It’s shocking that our mainstream societies have been so removed from the concepts of cooperation, collectivity and caring for each other that as soon as we begin to talk about these ideas in any depth, we enter into the often alienating and exclusive realm of jargon. We live in a world in which terms such as “value sovereignty” and “care work” are used and understood by relatively few people, even though they describe concepts that are very basic and human.
This is why education is such an important part of the DisCO Project. We realize that everyone is entering the DisCO with different levels and manifestations of experience and knowledge. However, if we all want to share in the same discussion, it helps to speak the same language. To this end, we’ve put together this glossary to help navigate the sometimes intimidating language used to describe our specific approach to feminist, commons-oriented cooperativism.
Don’t let this new vocabulary scare you – it just describes concepts that you already feel deep inside, concepts that maybe you haven’t found the words for yet. We have coined some of these terms ourselves, but many will be recognized outside of DisCO as well. Take this language and use it well – it will open up new worlds for you.
Communication that does not happen in real time, such as email, forums or Loomio. This type of communication tends to be more formal and organized around a specific topic. It has a subject, context and invitation to join the discussion. Conversations happen over the course of days or weeks and can be archived as part of the collective’s long-term memory. In the DisCO Coop, most internal asynchronous communication happens over Loomio.
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, and oftentimes public, digital ledger consisting of records called blocks that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved block cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks. Read Chapter 1 of the DisCO Elements for a layperson's intro, explainer videos etc.
Carework is any kind of work that supports the health of the collective without generating income per se. We distinguish between two mutually supporting types of carework. First, there is carework for the health of the collective as a system and entity. This means any kind of administrative or behind-the-scenes productive work that keeps the collective running and functional. Second, there is the carework of supporting the humans in the collective. This very important aspect of carework recognizes that every DisCO is made up of individuals who each need emotional support, understanding, special consideration and a sense of belonging and purpose. Both of these approaches to caring for the collective are so important that they are built into the DisCO model. Read Chapter 6 of the DisCO Elements for more.
CAT (Community Algorithmic Trust)
DisCO’s favorite internet cat! The CAT is an on-chain algorithmic entity that enables the collective’s consent to a set of voluntary, self-organized rules. DisCO’s algorithms support the collective in overseeing, simplifying and carrying out the human-level agreements and rules. Once these algorithms are entrusted to the on-chain entity, it is described as a Community Algorithmic Trust which oversees the health of the collective, i.e. that agreements are being met. ReadChapter 5 of the DisCO Elements for more meaow-tastic revelations.
Commons are often defined as any shared resource that is tended to or maintained by the community and is used subject to agreements or rules established by the community. Public libraries or CSA (community supported agriculture) are examples of commons. For a shhort into, read What are P2P and the Commons, and how do they relate?. As such, commons are living systems informed by the cultural and human and environmental realities of their participants, as well as the environments where commoning takes place.
For a deeper dive, we recommend avid Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free, Fair and a Alive: the Insurgent Power of the Commonsas the go-to reference on truly advance commons-thinking.
Community Rhythms are agreed-upon, regularly occurring events (tasks, check-ins, meetings, etc.) that encourage and facilitate the smooth functioning of a collective. Examples include a brief Daily Check-in on a messaging platform by all coop members, distinct Weekly Team Meetings on To-dos and Vibe, Quarterly Retrospectives (aka "SpaceCAMPS") or assemblies to address larger issues, etc.
A cooperative is any self-governed organization or business in which members focus on mutual assistance while working towards a common goal in everyone’s best interest. Read What is a Cooperative? on the International Cooperative Alliance's (ICA) website for a short introduction.
