The Sunbeam City Coop

discussion and questions about the coop, its structure, its goals, and its future

partially as a part of, partially independent of the issues around the instance itself, there seems to be a lot of confusion and a general lack of clarity about the coop, the purpose of the coop, how it’s organized, how it works, what it does, who is and is not in it, who makes decisions in it, where and how it makes decisions, and so on. hence, i think we’d be remiss to not discuss the coop as a part of these conversations.

what i think we need to do is clarify the above points and any other questions people might have, analyze if the coop needs to be restructured, remade, abolished (or something else), establish a clear path for the coop going forward since it seems like we don’t really have one, and look over what the coop seeks to accomplish and probably how it can actually accomplish those things in the future. optimally, the future of the coop we lay out would also reflect the decisions made about the instance, although i doubt that what needs to be done for the coop will be exactly one-to-one with what needs to be done for the instance

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I agree. I think at some point the decision was made that all SBC users should be members of the coop/able to be members of the coop, which was a good idea in theory but in practice seems to have made ‘the coop’ quite a vague entity that most people don’t really understand.

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as someone who has been an active part of the community for awhile but doesn’t know the answers to a lot of these questions, here are my more personal thoughts about this:

i find that the wiki is fairly good at explaining what the coop stands for, but really bad at explaining how the coop seems to actually work, who’s in it, what it does, how to join it, and how to help it. i think that the mission statement and values are pretty good (although i’m guessing they need to be reworked in a few ways to reflect how things currently are), but almost everything else seems to be a mixture of outdated, obtuse, or just plain unhelpful for understanding.

i think a lot of why this is the case isn’t really the fault of the coop, though. a lot of it seems to just be the coop has kinda collapsed in the past few months and so there’s not much communicating, updating, or organizing going on because most of the people who used to do that aren’t around anymore. (of course, the broader discourse around Sunbeam and it’s problems are a part of why that happened.)

to me, that suggests that a reorganization of the coop could work and i think that’d be my first choice of outcome here pending the broader discussion surrounding the instance and what can be done to resolve its problems if anything, but i can definitely see a case for why it might be preferable to take a harder option for the coop (if not necessarily the instance) like a full restart or just shutting down the coop as it currently exists.

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Personally I think a full restart would be the best way to go for the coop. Rather than sticking with whatever it is at the moment it would be a good opportunity to really think about what the coop is for, what it wants to achieve, what is needed from/for it.

My absolutely rough proposal

Feel free to critique/disregard.

Short term

  • Membership is defined by who is a user on the Mastodon instance.
  • We offer the absolute minimum of services. For example, just the Mastodon instance and the DokuWiki. We archive everything else in plain HTML.
  • We have a paid mod/advisor position that is aimed at Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates.
  • We pay someone to upgrade us to the hometown soft fork of Mastodon so we can post polls to members only for decision making.
  • We try and keep the wiki up to date

Long term

  • We have written and agreed a clear constitution.
  • We have a basic legal structure in place. Seeds for Change seems to suggest a unincorporated association structure*. Then one person can’t steal all the co-ops assets or cause us to shutdown by leaving.
  • We consider applying for coop development grant funding to pay for mod/tech labour.

*Just to be clear, I am referring to this constitution example: https://seedsforchange.org.uk/association_constitution.odt. Unfortunately it’s only available as a .odt download rather than a webpage. Also note, this is only if we want to be registered in the UK. I don’t think the United States has any federal co-op rules as they are set on a state by state basis.

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Honestly? I love these ideas. I hope we can start working on this soon.

What would membership involve? What if anything would members be expected to do? I think we need to know what membership would functionally be before we decide how membership should work. I’m also not sure that every user on the Mastodon instance being a member is necessarily going to work tbh. If an account has been inactive for a year, two years, whatever, should they still be members of the coop? They aren’t really members of the community at that point. I don’t think everyone who joins the instance would necessarily want to be a member either. Maybe some kind of simple opt-in for every member of the instance who wants to join the coop?

I think I agree with basically everything else though.

