DisCO Mothership Governance Model

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Welcome to the DisCO Mothership Governance Model

Hello and welcome! For a brief summary of the DisCO Mothership Governance model, jump directly to the Introductory Articles, Infographics and Other DisCO Governance Resources section below. To get the full picture, keep reading.

The DisCO MOTHERSHIP refers to the group of people currently working in DisCO.coop and carrying out the DisCO Project [1] This is the governance model by which our organization functions as a living DisCO LAB. THIS MODEL IS CURRENTLY BEING DEVELOPED AMONG THE DisCO MOTHERSHIP TEAM. KEEP CHECKING THIS PAGE FOR ONGOING DEVELOPMENT

This DisCO MOTHERSHIP Governance Model is a substantial fork of Guerrilla Media Collective's version of the DisCO Governance Model. Guerrilla Media Collective (henceforth GMC) is the original DisCO LAB from which DisCO.coop arose.[2] GMC's Governance Model is the base DisCO Governance Model for worker-owned coops , Social Solidarity Enterprises and SMEs.

This version of the DisCO Governance Model (3.5) is not aimed at working collectives offering goods and services in the marketplace, but non-profits, such as the DisCO Foundation.[3]

The DisCO MOTHERSHIP Governance Model is being further developed as part of the Distributed Cooperative Organization (DisCO) Governance/Economic Model V 4.0 for eventual inclusion in the DisCO BALL. Version 4.0 is a non DisCO specific version highlighting the main DisCO governance templates, of the DisCO Applications Program or DAP. [4]

All changes between version 3.0 (The Guerrilla Media Collective Model) and version 3.5 (The DisCO MOTHERSHIP/DisCO.NP Model) are tracked in the DIsCO Governance Model Version Changes entry


This document describes a governance/economic model for self-sustaining, mission-oriented, distributed organizations.

It values three types of work:

  1. Pro-bono Lovework (Voluntary, unfunded work)
  2. Funded Livelihood work (project-specific funded work), and
  3. Care work (which includes well-being, as well as admin and maintenance tasks)

The three types of work, or "value streams", are tracked with complementary metrics and rewards are dispensed accordingly. We will fully explore what this means in the Contribution Tracking section below.

The purpose of the DisCO.NP model is to extract people from the capitalist marketplace so they can use their unique talents to do fulfilling, and socially and environmentally meaningful work. The document prototypes a governance model fit for digital labor.

This model mixes theory with proven on-the-ground practice: it originated in an existing organization: Guerrilla Media Collective or "GMC", also known through the P2P Translation collective Guerrilla Translation [5]

As explained in the Introduction above, this version of the DisCO Governance Model (3.5), is a fork of the GMC model. The version you are currently reading serves two complementary purposes:

  • It functions as the template governance model for DisCO Non-Profits (AKA DisCO NP)
  • By using the DisCO Mothership to illustrate the DisCO NP Governance model this document is the de-facto governance model for the DisCO Mothership

How to read this governance model

In the following sections we'll examine:

The last three areas are interdependent. Roles and Responsibilities reflect a member's investment in the DisCO.NP, their level of participation and the types of work they undertake. This investment is not monetary, but contribution-based — the more a member puts into building the DisCO.NP, whether through pro-bono, funded or reproductive work [6], the more their investment is weighted in the DisCO.NP's ownership and decision making mechanisms. This investment/stake is measured through Contribution Tracking and it also affects the Decision making process.

While we have presented the three sections sequentially, the document doesn't necessarily follow a linear narrative.

Each section refers to the others and the document features many page-jump links to different relevant sections[7] and related entries in the DisCO MOTHERSHIP Wiki. [8]

Important: We recommend reading it at your own pace, taking notes and jumping from section to section until you have a clear picture. If you're already conversant in DisCONomics, you may want to skip large tracts of this Overview section and skip directly to Roles and Responsibilities section. If you're not familiar, read on or check the Introductory Materials section below.

Before continuing, we will say this again:

Please skip any sections that may not seem immediately relevant and/or applicable to your interests. The document loops back upon itself through in-document links, so don't worry about missing anything.[9]

Speaking about pictures, this section features an infographic summary of the model, links to introductory articles and other resources to make the model more digestible. If you're not already familiar with DisCO, start by familiarizing yourself with these materials, or the model may be very hard to comprehend.

What we offer here is an equipotential and opt-in engagement governance model. This means that everyone who participates in a collective (and, in this case, a DisCO Non-Profit) will have their work valued, and will be expected to participate in the decision making process. Decisions and control are shared, based on contributions and peer review.

To see how we envision the model in practice, The DisCO Mothership (i.e., the organization who has developed and tested this model) is used as a showcase example, but it’s important to note that the model is designed to be picked up and adapted by other Distributed Cooperative Organizations whether they’re other Non-Profits, coops or other types of entities (see The DisCO Applications Program section below).

To ease the narrative, the term "DisCO MOTHERSHIP" (our organization) is used for concrete examples, while the term "DisCO.NP" is used for general ones. Next, we will go over the terminology used in DisCOs most often.

Introductory Articles, Infographics and Other DisCO Governance Resources

If you're not already familiar with DisCO we recommend taking some time to get the picture overview of what we offer before diving deep into the minutiae of this Governance Model.

DisCO intro articles and short videos

For a brief introduction to DisCOs we recommend these two introductory articles, with their corresponding video trailers:


Last nite.jpeg


1: Last Night A Distributed Cooperative Organization Saved My Life: A brief introduction to DisCOs  

"DisCO stands for Distributed Cooperative Organizations, and it’s a set of organizational tools and practices for groups of people who want to work together in a cooperative, commons-oriented, and feminist economic form. DisCO is also an alternative to another form called the Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or DAO".


DisCO in a Nutshell.jpeg


2: DisCO in a Nutshell (Covid Edition)  

"Distributed Cooperative Organizations or DisCOs explained in a nutshell and what they mean in the context of the Covid-19 crisis."


