DisCO Glossary

From DisCO Beta Ball Wiki
Revision as of 10:06, 12 July 2023 by Stacco (talk | contribs) (→‎Convivial Tools)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search


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 Journey. 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 have a sense of shared 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.

How to Use this Glossary

The DisCO Glossary is linked-to from DisCO's website and other material for quick definitions. You are invited to read it linearly, but it's more fun to just click on the links on the page, as these are mostly internal. The page will instantly jump to another glossary entry.

If you just want the basics, please visit the Basic DisCO Terminology page. This is an entry limited to the most often used DisCO Terms.

Bear in mind that many of the glossary definitions have more thorough entries elsewhere in the wiki, as many of the entries refer to DisCO Principles and Values, and DisCO Elements. All these are clearly linked in the entries below.

Complementary Glossaries

This 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. The section on Commons Friendly Terms has been integrated with the main DisCO-sourced Core Glossary, and separate sections have been created for Keywords from a Fading Era and Misleading Binaries.

We have also incorporated and updated terms from the Key Concepts section of the Commons Transition Primer.[1]. Other glossaries and terms may be added in due time. Contact us to add your suggestions.

Core DisCO Glossary



Artivism refers to the intersection of art and activism, and is a form of expression and protest that harnesses the critical imagination to design events and strategies that provoke new questions and new meaning in pursuit of more respectful ways of being. The artivist is often involved in street art or urban art, demonstrating against advertising and the consumer society. Artivism is also found in the educational area as a new form of social commitment through innovation and artistic creation. Some of DisCO's artivist references are Colectivo Enmedio and Beautiful Trouble, which clearly inspired the visual identity of DisCO's pilot model Guerrilla Translation.

Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous Communication is communication that does not happen in real time, such as email, forums or Loomio. This type of communication tends to be more formal and organized around a specific topic than Synchronous Communication. It has a subject, context and invitation to join the discussion. Conversations happen over the course of days or weeks and can be archived as part of the collective’s long-term memory. In the DisCO Coop, most internal asynchronous communication happens over Loomio.


Beating the Bounds

Beating the Bounds describes the process by which Commoners monitor the boundaries of their Commons to protect against enclosure while celebrating their identity as a community. The term derives from an ancient English custom in which members of a community, old and young, walked the boundaries of their Commons to familiarize everyone with their land, and destroy any hedges or fences enclosing it. The perambulation was often followed by a feast.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, and oftentimes public, digital ledger consisting of records called blocks that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved block cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks. Blockchains[2] are complicated and often exclusionary artifacts. Read Chapter 1 of the DisCO Elements for a layperson's intro, explainer videos etc.


A bio-break is usually thought of as a bathroom break during a call or event, but can also be used as a time-out for other bodily needs like stretching, having something to eat or drink, breathing or a moment of rest. The structure of any meeting, on or offline, should include time for these breaks in an explicit way if the meeting is long and structured, to care for different needs. In a shorter or different context, it is helpful to make people feel safe about taking care of their needs.



Capping means setting an absolute limit to determine how much people can take from finite and depletable wealth such as land, timber, and water. Setting a cap alerts people that they may not take as much as they want, which helps avoid harm to the wealth of nature upon which a group depends. Capping was used in medieval English Commons ( Stints) as well as in contemporary global governance (the “cap-and-share” proposal as outlined in Sky Trust).

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Care is a disposition and empathetic engagement that manifests in how someone undertakes an activity, including economic ones. Care also describes elemental human activities that signify an awareness of interdependency, neediness, and relatedness as basic human conditions (See Nested-I and Ubuntu Rationality). It can be seen in raising children, nursing family members and friends, Peer Governance and Provisioning, stewarding nature, and working for the common good, among other activities. The term, which has a long history in feminist studies, recognizes the importance of decommodified work and intrinsic value, which are generally ignored or undervalued by market culture. Care is sometimes incorrectly conflated with “care jobs,” which in market contexts emphasize productivity over genuine human care. In fact, care involves a generous spending of time whereas care jobs tend to apply a time-saving logic for economic reasons.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


When people take care of forests, farmland, water, or urban spaces, these become part of their shared memory, culture, social lives, and identities. Thus when Commoners provision for themselves and interact with the world with their whole being, they are enacting a different cosmovision. They do not produce goods or commodities as rational individuals, in the manner that economists would describe. They become stewards of care-wealth — things, living systems, and relationships that are the focus of affection, care, shared experiences, and emotional attachments. The term resource invites us to regard shared wealth as something to be used, extracted, and turned into an element of an economic calculation. Care-wealth consists of affective relations with one’s everyday life and culture.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Within DisCO, Carework is any kind of work that supports the health of the collective without generating income per se. We distinguish between two mutually supporting types of carework:

Caring for your DisCO CAT

First, there is carework for the health of the collective as a system and entity (what we refer to as the DisCO CAT). This means any kind of administrative or behind-the-scenes productive work that keeps the collective running and functional.

Caring for your DisCO's Hoomans

Second, there is the carework of supporting the humans in the collective. This very important aspect of carework recognizes that every DisCO is made up of individuals who each need emotional support, understanding, special consideration and a sense of belonging and purpose.

Both of these approaches to caring for the collective are so important that they are built into the DisCO model. See DisCO Principle 5: Carework is the Core or read Chapter 6 of the DisCO Elements for more.[3]

Casual and Committed Relationships

Casual and Committed Relationships are the two main types of association an individual can have within the multi-layered membership of a DisCO.

Casual Relationships encompasses Contributors and Supporters. Contributors could be described as no-strings-attached collaborators who engage with the project through Lovework. These pro-bono contributions are, however, tracked and accounted for, as casual members might become committed members later on. Supporters’ role involves less responsibility might consist in sharing the project’s updates and spreading the word, financial aid, engaging in conversations, and/or providing emotional support, among others.

Committed Relationships are full-fledged memberships complying with clearly established boundaries, governance protocols and accountability mechanisms. Committed members are de facto worker-owners and main stakeholders of a DisCO.NP (full-time) while assuming the responsibility of maintaining the pro-bono/commons-producing side.


The Chthulucene is the conceptual frame outlined by Donna Haraway for thinking about humans and non-humans in times of heavy losses in life and quality of environment. This conceptual frame exists in contrast to the Anthropocene and Capitalocene, which are seen, in Haraway’s words, as lending themselves “too readily to cynicism, defeatism, and self-certain and self-fulfilling predictions”. In the Chthulucene, alternatively, humans are not the only important actors – they, along with other beings, are with and of the earth, and “the biotic and abiotic powers of this earth are the main story”. Etymologicallly, 'her' Chthulucene is not a reference to H. P. Lovecraft's monster Cthulhu (note the spelling difference, although they share the same unpronounceability). Rather, it conflates the Greek chthonios (of, in, or under the earth and seas) and the suffix kainos (i.e., '-cene', which signals the new, recently made).

Collaborative Finance

Collaborative Finance describes ways of financing Commons and providing structural support for Commoning while shielding these activities from the harmful influences of money and debt. A primary goal is to decommodify relationships among people and with the nonhuman world. Collaborative finance uses money and credit in such a way that commons institutions are strengthened and people feel secure and free as they become less dependent on markets. Important aspects of collaborative finance include Money-Lite Commoning, Peer-to-Peer credits, a Gentle Reciprocity in the use of money, and new Public/Commons Circuits of Finance. Historically, collaborative finance has included such models as mutual credit societies and insurance pools, cooperative finance, community-controlled microfinance, and local currencies. (See Crowdfunding).

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Commitment Statement

A DisCO Commitment Statement is a document of goals and expectations signed by all Committed Members every three months as part of the collective's quarterly evaluations. Failing to uphold the commitment statement results in graduated sanctions. The document can also serve as a quarterly self-evaluation template members can review to evaluate whether or not they have fulfilled their commitment to the collective.

Commons – Commoning – Commoner

A brief excursion into the etymology of these terms: each word connects the Latin words cum and munus. Cum (English “with”) denotes the joining of elements. Munus — which is also found in the word “municipality” — means service, duty, obligation, and sometimes gift. All terms that conjoin cum and munus, such as communion, community, communism, and, of course, communication, point to a co-obligation — a linkage between use rights, benefits, and duty. As Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval write, commons “not only designate what is pooled,” but also the Commoners themselves — “those who have ‘duties in common.’”

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Commons are often defined as any shared resource that is tended to or maintained by a community and is used subject to agreements or rules established by the same community. Public libraries or CSA (community supported agriculture) are examples of commons. For a short intro, read What are P2P and the Commons, and how do they relate?. As such, commons are living systems informed by the cultural and human and environmental realities of their participants, as well as the environments where Commoning takes place.

For a deeper dive, we recommend David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free, Fair and a Alive: the Insurgent Power of the Commons as the go-to reference on truly advanced commons-thinking. The following is taken from the book's chapter on Language and Terminology:

Commons are a pervasive, generative, and neglected social lifeform. They are Complex, Adaptive, Living Processes that generate wealth (both tangible and intangible) through which people address their shared needs with minimal or no reliance on markets or states. A commons arises as people engage in the social practices of Commoning, participate in Peer Governance, and develop collaborative forms of Provisioning in the course of using a resource or care-wealth. While every commons is different, all ultimately depend on the physical gifts of nature, and on sharing, collaboration, mutual respect and Gentle Reciprocity. A commons is constantly becoming. Every Commons arises through Commoning, which has three symbiotic aspects: Everyday Social Habits, Peer Governance, and Provisioning. This is the Triad of Commoning.


Commoner is an identity and social role that people acquire as they practice Commoning. It is associated with actual deeds, not an assigned legal or social title. Anyone is potentially a commoner. The more that a person aligns with a Commons practice and worldview, the more they become a commoner.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Commoning is the exploratory process by which people devise and enact situation-specific systems of Provisioning and Peer Governance as part of a larger process of unfolding our humanity. It occurs as ordinary people decide for themselves how to identify and meet shared needs, manage common wealth, and get along with each other. As people draw upon their Situated Knowing in assessing their problems, they are empowered to show creative agency in developing solutions that seem fair and effective to them. They also learn to live with ambiguities and uncertainties, and to respect the mysteries of the human condition. Commoning is the only way to become a Commoner. The power of commoning is not limited to interpersonal relations in groups but extends to the organizing of larger society as well.

There is no Commons without Commoning and there is no Commoning without Peer Governance.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Commons-Based Peer Production

In Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP), contributors create shared value through open contributory systems, govern their common work through participatory practices, and create shared resources that can, in turn, be used in new iterations. This cycle of open input, participatory process and commons-oriented output is a cycle of accumulation of the commons, in contrast to a capital accumulation.

