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ET Think Tank draft summary - Draft # 2 -

by paul spencer Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:06:46 AM EST

Per today's discussion, here is a different approach to format.

Jerome's and Melancthon's caveats are now included. If I missed other pertinent comments, please notify me.

Poemless - I didn't include your comments, because you seemed disinclined to participate. As to the specific quotation, I included it to illustrate Migeru's demonstration of "opportunity cost". In fact I didn't consider your remark snarky; I thought that it was your normal well-developed and very-entertaining wit.

From the first draft: "This is a draft. Any suggestions are welcome. For that matter, I am going to continue to work it, as I'm quite sure that there are bits that should be rearranged. I just wanted to get it out for further work.

"Since I'm editing, I'm going to editorialize a little, too. Concerns about the role or interface of a possible "company" within the blog are understood. Someone suggested that we could perhaps have a folder like the "Debates" section. If this is acceptable, I think it would be excellent. Beyond that, some member of the "company" could write a weekly report diary for the blog."

           Bootstrapping the ET think tank

        1.  Introduction:

        2.  Perspectives and Rationales:

        3.  Organizational suggestions:

        4.  Potential operational details:

        5.  Potential projects:

        6.  Caveats:

        7,  Resources:

1.  Bootstrapping the ET think tank  by Migeru   (Tue Nov 6th, 2007 at 08:17:25 AM EDT)

Over the months there has been a lot of suggestive talk about taking ET to the next level, whatever that may be. For lack of a better term, one could call this next level "the ET Think Tank". I personally don't like the label Think Tank because I associate it too strongly to intellectual whoring, but for instance I'd like to be able to devote time to macroeconomic/ecological systems research without having to worry that my savings will run out and then what? You can call that kind of work Think-Tanking but I prefer to think about an ET Research Unit. There has also been talk of coordinating cooperative work better, of having a dedicated LTE editor, things like that. The problem is that I cannot see these things being done on people's free time. It's a qualitative step away (up, down, forward, back or sideways, I don't know) from blogging. There has also been talk of "meta-consulting".

So this got me thinking about the business model and while I haven't reached any definite conclusions, I think the Research University model is instructive. There, the professors want to do research and the universities want the status that comes with having prestigious researchers among the faculty. But research doesn't pay the bills. The solution is that researchers spend (say) half their time raising money for the university [teaching fee-paying students, writing grants] and the rest of their time doing what they really want to do, which is research (or playing the fiddle: once you get tenure you don't really have to be all that productive as long as you help raise revenue by teaching your classes).
So maybe the ET Think Tank should be run on a similar basis: half-time "gainful" activity and half-time "vocational" activity. What could be the "gainful" part?

I could say "don't ask me, I couldn't sell anything, I don't know how to identify demand for services, get yourself a marketing person (like Sven?)". But even if you can identify demand you still have to figure out how (whether) you're going to meet it. Who's going to be doing the work and what work can they do?

Initially there's going to be no revenue, so you have to work essentially for free, eating your seed grain if you may, while you set up something that will provide you with, if not steady but in bursts, at least sufficient income to keep yourself going. The problem is most of us face huge opportunity costs for doing that kind of thing. What is the opportunity cost of, say, Jérôme going 3/4 time at work so he can devote 10 hours a week to developing the business side of the ET Think Tank?

In terms of opportunity cost there are three categories of people:

  1.   retired or unemployed (this includes me, but I don't know for how long) people: they face zero opportunity cost to working on the ET Think Tank.
  2.  self-employed people, or people working on an hourly or contract basis: they have the flexibility to shift their working time from their current activity to the ET Think Tank, but initially at an hourly opportunity cost, as long as the ET Think Tank revenue doesn't pick up sufficiently.
  3.   people on full-time employment: they generally face the opportunity cost of their whole income, or at least discrete chunks like going from full-time to 3/4 time which normally results in a more than proportional loss of income.

So I see therefore three stages in the bootstrapping of the ET Think Tank. The first stage involves people who face no income opportunity cost for working on business development. If and when revenue starts being raised, we enter a second phase where self-employed people can be compensated for their opportunity cost. As the business grows it gets to the point where it begins to make sense to hire people "full time" (it being understood they retain "half time" to do their research/writing/activism/advocacy) and then people can actually quit their unfulfilling jobs and come to work for the ET Think Tank.