DisCO Economics and Commons Governance.jpeg


3: Take Your Time, Do It Right: Commons Governance  

"A guide to how DisCO governance specifically articulates the 7 DisCO Principles and Eleven Values. Includes infographic illustrations about the DisCO Governance and economic model"

DisCO Gov Infographic.png


DisCO Governance Model Infographic

The DisCO Governance Infographic features a simplified visual explanation of the Basic DisCO Governance Model.

The DisCO Trilogy

The DisCO Trilogy comprises three downloadable multi-format publications covering various aspects of DisCO. Also to be published as Audiobooks (see section below)  

DisCO Manifesto Cover.png


If I Only Had a Heart: The DisCO Manifesto

  The DisCO Manifesto is a deep dive into the world of Distributed Cooperative Organizations. Over its 80 colorful pages, you will read about how DisCOs are a P2P/Commons, cooperative and Feminist Economic alternative to Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (or DAOs). The DisCO Manifesto also includes some background on topics like blockchain, AI, the commons, feminism, cooperatives, cyberpunk, and more.  



Care Before Code: The DisCO Elements

  The DisCO Elements is a compilation of several articles on DisCO, including dedicated sections on DisCO in our current historical and Pandemic context, the Seven Principles, DisCO Governance, DisCO Carework and DisCO policies. The DisCO Elements is a "director's cut", expanded from a publication commissioned by Autonomy.work. The DisCO Elements will also be serialized as standalone articles in Hackernoon and cross-posted in DIsCO Stories.  

The DisCO PinkPaper

(Forthcoming, late 2021) The White paper for the DisCO project (or as we like to call it, the Pinkpaper), will not only describe the technological aspects but will also highlight the cultural and ethical considerations underlying our design choices. The DisCO Pinkpaper will include sections on the DisCO FLOOR, the DisCO DECK and their co-dependencies, as well as a sections on the DisCO STACK and how it relates to FLOOR and DECK.

Other DisCO Links and Resources

Your main resources for all things DisCO is our website [List of DisCO Resources DisCO.coop] and this wiki.

For a regularly updated compilation of all resources on DisCO that have been published up to date, visit the List of DisCO Resources entry.

Basic DisCO Terminology

This document uses some DisCO-specific terms you'll want to get a handle on. Feel free to bookmark this section for reference.

The DisCO Glossary

This wiki contains an evolving DisCO Glossary. Many of the terms referred in-document, link to Glossary entries, but feel free to look at it on its own.

Why so many funny words? Why can't we just talk like normal people?

After 40 years of bullshit neoliberal language (risk premium, derivatives, there is no alternative, there is no society!) it's time to rebel and revel in terminology more suited to changing this dystopian reality we inhabit. If the current language of economics is unfathomable and, arguably, specifically designed to keep normal people out of self-determining their economies, we can co-create a new one to describe the much-needed alternatives. We don't expect you to know these terms, this is why we've created the DisCO Glossary.

To better explain our position on language and terminology, here is the introduction to the Glossary, written by DisCONaut Timothy McKeon:

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.


You can find the full glossary here. It is continually being added to and reimagined. Because language, like value (and values), is a living thing, never static, never dead.

The DisCO.coop Terminology Lowdown

Beyond the glossary, we also want to clarify some of the nomenclature used around DisCO (the project) DisCO.coop (the "brand") and the DisCO Mothership (a DisCO carrying out the DisCO project).

DisCO stands for "Distributed Cooperative Organizations", and is the name of the overall project.

If we say "a DisCO", we are talking about a single DisCO LAB (see below). We use DisCOs (plural) when we refer to various separate DisCOs.

DisCO.coop is the "brand" name, hashtag and what we use in social media to distinguish us from platforms and mirror balls (although we love those too). It's also our main website domain. We also use DisCO.coop to refer to the DisCO Mothership, although DisCO.coop encompasses more than the Mothership.

The DisCO Mothership is the organization that stewards the development and implementation of DisCO methodology and tools. The DisCO Mothership is a DisCO Non-Profit (or DisCO.NP) and the organization stewarding development and implementation of DisCO methodology and tools. We are in the process of creating the DisCO Foundation. Unlike our cousins in the DAO-space, we think that organizations are built around people not code, which brings us to…

The DisCONauts, who are the crew of the DisCO Mothership. Meet us here! We are working to develop this unique system of governance, related documentation and other educational materials, and DisCO-related projects. DisCO has a federation protocol, where we recommend that any particular DisCO should not exceed 20 members. At present we are 16, and will soon be adding several team members. We're cautious and selective because joining this crew is a commitment that needs to be well understood. In the meantime, we collaborate with people in our close orbit, whom we call the DisCO Satellites of Love. These include past or current collaborators, board members, etc., and can be found here.

DisCO LABS are the individual DisCOs. Every single DisCO is a DisCO LAB, including the DisCO Mothership. There are no hierarchical relations between the Mothership and the other DisCO LABs, we operate heterarchically. The main difference is that the DisCO Mothership is a DisCO Non-Profit that spends 100% of its time creating resources for DisCO generally. Currently active DisCO LABs are showcased here. Other organizations wanting to become a LAB are listed here. The other Labs are DisCO Cooperatives and spend most of their time creating goods and services for their communities, and DisCO is just one part of their mission and/or development plan. TLDR, it's part of who the LABs are, but not what they mainly do.

DisCO 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. For example, in Guerrilla Media Collective, there is a translation and copyediting node, a graphic design node and an “agitprop” node (a historical political term which we use lightly to encompass various forms of outreach); Cooperation Jackson has nodes for Economic Democracy and Development, Sustainable Communities and Community Production.

The DisCO Project is the journey the DisCONauts have embarked on, going boldly beyond and all that jazz. The project entails many relationships and partnerships and has been conceived as a series of modular DisCO Blocks. You can read about the project and its many components on the DisCO Project Matrix page. The project was initially plotted as an initial 4-5 year development phase. If you want to help us achieve this, please support us.

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.