The term Commons-Based Peer Production was coined by legal scholar Yochai Benkler. Within CBPP P2P infrastructures allow people to communicate, self-organize and, ultimately, co-create value in the form of digital commons of knowledge, software, and design. Think of the Wikipedia, free and open-source projects such as Linux, the Apache HTTP Server, Mozilla Firefox or WordPress, and open design communities such as Wikihouse, RepRap and Farm Hack.

Commons-Public Partnership (CPP)

Commons-Public Partnerships are agreements of long-term cooperation between Commoners and state institutions to meet specific needs. Either may initiate a CPP, but commoners retain control over the process. State institutions provide vital legal, financial, and/or administrative support to Commoners, and commoners provide services to each other and the broader public. Examples include community-driven Wi-Fi systems, care such as nursing and eldercare, and neighborhood-managed projects implemented with government support. A CPP enables commoners to create convivial organizational structures that empower them to make their own decisions and bring about customized solutions.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Commonsverse describes the loosely connected world of different types of Commons which can be seen as a federated Pluriverse of commons. Unlike capitalism (the economy) and liberal democracy (the political sphere), the Commonsverse integrates the economy with the political and social realms.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Communion is the process through which Commoners participate in interdependent relationships with the more-than-human world. Communion shifts a person’s understanding of human/nature relations out of the economistic framework (e.g., “resource management,” or the commodification and financialization of “nature’s services”) into one that respects the intrinsic value of the nonhuman world. This fundamental self-awareness leads to feelings of gratitude, respect, and reverence for the sacred dimensions of life in the ways that human Provisioning is organized.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Community Rhythms

Community Rhythms are agreed-upon, regularly occurring events (tasks, check-ins, meetings, etc.) that encourage and facilitate the smooth functioning of a DisCO. Examples include a brief Daily Check-in on a messaging platform by all coop members, distinct Weekly Team Meetings on To-dos and Vibe, Quarterly Retrospectives (aka " SpaceCAMPS") or assemblies to address larger issues, etc.

Complex Adaptive Systems

Complex Adaptive Systems are self-organizing, self-healing, living systems such as the brain, cells, ant colonies, the biosphere, socio-ecological systems, and many Commons. The term is used in complexity sciences, a heterodox scientific approach often used in evolutionary science, chemistry, biology, and physics. Insights from complexity sciences help move beyond a Newtonian worldview of cause and effect to one that is holistic, nonlinear, and interactive. The free interplay of agents following simple principles operating at the local level can — with no big-picture knowledge or end goals at the outset — self-organize in larger, more complex systems (or, as biologist Lynn Margulis put it, produce the mutual engendering of new living systems known as “symbiogenesis”)

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Convivial Tools

Convivial Tools is a term inspired by Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality (1973). It refers to tools, technologies, and infrastructures that strengthen creativity and self-determination, such as everyday, general-purpose tools, the patterns for Commoning we suggest in this book, or open source software-based tools such as OpenStreetMap. Convivial tools are important because “we shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us,” as Marshall McLuhan reminds us. A tool is convivial if people have access to the design and knowledge needed to create it; if it allows creative adaptation to one’s own circumstances; and if it is appropriate in the specific local context. (Are suitable materials and skills available? Is it compatible with the local landscape and culture?) Convivial tools are fundamentally empowering because they help people discover and develop their own priorities, learning capacities, and skills. They emancipate us from proprietary closed tools that interfere with personal learning, Sharing, modification, and re-use. However, the use of convivial tools can be impractical in some circumstances because of their time demands.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


A Cooperative 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 and check the 7 original cooperative principles for an overview of cooperative values. The DisCO framework expands on these with 7 additional principles which we feel update coops for the Capitalocene.


Cooperativism is an approach towards working together that aims for the democratization of ownership and governance. Read Wikipedia's article on the History of the Cooperative Movement. For a more thorough exploration we recommend reading Nathan Schneider's Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy. DisCO is an evolution on regular and Open Cooperativism designed to be more explicitly anticapitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist.

Cosmo-local Production

Cosmo-local Production is an internet-enabled Provisioning system in which people share “light” knowledge and design via peer-to-peer learning and the internet, while building “heavy” physical things such as machinery, cars, housing, furniture, and electronics locally. Producing cosmo-locally lets one avoid the costs of proprietary design based on patents or trademarks. It also lets one reduce production costs through the use of less expensive locally sourceable materials and module designs that enable Interoperability, which facilitates Pooling and Sharing.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Crowdfunding is a practice of Collaborative Financing based on digital platforms. It refers to large numbers of people (the “crowd”), rather than just immediate group members, Pooling small amounts of money to finance endeavors that will produce collective benefits. Crowdfunding does not necessarily help the Commons because some campaigns serve to provide free seed-capital for startup companies, with no shared equity or Peer Governance. However, many crowdfunding efforts, such as ones hosted by the Spain-based Goteo platform, deliberately use this financing technique to advance Commoning.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Culture and Structure

"Culture" refers to a Commons' tacit governance and inter-relational practices, Carework and vibe. "Structure" is the formalization of such practices with the assistance of legal and technological Tools. The DisCO CAT itself is divided into Culture DisCO Floor and Structure DisCO Deck. The following is extracted from DisCO Manifesto:

"Distributed cooperative practices should never be solely dependent on technology, protocols or governance models. These are only tools to facilitate and strengthen our collaborative culture. There is a fundamental tension in all commons governance between culture, or that which defines the group’s shared motivations and visions for the future, and structure, or that which formalizes the group culture into recognizable legal and institutional forms, and enables certain capabilities. Culture and structure are interdependent in a commons, but they also can pull in different directions. Creating resilient, self-organized communities requires an artful balance."

Cum-Munus: Gift and Responsibility

The etymology of the term Commons co-evolved from the Latin "Munus". The following is from chapter 3 of Free, Fair and Alive:

Commons – Commoning – Commoner. A brief excursion into the etymology of these terms: each word connects the Latin words cum and munus. Cum (English “with”) denotes the joining of elements. Munus — which is also found in the word “municipality” — means service, duty, obligation, and sometimes gift. All terms that conjoin cum and munus, such as communion, community, communism, and, of course, communication, point to a co-obligation — a linkage between use rights, benefits, and duty.

In Latin, "munus" means both "gift" and "responsibility". Therefore, the process of Commoning implies both of these aspects: receiving and honoring nature and relationships with gratitude (the gift), while tending to its needs (the responsibility).

As such, "responsibility" in a DisCO isn't a top-down enforced obligation, often for the benefit if the ruling classes, but a consented-on shared commitment towards the fulfillment of DisCO's Seven Principles and any given DisCO's mission.


Dating Phase

A DisCO Dating Phase is a predetermined period of time that new members agree to spending working with the collective before becoming official members. Dating phases may be divided into stages, each with its own training milestones designed to ease the new member into the collective’s operations and give them the knowledge and Mentoring they will need to thrive and feel comfortable. Different stages of the dating phase may also increasingly grant the dating member different rights and responsibilities. This is also an opportunity for the collective and the prospective new member to make sure that the “vibe” is right and that they are a good fit for each other.

Decentralized vs. Distributed

Centralized topologies form the backbone of our current world order (central points of power and limited access). The other two, "decentralized” and “distributed” are often used interchangeably but they aren’t really synonymous.

Decentralization is characterised by tree-like structures where the main branches can disperse informational bandwidth to the smaller nodes or edges, or even sever it altogether. Decentralized networks boast of the connectivity among nodes, but not about the power dynamics and influence of each node and they do not guarantee decentralized outcomes.

Distributed networks ensure that every node can act as a receiver or sender. This describes end-to-end systems where certain nodes are not inherently privileged, in other words, all have similar power or capacity. At DisCO.coop we prefer to use “distributed” to explicitly highlight the issue of power. By “distributed” we are describing federated heterarchical and equipotential systems. This basically means that all nodes/persons can engage in consented, fluid modes of governance, and that while “peers” in a network are expected to have different talents, personalities and preferences, all have the same rights to contribute to the network and participate in its decisions.

When we favour “distributed” over “decentralized”, we are referring to two things. First, we address distributed power structures among individuals within an organization, as well as among subgroups of an organization. Secondly, we refer to distributed power structures between the organization and other DisCOs.


Decolonialism aims to delink from Eurocentric knowledge hierarchies and ways of being in the world in order to enable other forms of existence on Earth. It critiques the perceived universality of Western knowledge and the superiority of Western culture, including the systems and institutions that reinforce these perceptions. Decolonial perspectives understand colonialism as the basis for the everyday function of capitalist modernity and imperialism.


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, which is an organization. We use DisCOs (plural) when we refer to various separate DisCOs as a group. These "groups of DisCOs" can become DisCO Clusters or SuperDisCOs.

DisCO Applications Program

DisCO Applications Program is an 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:


DisCO.SSE is the original DisCO Governance model developed through Guerrilla Media Collective, the OG DisCO. DisCO.SSE is for Worker Owned Coops, Social and Solidarity Economy enterprises and mission-oriented SMEs.


DisCO.NP is aimed at Non Profits in general and Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits in particular.


DisCODelica offers anticapitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist care-oriented solutions. It is aimed at psychedelic healing centers and science-grounded alternative medicine practitioners who are concerned about the ongoing exclusionary commodification of psychedelic spaces. DisCODelica approaches Mental Health from a DSM5-abolitionist perspective and psychedelics/plant medicine with an intersectional focus.


DisCO.Living is for housing cooperatives, Community Land Trusts and co-living situations where people want to establish trust, agree on carework, set clear, consented boundaries.


DisCO.Makes is aimed at Makerspaces, Repair Cafés and other productive Community Centers that need to incorporate clear Livelihood, Love and Carework distinctions.


DisCO.Onchain is for DAOS transitioning to SuperDisCO circuits of value and care, as well as Commons Based Peer Production communities.


DisCOThropic brings DisCO Governance and Fluid Funding practices for critical philanthropic and grantmaking organizations.


DisCO.Unbundle is for Non-cooperatives, corporations and start-up structures ready to transition to the DisCO Model by federating into DisCO Nodes and evolve into complex, stable SuperDisCOs.

DisCO Ball

The DisCO BALL is the DisCOverse’s general knowledge base, powered by semantic wiki software. Showcasing the best pattern practices for DisCO development and management, DisCO BALL provides semantic categories linking to further resources and examples (from the various individual, self-hosted wikis of each DisCO LAB). Video tutorials and resources on how to contribute and enrich the DisCO Ball knowledge base will be provided to facilitate community content production. DisCO Ball also serves as default user manual for the various platforms developed as part of the DisCO Project ( DECK, EXP, BLOCKS, etc), as well as the DisCO Journey with embedded animated tutorials for maximum accessibility.