An approach towards working together that aims for the democratization of ownership and governance. Read Wikipedia's article on the History of the Cooperative Movement. For a more thorough exploration we recommend reading Nathan Schneider's Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy
Culture and Structure
"Culture" refers to a Commons' tacit governance and inter-relational practices, care work and vibe. "Structure" is the formalization of such practices with the assistance of legal and technological tools. The DisCO CAT itself is divided into Culture DisCO Floor and Structure DisCO Deck. The following is extracted from DisCO Manifesto:
"Distributed cooperative practices should never be solely dependent on technology, protocols or governance models. These are only tools to facilitate and strengthen our collaborative culture. There is a fundamental tension in all commons governance between culture, or that which defines the group’s shared motivations and visions for the future, and structure, or that which formalizes the group culture into recognizable legal and institutional forms, and enables certain capabilities. Culture and structure are interdependent in a commons, but they also can pull in different directions. Creating resilient, self-organized communities requires an artful balance."
Cum-Munus: Gift and Responsibility
Commons – Commoning – Commoner. A brief excursion into the etymology of these terms: each word connects the Latin words cum and munus. Cum (English “with”) denotes the joining of elements. Munus — which is also found in the word “municipality” — means service, duty, obligation, and sometimes gift. All terms that conjoin cum and munus, such as communion, community, communism, and, of course, communication, point to a co-obligation — a linkage between use rights, benefits, and duty.
In Latin, "munus" means both "gift" and "responsibility". Therefore, the process of commoning implies both of these aspects: receiving and honoring nature and relationships with gratitude (the gift), while tending to its needs (the responsibility).
As such, "responsibility" in a DisCO isn't a top-down enforced obligation, often for the benefit if the ruling classes, but a consented-on shared commitment towards the fulfillment of DisCO's Seven Principles and any given DisCO's mission.
A DisCO dating phase is a predetermined period of time that new members agree to spending working with the collective before becoming official members. Dating phases may be divided into stages, each with its own training milestones designed to ease the new member into the collective’s operations and give them the knowledge and mentoring they will need to thrive and feel comfortable. Different stages of the dating phase may also increasingly grant the dating member different rights and responsibilities. This is also an opportunity for the collective and the prospective new member to make sure that the “vibe” is right and that they are a good fit for each other.
DisCO Applications Program
The DisCO Applications Program includes DisCO Governance Model templates for:
- DisCO4Coops: This is the original DisCO Governance model developed through Guerrilla Media Collective Worker Owned Coops, Social and Solidarity Economy enterprises and mission-oriented SMEs
- DiSCO.NPs for Non Profits in general and Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits in particular.
- DisCO.Phi for Philanthropic Organizations
- DisCO.living for cooperatives and Community Land Trusts
- DisCO.Makes for Maker Spaces and Community Centers
- DisCO.Unbundle for Non-cooperatives and corporations to transition to the DisCO Model
The DisCO BALL is THE DisCO’s general knowledge base, powered by semantic wiki software. Showcasing the best pattern practices for DisCO development and management, DisCO BALL provides semantic categories linking to further resources and examples (from the various individual, self-hosted wikis of each DisCO LAB). Video tutorials and resources on how to contribute and enrich the DisCO Ball knowledge base will be provided to facilitate community content production. DisCO Ball also serves as default user manual for the various platforms developed as part of the DisCO PROJECT (DECK, EXP, BLOCKS, etc) with embedded animated tutorials for maximum accessibility.
Within our Culture and Structure distinction, the DisCO Blocks are both distinct modular practices which you can add to your own DisCO (Culture), as well as drag and drop software interface to allow you to build DisCOs modularly, one block at a time (Structure).
Standout examples of DisCO Blocks as culture include Community Rhythms, Mutual Support, Commitment Statements, Dating, Mentoring and the Working Circles. Check these entries out for more. Click here to see the specifications for the DisCO Blocks software platform.
DisCO Buddies take dating members through all aspects of working on the collective, the tools, our governance model, etc. They ensure that new members get all they need to meet a series of criteria on the way to becoming full, committed DisCONAUTS. After the Dating Phase is over you will no longer have an exclusively DisCO Buddy assigned, instead you will become a new Dating Member's Buddy. Read more in the Mentoring entry.
The DisCO CAT stands for "Community Algorithmic Trust". It is also DisCO's mascot and the enigmatic author of the DisCO Beat Newsletter and the voice behind DisCO's social media channel.
