At 35C3 we listened to Guy Standing. He presented universal basic income (UBI) as the solution to a broad range of issues. UBI is still popular as a general solution, but the problem is often indistinctly formulated. In this talk, the speakers aim to present a more adequate formulation of the problem and present a model for how to deal with the question of work and compensation.

The model reflects (a) varying needs, (b) the multitude of incentives for community participation, and (c) solidarity in relation to diversity in leanings toward effort and sacrifice.

Many participants of 36C3 are familiar with the complex of problems, since they actively take part in free software projects or technology in general with societal impact.

In the various movements important values risk getting lost:

  • Ideology, the value of being idea-driven
  • The ideals of popular education (Bildung von unten)
  • Participation on equal terms
  • Passion, engagement and interest
  • Freedom and liberation
  • Autonomy
  • Self organisation

The economic rationalism of New Public Management, performance targets like SMART, measurements, evaluation, statistics, undermine classical values present in grass-root movements.

In the European Union, organisations are encouraged to engage in benchmarking. Also in-kind contributions are valued to every miniscule detail in hours and euros. To give an example, the Nordic Council of Ministry, in the context of financing, stands completely at loss before the concept of the volunteer. The point is that the translation is mutually weak between, on the one hand, the Scandinavian “ideell förening” (ideeller Verein) and Anglo-Saxon “not-for-profit”, on the other.

Nevertheless, there are positive aspects of transparency with regards to utilisation, in-kind and other contributions, and what values are materialized.

In this talk, the speakers share insights from many years of experience of voluntary and “not-for-profit” involvement in:

Fripost, an association for democratic electronic communication, active in Gothenburg since 2010, originating from free software community and formed as a reaction to the enclosure of commons;

JAK (land – labour – capital), a democratically controlled ethical bank, the biggest member bank in the Nordic countries, founded in the 1960s and now counting 40.000 members. The initiative was successful during 40 years, combining ideology with practice. JAK experienced a drop in membership numbers, however, after the fact that voluntary contributions were devaluated compared to reimbursed labour.

FSCONS, a participation-organised conference in the Nordic countries, promoting free software, free culture and a free society, since 2007. A fundamental idea of the organisation is that it is based on voluntary efforts.

The Nordic Summer University, international academic study circles and a nomadic university, celebrating 70th anniversary 2020. The circumstances around financing of the organisation has shifted immensely: The primary financier, the Nordic Council of Ministry, is moving from operations based to project based financing. The university is now facing a heavy increase in administrative burden.

SAC, an anarcho-syndicalist nation-wide trade union federation. The organisation has a broad member base distributed over a large number of self-organised local divisions. In parallel there is an industrial division. SAC and its direct-action methods are directly and actively opposed by legislation and other trade union organisations. The workers’ movement is particularly hurt by the individual success project.

Those example organisations have certain circumstances in common:

  • Driven by “not-for-profit” interests
  • On a voluntary basis
  • By voluntary efforts and funding
  • With sprinkles of fully employed resources
  • Variation in competence, experience, and resources
  • Differing stakes and levels of motivation

Our model is simple to apply for projects and associations. We introduce and explore the concepts of participation on a voluntary basis and voluntary labour. We will give explicit examples of how to account for values within the two. The model is a wink to the society of metrics, affirming some of its concepts, but constitutes an immanent critique of the system.

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