Display:
I think that the chaos model of the wisdom of crowds deserves a chance. At least in the US we already have more institutes, study groups and the like then you can imagine.
Many seem to consist of nothing more than an office and a small dedicated staff. I know where many of the rightwing ones get their funding, but I'm not so sure of the leftist ones. There are also many astro-turf and front groups using the same model which makes it hard to separate the science from the propaganda.
The advantage of the blogosphere is that the maintenance costs are low and the audience both for input and output is potentially very large. I see our role as debating ideas and propagating those that are found most promising.
Now that many in academia and the media are starting to participate online it is thus possible to implant new ideas into their heads. I have seen several examples of this, where a "pundit" entered into a discussion and then gleaned some new perspective from the comments. This perspective then reappeared later on in the pundits later writings.
To use an agricultural analogy I think we should be breeding the seeds of new ideas and then casting them out. We let those with more influence nurture them and make them grow.
I've seen many of the white papers produced by present think tanks as just that - paper. Even the ones that get some notice in the media tend to fade away after a very short time. But getting some new ideas accepted means they keep getting repeated by the converts.
by rdf (robert.feinman)       

we love doing that... but I am not sure if Migeru meant that.. I think we are talking to something different because of the "the next level" meme...
I would say that LTE writers, media contact, or as you say, pundit contacts would reach a new level of sophistication in the framework that some people are proposing..
I personally thing that a small change  could do a lot for ht media contact world... if colman finishes what he has been talking about then we will probably have more  to think about.
by kcurie

I have quite a bit of free time as I intentionally keep my life pretty low key. Plus I put this in the "volunteering" category - money isn't expected, although I wouldn't turn it down if it was there.
by MillMan

I would say this, because it's the direction my self-employment is tending, but one of the things there is on ET that may have some potential is mining the extraordinary level of cross-cultural knowledge here.  No, I don't know how, but it just occurred to me as a different angle on "what makes ET special" as opposed to just AEI or Heritage style policy production, so I thought I'd throw it out there...
by Metatone

I am good for $100 per month, IF:
Migeru organizes this project;
Members choose to concentrate on a few of the topics that are discussed on ET during any particular time frame;
There is an end-product focus on the chosen topics.
From my standpoint topics have to be limited by funding, so that there are sufficient resources brought to the research, analysis, formulation, editing, and dissemination of cogent policy theses. My primary interest is in the use of the 'end-product' to move people and, therefore, history.
I'm not suggesting an isolated "intellectual", surrounded by books and perma-wired into the internet. Most of the research and analysis might well consist of the observations and facts supplied by the ET membership; but there will always be particular lines of inquiry, fact-checking, plus the drafting of reports and policy statements that require professional service.
In addition there is a need for full-time liaison work with existing research/policy entities, such as Energize America, PES, World Social Forum, and many others. Of course, there has to be prioritization in that aspect, too - maybe the current-topics focus would inform the current liaison work.
Is Migeru's suggestion elitist? Probably, but this is an elite blog in my opinion. There is plenty of need for leadership in this world. Why not tap into the education, experience, and skill of a group like this one? Even the polemics and rants on this blog are some of the best prose-poetry that I have read in years (hat-tips in particular to Melo and redstar from yesterday's postings).
The analytical pieces are first-rate, and the comments (as noted in comments to this diary above) are generally on-point and almost always help to develop the thesis. A few, such as Chris Cook and rdf, synthesize policy and program; and this is the penultimate need. This would be the goal of Migeru's organization, as I see it.
paul spencer

Could we earn some money by publishing?
I have some limited experience writing applications for EU grants, otherwise. Always happy to jump in and do a project timeline.
Traditional think-tank fare, I know, but as no-one mentioned an example so far...
by nanne

Unintended consequences?
by ceebs

It empowers people it was not designed to empower to do things it was not designed to allow.
by Migeru

example?
by ceebs

A short film  - "The Art of Flirting" - funded and created within an LLP framework
Acquisition of Chateau de Bambecq
Dozens of "Social Enterprises" - simply because it costs £20.00 and they can.
Plus a couple of recent City of Glasgow LLP's; SLIPE , IPM Eagle LLP (International Power and Mitsui) and so on and so on.
by ChrisCook

