Friday, April 26, 2013

InterTwinkles the Co-op Startup Fund and clustered decision making

All of us who have ever been part of a group decision know that it can be a big challenge to reach consensus. If the issue is small enough we have lots of tools to help us reach an agreement: short e-mails, quick informal chats, short phone calls, and so on. When it comes to larger or more complicated decisions,  if they require the input of everyone in the group these tools become mostly useless. This makes asynchronous decision making at best strained and at worst impossible.

This is where the Co-op Startup Fund comes in. Last year the Boston Collective House Assembly began trying to come up with the outline for a loan fund that would help to fund the formation of new co-ops. They did most of the discussion  in person, with asynchronous communication delegated to e-mail and wiki editing, and in May of last year that discussion petered out. This isn't surprising to me.

I can't count the number of times I've had similar experiences, where the medium for discussion makes it impossible to come communicate effectively.

As soon as a topic gets too big to put in the first paragraph of an e-mail, or as soon as the discussion gets heated enough, I find myself staring at my inbox with dread as the little number next to the reply count continues to tick up and up. From how often these sorts of things get resolved, I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. Most of the time discussion gets pushed off to the next in person meeting, or delegated to a single person to take charge of, but these solutions aren't always feasible. Some co-ops meet less than once a month, and sometimes there's no one with the time to take full responsibility for a big decision.

As Charlie mentioned in his previous blog post, there are many reasons why he's interested in decision making tools, especially when it comes to coordinating a single group. But the bigger and more disparate the group the more useful the tools become.

So here's where InterTwinkles comes in, and how it grows from a group decision making platform to a clustered one. We're hoping to get lots of co-ops involved in using and perfecting the tools on their own in their regular meetings and decisions. Some of these tools are new, and still quite rough around the edges, and we need people to give us good feedback on how well they work.

Thus empowered with these tools we aim to re-ignite the conversation about the Co-op Startup Fund. The participating groups should now be familiar with how the tools work and should be able to jump right in to making and adapting proposals. Our hope is that not only will we learn a lot about how these tools can help facilitate group decision making, but we'll provide the platform that the Co-op Startup Fund needs to get out of the discussion phase and become a reality.

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