In its algorithmic existence, DisCO CAT refers to all the cultural and structural components of the DisCO Project. All components are modular, concurrent and in Perpetual Beta. The following is extracted from The DisCO Elements chapter 5 The DisCO CAT and DisCO-Tech:
Introduced in the DisCO Manifesto, the DisCO CAT (Community Algorithmic Trust) is a series of modular software platforms designed so people can teach themselves, play around and, ultimately, build viable DisCOs.
The DisCO DECK is DisCO’s value tracking platform. It is the interface and back end for DisCO’s “Community Algorithmic Trust” (the DisCO CAT). It's a user-friendly, accessible online tool with a balanced integration of Web 3.0, distributed ledger and blockchain technologies. The DisCO Deck facilitates value tracking, accounting, and other tools to support DisCO operations with stellar UX and an intuitive graphic interface. See our GitLab for current progress on the DisCO DECK or get in touch if you'd like to collaborate.
The DisCO Experience is the research and pilot program through which the DisCO Floor and DisCO Deck are developed together with real cooperatives. Pilot DisCO LABS are experimenting with the DisCO model, tweaking it to their own special needs and requirements and yielding a range of case studies for the development of the DisCO Floor and Deck. The LABS are mentored on the creation of their governance and economic models, DisCO Deck customization, and accessible documentation. DisCO LABS will also play a key role in the co-creation of both platforms. All of this together is the immersive DisCO Experience.
The DisCO FLOOR is DisCO's educational web platform. It gathers the cultural aspects of the project, including comprehensive educational resources and legal tools for cooperators to set up DisCOs worldwide.
The DisCO Floor contains a DisCO learning journey (interactive MOOC course); the DisCO BALL knowledge base (via semantic wiki) with practical resources and tools; a reference DisCO Handbook; content (articles, videos, audiobooks, infographics); a platform to create interactive DisCO governance models; guidance on existing legal structures for co-ops (and considerations for future legal co-op forms); and a directory of DisCO cooperatives worldwide.
DisCO LABS are pilot projects experimenting with the DisCO model. DisCO Labs need to present a diverse geographical and cultural focus, as well as a healthy representation of various types of mission-oriented productive work. Any group can choose to become a DisCO and make use of the resources posted in the educational platform and contribute to its development but only selected DisCO LABS will benefit from hands on support from the project team. DisCO LABS should also benefit from financial resources and take part in the participatory action research components.
Nodes are individual, but related "sub-DisCOs" that operate under a shared umbrella, or "Mother" DisCO. Nodes may overlap in terms of members, value accounting, mutual support, etc. They are autonomous on certain Value Flows, (mainly in Livelihood and Love work) but share many Care work commitments with the other nodes. Their shared DisCO structure allows them to be rather permeable to each other and support each other in unique ways. Practically, they are suborganizations within a DisCO providing specialized services. For example, Guerrilla Media Collective has specific nodes for Translation, Graphic Design, and Agitprop. DisCO Nodes typically function under the same umbrella legal entity and use the same workflow tools.
DisCO Nodes may have overlapping or differing personnel from the other nodes. Regarding value flows, productive activities (such as Love and Livelihood work are kept distinct form one node to another. Conversely, Care work value flows are mutualised, for example, Legal and Finance work, Social Media Promotion, Website upkeep etc affect all nodes, so carework for these has to be evenly distributed. By the same token, this mutualization also extends to the DisCO's Working Circles. Carework which only affects the node in question can also be kept separate.
Close collaborations among DisCOs with different legal umbrellas are considered DisCOverses.
DisCO.NP stands for "DisCO for Non-Profits". This is part of the DisCO Applications Program. DisCO.NP's are based on Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits, a framework the combines the mission-oriented functionality and legal advantages of a non-profit, with the Radical Workplace Democracy of a DisCO. DisCO.coop and the DisCO Mothership are examples of a DisCO.NP.
Within the overarching concept of THE DisCO, individual DisCOs can network together into DisCO Federations. We call these "DisCOverses", following from the concept of "Pluriverses" - see here for the origin of the term.
