so community definitely has. And one of the things that I was writing was I pitched a book which was called Against Community and that was talking about how community, as you described, can be this kind of like homogenising notion and can be, you know, quite an oppressive like notion, um, in certain situations. And that, you know, certainly is the case. I think that like there is like a desire to always valorise community and always say, you know, I really want to be part of a community communities.
Doug Belshaw: [00:45:07] Nobody’s saying we shouldn’t have communities. When we when we were when I was looking at these notes in preparation, I was thinking about, you know, Margaret Thatcher talking about there being no such thing as society, just groups of individuals. And I’m sure that all kind of went into your your philosophical work around communitarianism and things. One thing that I think we’d love to get you back to the podcast, just looking at the time to talk about is given all of the stuff around Web3, a lot of it seems to have. Quite problematic notions about what constitutes a community. Baked into it like commodified relationships, everything being tokenised, that kind of thing. So maybe we could park the discussion there for the moment and then come back and give the whole thing a web3 spin.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:45:57] Yeah, definitely. I mean, the other thing that I wrote for my PhD, my much maligned PhD, was an analysis of the political phenomena called neoliberalism. And neoliberalism, amongst its other aspects, has financialization as an element of it. And I’m afraid to say that a lot of the web3 stuff that I have personally seen seems to be like financialization of all existing reality, which to me seems a terrifying, a terrifying prospect. And, you know, as I said earlier, I don’t want to completely valorise community. There is a dark side to community in a difficult bit, but at the same time, like I’m pretty sure that community doesn’t just look like the financialization of all human relations. I’m pretty sure that isn’t community. I’ll defend that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:46:47] Okay, Laura, how shall we wrap this one up?
Laura Hilliger: [00:46:50] Um, honestly, I don’t know, because I all my brain is just spitting out a lot of different things around the idea of community. And I think I could talk at a philosophical level about communities and networks all day, but I like the idea of shelving it until we can talk specifically about Web3 because I’m sure I can throw it out and have some fights about what’s going on in that community, particularly as Yeah, I’m really interested in when we talk about communities, talking about the people that are not part of the communities or not the marginalised folks who are not automatically thought of. And I think Web 3.0 and indeed the invention of technology has left out some people. And I’d love to come at community from a perspective that includes some of those perspectives or voices. So I would say let’s let’s talk about web3 and diversity and inclusion and communities all at the same time. We should probably set around, I don’t know, 3 or 4 hours to.
Doug Belshaw: [00:47:55] Encourage people to do. One, one thing that I’d like people to encourage people to do this season in particular is if you’ve heard anything on today’s episode or on previous ones. Um, these, the audio goes to your favourite podcast client automatically via the wonders of RSS and other open technologies, but also the place where we upload it to that does all of that is SoundCloud. And if you would like to leave comments on this, then the probably the best place to go is to go to SoundCloud, find the exact bit of the audio that you want to leave a comment about and then you can leave a comment there. So you know, you might have some comments about networks and communities. You can find a bit of the audio and you can comment there. So we would love some kind of listener interaction. And if you would like to see Alex back on the podcast, which I’m sure we would as well and talk about Web3, then let us know, that would be great. But for now, Alex, thank you so much for your time and we look forward to collaborating again soon.
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:48:57] Excellent. Looking forward to it too!
Laura Hilliger: [00:49:00] All right. Bye, everyone!
Alex Worrad Andrews: [00:49:02] Bye bye!