Trust is used in two senses here: first, as a description of a legal entity that holds the ability to maintain tangible functions like contracts and agreements, and more intangible ones like commonly held values. Secondly, “trust” is used in the sense of the ability for team members to operate with a specific relationship to one another, according to defined principles and common goals. To build this trust, in both senses, we need to develop and test systems, platforms, software, research and experiments. Our related mission is to spread the word and teach people the magic of DisCO. We’ve organized all of this work into four pun-filled CATegories:

  1. The DisCO FLOOR: Our educational web platform. The DisCO FLOOR houses educational resources for cooperators to set up DisCOs anywhere. On the DisCO FLOOR you will find MOOC courses, a reference handbook and wiki, articles, audio and video content, and much more.
  2. The DisCO DECK: Our value tracking platform. The DisCO DECK is the interface and back end of the DisCO CAT. This will be a user-friendly, accessible online tool featuring value tracking, accounting, and other tools to support DisCO operations.
  3. The DisCO STACK: Our collaborative online tools. The DisCO STACK will be a toolkit of Free/Libre Open Source Software platforms to help people work together using the DisCO Methodology and resources.
  4. The DisCO EXPERIENCE: Our research and pilot program. The DisCO FLOOR and DisCO DECK will be developed based on the experiences, data and input of real cooperatives. The resulting case studies plus the mentorship that these pilots will receive make up the immersive DisCO EXPERIENCE.

The DisCO CAT's legs are starting to grow; development in all four of the components is underway. Some components (such as the DisCO Floor and Experience) are further along. As above, a fuller description of each of these can be found in the DisCO Project Matrix page.

Precedents to the DisCO Governance Model

Like anything else in life, this model didn't arise out of nowhere and is the result of many influences, distilled down to the current DisCO Governance Model.

The Open Enterprise Governance Model

The DisCO Governance Model and its various applications are a substantially developed fork of the Better Means Open Enterprise Governance Model (OEGM). The adaptations have been made to:

  1. Bypass the original model’s start-up/for-profit orientation
  2. Address the needs and ideals of
    1. The Commons and P2P;
    2. Open Cooperativism;
    3. Open Value Networks; and
    4. Feminist Economics
  3. Benefit a variety of entities self-sustain their social vision while addressing their specific requirements and allow for future modifications.
  4. Shift the focus from technical, protocol-based solutions to relations, trust and care work.

For more influences, see the next section.

From Platform to Open Cooperativism to DisCO

Apart from the Better Means Governance Model, explained above, DisCO has a rich lineage, going from traditional cooperatives, Platform Cooperatives, Open Cooperatives and, with the addition of Feminist Economics, Open Value Accounting and Distributed Ledger Technologies.

DisCO Genealogy 1.png

Here is a brief explanation of each of these cooperative movements, with links to additional resources:


A cooperative (or coop/co-op) 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.

Platform Cooperatives

Platform Cooperatives seek 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.

Open Cooperativism

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.

You can read more on the Seven DisCO Principles in Chapter 3 of the DisCO Elements or this wiki's entry on DisCO in 7 Principles and 11 Values. You can also jump to an abbreviated summary of the Principles in this section of the Mothership Governance Model.

DisCOs are not necessarily better than their precursors. They, more specifically, focus on social and environmental outcomes from a feminist, decolonial and post-capitalist point of view. On the one hand, DisCO gathers the best of the three preceding movements. On the downside, DisCOs are also more complex in the initial stages, although once their learning curve has been overcome, we'd argue that they function more smoothly and are more resilient organizations. Here are the main differences:

DisCO Genealogy 2.png

In summary all DisCOs are "classic" cooperatives, Platform Cooperatives and Open Cooperatives, but not all classic, platform or open coops are DisCOs. (Come join us!PLACEHOLDER FOR LINK IN DISCO.COOP). The DisCO model has very specific design features and constraints to favor certain (feminist, commons-oriented) outcomes. We will delve into these features in the following sections.

From Guerrilla Translation/Media Collective to DisCO

At the top of this Overview section we clarified that version 3.5 of this Governance Model is a fork of Guerrilla Media Collective's 3.0 version of the model, oriented towards Worker-Owned coops. Version 3.0 was mostly developed in 2018 based on the influences listed above. This gradually morphed into DisCO during the autumn of 2018. This transition from Open Cooperativism, to GMC's governance model, is documented in a series of articles that can be found in this section of the 3.0 Governance model: Version History and Related Resources.

For a layperson's overview of the 2018 developments on the governance model, read Elegance: How Guerrilla Translation reimagined itself for Open Cooperativism, an article on Guerrilla Media Collective/Translation's 2018 workshop where versions 2 and 2.5 of the model were prototyped, leading to version 3.5.

As already mentioned, all changes between version 3.0 (The Guerrilla Media Collective Model) and version 3.5 (The DisCO MOTHERSHIP/DisCO.NP Model) are tracked in the DisCO Governance Model Version Changes entry ongoing.

Other Notable Influences in the DisCO DNA

DisCO DNA.png


DisCOs' main influences are described in Groove is in the Heart: the DisCO Elements chapter 2: DisCO in a Nutshell. From the text:

DisCOs are a cultural and structural framework that combines influences from other forms and movements into a practical toolkit. The framework is based on existing, disruptive economic alternatives normally absent from the blockchain space. They are:

  • The Commons and P2P: Self-organized systems stewarding resources to meet human needs while leveraging the power of networks. [11]
  • Open Cooperativism: Combining Open Source and Commons principles with those of the cooperative and social solidarity movements.[12]
  • Open Value Accounting: Enables value sovereignty by rewarding meaningful contributions to projects, rather than wage labor.[13]
  • Feminist Economics: Challenges normative economic abstractions while factoring reproductive and care work.[14]

These influences, together with a strong focus on accessibility and social and economic justice, provide DisCOs with vastly different affordances to other available alternatives such as Decentralized Autonomous Organisations or DAOS.

DisCO has also been strongly influenced by 15 M and Occupy, the Zapatista Movement, David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free Fair and Alive, Decoloniality, Decolonial and Intersectional Feminisms, our past work at the P2P Foundation [15], Telekommunisten's work on the Venture Commune; Kevin Carson's work on peer to peer post-capitalism, Silvia Federici's work on commons and feminism, the work of Donna Haraway, Parecon, Ursula Huws, and the P2P Lab Research Collective, Punk Rock and Discorniadism, among many others.

