Anarchism — Replaces involuntary central authorities with Free Association, where the members choose the association and the association chooses the members, and, where it is practical to leave an association and to join or create a new association.
What if a hackerspace was organized to be a container for holding other subspaces? It could function something like Amazon Web Services or a hypervisor running several operating systems at once. Instead of defining everything that goes on in the space for everyone, the container space could focus on creating rules for general membership and for sharing resources such as subleases and purchasing shared equipment. They could operate with the goal of being something like the best imaginable landlord for hackerspace activities.
Any member could be allowed to create a subspace. Subspaces could sublease part of the physical space or operate in a virtual way. Each subspace, virtual or not, would have easy access to web resources for organizing their subspace as well as access to community managed space and equipment.
Each member would have some portion of their dues given to them each month that they could assign to any collection of subspaces holding subleases that they like. The percent of dues that are made discretionary would simply be equal to the percentage of the container space that is currently being subleased. The subspaces could use the discretionary funds they receive to pay rent or other non-profit expenses. When they wish to make a purchase, they would submit a purchase order to the container space that could be reviewed to ensure that the purchase is for some approved nonprofit purpose. Any equipment or materials purchased by a subspace would be managed by that subspace and stored in the subspace’s sublease unless other arrangements were made.
Spaces that are all ready full of stuff could simply mark the spaces to be subleased and not remove the various stuff until after a particular subspace leases. You may wish to mark a general region of the space that can be broken down into subleases for a particular price per square foot (you know we should should be using meters!).
Any items that are purchased with member dues would become the container space’s property, and the subgroup that purchased the item would become the manager of the item by default. Subspaces could raise funds and acquire items in addition to those they acquire through the membership dues they receive. Any items acquired in these ways would not become the property of the container space. QR coded stickers could be used to indicate which items are container space property and which are not. The QR codes could also encode URLs that lead to instructions for how to properly access the equipment or materials — including things like ownership records, usage logs, costs, safety procedures, parties to contact for permission, and requisite training. If the item is too small to QR code, it’s home resting place could be QR coded instead.
Any subspace that subleases space would need to make a statement about what they intend to contribute to the non-profit purpose of the group. The subspaces must provide something to everyone — this would work similar to a gift economy, where each subleased space offers something to the entire community free of charge. Examples include: purchasing and managing a piece of equipment, maintaining a supply of materials, hosting guest speakers, and offering a special class. Subspaces that are found to not be contributing to the group may have their right to receive dues and subleases challenged through a referendum of all members. Perhaps they could be given a probationary period to reform before their right to subleases and discretionary dues is withdrawn.
This is a form of anarchist participatory budgeting that distributes the tasks of purchasing and managing shared property. It also reflects collectivization of the land and how one should do something that benefits the entire community in some way when one uses a piece of land in an exclusionary way. This system should work against the space becoming too static and it gives every member a chance to go through the process of starting their own subspace. It is less rivalrous in terms of personal development and opportunities to influence what happens at the space based on one’s own designs. The members are enabled to leave, fork, merge, and initiate new subspaces. Having access to a discretionary portion of their dues, space to rent, web resources and commons areas works towards these goals. Subgroups can also co-federate amongst each other in anyway they like. A collection of subspaces might co-federate to do things like sublease a part of the space, offer a special piece of equipment, or host a special event.
If we allow subspaces to set any rules they like for membership it would prefigure free association in an anarchist post-capitalist society, however, I would vote for allowing the container space to shut down any group determined to be a hate group using a referendum of the members.
When people self-organize into a collection of voluntary groups they tend to follow whatever rules the group comes up with for itself and they tend to be more enthusiastic. Imagine a building full of enthusiastic founders of voluntary subspaces that feel personally invested in making the overall space a success.
When voting inside a subspace, or as a plenary group of the container space, the following consensus building procedure could be applied.
Voters are allowed to do one of the following:
1. Agree and consent to the outcome.
2. Disagree and consent to the outcome.
3. Abstain and consent to the outcome.
4. Block and not consent to the outcome.
Block is interesting because it indicates that the person will not accept any outcome that the voting procedure may lead to.
They are in-effect saying:
“If the vote goes a particular way then I will leave this association with my share of the resources and attempt to get others to follow me”.
All other votes indicate that they will continue to cooperate with the association whatever the outcome of the vote.
Method For Splitting A Free Association
If a Free Association’s members should decide they have reached an impasse, how can the collectively owned property be equitably distributed between the communities that result from the split? The following technique may be helpful.
If there is only a small percent of the members that would like to leave the association, then those that leave could receive nothing or a reasonable cash payment made in installments (this could be in the form of the discretionary dues that can only be used for non-profit purposes). This should be agreed to at the time the member joins or consented to explicitly by the members should the policy change. If a member decides to leave because of a proposed change to this policy, they should be compensated under the previously agreed to arrangement.
If a large percent of the members wish to leave, then an auction could help determine the distribution of the shared resources. The threshold needed to trigger an auction should be explicitly stated in the association’s policy. How should the auction be conducted? Here are a few useful techniques for ensuring a fair process.
1. The items are auctioned off in a random order that is determined during the auction such that the order is indeterminate before the auction.
2. An assessment of the value of the shared property is made and each faction is assigned a portion of the value in proportion to the number of members in their faction. Instead of a simple per-capita split of the resources it may be more desirable to track and calculate how much value each member has added to the group during their time as a member by doing things like paying dues, donating equipment, and volunteering.
The amount of value that each faction has during the auction is calculated by adding up how much value each member of that faction is entitled to. The portion that is to be allocated to each faction can be distributed by making a simple entry in an accounting registry or by distributing actual tokens. If both parties should run out of money to spend during the auction, then a new round of money can be distributed using the ratios that were used in the initial round.
3. Each faction is allowed to deliberate on the bid they make for each item. A closed auction where the participants submit a single bid and where high bid wins may often be a simple effective arrangement. An interactive auction could also be done where the group has time to deliberate about the minimum and maximum bid they are willing to make on each item as it is brought up for auction.
In addition to splitting apart and merging, groups may often wish to maintain their independence while coming together for particular limited purposes. The appropriate tool in these cases is “Co-Federation”, where distinct subspaces form a voluntary association where any of the member subspaces can unilaterally withdraw. In some cases a co-federation of subspaces may be assigned equipment or take on special tasks such as hosting a particular class or regular event. Voting in the co-federation could occur by direct referendum of all members of all member subspaces or could occur with recallable delegates that are meant to represent the member subspaces. Subspaces could set their own policy for delegate voting. One recommended policy would be for the subspace to mandate to the delegate what they would like for them to vote in advance of co-federation voting. If a vote can not be taken before the delegate needs to decide a matter, then the delegate may be required to ratify any decisions they make on behalf of the subspace with the members of the subspace using whatever ratification procedure the subspace should decide upon.
In many ways a space of this type prefigures a new design for society in general. For more information about a style of anarchism that this form prefigures check out: “Enableism”.