DisCOverses can be stable (long-established interactions and alliances) or more punctual and transactional. The former will require more care work and real-world trust-building, the latter will rely more heavily on DisCO Decks and value-tracking tools. Click here for our thoughts on Federation.
The DisCO Stack is a toolkit of convivial Free/Libre Open Source Software platforms for people to work together using the DisCO Methodology and resources. The DisCO Stack leverages and customizes existing FLOSS tools into a complementary browser-based framework custom designed for DIsCO needs and value accounting, including tools for: time tracking, synchronous communication, asynchronous communication and decision-making, task management, collaborative writing, file storage, documentation and calendar and scheduling tools.
"DisCONomics" is short hand for "Distributed Cooperative Economics". It is an emergent discipline strongly linked to Feminist Economics, Commons and P2P Economics, Ecological Economics and Coooperative Economics, as per the DisCO DNA.
DisCOnomics is also the robust and reflective activity of performing and cultivating alternative, caring and care-full federated DisCO Economic Networks. Ie: it is thinking, doing, reflecting and then doing some more.
In contrast to other economic disciplines, it is not solely defined post-hoc by economic historians or economists, but consciously co-created in real time through economic experiments and experiences. In this case the creation and federation of DisCO's worldwide. This follows the adage "Nothing About Us Without Us" ie: DisCONomics must be mainly created by people working in DisCOs, not outside or disenfranchised experts or professionals. 
It is worth highlighting the differences between "Economics" (the study of the economy, or economies, hegemonic being neoclassical economics) and "Economies" (taking our inspiration from JK. Gibson-Graham's Community Economies the creation and real world articulation of alternative economies).
The medium and long-term visions for DisCONomics are explored in Chapter Seven of the DisCO Elements: DisCO Futures: Building Tracks.
From DisCO Principle 7: "Primed for Federation":
While networks may or may not share common goals, federations are imbued with a shared direction. Scaling replicates the dynamics of colonialism - extending a worldview from a center and razing everything in its path. DisCOs are replicated/altered through a federation protocol capable of achieving critical mass. Each primary node focuses on small group trust, intimacy and mutual support.
This is an approach to economics that factors in all of the unseen labor (traditionally associated with women) that is needed in order to support what one typically thinks of economic activity (traditionally associated with men). Feminist economics focuses on caring for the well-being of the individuals that make up an economic system, valuing and reconizing that carework as equally important as “productive”, income-generating economic activity.
Free Libre and Open-Source Software (FLOSS)
Open-source refers to software for which the code is available freely and can be redistributed or modified. Our preferred term for it is FLOSS, which stands for Free-Libre and Open Source Software (See here for more info on the term).
Livelihood is income-generating work done by the collective.
Lovework is voluntary or "pro-bono" work that a DisCO takes on in order to create commons and offer the coop's talent to persons and collectives who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford these services.
Markdown is is a way of writing plain text (without formatting), so that it can be converted to rich text (with links, bullet points, headers, bold, italics, etc.). This is the exact same editing syntax used for Mattermost, SpaceTime and Loomio, so it's a case of "buy one, get three for free"! You can find resources and tutorials in the Markdown entry.
Massive Open Online Courses are open-access online courses with unlimited participation. In a DisCO context, MOOCs are three-month online courses with webinars, synchronous and asynchronous discussion channels, and supporting materials for prospective DisCO initiators.
DisCOs extend decision making and ownership beyond the company structure, and enfranchise all contributors whether present in all value chains or affected by the coop's actions. Beyond workers, this may include neighbouring communities, suppliers, clients, reproductive and affective labour, financial backers, etc. as constituents.
Mutual Support means looking after people and being attuned to others’ moods, needs and larger realities beyond the collective. By caring for each other’s well-being, we create a healthy work environment, and supported members have a safe space to express themselves and be heard within the collective. Conflict resolution is also handled through the mutual support system, ensuring the distribution of personal care work.
Mutual Support Pal
Your Mutual Support Pal is a rotating human who will listen and care for you. Here are some of the things you Mutual Support pal can do for you:
- be the ones you talk to if your coworker is being a jerk
- support you to meet your personal development goals
- help make sure you do the things you said you were going to do
- put a human face on talking to 'the organization'.