DisCO Blocks

DisCO Blocks is an in-development interactive DisCO Governance Modelling builder. The DisCO Blocks will allow DisCOs to configure and tweak their own DisCO Values, Elements and Peer Governance models through intuitive drag and drop components[4] Check these entries out for more. Click here to see the specifications for the DisCO Blocks software platform.

DisCO Buddy

DisCO Buddies take dating members through all aspects of working on their DisCO, including their chosen tools, governance model, etc. They ensure that new members get all they need to meet a series of criteria on the way to becoming full, committed DisCONAUTS. After the Dating Phase is over you will no longer have an exclusively DisCO Buddy assigned, instead you will become a new Dating Member's Buddy. Read more in the Mentoring entry.


DisCO CAT stands for "Community Algorithmic Trust". It is also DisCO's mascot, the enigmatic author of the DisCO Beat Newsletter and the voice behind DisCO's social media channels.

Every DisCO has a DisCO CAT. Just as standard organizations use branding, memetics and logos to imbue the org with a personality (often for the benefit of shareholders) all DisCOs can image what their DisCO CAT looks like and how it behaves. It's literally the "spirit" of a DisCO and the avatar for caring for the health of the collective.

Beyond an imaged entity, the DisCO CAT also has an actual algorithmic dimension. The CAT is an on-chain algorithmic entity that enables the collective’s consent to a set of voluntary, self-organized rules. DisCO’s algorithms support the collective in overseeing, simplifying and carrying out the human-level agreements and rules. Once these algorithms are entrusted to the on-chain entity, it is described as a Community Algorithmic Trust which oversees the health of the collective, i.e. that agreements are being met.

When we speak about the DisCO CAT we are also referring to all of DisCO's cultural and structural components. All components are modular, concurrent and in Perpetual Beta. The following is extracted from The DisCO Elements chapter 5 The DisCO CAT and DisCO-Tech:

Introduced in the DisCO Manifesto, the DisCO CAT (Community Algorithmic Trust) is a series of modular software platforms designed so people can teach themselves, play around and, ultimately, build viable DisCOs.

So, Community Algorithmic “Trust” -? 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 also intangible ones like commonly held values. Secondly, “trust” is used in the sense of team members working 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, experiments. Our related mission is to spread the word and teach people the magic of DisCO. Within the DisCO CAT you'll find 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. Within the DisCO FLOOR you will find MOOC courses, a reference handbook, the DisCO BALL 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 and whiskers 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.

DisCO Clusters

DisCO Clusters are temporal and situation specific multi-DisCO formations. Within the overarching concept of The DisCOVerse, individual DisCOs can network together into punctual, Federated, pop-up DisCOs. We call these "DisCO Clusters". DisCO Clusters are by nature time-limited and focused on punctual goals[5]. These can include fundraising, solidarity actions, defense from hostile attacks, artivisms, direct action and more. DisCO Clusters allow individual DisCOs to DisCOJam with a purpose. DisCO Clusters are not to be confused with SuperDisCOs which are stable medium-large scale multi-DisCO organisms.


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.

Additionally, DisCO.coop is the organization that stewards the development and implementation of DisCO methodology and Tools. DisCO.coop is a DisCO Non Profit (or DisCO.NP), and the organization stewarding development and implementation of DisCO methodology and tools[6]. There are also plans for creating a DisCO Foundation. Unlike some of our cousins in the DAO-space, we think that organizations are built around people not code.

DisCO Daters

"DisCO Daters" is the generic name given to persons receiving mentoring while undergoing a DisCO Dating Phase. The Dating Phase is a DisCO's specific mutual learning program to integrate new members. DisCO Daters go through an transparent, thorough pre-selection process.

Once the Dating Phase is underway, DisCO Daters are considered virtual DisCONauts with practically the same rights and privileges in day to day operations as full members, but with less responsibilities and certain limitations until the Dating Phase is completed and full coop worker-owner membership is established.[7]

DisCO Deck

The DisCO DECK is DisCO’s value tracking platform. It is the interface and back end for DisCO’s “Community Algorithmic Trust” (the DisCO CAT). It's a user-friendly, accessible online Tool with a balanced integration of Web 3.0, distributed ledger and Blockchain technologies. The DisCO Deck facilitates value tracking, accounting, and other tools to support DisCO operations with stellar UX and an intuitive graphic interface. See our GitLab for current progress on the DisCO DECK or get in touch if you'd like to collaborate.

DisCO Elements

DisCO Elements[8] are distinct modular practices which you can add to your own DisCO (Culture). These are also the basis for the DisCO Blocks, a drag and drop software interface to allow you to build DisCOs modularly, one block at a time (Structure). DisCO Elements are a great way to create a healthy Cultural/Structural balance.

Standout examples of DisCO Elements as culture include Community Rhythms, Mutual Support, Commitment Statements, Dating, Mentoring and the Working Circles.

DisCO Experience

The DisCO Experience is the research and pilot program through which the DisCO Floor and DisCO Deck are developed together with real cooperatives and other mission oriented organizations. Pilot DisCO LABS are experimenting with the DisCO model, tweaking it to their own special needs and requirements and yielding a range of case studies for the development of the DisCO Floor and Deck. The LABS are mentored on the creation of their governance and economic models, DisCO Deck customization, and accessible documentation. DisCO LABS play a key role in the co-creation of both platforms. All of this together is the immersive DisCO Experience.

DisCO Floor

The DisCO FLOOR is the generic name for DisCO's modular educational web platforms. It gathers the cultural aspects of the project, including comprehensive educational resources and legal Tools for cooperators to set up DisCOs worldwide.

The DisCO Floor contains a DisCO learning journey (interactive MOOC course); the DisCO BALL knowledge base (via semantic wiki) with practical resources and tools; a reference DisCO Handbook; content (articles, videos, audiobooks, infographics); a platform to create interactive DisCO governance models; guidance on existing legal structures for co-ops (and considerations for future legal co-op forms); and a directory of DisCO cooperatives worldwide.


DisCOJams are spaces (online or physical) where different DisCOs get together to create shared Culture and Structure, offer Mutual Support or configure into DisCO Clusters or SuperDisCOs.

DisCO Journey

The DisCO Journey is a seven-step P2P learning process to co-create advanced, mature DisCOs. The Journey is designed for DisCOs to build trust and federate with other DisCOs, to create a network of practice and ultimately build an economic counterpower. Every step builds on previous ones. Through these steps, DisCO.coop guides the communities that desire to implement the DisCO framework from community and trust-building steps to governance co-designing steps geared towards answering the DisCO Principles and Values, then through flexible integration of DisCO Elements and eventually preparing the ground for federation.


DisCO LABS are pilot projects experimenting with the DisCO model. DisCO LABS need to present a diverse geographical and cultural focus, as well as a healthy representation of various types of mission-oriented productive work. Any group can choose to become a DisCO and make use of the resources posted in the educational platform and contribute to its development but only selected DisCO LABS will benefit from hands on support from the project team. DisCO LABS should also benefit from financial resources and take part in the participatory action research components.

See DisCO.coop's LABS homepage to meet the current Labs, or DisCO LABS Worldwide for a list of Committed, Dating and Casual DisCO LABS. If you want to become a LAB, sign up for the DisCO Journey.

Every single DisCO is a DisCO LAB, including DisCO.coop. There’s no hierarchical relationship between DisCO.coop and the other DisCO LABs, instead we operate heterarchically. The main difference is that DisCO.coop is a DisCO Non-Profit (DisCO.NP) that spends 100% of its time creating resources for the development and promotion of DisCO.


The DisCONauts, are the crew of any given DisCO. In the case of DisCO.coop, you can meet the crew here! We are working to develop this unique system of governance, related documentation and other educational materials, and DisCO-related projects.

DisCO Node

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. They are autonomous on certain Value Streams, (mainly in Livelihood and Lovework) but share many Carework commitments with the other nodes. Their shared DisCO structure allows them to be rather permeable with and support each other in unique ways. Practically, they are suborganizations within a DisCO providing specialized services. For example, Guerrilla Media Collective has specific nodes for Translation, Graphic Design, and Agitprop. DisCO Nodes typically function under the same umbrella legal entity and use the same workflow Tools.

DisCO Nodes may have overlapping or differing personnel from the other nodes. Regarding Value Streams, productive activities (such as Love and Livelihood work) can be kept distinct from one node to another. Conversely, Carework Valueflows can be mutualized, for example, Legal and Finance work, Social Media Promotion, Website upkeep etc affect all nodes, so carework for these has to be evenly distributed. By the same token, this mutualization also extends to the DisCO's Working Circles. Carework which only affects the node in question can also be kept separate.

Extending out from In-DisCO Nodes, collaborations among DisCOs with different legal umbrellas can either be situational and time-limited (AKA DisCO Clusters) or complex, stable circuits of value creation (AKA SuperDisCOs). All existing DisCOs are part of The DisCOverse.


DisCONomics is shorthand for "Distributed Cooperative Economics". It is an emergent discipline strongly linked to Feminist Economics, Decolonial Economics, Commons and P2P Economics, Ecological Economics and Cooperative Economics, as per the DisCO DNA.[9]

DisCOnomics is also the robust and reflective activity of performing and cultivating alternative, caring and care-full federated DisCO Economic Networks. Ie: it is thinking, doing, reflecting and then doing some more.

In contrast to other economic disciplines, it is not solely defined post-hoc by economic historians or economists, but consciously co-created in real-time through economic experiments and experiences. In this case the creation and Federation of DisCO's worldwide. This follows the adage "Nothing About Us Without Us" ie: DisCONomics must be mainly created by people working in DisCOs, not outside or disenfranchised experts or professionals. [10]

It is worth highlighting the differences between "Economics" (the study of the economy, or economies, hegemonic being neoclassical economics) and "Economies" (taking our inspiration from JK. Gibson-Graham's Community Economies the creation and real-world articulation of alternative economies).

The medium and long-term visions for DisCONomics are explored in Chapter Seven of the DisCO Elements: DisCO Futures: Building Tracks.


DisCO.NP stands for "DisCO for Non-Profits". This is part of the DisCO Applications Program. DisCO.NP's are based on Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits, a framework the combines the mission-oriented functionality and legal advantages of a non-profit, with the Radical Workplace Democracy of a DisCO. DisCO.coop is an example of a DisCO.NP. Jump to Nonprofit for a critique of the term.

DisCO Principles and Values

The DisCO Principles and Values synthesize the very essence of the DisCO governance and economic model. DisCO's Seven Principles are the backbone of the DisCOverse and shared across all DisCOs. They are concrete steps and goals included in the DisCO Journey for any aspiring DisCO LABS, but not all of them are required to build a Minimum Viable DisCO. What is really important is for the DisCO LABS to have a clear intention and answer how they would go about the principles.

