Values-driven policy design

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Values-driven organizational policy design

Summary: Introductions, framing, discussion


FreeGeek Chicago Constitution

  • Consensus based leadership structure (1 block per 5 year term... or something)
  • Diverse, committed staff
  • Direct democracy community council, CC eligibility based solely on hours
  • All meetings are f2f
  • CC chooses staff people

Constitution v2.0

  • Split staff structure into paid (lots of effective power, relatively little policy power) and unpaid (advisory / keyholder status)
  • Formalize current policies (socialist pay structure, privacy policy, funding)

Statement on funding


Last summer's intern project, both times we've had massive conflict.


Free geek Chicago constitution

  • Have a community council governance structure
  • There are other free-geek orgs in portland, twin cities
  • No overarching structure for all free geek structures
  • Been around for 6 years
  • Operate on consensus process
  • Block - nuclear option - can use once in the career of the blocker
  • Agreement that everyone can live with
  • Every stakeholder must be at each meeting
  • Face-to-face meetings
  • volunteer 35 hours - you get a vote. Count renews quarterly (or within the past 3 months)
  • Created the constitution from frustration from grand-funded nonprofits
  • Learn how to take apart and build up and fix computers, ethical recycling. get credit for volunteering to spend towards getting a computer
  • Have a statement on funding. Incentive structure of your funding really matters. Part of the outcome was setting the bar very high for foundation funding.
  • Someone else decides priorities
  • Fundraising is hard work
  • Funding can obscure failure, due to having no chance to fail
  • Can be hard to get rid of them
  • Funding is an exchange. Somebody wants something from you. Always strings attached
  • Funders often follows trends


  • who provides funding?
  • plans for when runs out
  • how can funding protect org structure


  • all funding approved by community process
  • transparency in what funding you get and how
  • set limits on how much % funding your org can have
  • Funders sign a memorandum of understanding - abide by all decisions made by community council and all communication will be public
  • Sell computers
  • Biggest cost is recycling (20k this year, $50-80k next)
  • funding comes from our own grassroots campaigns
  • Were offered interns (a form of funding)
  • Certain strings attached
  • Raised our own money to take on our own intern
  • Could we do collective borrowing?
    • Creating a bunch of co-signers to sign for a loan
  • We are a 501c3 - but board is on paper only - not involved in daily governance at all
  • Examples of where policies have saved an org?
    • Most people write policy too late
  • Large distinction between grant funders, individual funders, and grassroots funding
  • Causa Justa :: Just Cause example around grassroots funding - that structure means that they can't abandon their mission and have to meet their member goals
    • Use volunteers for grassroots fundraising - get read on involvement, remind them of the work they are doing
    • Inside funding
  • Free Geek doesn't do fundraising like that due to capacity issues
  • Earmark money for ethical recycling for funding. Taking money for those sorts of programs seem like they work for us.
  • Free Geek hasn't done much internal funding. I think it would be helpful.
  • It might work doing a gentle ask for fundraising
  • Had an intern that sent out thank you cards
  • Allow other kinds of contributions
  • Automated process of asking for funds - ask with the intention that you are going to hear no - surprised by how many people say yes
  • Ask people who have given money before
  • People get paid the same amount - people are into the flat hourly rate or two salary brackets
  • A lot of our capacity goes to finding good hardware to refurbish
  • Board members should give enough to make them feel invested
  • Talk about fundraising as resource mobilization - allows us to value more than just cash
  • We are going to require that people come to a couple CC meetings before they can vote