Since we launched the new website for One Click Orgs last week we’ve had a deluge of encouraging messages and people saying their groups need the service as soon as possible. On Thursday Nat Torkington posted a link to us on the O’Reilly Radar blog with the marvelous comment that:

We’re one step closer to Charlie Stross’s vision from Accelerando of a twisty maze of cross-shareholding organisations whose bylaws are Python scripts.

See the post here. Thanks Nat!

Rewired State, the influential initiative connecting government with technology innovation, has signed up as One Click Orgs’ second alpha customer. Following their hugely successful “hack the government” event on 7th March 2009 Rewired State has been besieged with interest from government and developers alike. Now they’ve decided to form an organisation to build on this momentum and One Click Orgs was the natural choice. Find out more at http://rewiredstate.org/buzz.

I’m delighted to announce that One Click Orgs has formed a partnership with the Open Knowledge Foundation, the respected think tank campaigning for sharing and reuse of information. OKF is kindly providing the servers and collaboration infrastructure we need to build a larger open-source developer community, provide this public website and host our initial customer platforms. Many thanks to Rufus and the other board members at OKF for supporting One Click in this vital way.

We’re looking for a UX whiz to help us with One Click Organisation. Details below. Please forward them to anyone who might have the appropriate skills and be interested in the project. Thanks!

: c :

Wanted: User Experience Designer to help us revolutionise organisations & group decision-making

How does an individual engage with decision-making and governance for organisations they belong to? All too often these are remote processes, defined somewhere in a dusty constitution and overseen by self-important officials. One Click Organisations is changing this, creating a new way for groups to run themselves on the internet; radically increasing transparency and enabling any members to play a full role in decision-making.

A prototype system is up and running. It’s already being used to manage BarCamp London. Now we need an experienced UX Designer to join our small team and ensure non-technical users can meet their needs smoothly and intuitively through the platform. We’re looking for someone who’s excited by the challenge of changing how organisations work and has a deep grounding in user experience. The platform is built in Merb. Familiarity with any web frameworks will be a plus.

This is a volunteer project where everyone’s contributing a couple of hours a week. To keep everyone on the same page we have a project meeting every three weeks and two “hack days” a month. There’s no salary but you will have the opportunity to become a full voting member of the project team and gain international recognition for your work on the project.

If you’re interested:
Please write to Charles Armstrong with links to some recent work: charles [at] CIRCUS-foundation [dot] org

The project will also be featured at a workshop on Tuesday 17th March, starting at 7pm in Shoreditch. The holding page at oneCLICKor.gs includes a link to our Facebook group where further details will be posted.

About the project:
One Click Organisations is creating a revolutionary web platform that makes it easy for groups to create a simple legal structure and make collective decisions. Initially the project is targeting the needs of social entrepreneurs, collectives, activist groups and associations.

Yesterday evening the BarCampLondon Planning Association (the organisation putting on BarCampLondon) became One Click Orgs’ first alpha customer. The association held its founding meeting at the Trampery and adopted a Themis constitution running on the prototype server. This is an important step forward for OCO, the first time an independent group has used the platform to help it manage a complex project. We’ll get a lot of valuable feedback from this that’ll help us refine the platform to meet users’ needs.

Meanwhile our presence at the BIL Conference was a great success. I was the second keynote in the main auditorium talking about the relationship between technology and organisational structure, the principles of emergent democracy and the One Click Organisations project. Then Emma had a main-auditorium session on the Sunday afternoon discussing the democratic open source development approach we’ve pioneered with OCO. Both sessions were well received and we met a lot of people who are interested in the project and/or have groups wanting to use it. The conference as a whole was overflowing ideas and projects. I’ll link to videos of our sessions as soon as they’re published.

We’re doing two sessions on one click orgs at this weekend’s BIL Conference in Long Beach, California. I’ll be presenting the concept and purpose of the project while Emma discusses the democratic open source methodology we’ve adopted for development.

BIL is the place to be for big new ideas and unconventional thinkers. i visited the first BIL last year and i’m excited to be there again this year. Come and see us if you’re there!

If you’d like to help guarantee us prime speaking slots please register on the BIL community site and mark our sessions as “favs”:

http://bil.nowgetsocial.com/talk/details/43
http://bil.nowgetsocial.com/talk/details/85

Meanwhile 2009 has got off to a great start for the project with new team members, new features and the 1.0 roadmap close to finalised.