The Values are more flexible and can be adapted as modules. Each DisCO can incorporate and tweak those values that fit their unique context and circumstances. While the DisCO's Seven Principles are like verbs, actions common to all DisCOs, the DisCO Values are more like adjectives, descriptions particular to each group. The DisCO Values allude to additional DisCO ingredients such as accessibility, mentoring, value sovereignty or inter-DisCO solidarity, to name a few.

DisCO Project

The DisCO Project is the journey the DisCONauts have embarked on, going boldly beyond and all that jazz. The DisCO Project Matrix describes the overall multi-year arch of the project. Our mission is to turn DisCO into a viable economic counterpower for the 2020s and beyond. Read The Open Source Conspiracy for more details. The DisCO Project entails many relationships and partnerships and has been conceived as a series of modular DisCO Elements.

DisCO Pricing

DisCO Pricing is a form of Value and, specifically Price Sovereignty based on Relationality. When a DisCO.SSE or coop offers goods and services, these can be priced on a siding-scale according on various factors:

  1. The client's legal status (coop, DisCO, B-corp, Non-Profit, Corporation etc)
  2. The client's annual operating budget, average profits and iternal distribution of revenues
  3. The client's legal location
  4. The client's levels of economic, gendered and racial privileges
  5. How much the client gives backs to the Commons and practices Love and Care work[11].
  6. Any other metric the DisCO may choose to employ.

DisCO Pricing can be as simple or complex as any DisCO wishes it to be. It's designed to be highly dynamic and alive, and even tweaked to offer individuals dynamic pricing according to changing life circumstances. Like all DisCO DECK accounting Tools, transactions are never auto-executed, DisCO Pricing is there to encourage richer conversations about Value and Price Sovereignty

DisCO Stack

The DisCO Stack is a toolkit of convivial Free/Libre Open Source Software platforms for people to work together using the DisCO Methodology and resources. The DisCO Stack leverages and customizes existing FLOSS Tools into a complementary browser-based framework custom designed for DisCO needs and value accounting, including tools for: time tracking, Synchronous Communication, Asynchronous Communication and decision-making, task management, collaborative writing, file storage, documentation and calendar and scheduling tools. Visit the DisCO Tools Menu Page for more info.


A DisCOthon is a DisCO-themed public event combining tech, art, music and human-centered educational and collaborative resources. They occupy a middle ground between more expository introductory talks and workshops and the more involved mentoring of the DisCO LABS. Unlike the often white, male and tech-oriented hackathons, DisCOThons explicitly prioritise inclusivity, diversity and fun.


The DisCOVerse refers to all federated DisCOs together, growing in solidarity to become an economic counterpower for social and environmental purposes. One way to illustrate this is through a quote from David Fleming:

"Large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework."[12].

Individual DisCO LABS are the small-scale, trust-based solutions. The DisCOVerse is the emergent large-scale framework.

Within the DisCOverse we find stable and well established interactions and alliances, (AKA SuperDisCOs) or more punctual and transactional (AKA DisCO Clusters). The former require more Carework and real-world trust-building, the latter rely more heavily on DisCO Decks and value-tracking Tools. Click here for our thoughts on Federation.


DIT means do-it-together. It is complementary to DIY, do-it-yourself, which in practice is often do-it-together. DIT helps name a form of DIY that is commons-based. Both seek to avoid relying on money and markets, and contribute to Money-Lite Commoning.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Dividing Up

Dividing Up, as distinct from Sharing, refers to the nonreciprocal allocation of objects — food, money, things, land, bicycles, tools — among members of groups (family, strangers, small groups, big networks) without calculating everyone’s individual benefit in discrete units. Dividing up sometimes happens in response to tacit or formal demands.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)



Described by Commons scholar David Bollier as the great invisible tragedy of our time, enclosure refers to the process of privatization and commodification of our shared wealth. This is definitely one of the great unacknowledged scandals of our time. Enclosures are a special form of theft that attract little notice, in part because governments often play a key role in legitimizing them.

The term enclosure is generally associated with the English enclosure movement, which occurred at various times in medieval history and through the 19th century. To put it plainly, the king, aristocracy and/or landed gentry stole the pastures, forests, wild game and water used by commoners, and declared them private property. Sometimes the enclosers seized lands with the formal sanction of Parliament, and sometimes they just took them by force. To keep commoners out, it was customary to evict them from the land and erect fences or hedges. Sheriffs and gangs of thugs made sure that no commoner would poach game from the king’s land. There are, however, much earlier and varied forms of enclosure aside from the eurocentric gaze. As Vandana Shiva states, the enclosure of biodiversity and knowledge is the final step in a series of enclosures that began with the rise of colonialism. Enclosures encompass the seizure of natural resources, the private takeover of urban spaces and infrastructure and the many appropriations of knowledge and culture.


Faux Commons

Faux commons is a term used to describe cooperative activities that resemble Commoning but that are in fact hosted or governed by noncommoners such as businesses, state entities, or investment group. A prominent example is Facebook, a closed, proprietary network platform for Sharing that exploits user data for private business purposes. Digital platforms like Airbnb and Uber purport to promote sharing, but in fact are transaction-based, capital-driven enterprises, not Commons. Contractual partnerships that involve reciprocal benefits such as patent pools among drug makers are another instance of faux commons. They are chiefly organized for specific market purposes, and not as long-term covenants among participants to share stewardship responsibilities and benefits over time. These distinctions matter because businesses enterprises are often eager to disguise their mercantile interests and claim democratic legitimacy by pretending to be about sharing, community, and the common good, i.e., to “commonswash.”

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


From DisCO Principle 7: "Primed for Federation":

While networks may or may not share common goals, federations are imbued with a shared direction. Scaling replicates the dynamics of colonialism - extending a worldview from a center and razing everything in its path. DisCOs are replicated/altered through a federation protocol capable of achieving critical mass. Each primary node focuses on small group trust, intimacy and Mutual Support.

Intra-DisCO Federations can either be situational and time-limited (AKA DisCO Clusters) or complex, stable circuits of value creation (AKA SuperDisCOs). All DisCOs existing in the world (and outer space?) form The DisCOverse.

From Free, Fair and Alive

Federation refers to a group of committed participants, teams, or organizations that elect to coordinate or collaborate with each other based on agreed upon objectives, ethical values, or shared history. Although the term federation is usually associated with nation-states or other state bodies coming together in some form — and therefore associated with the term federal — social collectives and organizations may also federate to pursue mutual protection, collaboration, and support. A federation is different from a network in that participants in a network may or may not share goals or deep commitments whereas participants in a federation are actively dedicated to a shared mission. Another difference: a (distributed) network is completely horizontal and a fully fledged P2P structure whereas a federation can be heterarchical. See Heterarchy.

Feminist Economics

Feminist Economics is an approach to economics that factors in all of the unseen labor (traditionally associated with women) that is needed in order to support what one typically thinks of economic activity (traditionally associated with men). Feminist economics focuses on caring for the well-being of the individuals that make up an economic system, valuing and reconizing that carework as equally important as “productive”, income-generating economic activity.

The Women's Budget group has excellent introductory resources on Feminist Economics.

Free Libre and Open-Source Software (FLOSS)

Open-source refers to software for which the code is available freely and can be redistributed or modified. Our preferred term for it is FLOSS, which stands for Free-Libre and Open Source Software (See here for more info on the term).

Beyond software, Open Source is also used more generally to describe communities of practice working together through Commons-Based Peer Production. When communities open source their resources, they are effectively allowing others to modify, improve on and share their publicly accessible source materials and methodologies.

The Open Source way favors community-oriented transparency, collaboration, open access to resources, continued iteration, and the recognition of individual achievements. Open Source methodologies have also been applied to content creation, manufacturing, science, medicine, engineering and much more. DisCO takes inspiration from FLOSS and Open Source for specific anti-capitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist purposes.

From Free, Fair and Alive Free/Libre and Open Source Software (F[LOSS) is software with source code that is open to be Shared and that has been licensed for anyone to use, copy, study, and change. These freedoms — authorized by a variety of licenses that reverse the normal workings of copyright law — encourage users to fix bugs and improve and develop the software. By contrast, proprietary software uses copyright law to prohibit users from seeing or modifying the source code and creates artificial Scarcities (access to code is restricted even though it can be shared for little or no cost). FLOSS increases the transparency of code, and as a result — as more people can scrutinize it — its security and stability. FLOSS also empowers people by enabling them to adapt code to their own purposes and to build more secure privacy protections into software. The GNU/Linux operating system, which powers millions of servers, desktops, and other devices, is perhaps the best-known FLOSS program.


Freedom-in-Connectedness is a notion of freedom that acknowledges that we are connected to nature, other people, communities, and institutions. It is how a human being unfolds, discovers their identity, and flourishes. It is a more realistic ideal than libertarian notions of freedom, which invariably focus on maximum individual choice and autonomy. In this sense, the idea of freedom as commonly used is an illusion because none of us can survive as Isolated-I’s, let alone unfold our potential. The idea of the fully autonomous, self-made individual is actually ridiculous because no human being can survive without the psychological and social support of others. See Nested-I.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Generated Process

Generated Process is an exploratory, stepwise, and evolving process for generating an enlivening environment such as a Commons. It is a living, dynamic, adaptive process that is always becoming and incomplete. It stands in contrast to a fabrication process that builds something according to fixed, predetermined plans. A generated process is the only way to bring about resilient structures and to deepen relationships because only living processes can beget living systems. Whatever has been generated creates a deeper resonance and feelings of wholeness and aliveness. The collaborations that produced this book — not just between the co-authors but with their many colleagues and advisors — is an example of how something can be produced by a generated process. Everyone involved, and the ideas themselves, grew and transformed over the course of Free, Fair and Alive’s creation.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Gentle Reciprocity

Gentle Reciprocity has a different character than strict reciprocity, in which trading partners try to calculate in precise terms who owes what to whom. In any tit-for-tat relationship, the goal is to achieve greater value than one spends, or at least a monetary equivalent. The reciprocity that exists in a Commons is generally a gentle reciprocity in which people choose not to calculate in precise terms who owes whom a favor, time, money, or labor. In a commons, it is important to be neighborly, and not just behave as a “rational” market actor. Commons offer a hospitable context for turning Gentle Reciprocity into a habit, which builds social trust and the capacity to work together in constructive ways.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Guerrilla Media Collective

Guerrilla Media Collective (GMC) is the original DisCO where the DisCO framework was developed. GMC was created in 2013 as Guerrilla Translation, operating as a Post-Occupy translation and general communications collective. GMC pioneered the Livelihood, Lovework and Carework Value Streams that are essential to DisCO, the first complete DisCO Governance Model and the first articulation of the Seven DisCO Principles.