Among the unintended consequences are that the new LLP:
(a) makes "the Corporation" obsolete.
(b) allows the "Public/ Private" distinction to be dissolved.
(c) allows the sharing of risk and reward in entirely new ways.
None of this was intended.
The accountancy profession - who were crapping themselves about their increasingly exposed position as partnerships - literally blackmailed the UK government into implementing the LLP in the UK with the threat of taking themselves offshore to Jersey.
And the way they got the LLP through in Jersey is a story in itself.
This Anecdote is new to me on the subject while Prem Sikka's paper Globalisation and its Discontents
sets it all out.
by ChrisCook

"But even if you can identify demand you still have to figure out how (whether) you're going to meet it. Who's going to be doing the work and what work can they do?"
We sell 'Strategic Services and Consultancy.'  (Or possibly like management consultancy.)
Why would anyone buy them - Because between us we have statistical analysis, business modelling, creative and media services, and IT abilities to offer.  This is the major 'Value Added' ET brings to the table.  There are plenty of single discipline, single POV consultants but none, to my knowledge, that can span the gamut from Anthropology to Zoology -- which we can.
by ATinNM

"Initially there's going to be no revenue," -
Not necessarily. There might be some selling involved initially ('Hi - this is us...') but that might not be too onerous if it's targetted sensibly.
There are also various online options.
The magical thing about self-employment is that you decide 'Today I'm going to be a...' and then you do it. You don't wait for someone to give you permission.
You have to be realistic about what you can do. At least a little. But I'm finding it hard to believe we'd be so very much less good at doing some of the things analysts and consultants do.
by ThatBritGuy

Spot on. Especially about permissions.  I guess quite a few of us already work the networks every day in 'strategic services and consulting'. ET has just become one strand of the overall network. For me it would be a natural extension if it became more than a strand.
All companies want fortune tellers. I was just meeting last month with a Swedish 'trendspotter' who does nothing else than just that - and gets paid handsomely for it. And he worked alone as far as I could guage.  A fortune teller is an aggregator, collating small changes in different environments into a pattern. It is multidisciplinary. The wider you can cast for bits of knowledge and insight, the better you perform as a predictor.
Companies know that all the information is out there - they just don't know how to bring it all together with meaning. It is work that is easily outsourced.
by Sven Triloqvist

This is an aspect I reckon is definitely a go and one I'd be up for selling to some degree (although no promises for my selling success.)
My view is we need to nail down some of these proposals and give it a go...
by Metatone

It would seem to me that the structure would be influenced to some extent by the "product" and the "market".  The aim of the meta-consultancy would be to develop economic, environmental and social policy proposals and options for Europe. But exactly who would use these, and in what form.
As TBG aptly notes upthread,
ThatBritGuy:

The magical thing about self-employment is that you decide 'Today I'm going to be a...' and then you do it.  But for that to work, you need to know who you are doing it for.  So: How do we get the "product" in front of the people we believe should have it?
by dvx

The aim of the meta-consultancy would be to develop economic, environmental and social policy proposals and options for Europe. But exactly who would use these, and in what form.
I think it's more about being what the New Economics Foundation call a "Do Tank". Policy in practice: don't talk about it - JFDI.
My own initial focus is upon sustainable development of renewable energy and property.
by ChrisCook

Fair enough, I'm just not clear on the "to whom": policymakers, the general public, media outlets?
For example: your focus is on sustainable development of renewable energy and property. To whom do you see yourself addressing your work? And how would you prepare your studies and conclusions to optimally influence these addressees?
The thought that occurs two seconds too late:
If your aim is to create a foundation or a knowledge base for others to build on and apply in specific situations, that is of course an important end. I'm just saying that such a determination of purpose needs to be made explicitly.
by dvx

There is another more practical way of looking at it. All of us are real world people. We have physical networks too. Some of us spend our time putting together projects and acting as producers, coordinators, catalysts and aggregators using our networks to put together a team to solve a particular client problem. Or to be pulled into another team network to solve their client's problem.
These real world networks already exist. What we can add is ET to the network as a kind of Living Lab ( a project I am working on at the moment - ENoLL - the European Network of Living Labs: http://www.cdt.ltu.se/~zcorelabs).
Would it not be powerful to be able to say to these clients "yes, I've already got the top graphic designer, the coders and the behavioural psychologist lined up, but I've also got a few hundred experts over at a Delphic oracle called ET that will give you insights you never thought about for x amount of the elusive spondulex (providing your project meets with their moral approval, otherwise they might just tell you to come back when you've stopped fucking all the goodness in the the world)".
It is quite clearly a value-adding service, the only question is how much value. How do you price it? Consultants charge by the hour. How do you evaluate the worth of multidimensional time-shattered ET?
I believe that Chris Cook has demonstrated how this might be possible. It is, admittedly, a long way to the piece of paper in which we agree how to share. But the raison d'être of a theory is that it be tested. I think the time has come to stop listening to those who say "No, never been done that way, can't work. Waste of time. Throw away hundreds of years of tradition? Pah!"
I'd like to know if it could work. And my experience in Finland recently confirms that there are many people coming round to the same way of thinking. Something's got to change. And new organizational models of government, representation, business, society etc are needed.
by Sven Triloqvist