The founding meeting for One Click Organisations was held on Monday 29 December at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, attended by Jef, Emma, Martin, Jan and myself. We went through the draft constitution clause by clause making sure everyone understood how it worked and considering any revisions. The founding vote was passed unanimously at 8:26pm, at which point One Click Organisations came into being as a legal entity (specifically an unincorporated association).

We were careful to observe established practice in convening and running the founding meeting, conscious that beyond this point we’d have few conventions on which to grasp. One of the nice things about unincorporated associations is that they are governed by the law of contract which means the members can collectively agree to adopt whatever rules they wish. So long as there is a clear paper trail leading up to the founding vote the courts will adjudicate that the constitution adopted at that point (with any subsequent modifications) is the legitimate basis on which the members have agreed to come together.

One of the most important characteristics of the Themis Constitutions is the complete absence of machinery for convening and running meetings. Therefore it was distinctly ironic to find ourselves going to such lengths in connection with the founding meeting. As the platform matures we’ll be able to streamline even this part of the process (though this first meeting will still be necessary) by providing a “wizard” which automates the production and circulation of the agenda, guides the convenor step by step through the workflow then circulates minutes at the end of the process.

From the moment of the founding vote One Click Organisations was irreversibly locked to the decision-making tools hosted on the system. Every decision registered there is binding on the organisation. As far as we can tell this is the first time anyone’s done anything like this. Whilst the system remains at such an early stage of development it’s slightly nerve-wracking. Day by day we’re thinking of more edge cases. What’s the legal situation if the server fails? Or if a bug leads to spurious decisions? Gradually we’ll add cover for cases like this in the constitution, but this definitely feels like terra incognita.

We’ve had a lot of offers of help and advice which have been gratefully received. 2009 promises to be an exciting year for One Click!

Mission accomplished! Over the weekend, in our mini homage to Social Innovation Camp, the One Click project team constructed the platform and constitution for the Base 1 Prototype. Because of One Click’s unique fusion of software and legal structure the platform and constitution need to evolve hand in hand. So for example if we add a new feature to the software enabling organisations to split off working groups and assign specific authority to them, we’ll also need to add extra clauses to the constitution to extend the accompanying legal framework.

Emma heroically spent most of Saturday coding. Then on Sunday the team assembled in Dalston’s Cafe Oto whilst I joined by Skype from Somerset (where I was attending the excellent All Tomorrow’s Parties – thanks Jan!).

The next step is to go through the founding process to create a legal organisation running on the constitution and thereby the platform. We aim to do that later this week or at the weekend.

For anyone who’s interested here’s the specification and constitution we executed.

Prototype Base 1 // Specification // 5 December 2008

1. CONSTITUTION MODULE
a. The Constitution will be completely static.
2. MEMBERSHIP MODULE
a. Members will be associated with:
i. An email address
ii. Proposals they created (date, time, proposal text)
iii. Votes they cast (date, time,
b. Members will authenticate on the web interface by email address (no password)
c. Creation of new Members, changing email address and deletion of Members will be manual operations with no automation.
3. DECISION-MAKING MODULE
a. Members will be able to create an Open Proposal via a form on the web interface.
b. Open Proposals will consist of a title and description.
c. An Open Proposal will become a Closed Proposal 72 hours after its creation.
d. Members will be able to vote to Support or Oppose an Open Proposal.
e. A Decision will be created when a Closed Proposal has more Support votes then Oppose votes.
f. An alert message will be sent to each Member’s email address whenever:
i. A New Open Proposal is created.
ii. A Member casts a vote.
iii. An Open Proposal becomes Closed
iv. A Decision is made
4. WEB INTERFACE
a. Home page:
i. Current Open Proposals, ability to view, Support or Oppose each one.
ii. Create new Open Proposal, ability to set title and description.
iii. My Proposals
iv. My Votes
v. Member list
b. Member profile:
i. Proposal history
ii. Voting history