GMC set up as a non-profit cooperative in 2018. DisCO.coop was incubated within GMC before forking off into it's own non-profit coop. Check out Guerrilla Media Collective's website here.



Heterarchy is well-explained by the original Greek ετεραρχία: the term heter means “other, different,” and archy means “rule.” In a heterarchy, different types of rules and organizational structures are combined. They may include, for example, top-down hierarchies and bottom-up participation (both of which are vertical), and peer-to-peer dynamics (which are horizontal). In a heterarchy, people can achieve socially mindful autonomy by combining multiple types of governance in the same system. For example, a hierarchy form may exist within a heterarchy. Heterarchies are not simply peer-to-peer distributed ways of organizing, which are often hampered by a lack of structure. Nor is heterarchy the simple opposite of hierarchy. Rather, it is a hybrid that allows for greater openness, flexibility, democratic participation, and Federation. When tasks are made modular, it becomes easier for heterarchical governance structures to flourish.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)



Interoperability means that different Tools, computational systems, or technological products can interconnect and work seamlessly with each other, without needing a specific design to do so. Interoperability by definition is enabled by specific data formats, protocols, and open standards. One example is ASCII (Abbreviated Standard Code for Information Interchange), a character-encoded standard for electronic communication. Interoperability is key for processes to work well in a network environment, such as Cosmo-local Production. It is also critical in preventing one agent or market participant from securing a monopoly or controlling others through control of the design standards.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Intra-Action, a concept introduced by physicist and philosopher Karen Barad, describes how individual entities come together to create a new “entangled agency” that does not otherwise exist in preexisting individual agents. Think of crowd behavior and viral cultural phenomena. When two entities intra-act, their ability to act emerges from within the relationship itself, not as a function of the discrete individuals involved. The entangled agency constantly changes and adapts with the relationship itself. This concept helps us get beyond simplistic cause and effect explanations and suggests that responsibility for actions is spread among intra-acting entities, each of which may have different levels of intentionality and delayed manifestations. From the perspective of intra-action, familiar ideas such as subject/object dualism, linear time, and individual agency are incomplete and misleading ways of understanding how events happen in the world. See Emergence.

See this three minute video presentation to learn more about Intra-action.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Livelihood Work

Livelihood Work is income-generating work carried out by any particular DisCO. See Value Streams to see how it works as a type of "share" in DisCONomics.


Loomio is a simple, user-friendly online Tool for collaborative decision-making. Loomio lets you host discussions online, invite the right people to participate, come to timely decisions and transform deliberation into real-world action.

Loomio has been an essential component of the DisCO Stack for over ten years. We use it for group deliberation and group decision making. Read the full Loomio entry here.


Lovework is voluntary or "pro-bono" work that a DisCO takes on in order to create Commons and offer the DisCO's talents to persons and collectives who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford these services. Check out Value Streams to see how Lovework functions as a type of "share" in DisCONomics.



Markdown is is a way of writing plain text (without formatting), so that it can be converted to rich text (with links, bullet points, headers, bold, italics, etc.). This is the exact same editing syntax used for Mattermost, SpaceTime and Loomio, so it's a case of "buy one, get three for free"! You can find resources and tutorials in the Markdown entry.


Market/State. Although markets and states are often cast as adver­saries — the public sector vs. the private sector — in fact they share many deep commitments and are highly interdependent. It makes sense to speak of them as partners in a shared vision. Both see market activity, economic growth, individualism, and technological innovation as the drivers of human progress. Each depends on the other in specific ways, too. Capital-driven markets look to the state for subsidies, legal privileges, research support, and mitigation of market externalities such as pollution and social inequality. And states, for their part, look to markets as sources of tax revenue, jobs, and geo-political influence.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


When we refer to "Mentoring" we are describing a pedagogical process among peers. This is the way people learn how to DisCO: by doing with others[13].

Taking its cue from the Zapatista practice of learning by listening, Mentoring doesn't assume that more experienced DisCONauts have more or better knowledge than new members. Instead they have more specific knowledge and experience about DisCOs in general (as well as the mentor's own DisCO in particular) to share.

The ultimate goal mentoring is to learn and grow together by including the mentee's observations and feedback. This method of peer learning serves to make each DisCO's culture more varied and robust, as well as truly inclusive of new members ideas and reflections.

Learn more about mentoring here.

Money-Lite Commoning

Money-Lite Commoning is a style of Commoning that seeks to reduce the need for money and markets. Commoning enables decommodified solutions to problems and therefore can avoid relying on markets and spending, both of which require that someone acquire more money. Commoning itself is money-lite in that Commoners by definition rely on Dit, Co-Use, Sharing, Dividing Up, and Mutualization as much as possible. The point of money-lite commoning is to help people focus on their real needs, and to escape the endless cycle of buying and disempowerment that a consumerist culture generally entails.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Massive Open Online Courses are open-access online courses with unlimited participation. The DisCO equivalent of a MOOC is the DisCO Journey (DJ), where following DisCO's Holonic Scaling it's preferred to work in smaller, interlined groups. DJs can be multi-month online courses with webinars, synchronous and asynchronous discussion channels, and supporting materials for prospective DisCO initiators.

Multi-Constituent Membership

DisCOs extend decision making and ownership beyond the DisCO's structure, and enfranchise all contributors whether present in all value chains or affected by the coop's actions. Beyond workers, this may include neighbouring communities, suppliers, clients, reproductive and affective labour, financial backers, etc. as constituents.

Mutual Support

Mutual Support means looking after people and being attuned to others’ moods, needs and larger realities beyond the collective. By caring for each other’s well-being, we create a healthy work environment, and supported members have a safe space to express themselves and be heard within the collective. Conflict resolution is also handled through the mutual support system, ensuring the distribution of personal Carework.

Mutual Support Pal

Your Mutual Support Pal is a rotating human who will listen and care for you. Here are some of the things you Mutual Support pal can do for you:

  • be the ones you talk to if your coworker is being a jerk
  • support you to meet your personal development goals
  • help make sure you do the things you said you were going to do
  • put a human face on talking to 'the organization'.

Read the Mutual Support entry for more info.


Mutualizing means to contribute and belong to a group enterprise with a larger, enduring social purpose; this association in turn entitles participants to specific individual benefits. However, members do not necessarily receive equal value or the same benefits in return for what they give, as in a market transaction. They typically receive some stipulated benefit based on need or other criteria. The benefits of mutualization are socially agreed upon, often based on differential shares and predetermined formulas. An insurance pool and social security fund are classic examples. However mutualization is structured, it is critical that everyone with a stake in the mutualized pool have a say in the agreement. It is a peer-determined reciprocity, a specific form of practicing Gentle Reciprocity.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)



Nested-I describes the existential interdependency of human beings on other humans and the larger world, which co-creates and supports our personal development. To use the term Nested-I rather than “individual” is to recognize that one’s identity, talents, and aspirations are ultimately rooted in relationships. With this self-awareness, the person who recognizes himself or herself as a Nested-I realizes that self-interests and larger collective interests are not opposed to each other ( Individual/Collective), but can be aligned. The Nested-I stands in contrast to the human ideal celebrated in modern, secular societies that everyone’s life is defined by their individual achievements and pursuits, free from the associations of their communities, history, ethnicity, race, religion, sex, and so on. The “Isolated-I” is perfectly depicted by Homo economicus, the model of a human being used by economists: a person who is self-interested, rational, utility-maximizing, and absolutely autonomous. See Freedom-in-Connectedness and Ubuntu Rationality.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Non-Discriminatory Infrastructures

Non-Discriminatory Infrastructures are systems that foster mobility, communication, exchange, and energy flow in general ways open to all. The owner or steward of the infrastructure does not restrict access and use of the infrastructure based on specific criteria such as ethnicity, gender, social standing, nor charge one class of users more than another.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)



Ontology as a philosophical term is the study of a person’s fundamental presuppositions about the nature of reality and how it is structured. Ontology is the “constitutional framework” of a person’s belief-system — the window through which one sees the world, our way of seeing and registering reality. Is the world divided into humanity and nature, individuals and collectives? Is the world a static place or is it in a constant state of becoming? We perceive and describe the world, and often act, based on our assumptions about reality. Participants in modern politics typically pursue a different cosmovision than, for example, an Indigenous culture, which sees nature, humans, and past and future generations as an integrated whole. As this suggests, the OntoStories one believes, have far-reaching implications for the sorts of social, economic, and political order that seem plausible and attractive.

OntoStory is a shorthand term for an ontological narrative.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


OntoShift refers to a shift in a person’s fundamental presuppositions and perspectives about the nature of reality and how it is structured. People’s ontological viewpoints are reflected in their perceptions of how people and objects exist in the world, and, as a result, what general types of culture, political economy, and coordination structures they see as possible and desirable.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Open-Value Accounting

Open-Value Accounting is a way to capture individual contributions that blend into a unique product, to evaluate these contributions, and to compute equity in the end product, a % for every member.

In the DisCOverse though, Open Value Accounting, isn't about getting the math right and expecting that everything will be equitable. Here's where we balance Culture with Structure. Every DisCO enjoys Value Sovereignty to co-determine how they want to set up their own Value Streams to Mutualize value, income, resources, Care etc.

To paraphrase David Graeber, value isn’t so much about who appropriates surplus value but co-determining what value actually is and making our way there.

DisCO Open Value Accounting preserves the subjective nature of value, it can take, in theory, into consideration all types of value, tangible and intangible. The DisCO Governance Model is an instance of Open Value Accounting. See also Valueflows and the entry on Open Value Accounting as part of the DisCO DNA.

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.

Read more on the Seven DisCO Principles on Chapter 3 of the DisCO Elements or this wiki's entry on DisCO Principles and Values.



P2P (Peer-to-Peer) Networks are a powerful form of organization in which participants contribute to the production of Commons in nonhierarchical ways. The internet and digital technologies have given rise to significant P2P networks devoted to free and open source software, various wikis including Wikipedia, collaborative content creation websites and archives, and global design and production communities. As distributed networks that allow any node to connect directly with any other node, P2P networks unleash forms of collaborative creativity that are simply not possible in centralized networks, in which all nodes pass through a single hub, or decentralized networks, in which all nodes still pass through hubs of some sort.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Patterns are a way of understanding the nature of order in the world. They help us identify structural regularities and relationships among different types of phenomena (such as ) without relying on rigid abstractions or over-specified principles that tend to ignore context and history. A pattern of human interactions distills the essence of many successful solutions, as demonstrated by practitioners over time (such as Commoners), to problems that occur over and over again in similar contexts. Every Commons, for example, has the challenge of building trust, making decisions that reflect everybody’s feelings, and using money in socially healthy ways, without its pernicious effects. Patterns are open and always interconnected; no pattern is complete unto itself.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Peers are people who have equal social and political power relative to other members of a group or network. Peers have different talents and personalities, but they see each other as having the same rights and capabilities to contribute to a collaborative project and to decide how it shall proceed. See Nested-I, Ubuntu Rationality.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Peer Governance

Peer Governance is that part of Commoning by which people make decisions, set boundaries, enforce rules, and deal with conflicts — both within Commons and among different commons. In a peer-governed world, individuals see each other as Peers with the equal potential to participate in a collective process, not as adversaries competing to seize control of a central apparatus of power. Building on Elinor Ostrom’s design principles, Peer Governance is a central concept because there is no Commoning and no Commonsverse without Peer Governance, which is distinct from governing for the people and from governing with the people ( Participation). It is governing through the people.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Platform Cooperativism

Platform Cooperativism seeks 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.