To access all these influences and more, check out the following entries:

DisCO in Seven Principles and Eleven Values

As mentioned in the section on Open Coops above, 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 Accounting and Federation.

This evolution is codified in the 7 DisCO Principles and 11 Values. Starting with the 7 Principles, the following infographic and PDF text on the DisCO Principles are extracted from The DisCO Elements.

DisCO Principles Infographic feat image.png


Click here to download an illustrated PDF on the 7 DisCO Principles. The texts on the PDF, as well as the DisCO in 7 Principles and 11 Values wiki entry, expand on the extract below with fuller explanations and practical examples.

DisCO adds seven additional principles to the original seven cooperative principles in order to reunite cooperativism with its commons origins and better prepare it for technological futures. Apart from the OG principles, the Seven DisCO Principles also intersect with other radical patterns of organization, such as Elinor Ostrom’s 8 design principles for successful commons and the 12 Permaculture principles. The uniqueness of the DisCO Principles is that they serve as guidelines for tech-savvy (but not techno deterministic or tech-dependent), highly efficient and socially and environmentally oriented organizations.

The 7 DisCO Principles

Building on the groundwork laid by movements such as Platform and Open Cooperativism], the DisCO LABS follow these principles. The principles are guidelines and each DisCO is tasked with interpreting them through Worldmaking. This means that the principles are pattern solutions to recurring problems. DisCO LABS need to adapt them to fit their own specific circumstances. Each principle title will take you to a fuller explanation of the principle:[16]

1: Put your effort where your heart is: values-based accountability


In DisCOs, production is guided not by profit but by social and environmental priorities.


2: Building whole-community governance


DisCO extends decision making and ownership to all contributors whether present in all value chains or affected by the coop’s actions.

3: Active creators of commons


New digital (code, design, documentation and best practices) and physical (productive and deliberation spaces, machinery) commons are created through various types of work.

4: Rebalancing the scale: rethinking global/local economics


Physical production is kept local while knowledge, resources and values are shared globally with other DisCOs.

5: Care work is the core


DisCOs are living entities reflecting the values of their members who need care and attention to maintain their health and the well-being of the persons working there.

6: Reimagining the origin and flows of value


Three types of value — market value, commons-creating value, and care work value — are tracked through complementary metrics.

7: Primed for federation


DisCOs replicate through a standard federation protocol that allows critical mass without regimenting all parts.

The 11 DisCO Values

The following section is, again, extracted from chapter 3 of the DisCO Elements: Principles and Values: DisCO 7-11. For more details on the 11 Values, please visit our entry on the 11 Values.

Complementary to the 7 principles, DisCOs also introduce 11 key values which, taken together, provide the framework to tackle the present challenges posed by the Covid crisis. Based on our experience, DisCOs are:

  1. ‍Balanced in culture and structure: Striking a balance between the off-chain (human) and on-chain (technological) dimensions.
  2. ‍Inclusive, relatable and educational: Prioritizing accessibility and ongoing self-development and mutual support.
  3. ‍Non-speculative or deterministic: Creating an emergent roadmap, determined by the communities that form the federation and focused on well-being and socio-environmental priorities.
  4. ‍Multilayered/holonic: Interdependent and transparent value flows. Exchanges are geared toward consensual solidarity, network resilience and mutual support.
  5. ‍Modular — but not prescriptive: Designing for economic interoperability with complementary frameworks, such as traditional and Platform Coops or the Social Solidarity Economy.
  6. ‍DLT-enabled, but not dependent: Distributed ledger and blockchain tech facilitates human to human interactions, but never pre-determine them.
  7. ‍Online or offline? Onlife! Maximizing trust, holding space for the affective dimension and putting life at the center of our economics in both digital and corporeal spaces.
  8. ‍Copyfair-Licensed: Allowing cooperatives and solidarity-based collectives (but not shareholder-profit oriented entities) to capitalize on our commons.
  9. ‍Have viable, ethical business models: Creating frameworks for economic counterpower with a strict loyalty to our pro-social guidelines.
  10. ‍Political: Prototyping post-capitalist practice-based alternatives that challenge the patriarchy, colonialism and the status quo.
  11. Fun or bust! Offering engaging and enjoyable spaces to fulfill a social mission, but never disregarding humor.

The DisCO Applications Program

This Governance Model is part of the DisCO Applications Program.[17] This is the umbrella term for forks of the original cooperative and Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) oriented version of the DisCO Governance Model.

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.ground for Housing 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.

As mentioned before, the model you are reading is version 3.5, aimed at Non-profits.


Distributed Cooperative Organization (DisCO) Governance Model V 3.5 TL - DR


This TLDR is a bare-bones version of the main characteristics of this governance model. It is also applicable to other DisCO Applications.

The only difference is the main source of capital for value distribution: When capital is mainly sourced from the provision of goods and services, we are talking about a DisCO Cooperative, Social Solidarity Economy entity or SME ( DisCO4coops). When capital is mainly sourced from philanthropic, public or crypto grants and agreements, we are talking about a DisCO NonProfit (DisCO.NP).[18]

In any case, the only divergences are limited to points 4.1 and 4.2 below. Otherwise the TLDRs for DisCO4Coops and DisCO.NPs are identical.

Here are the model's main characteristics, which can be applied as a bare-bones formula for other feminist and commons-oriented non-profits:

