democratically organised open-source organisation.

hello to anyone reading this.

i want to create a democratically organised organisation… those are a lot of buzzwords and even i do not know what they mean. i am hoping someone can give me any advice on what i’m trying to achieve… are there any examples out there i am able to study? i would like advice on the direction i can take my side-project to align my projects goals to what potential end-users want?

i am a software developer and i do not understand much about businesses and organisations. this seems to make it very difficult for me to find out more information about what i am trying to achieve. i have tried searching “open source business model”, but all i could find out was things about was advice on running companies from the perspective of some kind of CEO-type figure.

i was optimistic enough to think i could finish it by myself, but it seems that to create the project that i am trying to, is too much for one person… or at least too much for me to do by myself.

as a result of personal effort, i have made several functioning components for the project and i remain passionate about my side project. i am wondering what my options would be to be able to continue my project as open source.

while open source will allow for other developer to be able to work on the project with me, i am not interested in any particular help from the software development perspective (the main purpose of the project was to challenge me as a developer)… my main difficulty with this project is the organisational aspect. i have no idea what i am doing when it comes to business, legal etc (basically “things-that-aren’t-software-development”).

i thought maybe i can create some kind of blog that i kept up-to-date as the project progresses. i can add some commenting feature so i can get public feedback on the direction that i am working towards.

i have made a start at: … but this is a new method of working for me and i do not know anything about working this way.

i could use any advice/ideas anyone is able to give. thanks.

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The post above was automatically held for moderation with the message:

New user typed their first post suspiciously fast, suspected bot or spammer behavior.

The content of the post above has been taken from here:

The domain name was registered on 2015-12-19 and the related GitHub repos haven’t seen any activity for a year:

I have let it through the moderation queue in order to give @xoron the benefit of the doubt…

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well the question looks legit to me! :wink:

Hi @xoron - I will presume you are not a bot!

Yes - there are some great examples out there… we have highlighted many of these at our OPEN 2017 and OPEN 2018 conferences… you might also want to read about platform co-ops and other example from Ours to Hack and Own

We’ll be discussing how to make more democratically organised organisations at OPEN 2019 in London at the end of the month… in conjunction with people from DGOV

Hope that helps?



thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt… i am not a bot… as mentioned in the post i have been working on my project privately for a while and i didnt want to pay for a github private repo (github free private repos came about since the recent microsoft aquisition).

most of my work is on bitbucket (as private repos).

that being said… @olisb those links seem like good food for thought.

thanks for the help.

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Are you based in the UK? I’m asking as we on this forum are best placed to suggest UK legal forms for co-ops since we are mostly based in the UK.

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@chris im not based in the UK, but please tell me more. can you tell me what “legal forms” implies? or how i can find out more?

I don’t know about the situation in other counties but for the UK the simply legal guide is probably the best starting place:

Two suggestions that are international, for software I’m of the view that the GPL (or AGPL) represents the best terms to release software code under:

Generally to be a co-op you only need to agree to the seven international principals (for example to qualify for a .coop domain name):


Hi @xoron glad you’re not a bot!

@chris makes some great suggestions.

And for your challenge of how to organise people (as opposed to create a structure or legal form) a good thing to look up might be ‘Sociocracy’, which is a form of democracy. And one which tries to avoid some of the pitfalls of conventional styles of democracy (like voting).

I’d suggest starting with but a search will turn up a whole host of other resources too

I am sure Open 2019 will be great too. I am expect there will be materials posted from it?

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thanks. i can look into this.

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@PeteBurden thanks. it seems to be an interesting concept i have never heard of before.

the wikipedia entry for this seems very good. would you say you agree?( this seems like a very interesting idea. it seems further reading is still be required

i can see an example as recent as 1980 in the wikipedia entry… but would you be able to provide any modern-day example? i think technology should play a large part of my project and technology has progressed significantly since 1980.

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Hi all! Very interesting and timely conversation!

We are researching ways to change societal norms and would like input (co-research even) from the broadest scope as possible:

It would be great to hear from you!

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@xoron I would add to all this good advice that you are not alone in looking for a democratic organised organisation. Some of us have been on that quest for more than a decade!

I won’t begin to try to summarise all I have learned - you will have to go on your own quest and see where it leads you. I just want to offer three thoughts: 1) democracy means different things to different people, so try to work out what it means to you. You may actually prefer “sociocracy” (which for my money is more democratic than what we typically think of as democracy). 2) remember that an organisation is made up of many things, including a legal form (eg company, partnership or club), a set of rules (that may make it a coop, or a charity, or a for-profit or even something else), a set of processes and habits, and of course a mix of people. All of these affect and interact with the structure. 3) there is no such thing as the right structure - since people, and contexts and needs and aims differ widely. What I have also noticed is that the “right structure” for your organisation, if such thing exists, will change as the organisation evolves. So whatever you chose, allow the strong possibility that you will need to change it radically more than once as it goes through its life.

have fun!


Hi @xoron - there are useful organisations and resources in most parts of the world that can help you. It sounds like you are currently pretty much working on this project alone. In your position I would begin to reach out - just you have done with this post - to begin to find some others with an interest in your project who may be interested to work with you to help take it forward. That initial group can pretty easily organise itself in a democratic way.

If you want to be able to handle money - accepting donations to your project and covering expenses - you could use a tool like Open Collective as a way to do this openly without needing a bank account. One of the cooperatives I work with - Platform 6 - operates as a host on the Open Collective platform, and we would be open to assisting your project if it wants to be aligned with cooperative values and principles. More at

We’ve also got a set of potentially useful resources that might be helpful to you at

It’s really only when you want to move things to a more formal setting - like setting up a business - that things get more involved. At that point you’ll need to identify a suitable legal structure - and that will in large part be defined by where you want that business to be based as legal frameworks differ around the world.

Tools like sociocracy can be really useful, but they aren’t essential in order to get started. Along with others on this thread, I’d be happy to help where I can with any questions you might have.


Quite right Graham - things like Sociocracy aren’t at all essential in getting started. And, yes, finding some people to cooperate with is probably the best thing to start with, and the best way to learn.

It is also probably easier to start off as you mean to continue - easier to adopt a sociocratic or other more democratic way of doing things at the start than to try to introduce it later when the habits are already established!


hello @thread. this all seems to be excellent advice. however due to other commitments, i am unable to work further to document the project i am talking about.

while this feedback suggests interest in my project (more than nothing). im going to continue to work on it and document it along the way on my blog as mentioned in the post body.

these concepts of organisations are very useful to learn. i think i need to document the project further before i can identify anywhere i should improve.