Pluriverse names an understanding of the world in which countless groups of people create and re-create their own distinctive cultural realities, each of which constitutes a world. This term is necessary because many contemporary crises stem from the belief that there is a One-World World, a kind of single Euro-modern reality. To say that the world is a pluriverse is to say that there is no single source of being (that is, to invoke a plural Ontology) and that no knowledge system is inherently superior to others. A pluriverse is “a world in which many worlds fit,” as the Zapatistas say. This points to a conundrum: how can the different societies that constitute the human species accept that many worlds must coexist together on a single planet?

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Pooling refers to a form of contributing to a common fund or provisions of any kind. The contributions are gathered together for agreed-upon purposes in sufficient quantities, and then allocated in agreed-upon ways for certain purposes.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Price Sovereignty

Price Sovereignty means the capacity to reject the terms that markets offer, including prices. By achieving a certain independence from markets, Commoners acquire price sovereignty by transparently and collaboratively self-determining the terms of exchange among all interacting partners involved. As a result, they can choose to meet people’s needs for free or at lower prices than charged on the market. This is a much-overlooked strategic power that gives people significant autonomy from market pressures and state coercion. Because Commoners are withdrawing from markets and not seeking to dominate them, price sovereignty in this sense does not mean anticompetitive behavior prohibited by antitrust law. See also Value Sovereignty

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Provisioning. Meeting people’s needs through a Commons is called provisioning. The term is an alternative to the word “production,” which is inextricably associated with the neglect of the nonmarket spheres of family, community, and Care, and a focus on market prices, efficiency, the externalization of costs, and so on. The purpose of provisioning is to meet people‘s needs, whereas the purpose of production (whether capitalist or socialist) is to generate profits for those producing the goods and services, and by producing them. Provisioning through commons occurs everywhere, but they generate shared wealth using different ways of allocating and distributing it. A basic goal of provisioning is to reintegrate economic behaviors with the rest of one’s life, including social well-being, ecological relationships, and ethical concerns.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Public/Commons Circuits of Finance

Public/Commons Circuits of Finance is a strategy of Collaborative Financing that allows taxpayer funds administered by government to be used to support Commons — or even privilege commons-first strategies. However, unlike state subsidies to corporations, which primarily aim to spur economic growth and direct benefits to shareholders, public/commons financing seeks to expand Commoning and commons-based infrastructures. The goal is to help people re-order their lives so they can become more self-sustaining and less dependent on the Market/State and its imperatives.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Radical Workplace Democracy

Workplace democracy is the backbone of traditional coops. Radical workplace democracy is an approach to workplace governance where communication is informed by complementary notions of value that reflect our experiences as human beings, in the workplace and beyond. Democracy can't be delegated to voting mechanism or techo-solutions, it needs to incorporate Carework and Mutual Support. DisCO workplace democracy is radical in that it explicitly addresses the invisible biases and tacit power hierarchies that plague many coops and activist projects where these issues are not actively discussed.

Radical workplace democracy combines elements from:

  • Radical Democracy: "... a type of democracy that advocates the radical extension of equality and liberty. Radical democracy is concerned with a radical extension of equality and freedom, following the idea that democracy is an un-finished, inclusive, continuous and reflexive process."
  • Workplace Democracy: "... is the application of democracy in various forms (examples include voting systems, debates, democratic structuring, due process, adversarial process, systems of appeal) to the workplace. It can be implemented in a variety of ways, dependent on the size, culture, and other variables of an organization."

Relational Ontology

Relational Ontology holds that the relations between entities are more fundamental than the entities themselves. It means that living systems develop and thrive through their interactions and Intra-Actions with each other. As a social system based on how people come together to collaborate and sustain themselves, a Commons is based on a relational ontology. This perspective stands in contrast to the vision of reality that undergirds market capitalism, which sees the world as based on isolated, self-made individuals with no primary relationships of history, religion, ethnicity, geography, gender, and so forth. Conceiving the nature of reality through relational ontology requires different relational categories such as Nested-I, Ubuntu Rationality. See also Relationality below.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


As a concept, relationality posits that culture, self-development and nature don't develop from individual, self-interested agents but from relations.

Relationality helps us break the self/other and Individual/Collective false dichotomies. The following is extracted from Chapter 1 of David Bollier and Silke Helfrich's Free Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons:

Any individual identity is always, also, part of collective identities that guide how a person thinks, behaves, and solves problems. All of us have been indelibly shaped by our relations with peers and society, and by the language, rituals, and traditions that constitute our cultures. In other words, the conceit that we are “self-made” individuals is a delusion. There is no such thing as an isolated “I.” As we will explore later, each of us is really a Nested-I. We are not only embedded in relationships; our very identities are created through relationships.

Relationality is a key aspect of DisCONomics and key to DisCO's theory of value. This extract from the Re-imagining Value: Insights from the Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace and Nature report proposes a "Relational Theory of Value";

This theory sees value arising from relationships. Value does not inhere in objects; it emerges through a process as living entities – whether human beings or the flora and fauna of ecosystems – interact with each other. In this sense, value is not fixed and static, but something that emerges naturally as living entities interact. “In a commons, value is an event,” said Silke Helfrich of the Commons Strategies Group. “It is something that needs to be enacted again and again.” The difference between the standard economic theory of value and a commons-based one is that the latter is a relational theory of value, said Helfrich.[14]

For more on relationality and the Commons, visit this article by David Bollier and scroll to section IV "Commoning as Relationality"

Relationality is closely related to feminist theorist Karen Barad's concept of Intra-Action.

DisCOs are relational, living processes, determined by the relations and Carework among the DisCO's members and their relation to the DisCO's mission and values. DisCOs relate to each other in DisCOFeds and so on. All of these can be seen as a the Intra-actions of DisCO.

Relationalized Property

Relationalized Property is about “other ways of having” that are aligned with Commoning and go beyond the exclusion, extraction, and marketization associated with conventional property ownership. A society built around property ownership tends to produce haves and have-nots and abusive concentrations of capital and power. Relationalized property is a novel class of socio-legal governance and Provisioning that partially or completely neutralizes exclusive ownership rights over things regarded as property. People decide to adopt a relationalized property regime and manage shared wealth through Peer Governance; the regime is not imposed on them. It enables forms of interrelated possession of property that is life-enhancing and strengthens relationships — with each other, the nonhuman world, past and future generations, and the common good.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Semi-Permeable Membranes

Semi-Permeable Membranes are what the boundaries of a Commons should be. Like other living social organisms, Commons need to protect themselves from external forces that might harm them while remaining open to flows of nourishment and signals from the environment. Therefore, a commons functions best if it develops a semi-permeable membrane for itself rather than a tight, rigid boundary. This flexible skin, figuratively speaking, both assures its integrity by preventing enclosure and other harms while allowing it to develop nourishing, symbiotic relationships with other living organisms.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Sharing is a general, nonspecific term that points to forms of allocation that are nonreciprocal. Based on what is being shared, we differentiate it as Sharing, Dividing Up, and Co-Using. All of these forms are usually preceded by Pooling.


  • Sharing is the voluntary, nonreciprocal transfer of knowledge, information, ideas, code, design, and other intangibles that are inexpensively copied. Free and open source software communities are classic practitioners of sharing.

Dividing Up

  • Dividing Up is the allocation of finite, depletable resources. It differs from sharing because sharing generally increases the use-value of what is being shared; that effect does not apply for Dividing Up. (Sharing must also be distinguished from the “sharing economy,” which is not really about sharing but about microrental markets.)


  • Co-Using is a social arrangement for access and use of a shared resource or Care-Wealth.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Situated Knowing

Situated Knowing refers to the intuitive, embodied expertise and practical know-how that derives from living and working within a particular domain. When people grow up in a given environment from childhood, they are immersed in certain rhythms and techniques. They learn subtle cues about plants, wood, craft materials, game, the weather, and other elements of the local landscape. They develop a deep familiarity with their circumstances that cannot be obtained through book learning.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Social Solidarity Economy (SSE)

Any solidarity-based, non-capitalist and non-authoritarian economic system that includes ordinary people in practices that seek to overcome inequalities and transformatively address economic, social, environmental and political issues. See RIPESS's introductory page on the SSE to find out more.


A DisCO SpaceCamp is an in-person meeting among DisCONauts. Conviviality, care and wellbeing , fun and co-creation are prioritized at SpaceCamps. The objective is to a) Kairos: ground the team and strengthen relationships in real space and and b) Kronos: carry out participative co-creation exercises, think about the box and prepare the DisCO's future readiness.

SpaceCamps may include just the Core Working Circles, or Extended Circles (Orbits).


SuperDisCOs are medium to large-scale stable and federated circuits of value creation. SuperDisCOs are complex organisms composed of individual DisCOs who have experienced a Dating Phase together, built trust, shared goals and values and are ready to mutualize Value Sovereignty. SuperDisCOs are DisCO's answer to the problem of scaling. They are also how DisCO manifests as a viable anticapitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist, alternative to both Commons Based Peer Production and DAOs.


Stint is an access rule to prevent something from being overused or abused. In subsistence cultures, there are often highly specific rules for how and when a person may harvest wood from the forest or rushes from a wetland. A “stinted commons” is therefore one that is managed to protect the renewable capacities of a natural system. “Without stints there is no true Commons,” writes commons scholar Lewis Hyde. See Capping.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)

Synchronous Communication

Synchronous Communication is communication that happens in real time with people talking or chatting with each other simultaneously. In an office, this may happen in a meeting room or by the water cooler. A digital collective, however, needs a place to hang out online, send messages, contact any team member directly, or even goof around. For this, it’s useful to have a digital Tool specifically designed for online collaborating teams, such as Mattermost. Also see how more reflective Asynchronous Communication complements more immediate Synch Comms in the DisCO Framework.