  1. All DisCOs exist to fulfill a well-defined social-environmental vision and care for its members and surrounding communities. A DisCO.NP has also a non-profit nature and the role of steward of their chosen mission.
  2. The DisCO.NP attracts, receives and manages Fluid Funding to perform its work and achieve its socially-oriented mission.
  3. There are four levels of participation: Casual (unpaid community contributions), DisCOlarships (partial onboarding), Dating (exhaustive onboarding, partly paid) and Committed (fully paid)
  4. In a DisCO.NP three types of work are performed to fulfill this mission
    1. Funded non-profit work and deliverables: set in collaboration with funders/donors and extended community members. AKA " Livelihood work"
    2. Unfunded non-profit work and objectives: set by the DisCO.NP members (DisCONauts). AKA " Lovework"
    3. The work of caring for the health of collective: procedures to fulfill the socio-environmental mission (including administrative work) and care for its members (including mutual support, well-being and celebration). Both facets are known as Care or "Reproductive" work
  5. The three types of work are value tracked to reward contributions accordingly. This value is paid out on a monthly basis as members' salaries, and is based on predetermined monthly liquidity [19], derived from Fluid Funding, Community Contributions and other potential sources of income. The following ratios are orientative and may vary based on member agreements:
    1. Livelihood work represents 75% of each member's monthly share.
    2. Lovework represents 25% of each member's monthly share.
    3. Carework acts as a dynamic modifier for the final monthly allocation. When members each do the same overall amount of carework, the Live and Love ratios remain unvaried. When there are imbalances they are compensated, with the members who've done the least care work compensating those who've done the most.
  6. All DisCO.NPs are living systems, shaped by their members' values and need to care for each other. Their development is based on ongoing dialogue, consent and the feminist, cooperative, peer to peer and commons-oriented ethos reflected in the Seven DisCO Principles and Eleven Values

There is a slightly longer DisCO NP Pattern Process complementary to this at the end of the document. The Pattern Process is a more thorough specification or protocol of the main adaptive patterns of a DisCO.NP. Jump to the DisCO.NP Pattern Process here.


Roles and Responsibilities

There are various levels of engagements within a DisCO Non-Profit. These correspond to the reality of our practical example for illustrating the model, DisCO.coop.

DisCO.NPs and DisCOs, in general, have been designed to be as porous as possible with the main distinction being "casual" and "committed" relationships, (think of dating).

These terms illustrate two poles for any given person wishing to engage with a DisCO. They signify the starting and endpoints of a spectrum of Relationality with casual being the least involved and committed the most. This spectrum also includes increasing levels of responsibility. Responsibility in a DisCO is understood as the inherent "Gift and Responsibility" of any mature Commons. Read more about Gift and Responsibility in DisCOs.

There are two additional "bridging states" between the Casual/Committed poles, which we will also be looking at.

Here is a basic overview of what these terms mean and how they relate in a DisCO.NP before breaking them down in more detail:


Casual vs Committed DisCO Relationships at a Glance

Casual Relationships

Casual Relationships function more like commons-based peer production projects, such as Wikipedia, Firefox, GIMP or the VLC video player. Contributors add value to the DisCO.NP through permissionless contributions, which are validated after the fact (post-hoc). In DisCO.coop's case, those contributions involve creating accessible cultural, legal and technological resources to build more DisCOs.

Everybody is welcome to become a contributor, but contributions will only be incorporated into the DisCO.NP's knowledge base through committed team members' validation and approval.

Additionally, paid work in the non-profit is not offered to casual contributors, and pro-bono work doesn't yield payments. The latter is always accounted for, as casual members may choose to become committed members in time.

Beyond Contributors, there is another type of casual relationship with a lesser level of responsibility: Supporters.

Committed Relationships

Committed Relationships work more like a traditional Commons, with clearly established boundaries, governance protocols and accountability mechanisms.

A committed relationship is also akin to a worker-owned cooperative: an initial investment is expected, the members look after each other, and depend on shared trust among themselves.

Committed members are de facto worker-owners and main stakeholders of a DisCO.NP (think of it as their day job) while assuming the responsibility of maintaining the pro-bono/commons-producing side. In DisCO.coop, the committed members are called "DisCONAUTs". [20]

DisCOLarships and DisCO Dating (or how to get from Casual to Committed)

How does a potential DisCONaut make the journey from Casual to Committed? There are two ways:

1 DisCOLarships: Where individuals regularly "visit" the DisCO.NP to learn about DisCO culture and structure in the real world, get to know the people, etc. There are minimal responsibilities and the DisCOLar is free to start their own DisCO afterward or join the same DisCO they have trained in.

2 The DisCO Dating Phase: Where potential members make a firm commitment to go through the DisCO.NP's mentoring and training program in order to become committed members or DisCONauts. There are considerable and consented-upon responsibilities on part of the DisCO Dating Member and the DisCO-NP itself during this process.

These are not necessarily separate processes: A DisCOlarship may evolve into a DisCO Dating Phase. This will depend on the DisCO.NP's needs and its members' availability. [21] DisCOlarships are designed so people can familiarize themselves with the model and go on to create their own separate DisCOs.

Likewise, persons who haven't gone through a DisCOlarship may be invited to undertake the DisCO Dating Phase directly. Of course, someone who has been through a DisCOlarship will then find the Dating Phase easier and faster to complete successfully, but it is not a requirement.

The DisCO Journey

To recap:

  • We have distinguished two main domains: Casual and Committed.
  • "Casual" means little responsibility. These are no-strings-attached relationships for mutual benefit.
    • There are two types of Casual Relationship: Supporters (Very casual interactions) and Contributors (More active interactions and actual contributions to the DisCO.NP and its mission).
  • "Committed" signifies a stated commitment of responsibility to the DisCO.NP and its members.
  • Those wanting to progress from Casual to Committed have two options:
    • DisCOLarships (practical DisCO training with no firm expectation of joining the DisCO).
    • DisCO Dating: Intense mentoring program for applicants to join the DisCO where they are being mentored.

DisCO Journey Dark4.png

This one possible DisCO Journey. In others people may remain in one circle, or go through a DisCOlarship and start their own separate DisCO, etc.

As mentioned before, these types of membership reflect increasing stages of relationality and responsibility.

The further along the path to committed membership, the closer the relationality within, and care work towards, the DisCO and its members. Responsibilities increase, as do rewards.

Let's take a closer look at each stage in this journey.


Supporters involve casual relationships with minimal responsibilities

People who want to engage with the DisCO but are not interested or suited for its Livelihood, Love or Care work value streams are referred to as “Supporters”. A Supporter helps ensure that the DisCO succeeds in accomplishing its mission while remaining true to its values.

What do supporters do?