Read the Mutual Support entry for more info.
Open Value accounting is a way to capture individual contributions that blend into a unique product, to evaluate these contributions, and to compute equity in the end product, a % for every member.
It preserves the subjective nature of value, it can take, in theory, into consideration all types of value, tangible and intangible. The DisCO Governance Model is an instance of Open Value Accounting. See also Valueflows.
Open Cooperativism, or "Open Coops" is an approach towards working together that aims for the democratization of ownership and governance, while focusing on the production of commons. Open Coops arose simultaneously with Platform Cooperativism in 2014. Read From Platform to Open Cooperativism to check out the differences and commonalities between Platform and Open Coops or this shorter explanation, which includes infographics and a TLDR.
Open Coops are the precursor to DisCO. DisCO evolves on the initial premises of Open Cooperativism by re-conceptualizing Open Coop's four original principles and adding new, explicit principles on Feminist Economics, Open Value and Federation.
Platform Cooperativism seeks to democratize the ownership and governance of the digital platforms that increasingly mediate our daily lives. Check out the Platform Cooperativism Consortium's website for abundant resources on Platform Cooperativism.
Radical Workplace Democracy
Workplace democracy is the backbone of traditional coops. Radical workplace democracy is an approach to workplace governance where communication is informed by complementary notions of value that reflect our experiences as human beings, in the workplace and beyond. Democracy can't be delegated to voting mechanism or techo-solutions, it needs to incorporate care work and mutual support. DisCO workplace democracy is radical in that it explicitly addresses the invisible biases and tacit power hierarchies that plague many coops and activist projects where these issues are not actively discussed.
Radical workplace democracy combines elements from:
- Radical Democracy: "... a type of democracy that advocates the radical extension of equality and liberty. Radical democracy is concerned with a radical extension of equality and freedom, following the idea that democracy is an un-finished, inclusive, continuous and reflexive process."
- Workplace Democracy: "... is the application of democracy in various forms (examples include voting systems, debates, democratic structuring, due process, adversarial process, systems of appeal) to the workplace. It can be implemented in a variety of ways, dependent on the size, culture, and other variables of an organization."
Relationality and Intra-Action
As a concept, relationality posits that culture, self-development and nature don't develop from individual, self-interested agents but from relations.
Relationality helps us break the self/other and individual/collective false dichotomies. The following is extracted from Chapter 1 of David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons:
Any individual identity is always, also, part of collective identities that guide how a person thinks, behaves, and solves problems. All of us have been indelibly shaped by our relations with peers and society, and by the language, rituals, and traditions that constitute our cultures. In other words, the conceit that we are “self-made” individuals is a delusion. There is no such thing as an isolated “I.” As we will explore later, each of us is really a Nested-I. We are not only embedded in relationships; our very identities are created through relationships.
Relationality is a key aspect of DisCONomics and key to DisCO's theory of value. This extract from the Re-imagining Value: Insights from the Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace and Nature report proposes a "Relational Theory of Value";
This theory sees value arising from relationships. Value does not inhere in objects; it emerges through a process as living entities – whether human beings or the flora and fauna of ecosystems – interact with each other. In this sense, value is not fixed and static, but something that emerges naturally as living entities interact. “In a commons, value is an event,” said Silke Helfrich of the Commons Strategies Group. “It is something that needs to be enacted again and again.” The difference between the standard economic theory of value and a commons-based one is that the latter is a relational theory of value, said Helfrich.
For more on relationality and the commons, visit this article by David Bollier and scroll to section IV "Commoning as Relationality"
Intra-Action: a concept introduced by physicist and philosopher Karen Barad, describes how individual entities come together to create a new “entangled agency” that does not otherwise exist in preexisting individual agents. Think of crowd behavior and viral cultural phenomena. When two entities intra-act, their ability to act emerges from within the relationship itself, not as a function of the discrete individuals involved. The entangled agency constantly changes and adapts to the relationship itself. This concept helps us get beyond simplistic cause and effect explanations and suggests that responsibility for actions is spread among intra-acting entities, each of which may have different levels of intentionality and delayed manifestations. From the perspective of intra-action, familiar ideas such as subject/object dualism, linear time, and individual agency are incomplete and misleading ways of understanding how events happen in the world.