A pun in the hyper-pretentious The DAO, THE DisCO (with an article in front and in caps), is DisCO's own anticapitalist, decolonial and intersectional feminist take on the DAO space. THE DisCO is an automated value-issuing mechanism accessible to the DisCOs that make up The DisCOVerse. Unlike a DAO, THE DisCO allocates value to DisCOs based on their Care and Lovework, not to disaggregated individuals or token holders. THE DisCO is currently in the conceptual development phase.


Ubuntu Rationality

Ubuntu Rationality describes a logic of human interaction that recognizes the deep connections between a person’s interests and the well-being of others. It points to a dynamic where a person’s unfolding requires the unfolding of others, and vice-versa. The term is a counterpoint to the conventional idea of economic rationality, which is defined as self-interested, calculative, acquisitive behavior which tends to be at the expense of others. When people can see themselves as Nested-I's embedded in a Pluriversal set of relationships, they begin to exhibit Ubuntu Rationality. Ubuntu is a term in various Bantu languages in South Africa that denotes the deep interdependence of “me” and “other.”


Value Sovereignty

Value Sovereignty is a solidarity-based strategy for economic resistance that allows all members of a DisCO to contribute according to their capacity. All members create value; part of this value is processed through a market interface (the DisCO “business”) and is converted into monetary value, which is then Pooled and distributed to benefit all Value Streams (including Carework and Lovework). Essentially, the more effort and Care put into the collective, the larger the share.

From Free, Fair and Alive

Although most Commons exist within the market/state system, making them vulnerable to Enclosure, a commons generally strives to protect its moral and cultural identity and to control the value it generates. In short, it seeks to secure its own Value Sovereignty.


Valueflows is a set of common vocabularies to describe flows of economic resources of all kinds within distributed economic ecosystems of the next economy. It is designed to help alternative economic projects that are solving different pieces of the same puzzle be able to work together. Visit the Valueflows website for more info.

Value Streams

DisCO Governance values and visibilizes three main types of work:

  • Livelihood Work (work that is paid by the market, or through grants etc),
  • Lovework (Pro-bono, unfunded and mission-oriented work)
  • Carework (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. Value Streams are the building blocks of DisCO Principle 6: Origins and Flows of Value.

Vernacular Law

Vernacular Law is a form of law that originates in informal, unofficial zones of society as an instrument of moral authority and social order. While vernacular law may or may not be morally good in itself, it stands in contrast to State Law, which reflects the particular concerns of state power and jurisprudence. Custom functions as Vernacular Law by expressing the practical judgments, ethical wisdom, and Situated Knowledge of people rooted in a particular place or circumstances.

(Sourced from Free, Fair and Alive)


Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits

Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits or WSDNPs combine the mission-oriented functionality and legal advantages of a non-profit, with the Radical Workplace Democracy of a DisCO. WSDNPs were originally developed by the Sustainable Economies Law Center. DisCO.NP is the generic DisCO name for DisCO-WSDNPs. DisCO.coop is a DisCO-NP.

Here are some articles and resources on WSDNPs:

Working Circles

Working Circles are DisCO’s way of Dividing Up tasks and focusing efforts on thematic areas, each with its own membership and team stewards. Many members of DisCO are stewards of several of these areas. This means that, although they may not directly work in or even be the main contributors to any of these areas, they are ultimately responsible for their upkeep. Full, committed members of DisCO are expected to continually learn and improve in the Working Circles they belong to. The set of Working Circles within the collective can be flexible. You can find different examples of Working Circles here.

Misleading Binaries

The following text has been sourced from chapter 3 of Free Fair and Alive: the Insurgent Power of the Commons by Silke Helfrich and David Bollier. You can read the full chapter here.

When using binary, or polar, opposites, a person implies that each pole exhibits a very different logic from the other and that each is essentially incompatible. But the experience of commoning in a given situation dissolves or transcends many presumed binaries. For example, people who participate in a collaborative endeavor such as a blood donation system or an academic discipline may have the experience of being a Nested-I, which transcends the polarity of the individual and collective. As we enter the world of the Commons, therefore, we begin to leave the world of “misleading binaries.” Here are a few of them.


This binary is often used to suggest that the interest of an individual is positioned against the interests of a collective body. Such conflicts can exist, to be sure, and can be addressed in their contexts. Problems arise, however, when the idea of “I” is pitted against the “we” (or “I” is asserted in denial of “we”). The individual is considered utterly separate and distinct from others — for example, the “self-made man.” This is an illusion because an individual can develop talents and identity only through his/her participation in a larger collective. And vice-versa: the collective can only come into being through individuals. In other words, the two are conjoined and interdependent, not polar opposites and separate. We try to underscore this idea through the idea of the Nested-I and Ubuntu Rationality.


Standard economics generally sees consumers and producers as a dyad relationship: a business produces, an individual consumes. But as Commons and open networks empower people to self-provision (individually and collectively), the duality of these two functions is blurring. Some observers have tried to acknowledge this fact by talking about “prosumers” who blend production and consumption in one process. This coinage has its value, but it still places the discussion on an economic, materialistic plane — production and consumption of goods through resource extraction, modification, and distribution.

Objective/Subjective. In modern life, these two modes of perception and understanding are taken as opposites. The “objective” is seen as physical, verifiable, and measurable, whereas the “subjective” is given a lesser status as merely one person’s feelings, mood, and intuition, and therefore less real and true. Objectivity points to hard, immutable facts that are “scientific” while subjectivity is seen as unreliable and transient. However, neurologists, behavioral scientists, and economists have shown that the separation between objective and subjective is largely a fiction because it assumes that rationality is only cognitive and conscious — and that subjectivity is by definition irrational. In reality, the objective and subjective are utterly integrated. Non-cognitive, embodied insights and feelings can also be quite reliable and true.


These two terms are often posed as opposites. But evolutionary scientists and anthropologists note that they are often quite interrelated: species tend to have symbiotic relationships that entail both competition and cooperation, depending upon the circumstances. Even economists have noted such dynamics in various market settings as people and businesses simultaneously compete and cooperate. On assembly lines, workers routinely share their Tools and help each other. It is therefore misleading to state or imply that “competition is bad, and cooperation is good.” They both happen everywhere, all the time. The real question is whether the fruits of cooperation can accrue to the cooperators, or whether they will be primarily captured by investors and Corporations, as in the so-called sharing economy.


When the internet opened up a new world of instantaneous information Sharing, a familiar binary was quickly called into service — open versus closed. This framing tends to be reassuring because it simplifies the choices that one apparently faces. It is often invoked in debates about territorial borders and property rights — something must either be open (accessible) or closed (restricted). It’s all very black-or-white. But in fact, open and closed are just two extreme ends of a rich spectrum of possible access rules that can be applied.[15]


This familiar binary reflects the premise of modern industrial societies that government and markets are separate and somewhat oppositional. The government is supposedly the force for “public,” collective purposes, and the market is supposedly a realm of “private” choice and freedom (even though free marketers deftly reposition “private choices” as the engine of public purpose, the so-called Invisible Hand). This framing is largely a fiction. Contemporary politics has demonstrated just how closely intertwined state power and capitalist markets truly are. Any disagreements between the public and private sectors pale in comparison to their strong mutual commitments to each other, their allegiance to a worldview based on market capitalism, and the market economy’s structural dependence on public financing, civil infrastructure, regulatory oversight, and so on. Political debates that revolve around an opposition between “public” and “private” rely on a shallow, specious framing that fails to acknowledge Commons and other noncapitalist forms of order.


A variant of the “objective” vs. “subjective” divide noted above. The “rational” is supposedly objective, while the “irrational” is merely personal and subjective. The presumption is that non-rational modes of understanding (i.e., qualitative, emotional, spiritual, intuitive) are not to be trusted. Indeed, the irrational has been associated with women and girls, and considered more appropriate to private spheres of life (family, personal relationships) whereas the rational is associated with public life (and men and boys). This elemental distinction is often the foundation for institutions that claim to be making rational decisions by ignoring non-scientific, non-quantifiable factors and feelings.


The presumption that a person’s behavior is either self-interested or altruistic reflects another aspect of the deeply rooted idea that people are essentially “Isolated-I’s” separate from larger social collectives. In a world of Isolated-I’s, it is functional to a certain extent to make calculated, rational choices. But the binary of self-interest and altruism is specious when one considers that self-care is a prerequisite for Care of others and vice-versa. Self-interest and altruism are in fact blended. Showing great concern for others is also a way to advance one’s own interests; caring for one’s self develops an identity that enables one to care for others. The binary of self-interest and altruism dissolves.

Keywords from a Fading Era

The following text has been sourced from chapter 3 of Free Fair and Alive: the Insurgent Power of the Commons by Silke Helfrich and David Bollier. We recommend reading the full chapter online here for more context.

This is our attempt to identify terms whose embedded meanings point in the wrong direction. They subtly direct our attention to old-paradigm ways of perceiving and thinking while blocking more constructive forms of cognition and communication. Many utterly familiar terms in modern societies evoke realities that are actually breaking down and decaying. We might call them keywords from a fading era — oncesalient terms that are increasingly stale and archaic.

Why do we need such a glossary? John Patrick Leary, a cultural historian of capitalism and its language, explains that the keywords we use reveal a lot about the logic, values, and sensibilities of a people. They “bind together ways of seeing culture and society,” he notes. Citing Raymond Willliams’s classic book on keywords from 1976, Leary states that the words that command our attention today “relate to affinity for hierarchy and a celebration of the virtues of competition, ‘the marketplace,’ and the virtual technologies of our time.”

This is exactly what we experienced in writing these pages. We faced a special challenge: trying to communicate the subtle realities of commons and commoning with words whose meanings are deeply embedded in a different, market-focused culture. There was no way! The words themselves are perfectly fine, but we always felt that they could not really express certain truths about commons. Many terms are slyly misleading simply because they suggest solid, trustworthy ideas, while in fact the referents are disappearing realities. The words are becoming empty husks. Think about the word sustainability. Today it is used to describe business models rather than the mindful use of shared natural wealth to ensure its capacity for regeneration. Certain terms signal one’s belief in a worldview that is problematic. When talking about human capital, you endorse a world in which the primary role of human beings is to be resources for the labor market. When you talk about economic growth, you invite listeners to believe in the faux-egalitarian narrative that growth raises all boats even though the reality is quite different.

In this sense vocabulary is a living universe of meaning communicated through discrete words; it is not a mere classification system such as a taxonomy. Vocabulary is often described as a “field of words with explanations” (vocabularium in Latin). A look at how vocabularies actually function reveals that they are more like open, evolving collections of words and terms that reflect a hidden web of logic and relationships. A consistent, shared vocabulary illuminates the multifold relationships between words and helps us share experiences and knowledge with others. (That is the reason for these glossaries!)


