Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The way I see it - and you might wish to publish the proposed structure - then there would be one or more "Custodian" entities with charitable objectives.  The purpose of these is to "steward" both the agreed and expressed purpose ("Aims and Objectives") of our collaboration as well as to "own" as a "Trustee" the "Intellectual" and quite possibly other types of  "Property" developed within the framework of a simple over-arching legal "umbrella".
We would then see "Investors" of money and "money's worth" of their time, maybe goods services or land.
They would have different objectives, all of which could be accommodated provided there are people on ET willing and able to enter into the necessary consensual "enterprise agreements".
Where a return is required which is less than the maximum possible ("For Profit") "commercial" return, then I would characterise such a return as "Social" if costs are covered (ie Yunus's "Not for Loss"), and as "Charitable" if the only return is in the hereafter.
I see no reason why EU grants should not be applied for by the relevant "Custodian" and used to defray the costs (as necessary) of the "Operating Members" so that they do not starve in a garret. Such grants are essentially investments with a nil return.
There is also the "meta-consultancy" aspect, where people could maybe approach the members collectively via the site and post their requirement, and ET members who carry out the work kick back an agreed ("n'th") share of any resulting revenues into the common pool.
Equally, there is no reason why a few ET'ers could not agree that a particular investment or business strategy were not a good idea and agree among themselves our to split any gains between the people who invest and the people who conceive of and apply the concepts.
We would essentially create a framework within which a loose partnership of "intellectual" and "Financial" capital is possible.
by ChrisCook   

The structure proposed does not follow the conventional wisdom of either "For Profit" or "Not for Profit".  Within the consensual legal framework of the ET "Open Corporate" LLP is a new type of "open" corporate partnership and within this there is no "Profit" and no "Loss", merely the creation, exchange and sharing of "value" (ie "money's worth") in all its forms.
The proposed ET framework LLP would not be an "organisation" but rather a framework within which members "self organise". It won't "do" anything; "own" anything; enter into contracts with anyone; or "employ" anyone.  But its Members can, and will.
by ChrisCook

Interesting! Does an LLP have legal personality?  I'll do some research later on.  In the meanwhile here's a try to leverage our 'collective wisdom':  Calling melanchthon.
by nanne

Indeed it is a "legal person". An LLP is a Corporate entity, exactly as a Company is, and since it has limited liability, in the absence of fraud (yours, or someone else's you are aware of) you can't lose more than you put in.
Other than that it's a blank sheet of paper. There isn't even a requirement for a written "LLP agreement" between members (not that I recommend leaving things like that).
It is the simplest and most flexible legal entity ever created, and it has unintended consequences.
by ChrisCook

I have been involved in many online projects. Some have been merely the circulation by email of documents, ideas, reflections, powerpoints etc. It works with a small team on largely text-based projects. (The ppts are usually extensions of documents).  Some projects have been a mix of video or tele conferencing and document exchange. The most interesting have used commercial software that is designed for co-operation and the sharing of almost any kind of digital files live. These projects have been leaderless or, rather, leaderfull. The agenda is always set by the group and is always visible as it evolves.
All these projects have been membership only. That is an aspect that needs to be discussed.
I bet you most of the work was done by those who could work on it for 4 hours at a time, even if they tallied less total time than others.
by Migeru

In Chris' basic set-up the LLP "wrapper" deals with those "outside" and the aggregate revenue and outgoing happen through it, but as Chris proposes revenue and cost sharing, the LLP itself has zero profit each year and so it need pay no tax. Chris has called this "tax transparent". I'm sure he can explain it better than I can. And the word "wrapper" just refers to the fact that it is a legal structure to bring together a number of interested people or legal entities to perform different function, but the LLP itself does little.