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looks like a good place to start, broadly speaking. i don’t think i really have any specific critiques of that outline since most of it isn’t my wheelhouse.

one comment is that we should probably specify in our outline that minorities and people of color get as much of a hand as possible in crafting and looking over the final product of writing a constitution (and likely other written materials relating to governing the coop). a lot of the critiques of SBC revolve around the pervasive whiteness, and i think the best way to handle that would be to always have a range of minority perspectives involved in the process from beginning to end.

(we would of course need to walk a fine line in making sure we don’t simultaneously tokenize those voices purely for the sake of diversity or make them yes-men for the coop’s ideas.)

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We should also add consideration for other minorities such as queers, neurodivergent, disabled, etc. Let’s not half-ass it.

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It’s been a problem in the past. When we didn’t have it open to everyone people thought we were being elitist and it was complex to get people on board. I don’t think shutting off parts of SBC membership will help.

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What would membership involve? What if anything would members be expected to do? I think we need to know what membership would functionally be before we decide how membership should work. I’m also not sure that every user on the Mastodon instance being a member is necessarily going to work tbh. If an account has been inactive for a year, two years, whatever, should they still be members of the coop? They aren’t really members of the community at that point. I don’t think everyone who joins the instance would necessarily want to be a member either. Maybe some kind of simple opt-in for every member of the instance who wants to join the coop?

We had that before, but then we voted on changing it to the current system. Otherwise you have a two tiered system with users and members (this is often called a multi-stakeholder co-op) and at that time we decided that wasn’t working so well and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to have a say.

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one comment is that we should probably specify in our outline that minorities and people of color get as much of a hand as possible in crafting and looking over the final product of writing a constitution (and likely other written materials relating to governing the coop) . a lot of the critiques of SBC revolve around the pervasive whiteness, and i think the best way to handle that would be to always have a range of minority perspectives involved in the process from beginning to end.

Yep agreed. I didn’t include that explicitly because I want to suggest that is what the paid role could help address and I don’t know what we can afford yet. See: What can we afford financially as a co-op?

If we have members I think an opt-in would be best, but yeah I agree we need to define what separates a member of the co-op from someone who simply has an account before that can mean anything.

A simple fact is that even people with active accounts may not be interested in the decision process for various reasons, and even people who do won’t be interested in every decision.

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If we have members I think an opt-in would be best, but yeah I agree we need to define what separates a member of the co-op from someone who simply has an account before that can mean anything.

A simple fact is that even people with active accounts may not be interested in the decision process for various reasons, and even people who do won’t be interested in every decision.

Just to be clear there is currently no compulsory requirement for being a member apart from having an account on Sunbeam Masto. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to vote or contribute to discussions but as a co-op we should enfranchise as much people to make decisions as possible if they want to.

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Fair enough :slight_smile: I don’t think I was around at that point so was drawing on my experiences from a different context.

I’m really lost here, can anyone explain what is happening?

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See this ongoing thread: History of the Sunbeam City server

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so, this particular discussion is about what we should do with the situation of the coop that runs/hosts the Sunbeam City instance, the wiki, and other associated materials to SBC

all members of SBC currently are members of the coop, but most people don’t seem to know about it and certainly the overwhelming majority don’t participate. this appears to be for a few reasons:

  • the aforementioned people not knowing about the coop and the fact that all members are a part of it
  • the fact that what the coop does/what it’s supposed to do is ambiguous
  • the fact that the coop doesn’t seem to really have a purpose it’s working toward, and doesn’t seem to really promote or adhere to its values very well
  • the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a functioning or organized way for the coop to make decisions currently
  • the fact that much of the coop reflects what it was like when it had more active members

this thread basically seeks to figure out how to resolve all of those questions and get the coop back on a useful track for its members and its goals

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I haven’t done stuff related to the co-op before, so has that been run via Loomio in the past, or is there another platform which is used for it?

EDIT: Looked into it a bit more and it looks like SBC is using OpenCollective as well for the financial side of things? Would now be a good time to create an account for that?

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only loomio afaik was used before this point (and was going to be used for this if it wasn’t being fucky). it should be accessible and visible through this link:

https://loomio.sunbeam.city/g/btp9X3IK/sunbeam-city

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