Supporter contributions can include, but are not limited to:

  • Evangelizing about the DisCO.NP (e.g., sharing its work on social media, word-of-mouth awareness-raising, etc.)
  • Providing feedback: informing the collective of strengths and weaknesses from a new perspective. This can help keep the DisCO.NP accountable to its mission and values.
  • Providing moral support, including simple acknowledgment (a ‘thank you’ goes a long way).
  • Participating in open discussions: commenting on ongoing work and in forums.
  • Help the DisCO:NP secure Fluid Funding or for paid consultancy work: Supporters can identify potential funding sources coherent with the DisCO:NP's values and provide introductions.
  • Providing earned income: Any individual or entity who contracts the DisCO.NP for paid consulting work is also considered a supporter.
  • Supporting the DisCO.NP monetarily: This includes all non-funded or consultancy income which could include donations, subscriptions (eg. Open Collective, Web Monetization) material support, etc.

Supporters can, for example, engage with DisCO.coop through email or social media, but preferably through an open Loomio group or Community Calls for that purpose. In time, strategies can be studied to use Loomio groups for polls, etc.

This follows a general pattern of ensuring that the Committed/Commons-stewardship side has sufficient momentum and resiliency. Once achieved, more resources could be allocated to the Casual/Commons-based peer production side.

What are a Supporter's responsibilities to the DisCO.NP and vice versa?

Supporters have no real responsibilities toward the DisCO, with the exception of avoiding misattribution or misrepresentation of DisCO's materials. If you are a DisCO supporter and have any doubts about misattribution or misrepresentation, please contact us.


Contributors are people who devote part of their time to create shared resources (or commons) in line with the DisCO.NP's mission.

All DisCOs are interconnected as part of THE DisCO. This is the network created by all existing DisCOs planet-wide, whether they relate economically or not. Individual DisCOs can connect directly with each other as part of DisCOVerses, which are specific DisCO Federations working together.

This level of interconnection means that anyone who's part of any individual DisCO, no matter the the type of DisCO Application, is considered to be contributing to the overall DisCO mission. These contributions, however, can be more direct or indirect. From here on we will look at direct contributions to an individual DisCO.NP

What do Contributors do?

Following our example of DisCO.coop, a contributor would be someone who helps out any of the DisCO.NP's Working Circles fulfill their mission.[22] For example, imagine an artist who decides to create some artwork for DisCO.coop's Stories section. Or that, after a call for help, a group of persons decide to help with coding the DisCO Deck.

Another example: Someone within DisCO.coop writes an article that needs academic references and copyediting, but the Research and Storytelling and Documentation Circles are not available to respectively carry out these tasks. Colleague researchers and copyeditors are contacted and they carry out these tasks which, again, add to DisCO.coop's commons.

All of these are considered Casual Contributions. These help fulfill DisCO.coop's mission, but they are not undertaken by the DisCO's members (whether Committed, Dating, etc) but by outside peers.

The key here is that the people in question are qualified professionals or people with demonstrable skills to contribute in any of these areas (Artwork, code, research, copyediting). As care work is the core, we'd also want these individuals to have an existing, ongoing relationship with DisCO.coop. They, however, may not have any interest in joining DisCO.coop (or DisCO.coop cannot host them as DisCOlars or DisCO Dating Members at the time).

What are a contributor's responsibilities to the DisCO.NP and vice versa?

Not many. In fact they are the same as the minimal responsibilities asked of Supporters: to avoid misattribution and misrepresentation of the DisCO.NPs and its materials.

The DisCO.NP, however, is not in any way obliged to accept the contribution. Using two of the examples above, if the contributed artwork or code isn't up to scratch, the DisCO.NP will reject it. QC is very important in DisCO — if we are to provide viable alternatives to the mainstream economy, we need to ensure we do stuff right, according to the individual criteria of each DisCO LAB.

Following the dating metaphor, if "we’re really not made for each other", we'll move on and no hard feelings. Casual relationships are consent-based and depend on clear communication.

A casual contributor doesn't really have to do anything for the DisCO.NP, in terms of building our support structure and using the DisCO's workflow tools, for instance. Contributors can get in touch whenever they feel like it and vice versa.

Contributors and Credits

Contributors need to be aware that they don't have priority over Committed or Dating members of the DisCO.NP, and that they won't be immediately or ever be compensated for any of their contributions. A casual relationship is based on a respectful coincidence of wants and needs. The DisCO.NP will, however, ask the contributor to roughly value their contribution. (If you want to know why straight away, jump to this subsection).

For casual relationships, we don't expect the level of value-tracking we will explain in the Contribution Tracking section below. In a worker-owned DisCO cooperative, such as Guerrilla Translation[23] or, indeed, any DisCO coop providing goods and services, it is much easier to record contributions according to grade and measure. If you're not familiar with those terms, it basically means "quantity and quality". These factors are often determined by the DisCO Cooperative's pricing structure. In the Guerrilla Translation/Media Collective model, for example, grade and measure are determined through wordcount.

DisCO.NPs however are different animals. Non-profit work is not as easy to quantify as cooperative or SME work as, apart from consultancy work, there are no prices or goods and services to be offered. DisCO.NPs like the DisCO Mothership use Time Tracking. This is an involved procedure necessarily requiring extensive Mentoring and a level of involvement beyond what is expected out of a casual relationship. This is why casual contributions are measured roughly in conjunction with the contributors.

Based on the four examples given above, this is what this could look like:

  • Asking the artist how much they would charge a client for such an artwork. Or how long it took them.
  • Asking the coders how many lines of code they contributed and how long it took them
  • The same applies more or less to the researchers and copyeditors.

As you can see, all these inquiries are based on simple conversation and common sense. Once we are agreed on what the rough value is, the members of the DisCO.NP track casual contributions in the DisCO DECK, our value tracking program.

Why do we track the value of casual contributions?

It has to do with our commitment to making invisible work tangible and an integral part of our conversations on what we do with our time and productive energies. This information, rough as it may be, can serve several purposes:

  • If the Casual Contributor is selected for a DisCOLarship or invited to join the DisCO.NP through a Dating Phase, their credits will be accounted for and, in the case of becoming a Committed Member, divested (more on these terms later).
  • If the Casual Contributor decides to start their own DisCO, their tracked contributions can be transferred via DisCO Ley Lines and converted into invested historical credits.
  • This information helps us track the size and share of THE DisCO's economic dimensions

In general, casual contributions can be seen as rough latent value which can be articulated at a later date (or not).