Not quite. UK tax law stipulates that although it is a "Corporate Body" ie a separate legal person like a Company, unlike a Company it does not pay tax in its own right ie "Corporation Tax". Instead, the revenues or gains flow through to the Members, wherever in the world they happen to be. In the US, when applied to an LLC (there is a choice of treatments for LLC's) this is known as "pass through". We in the UK call it "tax transparency".  The bottom line is that I have to fill in the partnership page on my UK tax return, because as far as the UK tax-man is concerned he ignores the LLP I am a member of, and treats it as a Partnership. An LLP can indeed make a profit (all conventional ones aim to), which it then splits among its Members in whatever way they agree, but as Migeru says, if ALL of the stakeholders, including suppliers, are brought within the LLP as Members, then while there is no "Profit" per se (you can only have a "profit" if there is an "externality"), there will still be taxable revenue or gains created and shared. In this "Full Strength" LLP model, VAT isn't charged either, because there are no Inputs, Outputs or invoices. Th interior of such an LLP structure is an interesting twilight zone, tax-wise and I believe it may work across borders in a way that a global multinational engaged in tax juggling would probably recognise....
Chris Cook

The "wrapper" is the "framework" LLP which has the various classes of "stakeholder" members, and these classes may be constituted either formally or informally.
As just explained elsewhere re "tax transparency", LLP's don't pay tax themselves, and every member of an LLP is liable to pay taxes in its home domicile in relation to the gains or income it receives through the LLP.
Chris Cook

"Should we go that route, and create a structure that actually employs someone,"
Just to reiterate that the concept as I see it is not a "structure that employs" but a "framework within which work may be compensated".
A few people are beginning to see the implications of this, but most still see it though the "Labour working for Capital" prism as opposed to "Labour working with Capital".
Oh dear, Chris off on his hobby horse again. Sorry.
"that money may come from various sources - member contributions (unlikely to be enough), grants (need to be found, conditions to be understood), or sale of some kind of services (I'm skeptical so far - apart from writing output that would meet some kind of consensus to be stamped ET, or would be donated by the authors, an option I may be able to put on the table in concrete ways in the near future)"
I see ET as a space or framework within which people come together "intellectually lucratively" - as poemless has it - but it has already led to a myriad of bilateral and multilateral conversations (many involving actual meetings), and hence to instances of "economic interactions" to an agreed common purpose, where "profit" is not the aim, although covering costs is inevitably a factor.
Assimilating, editing and publishing ET content is of course one possibility. I have said before that I think that the quality is such that selected and themed "ET Conversations" could be quite an attractive proposition.
But it would have to meet some sort of consensual and peer reviewed ET quality control mechanism. Not easy.
As an existing and personal example, Sven and I, with support from Solveig and Migeru, have been pursuing a perfectly mad scheme in Finland which might just, conceivably, lead to something quite wonderful, and also, if it works - reasonably remunerative for all concerned.
Now I feel that because it was through ET that we all came together, that a part of what would be made would go to the ET collective to help cover its costs, and assist in developing ET in whatever way is consensually (hat tip to poemless) agreed.
Sven indeed is leading the way with a brilliant suggestion for a loose cooperative of ET citizen photographers to get out there and photograph stainless steel fittings (yes, I know, but someone has to do it) AND get paid for it.
He hopes, as would I, that anyone benefiting in this way from their use of the ET site would "kick in" something to ET as a result. And I am sure most will, otherwise I doubt whether they'd be sticking around.
I have long believed that such loose self-organising and networked working has lacked an "enterprise model" and the main thrust of my work is to denmonstrate - in practice - that there is a better way than the conventional "For profit"/"Not for Profit" models.
The purpose of the recent threads has been, essentially, to examine how ET can be made more "sustainable" (and less of a drain on volunteers) than it currently is, without compromising it in the way that poemless so viscerally fears.
But thanks for jumping in, and may I say that I am glad that you continue to support this brilliant site.
By Chris Cook

"I disagree with you on virtual organizations."
There is some misunderstanding here. I never mentioned virtual organisations in a negative way. I work quite often with networks involving people I've never met for projects which bring us together on a temporary basis (I usually check on Google maps to find where they are located, but it's for the fun of it). I guess it's what you would call virtual organisations. And, as you know well, I'm very much interested in thinking the future forms of companies...

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:14:37 AM EST

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