There it is - the ET dialectic -  Sven has neatly summed one of the salient possibilities. And you have the passion, too. Excellent (hope that I don't sound like Montgomery Burns)!
I don't want to put words in Chris' place, but, ultimately, the fee could become a share of 'ownership'. For now, in terms of supporting staff, it has to be a concrete currency: euros or a house or groceries or some combination of real assets and money.
But with the appropriate 'bylaws', some marketing, and some luck, why not? Some interesting developments in the U.S. lately: 1) Ron Paul's contributions soaring due to his challenge to the status quo; 2) big-time bloggers almost unanimously applauding this development; 3) polls showing that the U.S. electorate is seriously disgusted with both major parties; 4) a poll showing that a large majority of electorate disapprove of Bush and his policies (not just 'not approving', but disapproving). Folks - it is time to prepare for change.
paul spencer

In the first stage I think any revenues should flow back into ET as an infrastructure, for the benefit of all. That means that the administration and maintenance, and site development should be rewarded. One commercial job should take care of that ;-)
In the second stage, revenues should flow into the development of the tools (possibly new software) for online consultancy and cooperation.
Only by stage 3 do I see any indivdual gaining financially. And I question whether that is really necessary. It will be essential to maintain ET as a public magazine of change. Given critical mass, ET could change public opinion. To be a member of it would mean value in the real world. Why not pool (surplus) resources to build what we believe in?
by Sven Triloqvist

As part of Complexity Theory development Reward Systems have been a subject of research and there are automatic reward/payment systems floating around.  I'm not up on the latest but I could become so with a trip up to Santa Fe and a couple of days in the SFI library.
Off the top of my head, pricing is a function of the perceived value by the recipient.  Time spent fulfilling the task is unimportant to the purchaser, tho' not - of course - to them that perform the task(s.)  Looking at it, again off the top of my head & IIRC, the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa paid $300,000 for the advertising slogan, "The City of Five Seasons."  (I have no idea what it means either.)  So 300 grand for a substantial answer to a serious question doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.  Perhaps the best way is to ask, "What's it worth, to you?"  Get the answer.   Do a bit of Cost and Time analysis and either do the job for the purposed fee or make them a counter-offer.
I emphatically agree "somethings got to change."  Any of us could swallow a bottle of ink and puke a better design than the bright, happy, gluttonous, money-grubbing Neo-Lib world we're all living in.  
by ATinNM

"Would it not be powerful to be able to say to these clients"
Yes, but which clients?
There is a lot of high-level creative discourse about how such an enterprise could be structured, how to direct the revenue streams, etc., but whenever anyone asks about the specific examples of target groups or types of services (or at least, whenever I do, which seems to me to be pretty much the same thing right now :-), the response is... is a lot of high-level creative discourse about how such an enterprise could be structured, how to direct the revenue streams, etc.
I'm not trying to be petty or destructive. I think identifying target client groups and services is fundamental - more so even than how to charge for service.
And I think that once ideas start getting put on the table, we're going to find that some are not mutually compatible.
Oh, and for the record: I haven't a clue - otherwise I would have posted my vision already.
by dvx

I tend to think about first identifying demand and then figuring out whether one can address it. But then again, I have never created a business. Someone once said "every successful open source software project scratches a developer's itch". Similarly, I think it would be fair to say that successful startups scratch their founders' itch. In other words, if I would pay for this, others must be willing to pay for it, too seems to be the best motivation for a start-up. If I remember correctly that kind of reasoning is what motivated techno to start his furniture company nearly 30 years ago.
by Migeru