Citizen, also called “a national,” identifies a person in relation to the nation-state and implies that this is a person’s primary political role. The term “citizen” is often used to imply that noncitizens are somehow less than equal peers or perhaps even “illegal.” A more universal term is Commoners.


Corporations are forms of Organizations that business scholar Ronald Coase famously argued were a more efficient solution to high transaction costs. This analysis is now being subverted by Sharing on open platforms and in Commons, which enable people to minimize transaction costs through collaborations within communities of trust. Flexible improvisation through Commoning can begin to compete with corporate structures and markets, although this approach usually suffers from inadequate infrastructure and financing.


Development is a term of political economy used by the US and European nations to prod “undeveloped” countries to embrace global commerce, resource extractivism, and consumerism along with improvements in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. The harmful side-effects of “development” typically include ecological destruction, inequality, political repression, and cultural dispossession. German ecologist Wolfgang Sachs has called development a mindset that puts the political economies of all nations on a single track: “The lead-runners show the way; they are at the forefront of social evolution, indicating a common destination even for countries which had highly diverse trajectories in the past. Many different histories merge into one ‘master history,’ many different time scales merge into one master time scale. The imagined time is linear, only allowing for progressing or regressing.”


Governance refers to multiple arrangements of guiding and controlling human behavior. Like the term government, it derives ultimately from the Greek kubernaein [κυβερνάω], which literally means to steer. The question is: Who steers whom and by which techniques? The term, as re-minted by economists and political scientists since the early 1990s, implies that a separate class, power group, or institutional apparatus stands over others and governs them — in other words, that the government and governed are separate. The term governance in its standard usage does not encompass the idea of collective coordination and control by people themselves. Our provisional alternative to the term governance is Peer Governance.


Incentives describe the use of something, usually money, to motivate people and to direct their actions in a desired way. In the context of a system of rewards, incentives are usually meant to encourage harder work. (No wonder it was popularized in 1943 in the context of the US war economy.) While external incentives surely have a role to play, studies find that money and other incentives often crowd out instinctual motivations to create and contribute. The introduction of money in a setting signals that impersonal, self-serving social protocols are the norm, which in turn deters people from Contributing Freely. “[M]oney is extraordinarily unfit for addressing needs with Care,” writes Miki Kashtan.


Innovation refers to ideas, Tools, or devices that are new, and, by implication, more original, beneficial, progressive, and effective than that which already exists. The so-called disruptive force of innovation on society and markets is celebrated even through the change is often of negligible value, antisocial, or ecologically harmful. In the end, “innovation” is seen as an engine for competitive market advantage and return on capital investment. Hence the positive aura of the word, especially when it is cast against its binary opposite, “static, traditional, and old,” which implies a lack of imagination. The alternative to “innovation” is not this binary opposite, however, but creative adaptation to ever-changing needs in ways that are shared and convivial.


Leadership is a term that implies a single leader — bold, courageous, insightful — who mobilizes followers to achieve collective goals that might otherwise be unattainable. There is no question that some individuals are inspiring and catalytic. But understanding “leadership” as it happens in most organizational contexts switches on and validates a hierarchical structure in our minds. Leadership is then associated with gaining power over processes and people. It obscures the potential of Commoning to actualize change and organize our lives — or, as Miki Kashtan puts it, “to inhabit an intentionality of leadership without having power.” Catalytic change can be achieved through processes of distributed power and shared purpose, as seen in Sociocracy, the holacracy approach, Theory U., and Peer Governance practices.


Nonprofit implies that an organization is virtuous and socially minded — presumably the opposite of a self-interested for-profit corporation. But a nonprofit is primarily a legal status for organizations that grants them certain tax exemptions. The term nonprofit is somewhat misleading because it suggests that there is a way to participate in a capitalist economy in socially minded ways without making a profit; it is more accurate to say that nonprofits are reinvesting profits into social purposes. They ultimately depend, directly or indirectly, upon profit-making from the larger economy and do not offer structural emancipation from the imperatives of capitalism itself.


Organization usually refers to an institution or association whose members coordinate with each other to pursue shared goals and speak with one voice. This meaning is now being subverted by the power of open networks, which is rendering the idea of a stable organization with identifiable participants and boundaries archaic. Conventional organizations such as government and Corporations are discovering that as the boundaries around organizations become more porous, collaborations with “outsiders” are becoming more routine, and interactions more fluid and dynamic. Interestingly, the term organization stems from Greek órganon [ὄργανον], which translates as a Tools to “compose into a viable, vital whole,” as our body organs do. Rather than focusing on organizations as a form, we find it more useful to focus on the quality of organizing within an institution: conscious self-organization, networking, and Peer Governance.


Participation is a term often used to describe Citizen involvement in government, community life, and organizations. Today the term is usually invoked in a positive way to imply that citizen participation (in hearings, decision-making, or participatory budgeting programs) fulfills democratic ideals and confers popular legitimacy on the outcomes. This is precisely the deficiency of the term “participation,” however: it is often confined within a predetermined, top-down set of policy options and implementation strategies. The public does not really initiate and show sovereign political agency in a fuller sense. It merely “participates” in public debates and processes on terms that politicians, regulators, and other state officials have already found acceptable, giving the ultimate decisions a veneer of legitimacy. By contrast, Commoning is a more robust, independent act of political agency.


Pluralism is often taken as social virtue because of its claims to tolerate and accept different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, etc. But pluralism within a liberal market state has normative expectations about social aspirations and attitudes toward capitalism and Governance. For example, when individuals climb within the corporate world it is seen as proof of racial and feminist emancipation. This is very different than welcoming a Pluriverse, which implies a recognition of multiple ways of being in the world. Pluralism is important so far as it goes, but it generally means that “diversity” must fundamentally accept the idea of a “One-World World,” as anthropologist Arturo Escobar puts it.


(To) scale: “How do we scale [up] this idea?” is often another way of asking how to make it significant or consequential. The term implies some sort of verticality (bottom-up, top-down), as if centralized hierarchies were needed to expand the operationality of an idea or practice. But as we explain in our term Emulate & Then Federate (pp. 202–203), local projects can expand through voluntary participation, peer organization, and Federation, without the ministrations of centralized systems of control. Enabling infrastructure is often helpful, but projects taken to scale invariably generate new complications and fixed overhead expenses while reducing the possibility of elegant solutions, local flexibility, and human judgment.29 At a certain point, large-scale systems require increasing energy supplies and workloads to keep them running (“regrettable necessities,” as David Fleming calls them), which can siphon away resources for meeting real needs. Large scale is fundamentally disempowering: “It is like a wave: you can ride it, but not steer it,” notes Fleming. The wisdom of designer Thomas Lommée is apt: “The next big thing will be a lot of small things.”


Scarcity in its popular understanding points to insufficiency that can be solved by the market economy through invention, Innovation, and economic growth. The “scarcity” of oil, land, and water may seem self-evident, but, in fact, the term does not reflect any inherent property of a resource. Oil, land, or water are merely finite. The term scarcity reflects the worldview of a social system that uses a resource. Something is regarded as “scarce” if there is not enough supply to meet actual or potential demand. Within a capitalist context, scarcity is even created when there is plenty of supply, as in the case of knowledge, software code, and information. That is the precise purpose of copyright and patent law — to prevent knowledge and creative works from being shared. “If we experience scarcity,” writes Alan Rosenblith, “the problem is with our systems, not the universe.” The Bushmen of the Kalahari in Africaexperience “affluence without abundance,” as the title of a book about them puts it. Dealing with limited resources is one of the core challenges a Commons faces. For finite resources such as land, this challenge usually happens through a Cap approach that establishes limits on the use of shared wealth. The manufactured scarcity of software code is addressed through free, libre, and open source software (FLOSS) communities.

  1. The concept and final copy for the Commons Transition Primer was developed by DisCO members based on the work of the P2P Foundation, and organization we are no longer linked with.
  2. There is a persistent notion in the blockchain sphere to talk about "The Blockchain" as if there was only one blockchain ledger. This underscores the faux decentralization proposed by blockchain enthusiasts. In DisCO we generally pluralize the term for more accuracy.
  3. Carework is most usually styled as "Care work", which is how we used it in both the DisCO Manifesto and DisCO Elements. Internally we've referred to it as Carework for many years. We have now chosen to go forward with styling it as "Carework" as it's a core DisCO Element and an integral part of DisCO's vocab.
  4. Our intention is to greatly expand on the functionality of Community Rule
  5. DisCO Clusters draw heavily from the concept of "Unity Without Convergence", Read this article for more details.
  6. Legally, DisCO.coop is a non-profit, social interested cooperative established in Spain. This model allows us to have the social mission and tax benefits of a Non-Profit while retaining the workplace democracy and shared ownership of a worker-owned coop, following the Worker Self-Directed Non-Profit model pioneered by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.
  7. Note that depending on the time-frame of the dating process, invitations to worker-ownership may well require additional months of integration. The logic behind this is explained here.
  8. The DisCO Elements is also the title of our second publication, click here to download it or read it online.
  9. If you're missing Crypto-economics from this equation, we argue that it's an immature discipline, informed by normative theories of value and Game Theory. These run counter (and are often ignorant of) feminist, ecological and Marxist economies. P2P and Commons economics have explored the possibilities of tokenization and networked technology with much more rigor. Therefore the "Crypto" or "DLT" part of DisCOnomics is explored under its P2P/Commons facet. For more on this subject, read the Manifesto
  10. In this way DisCOnomics highlight Marx's belief that upper-stage Communism needs to be created and co-defined by the working class for the working class. They will progressively define its shape. The history of political economy and especially the rise of Vanguardism and, consequently Marxism-Leninism in the USSR present an option where the seizure of State Power via a Vanguard Party or a revolution are the main strategies for the working class to achieve such power. We believe that there are other, less violent ways for the working class, precariat and, to use our preferred term "Commoners" to gain economic and political power to bring about lasting social and ecological change.
  11. DisCO Pricing will, of course, always favour other DisCOs, which can also transaction with Love and Care Credits
  12. For more on this subject, read The Open Source Conspiracy
  13. Also known as DIWO
  14. The following passage in the report is also of interest. Therein Marxist media scholar Nick Dyer-Witheford explains that the concept of a Relational Theory of Value "aligns with Marx’s thinking. While some observers say that a Marxist theory of value ascribes value to things, Dyer-Witheford disagreed, noting that “Marx condemned the idea of value inhering in objects as commodity fetishism. He believed in a relational theory of value – the relations between workers and owners – even if Marx may not have considered the full range of social relationships involved in the production of commodities.”…
  15. This is an extract from a longer reflection on Open/Closed which is very relevant to DisCO. Read the full text in [xxxx | Chapter 3 of Free Fair and Alive] (scroll down the page or CTRL +F "How Commoning Moves Beyond the Open/Closed Binary"