ADD MENTION OF INTRA DisCO exchange and link to DisCOVerse



What happens in the DisCOlarship?


What are a DisCOlar's responsibilities to the collective and vice versa?


DisCOlarship Credits


The DisCO Dating Phase


Those wishing to become committed members need to go through a process known as “dating”. Divided into three progressive stages, the Dating Phase is characterized by supportive mentoring and increasing levels of responsibility and reward.

The roles reflect levels of engagement and responsibility in ascending order. Committed Members (or, DisCONauts) are entrusted with caring for the health of the collective and its members, while rewards are proportional to the work and sweat equity investment in the Non Profit, not based on status or overpay (within the committed side, pay ratio is 1:1). Jump here for a more detailed explanation of Committed Relationships.

DisCO.NP. Applicant Evaluation Criteria and Procedures

Each DisCO.NP will have its own criteria for evaluating dating members. These will vary depending on the NP's mission, values, needs, budget and team composition.

In the DisCO Mothership we have very direct and explicit requirements. These have been informed buy both good and bad experiences. What we want to convey is that Dating is a big investment, both for the Dating member and the DisCO.NP itself.

Like in any relationship, we recommend that you don't date any time wasters. A DisCO can be a delicate endevour and it is essential that you keep yourselves safe to ensure that care work continues apace. You can find the DisCO Motherships requirements in the following Wiki entry:

DisCOnaut Qualifications Requirements and Vibe

Here are some highlights:

  • Required reading of all introductory DisCO materials
  • Availability for Love and Carwork (not just livelihood) and working grasp of this governance model
  • Signing of Commitment Statement and agreement to enter the Dating Phase
  • Explicit shared values (anti racism, feminism, etc)
  • The typical stuff you'd be asked for in any normal job (punctuality, quick learning skills, etc)
  • Explicit time and availability commitments
  • Clarity on payments and compensation
  • Clarity that vibe trumps all other considerations. Weird vibe: no DisCO Dating [24]

Like all of the DisCO Blocks there's no one size fits all solution. ll DisCO NPs need to develop, discuss and experiment with their membership criteria to see what works best.

Once a DisCO.NP is clear on its applicant evaluation criteria, it can put out a call for candidates. It is, of course, always preferable to have a prior relationship with these persons, whether it's through casual, Satellite of Love or DisColarships. Prior work in other DisCOs will always make certain candidates more attractive than others, but this shouldn't be an impediment for new people to learn about DisCOs by doing.

The Commitment Statement


DisCO Dating phase and basic responsibilities


Stage One


Stage Two


Stage Three


Being a DisCONaut


The DisCONauts are persons who have successfully completed all stages of the DisCO Dating Phase and have been voted in by all existing Committed Members.

A fully committed relationship with the DisCO.NP balances commons-based responsibilities towards the organization with abundant personal flexibility.

What do DisCONauts do?


What are a DisCONaut's responsibilities to the DisCO.NP and vice versa?


What do DisCONauts get out of a committed relationship?


As this section doesn't go into DisCOnaut credits, link to the section on value tracking etc.

Working in a DisCO.NP


DisCO.NP board and Community Algorithmic Trust


Care Work


Caring for the health of the DisCO.NP


Caring for the health of the DisCO.NP's members


Working Circles


Community Rhythms


Sabbaticals and Holidays


Graduated Sanctions


Non Competition Clause


Overcapacity and contracting outside the DisCO.NP


DisCO Satellites of Love


Federation Protocol

PLACEHOLDER/PENDING. Federation Protocol in GMC

Leaving the DisCO.NP


DisCO Ley Lines


Contribution Tracking

Discussion and text in progress

Fluid Funding


Determining Net Available Liquidity


"Available Liquidity" means whatever the DisCO.NP has determined as a monthly allocation based on its fungible budget.

Decision Making

Discussion and text in progress

Pattern Process and Conclusion

Thanks for bearing with us! To close out the governance model, we present a more thorough version of the TLDR, as well as a conclusion. If you have any questions or are inspired to create your own DisCO, please contact us. We'd love to hear from you!

DisCO.NP Pattern Process

This list complements and expands on the TLDR in the Overview section. We use the name "Pattern Process" because:

  • Each individual DisCO is a Commons, defined as "Living Systems to Meet Shared Needs" [25]
  • Specific federations of DisCOs and all DisCOs worldwide are extended, complex living systems. They are Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP) processes made up of individual commons (the individual DisCOs) in collaboration with each other.
  • Both dimensions (Individual "DisCO Commons" and CBPP-BASED DisCO Federations use patterns, not blueprints. For a deeper overview into this differentiation, read the following footnote: [26].
  • As with the TLDR, these patterns will vary among individual DisCOs and DisCO Federations. What they'll have in common lies in each DisCO's fulfillment of the Seven DisCO Principles. The more the merrier, we say!

Pattern Process


  1. The DisCO Non-Profit (or DisCO.NP) receives Fluid Funding to perform socially-oriented, pro-bono and paid work.
  2. Pro-bono work (aka "Lovework") creates relationships and social capital which (can) lead to funded work.
  3. Funded work (aka "Livelihood Work") allows the DisCO.NP to fulfill its social mission, which is specified in DisCO Principle 1: Values-based Accountability and carried out according to the full 7 DisCO Principles. [27].
  4. Both forms of work are tallied into credits.
  5. Net Available Liquidity is distributed to fulfill members' shares, allocated as: Paid (75%) and Pro-bono (25%), which can be adapted to a specific DisCO's needs and idiosyncrasies.
  6. Care and reproductive work is valued as highly as productive work and, in case of imbalance, even more highly. "Care" means caring for the health of the collective and also caring for its individual members.
  7. Liquidity derived from Fluid Funding may vary greatly according to consented Fluid Funding Relationships but members’ credits accrued are stable.
  8. Donations and additional liquidity beyond Fluid Funding economic predictions are used to accelerate pro-bono credit payment.
  9. There are four levels of participation:
    1. Casual/unpaid (commons-based peer production);
    2. DisCOlarships (Partial onboarding process with very few strings attached);
    3. Dating/partly paid (Commons/DisCO.NP onboarding process); and
    4. Committed/paid (Commons and DisCO.NP full membership and rights).
  10. Casual members have no responsibilities and Committed members review their work for inclusion, or not.
  11. DisCOlarship members have very basic responsibilities and Committed members review their work for inclusion, or not.
  12. Dating members have ongoing responsibilities (Live and care work) during a flexible trial period before mutual decisions are made about becoming Committed. They are peer mentored by the collective and continually evaluated.
  13. Committed members have ongoing responsibilities (pro-bono and care work), evaluated quarterly. Members unable to maintain these are downgraded from the DisCO.NP.
  14. All 3 types of value are valued in time and entrusted selectively by committed members.
  15. Decision making is made by consent. Committed members' votes are binding.
  16. Reproductive care work and productive pro-bono and paid work affect each member's standing and payout in the DisCO.NP as seen in their total credits over time.