I tend to do it the other way: come up with a list of things that would be fun to do and then qualify and purge the list as feedback (buying interest) from The Market comes in.  That way, no matter what one ends-up doing, it is interesting and fun.
The reason I don't approach the problem that way is that I have a hard time believing The Market can have any interest in paying me to do something I consider fun. Must be the result of years of peer conditioning, having the other kids mock me for being a nerd and stealing my lunch in the playground, so to speak.
by Migeru

I've been directly involved in 15, or so, Start-Ups and peripherally with another - gosh, 20?  30? - a lot, in any case.  Of that 15 one is slowly winding down, one is on-going, and one is a dream.  The rest were abject failures.  What I can say is those that were successful met a need perceived by the founders meeting a need with a large enough Market to pay for it all.  
In some cases the founders and Market agreed almost exactly on the need for the service - Google is a case, here - but the money flowed from the 'Add-On,' advertising in the case of Google.  In other cases money flowed directly from the product.    
One never really knows, in advance.
Then there is the situation where there is interest but nobody, neither the workers in the field nor the potential market has clue one as to what to do about it.  For instance, there is a small but growing interest in a re-investigation and re-development of Analog Computers to handle Information Processing in fuzzy, dynamic, environments.  The hardware for these machines is a slam-dunk.  All that is required, to get it off the ground, is the minor matter of a completely new, revolutionary, Theory and Techniques of Computer Programming.  
And I seem to be rambling, sorry.
Right now, at this stage, I submit we need to Think Big.  We need to be outrageously weird.  We need to Blue Sky and indulge our wildest dreams.  Screw the market.  
That's Step B.
by ATinNM

Well, there's actually 2 ways to go about this, imo: either you develop a product and look for somebody to sell it to, the approach you're describing. Or you identify a group that has a problem and you develop a solution for them.
Both are valid in their own ways. But in my experience you need either the one or the other as the first step. Everything else will develop from that - and to a certain extent organically.
As regards your footnote, maybe I'm dense but I can't think offhand of a product or service that an ET virtual consultancy can offer either more cost-effectively or in higher quality (though I'm willing to be convinced).
by dvx

My operational preference is matching products to markets.  But my preference shouldn't, and doesn't, preclude your or Migeru's preference for the other way 'round.
We don't have diddly until both products and markets match-up.
As regards your footnote, ... "I can't think offhand of a product or service that an ET virtual consultancy can offer either more cost-effectively or in higher quality."
We do a pretty good Scoop blog.  Now all we have to do is find someone desperate or dumb enough to pay us for it.  ;-)
by ATinNM

The next level you mention goes along the lines of Colman where small inputs will be needed to take  ET to a new level (basically in using the easier platform to debate and an easier platform to reach the mass media that Colman wants to develop).. or are you thinking in a more "high level"...?
by kcurie

No matter what you call it, you're starting a economic entity.  As an economic entity it will require all the apparatus, functions, inputs, and outputs of a 'business.'  As a Start-Up economic entity, to be successful, it will need to 'Ack' - at a minimum - the various little hoops Start-Ups need to twirl.
by ATinNM

I only have my free time in which to blog but I'd still like to be involved in think tank activities.
Which is what my half-assed discussion of opportunity costs of involvement is all about.
by Migeru

My job isn't unfulfilling and I don't want to quit it.  But maybe in a year's time I'll be somewhere different.  "opportunity costs of involvement" means nothing to me and I'm trying to process it within the context of your discussion there.
by In Wales

"My job isn't unfulfilling and I don't want to quit it" is an opportunity cost of involvement.
not everyone has to be involved. If your job is fulfilling, by all means continue doing it.
by Migeru