Prototype Base 1 // Constitution // 7 December 2008

1. This is the constitution (“Constitution”) of the One Click Organisations Project (“OCO”).
2. OCO has the objectives (“Objectives”) of developing, hosting and promoting software to simplify the process of creating a legal structure and managing an organisation, based on constitutional models developed by CIRCUS foundation’s Themis Project.
3. CIRCUS foundation is an unincorporated association under English law whose Custodian is named at and can be contacted via the website http://CIRCUS-foundation.org.
4. Source code for all software developed by OCO will be released under an open licence enabling others to modify and extend it freely.
5. OCO directs CIRCUS foundation to hold and transfer material assets and intangible assets on its behalf until alternative arrangements are made.
6. OCO uses an electronic management system to automate clerical processes (“OCO Management System”).
7. Members may access the OCO Management System at the website http://oneclickorgs.com/management.
8. OCO has one or more members (“Members”) who support OCO’s Objectives.
9. Members may view a register of current Members on the OCO Management System.
10. Members may submit a proposal (“Proposal”) on the OCO Management System.
11. A Proposal may be voted on for the period of 72 hours starting with its submission (“Voting Period”).
12. Members may view a register of current Proposals on the OCO Management System.
13. Members may vote to support (“Supporting Vote”) or vote to oppose (“Opposing Vote”) a Proposal on the OCO Management System during the Proposal’s Voting Period.
14. A decision (“Decision”) to enact a Proposal is made when Supporting Votes have been received from more than half of the Members during the Voting Period; or when more Supporting Votes than Opposing Votes have been received for the Proposal at the end of the Voting Period.
15. Members may view a register of all Decisions on the OCO Management System.
16. A new Member is appointed by Decision.
17. An amendment to the Constitution is made by Decision.
18. Members may resign from OCO by informing the Custodian of CIRCUS foundation in writing.
19. If at any time the number of Members is zero the Custodian of CIRCUS foundation shall have the right to appoint one, two or three new Members.

Yesterday evening the One Click Organisations project team assembled at the Trampery for its second planning session. The first session concentrated on constitutions, use cases and the boundary between formal and informal decision-making. Yesterday we focused squarely on development and technology.

In the course of two hours we worked out the scope of the project, identified the primary functional modules, defined the first steps on the roadmap, selected a technology and a modus operandi. We also agreed several more philosophical points about where the project is heading and made out first formal group decision (which was very exciting).

Even though the project wasn’t selected for Social Innovation Camp we decided to get together and build the first functioning prototype this weekend anyway! Anyone who wants to come along on Sunday between 3pm and 7pm is welcome, just drop me a line and I’ll reply with the details.

: c :

Last Thursday I raced up to Camden on my bike just in time to give the closing presentation at Open Everything London. I whisked through the historical relationship between technological innovation and social/organisational structure, outlined the hypothesis for emergent democracy and ended with a description of the Themis Project and an invitation for contributors. There were lots of interesting questions afterwards. I wish I could have been there for the entire day. Eli Gothill has posted a review of the event which gives a flavour for anyone who wasn’t there. Jonathan Gray organised it with the Young and Shuttleworth Foundations.

On Friday evening I pedaled down to the Unicorn Theatre for “Who Wants to Be”, along with James and Emma. Ever since Saul Albert’s presentation about the format at the recent Emergent Democracy workshop I’ve been dying to see it in action. My intention was to sit quietly, observe the crowd and make notes charting the changing dynamics through the evening. However I couldn’t help getting swept up in the hurly burly and I think I suggested something rather unconstructive about chain-saws at one point.

The production was extremely polished. A small support team at the edge of the stage controlled projections on a screen in response to what was happening. As people put forward ideas their words appeared almost immediately on a projection screen, often accompanied by images. There was a pleasing sharpness to how this was done, sometimes subtly mocking a proposal, other times encapsulating it more elegantly than the proposer had done. Thus the support team functioned somewhat as a chorus in Greek drama, commenting on the proceedings as well as reporting them. Mikey Weinkove did an impressive job as MC, holding everything together and sustaining a sense of direction.

What struck me most during the evening was how inexorably a consensus formed around a sensible, safe decision. Initially there was strong peer encouragement for people to propose ideas that were entertaining and outrageous but as the group turned to deciding what the money should actually be spent on the dynamic shifted and frivolous options were progressively whittled away. In the end we decided to buy a park bench and put our names on it. The previous audience decided to buy a piece of woodland. It’s striking that these are both popular choices for memorials, which made me think a lot about the choices we middle classes make.

I suspect the dynamic would be somewhat different if the event were held in an established community who actually had something significant at stake in the decisions being made. You would see factions mobilising and forming alliances. You would see much more heat in the interactions, rather than pure play. And there would be a lot more pressure to reach a consensus within the allotted time. I would be fascinated to observe an event running in such a situation.

Hats off to Saul and the team at the People Speak for coming up with such an intriguing format and executing it with such panache.

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