DisCOs are relational, living processes, determined by the relations and care work among the DisCO's members and their relation to the DisCO's mission and values. DisCOs relate to each other in DisCOFeds and so on. All of these can be seen as a the Intra-actions of DisCO.
Social Solidarity Economy (SSE)
Any solidarity-based, non-capitalist and non-authoritarian economic system that includes ordinary people in practices that seek to overcome inequalities and transformatively address economic, social, environmental and political issues. See RIPESS's introductory page on the SSE to find out more.
Communication that happens in real time with people talking or chatting with each other simultaneously. In an office, this may happen in a meeting room or by the water cooler. A digital collective, however, needs a place to hang out online, send messages, contact any team member directly, or even goof around. For this, it’s useful to have a digital tool specifically designed for online collaborating teams, such as Mattermost.
A pun in the hyper-pretentious The DAO, THE DisCO (with an article in front and in caps), refers to all federated DisCOs together, growing in solidarity to become an economic counterpower for social and environmental purposes. One way to illustrate this is through a quote from David Fleming: "Large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework."
Individual DisCO LABS are the small-scale, trust-based solutions. THE DisCO is the potential large-scale framework. Within this large network, we have DisCOverses, which are fluid federated DisCO clusters.
Is a solidarity-based strategy for economic resistance that allows all members of a DisCO to contribute according to their capacity. All members create value; part of this value is processed through a market interface (the DisCO “business”) and is converted into monetary value, which is then pooled and distributed to benefit all value streams (including carework and lovework). Essentially, the more effort and care put into the collective, the larger the share.
Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits
Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits or WSDNPs combine the mission-oriented functionality and legal advantages of a non-profit, with the Radical Workplace Democracy of a DisCO. WSDNPs were originally developed by the Sustainable Economies Law Center. DisCO.NP is the generic DisCO name for DisCO-WSDNPs. The DisCO Mothership is a DisCO-NP.
Here are some articles and resources on WSDNPs:
- Original definition by the Sustainable Economies Law Center
- The truth is, structure matters. How you do your work is equally as important as the work itself.
- What Does the Future of NonProfit Leadership Look Like?
- Resist as a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit
- This glossary both complements and expands upon David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's excellent chapter on "Language and the Creation of Commons" from their 2019 book Free, Fair and Alive: the insurgent Power of the Commons". You can read the full chapter online here.
- If you're missing Crypto-economics from this equation, we argue that it's an immature discipline, informed by normative theories of value and Game Theory. These run counter (and are often ignorant of) feminist, ecological and Marxist economies. P2P and Commons economics have explored the possibilities of tokenization and networked technology with much more rigor. Therefore the "Crypto" or "DLT" part of DisCOnomics is explored under its P2P/Commons facet.For more on this subject, read the Manifesto
- In this way DisCOnomics highlight Marx's belief that upper-stage Communism needs to be created and co-defined by the working class for the working class. They will progressively define its shape. The history of political economy and especially the rise of Vanguardism and, consequently Marxism-Leninism in the USSR present an option where the seizure of State Power via a Vanguard Party or a revolution are the main strategies for the working class to achieve such power. We believe that there are other, less violent ways for the working class, precariat and, to use our preferred term "Commoners" to gain economic and political power to bring about lasting social and ecological change.
- The following passage in the report is also of interest. Therein Marxist media scholar Nick Dyer-Witheford explains that the concept of a Relational Theory of Value "aligns with Marx’s thinking. While some observers say that a Marxist theory of value ascribes value to things, Dyer-Witheford disagreed, noting that “Marx condemned the idea of value inhering in objects as commodity fetishism. He believed in a relational theory of value – the relations between workers and owners – even if Marx may not have considered the full range of social relationships involved in the production of commodities.”…