ET Think Lab
I like this name very much indeed.
by ThatBritGuy

Living Labs
by ChrisCook

What I was trying to say - and I think you'll agree - was that we cannot compare the potential of new forms of organizations with existing organizations because the circumstances are changing. As you say - it would be difficult to persuade companies to take on some mysterious group called ET as a consultant in the traditional sense, just as it would have been impossible to sell an OR multidisciplinary group pre-1939.
But there came a war which changed the whole context of business and problem solving, with new types of organizations (like OR) proving better at finding solutions faster - especially technological and logistic ones. This was to influence the development in the Fifties onward till the present day, of a logistic linear based hierarchic system of management and transaction wisdom. W*stern management and organizational structuring (a personal view, of course) is a direct descendant of those dark days in Europe of WWII - because our dads were there, and they were still running the show until a few years ago. And they trained the following generation well in their methods.
Now I look at organizations like Nokia and the overall average age is under 30. Yes, the senior management is still born of the immediate post-war period, but the upcoming management is very interesting. They maybe know their history, but it is not tactile. In Finland at least, I get a strong feeling from this group of current middle management that there are some deep questions about the sustainability of business today. There's a kind of search for what we should do about it, but nothing concrete yet.
It is interesting that several business schools in Scandinavia now study culture, including the Arts, as much as business. Or rather study the Arts, eg as alternative organizational types. And that is one of the reasons why ET CAN be an agent of change. Science, politics and culture not only exist side by side - they interact.
To have a recommended diary list starting with 100 dollar oil, with the next item being one of RGs amazing visual extravaganzas, then shoes, then Chechenya, then politics in Belgium is precisely the type of OR actvity that we need now and will need in the future, We are looking to change the system AND IT DOESN'T NEED TO WORK in the old world. That was my point - but I suckered myself into a virtual organization rap, mon ami. Forgive me.
Sven

Words have been coming out like fireworks here and there are excellent ones that feel better than think tank: Stewardship, collaborative, cooperative, community, thought team, group, living, sustaining... really are already part of an ET brand.  Some members are already tank and consulting level and that helps us all, so I´m supportive of additional networking relationships around the blog. I have to agree with dvx in having a clear vision and purpose, as the ET community.  Are we here to influence European politics to a more progressive and sustainable level, or are we seeing the crisis and wanting to save ourselves?  It may be both for many of us, just as I feel I am a producer and a client, but the approach would be very different and it must be stated clearly to avoid divisions, or misunderstandings. This is a very exciting and thought-provoking concept and I´ll keep reading!
Metavision


paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:13:16 AM EST
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.
Migeru

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...
Melancthon

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:14:37 AM EST
We could probably use an archivist.
by Migeru

I could probably use $20/hour and a laptop ...
by poemless

Cool, now we know your opportunity cost.
Will one of these enough?
by Migeru       

That's exactly it: consultants charge by the hour but that is nonsense. The product has a value and a deadline. If you cannot meet the deadline you offer to do it in twice the time for half the money. Or if you want more money you offer to do it in half the time.
Migeru

Until you have something to sell everyone is a potential client.  Once a product line is determined it is the task of Marketing to go out to seek and destroy and do their little thing: verify the projected market exists, that it is large enough to justify addressing, position the product(s) in that market, & etc.  
I'm neither discounting nor disrespecting your position.  Far from it.  What I am saying is: that's Step D and we haven't done Steps A, B, and C yet.
If we can't come up with 10 distinct products we're not trying very hard.  
by ATinNM

There is a numerical fact that if 1000 people gave 10 minutes of their time, 6 days a week, there would be the equivalent of 25 people fully employed.
This is the power to be harnessed. It is a simple illustration - I'm not saying you can achieve anything in 10 minutes a day, although that was proved to work in the case of the post-Katrina data
translation/collation effort to put people in touch with each other, with pets  and with possessions.
What we need are the tools that make it possible for people to work in this manner co-operatively, at any time, in any place. ET is virtually a magazine that is created in this way - the content creation is decentralized, and the content is self-edited by the surrounding commentary. It is a start.
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.
by Sven Triloqvist

It is not nonsense, since I gave you a practical example. I could give you another one: the AA employs a lot of retired or housebound people to stand by to man emergency service calls when the full-time system is overloaded. The AA has installed an internet connected call station in their homes. They get paid to stand by. The actual work may be only a few minutes a day - if that.
It is your archaic thinking that will not help to find a solution. We have to start thinking about what 'work' is in a entirely different way.
What IS a productive time period? 2 minutes? 10 minutes? 1 hour? 5 hours? What is there so very special about 8 hours?
by Sven Triloqvist

Of course. But not everyone does stuff that is highly technical. All kinds of work is needed to run a society. All I am saying is that it is worth studying new methods that do not necessarily depend on lots of people being in the same place at the same time working for the same company.
by Sven Triloqvist