Links and Resources

Discussion and text in progress

  1. Click here to meet the humans involved.
  2. You can read more about Guerrilla Media Collective's History and how it morphed into DisCO in chapter 4 of the DisCO Manifesto: Punk Elegance: The Story of Guerrilla Translation and the Guerrilla Media Collective. The DisCO Manifesto is currently only available as a PDF download but, in due time, each chapter will be presented as stand-alone blog posts. GMC's version of the model (3.0).
  3. The DisCO Foundation is currently being created in collaboration with Mondragon University and the Platform Cooperativism Consortium.
  4. Suffering from acronym exhaustion already? Check out NASA's!. This link is limited to the ones beginning with "a". Seriously though, the DAP contains DisCO Governance solutions for all types of organizations.
  5. Guerrilla Translation is a DisCO Node of Guerrilla Media Collective.
  6. These three terms are further explained below.
  7. If, after clicking on a page-jump link, you want to return to the previous section, simply press the back key in your browser.
  8. This wiki is constantly being updated, so all of the content of these links will evolve over time.
  9. The next version of the Governance model 4.0 will be organized with drop-down sections, making it much easier to enjoy your reading experience and eliminate unnecessary sections for your group's own DisCO Experience.
  10. The DisCO 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
  11. Read What are P2P and the Commons, and how do they relate? For more info.
  12. More information in [More information in What is Open Cooperativism?. What is Open Cooperativism?].
  13. More information in the P2P Foundation Wiki’s entry on P2P Accounting.
  14. For a layperson’s introduction to Feminist Economics, see the Women’s Budget Group’s excellent resources.
  15. DisCO is not currently affiliated in any way with the current P2P Foundation.
  16. For a fuller breakdown of these principles, either download the PDF, read the DisCO Elements or visit the DisCO in 7 Principles and 11 Values entry.
  17. The name is based on the Apollo Applications Program. Nixon decided to cancel the last three moon missions to divert funds to the Vietnam War but the hardware was used for Low Earth Orbit science and Skylab, the US's colossal first space station.
  18. We use "mainly" here, as DisCO Coops may also receive philanthropic grants. Similarly, DisCOs.NPs can also offer consultancy services to accrue additional capital for the DisCO.NP social mission and its contributors.
  19. "Liquidity" refers to the income at the DisCO.NP's disposal at any given time
  20. In fact, any committed member of any type of DisCO (whether 4coops, NP, Earth etc.) can refer to themselves as DisCONauts. The name is currently being used by the DisCO.NP committed members, but we hold no exclusive claim on it.
  21. As we'll see below, DisCOlarships shouldn't be ruled by an expectation of joining the DisCO offering them. Committed membership is always determined by committed members and the Federation Protocol.
  22. Working Circles are DisCO’s way of dividing up tasks and focusing efforts on thematic areas, each with its own membership and team stewards. You can read more about Working Circles here or in the sections below.
  23. Guerrilla Translation is a DisCO_Glossary#DisCO_Node node of Guerrilla Media Collective
  24. This not exclusionary from a systemic point of view. There are plenty of workplaces catering to other, perhaps more traditional or, in our view, truly exclusionary or damaging values. What we cannot have is forced relationships which can be damaging to either part
  25. There are many complementary and non-excuslive definitions of the commons. This one was inspired by Chapter One of David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free Fair and Alive.
  26. The following text is extracted from chapter One of David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free Fair and Alive:

    Explaining the commons with the vocabulary of capital, business, and standard economics cannot work. It is like using the metaphors of clockworks and machines to explain complex living systems. To learn how commons actually work, we need to escape deeply rooted habits of thought and cultivate some fresh perspectives.

    This task becomes easier once we realize that there is no single, universal template for assessing a commons. Each bears the distinctive marks of its own special origins, culture, people, and context. Yet there are also many deep, recurrent patterns of commoning that allow us to make some careful generalizations. Commons that superficially appear quite different often have remarkable similarities in how they govern themselves, divide up resources, protect themselves against enclosure, and cultivate shared intentionality. In other words, commons are not standardized machines that can be built from the same blueprint. They are living systems that evolve, adapt over time, and surprise us with their creativity and scope.

    The word “patterns” as we use it here deserves a bit of explanation. Our usage derives from the ideas developed by architect and philosopher Christopher Alexander in his celebrated 1977 book A Pattern Language — ideas that are further elaborated on in his four-volume masterwork, The Nature of Order, the result of twenty-seven years of research and original thinking. Alexander and his co-authors brilliantly blend an empirical scientific perspective with ideas about the formative role of beauty and grace in everyday life and design, resulting in what we would call “enlivenment.”17

    In Alexander’s view, a pattern describes “a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”18 In other words, patterns-thinking and solutions based on it are never decontextualized, nor disconnected from what we think and feel. We suggest looking closely at the underlying patterns of thriving social processes for inspiration while keeping in mind that a successful commons cannot be copied and pasted. Each must develop its own appropriate localized, context-specific solutions. Each must satisfy practical needs and deeper human aspirations and interests.

  27. Although highly recommended, the 11 DisCO Values are more subjective and less critical to the basic DisCO Framework