It's possible to be extremely flexible. One can only take on "metaconsultancy" to the extent that one's existing commitments - including jobs - allow it.  And of course that needs to be made clear in terms of engagement on new projects.  ie "This would take a week full time, but our expert will need a month cos he/she is otherwise engaged" ..and it's either "Ok, fine" or "Thanks, but I need it in a week".
A bit like doing a paid dissertation... ;-)
by ChrisCook


paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:15:39 AM EST
Well in my case it would be the clients who come to me to help solve their public communications problems. And that can be anything from 'We are a small coastal town and we want to attract younger families' to 'We are developing the most humancentric mall ever and we want to create a brand that differentiates us from the boxes"
Right now I am working on communications proposals for the Greater Helsinki Region to attract more FDI (Forward Direct Investment).
In any of those the potential input of an ET tank could be minor or major. However in one sense there's a lot of ET in these projects anyway - since my thinking on certain subjects has been influenced by exchanges here.
There are also two speculative projects currently underway with members of ET. So I don't see a problem in finding clients. For many of us they are a natural part of our networks. It's how we work.
by Sven Triloqvist

I have a problem at the moment which illustrates how ET could work because it would use particular talents of the members. It is a mundane problem, but common.
I have a client that produces high quality stainless steel tubing (rectangular only) and sells it around the world. Sizes up to 300 x 400 mm.
We are working on a rebranding, visual identity, and renewal of all print materials.
The problem is that they have a tiny archive of useful pictures of their product in action. They must have used the photo of the facade of Nokia's HQ a hundred times.
Another wrinkle is that 80% of their export goes through agents who are loathe to reveal their clients to my client for fear that orders would go direct. So my client is short of reference pictures.
I have pointed out to them that details are as important as locations. Rectangular steel tube from one manufacturer is very difficult to distinguish from another - visually. So - providing the location is not identified, any pictured neat uses of the product would be useful.
Their principle areas of interest are architecture, construction and renovation, offshore and marine applications (stainless steel is fine in salty air), food processing, fireproofing (better than carbon steel), transport, machinery and Nuclear plant.
We are negotiating with the client about what to do acquire more pictures.
What if ETers who are scattered around Europe and interested in quality photography were to go out and find such applications?
The typical Gorilla prices (a Finnish photo agency) are around 55 - 120€ for reproduction in a single brochure, 175 € for webpage 1 year. 170 for a poster etc etc. The photos would have multiple uses, so the copyright fees add up. The client maybe prefer to buy outright, which I'd put at 500 - 1000 € - but it is just a guess.
Naturally it would be pay on usage, not on spec.
If anyone is interested I can provide more information and a better brief. I must run this past the client, but they are in trouble with this and something has to be done. Sending out a good photographer in Finland, let alone abroad, is going to cost € 500 -1000 a day at least.
See the diary on this subject for more info
http://www.eurotrib.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2007/11/7/164118/493
by Sven Triloqvist

In typical Finnish style, they have earlier taken the view that 'We make the best, we deliver the best - they will come". Now they realise that they must position themselves more clearly and highlight their good reputation.
This is especially so in a market that is seeing cheap but dodgy stainless  steel out of China. One day there will be an engineering surprise in which structural stainless will fail to perform to the ISO or German spec in extreme conditions. A reputation for quality would then be more valuable.
by Sven Triloqvist

They also support a major symphony orchestra and own two rare violins that are entrusted to musicians in the orchestra.
The cases that those violins are transported in have stainless steel tube frames?
by ceebs

Actually the more I think about it the more I think I'm right. Those violins should be in cases made from the companies product. preferably with the tubular structure on the outside of the box, make it obviously the  companies product,  etch company logos on the outside of the boxes. (unless they are in original cases that form part of a set) they are a major advertising oppertunity.
by ceebs

In all seriousness, why not?  A cello case, for example, a professional cellist would trust costs around $4,000 US.  True the case would have to weigh 5 lbs (2.5 kilos) or less -- the less the better.
It could develop into a profitable sideline.
by ATinNM

Are you studying language processing.. and nobody has directed you to send me an e-mail?????
If you are in the NLP business..mail is in order....
kcurie

You have mentioned that what you want to do is research natural language processing but in order to support it without taking money from the military industrial complex you buy, refurbish and sell houses. So you've set yourself up in the way I outline in the diary: a "gainful" activity undertaken "half time" so you can devote the other half to the "vocational" activity. I have mentioned the research university as a model, but there's also the "artist with a day job" model.
I am discounting the possibility of getting grants or and endowment, of course, but maybe I shouldn't.
by Migeru

I voted - I just want to blog in my spare time - but what I meant there was, I only have my free time in which to blog but I'd still like to be involved in think tank activities.
This thread reminds me of the Bevan Foundation which is Wales' only social justice think tank.  Highly credible, realistic and very accessible reports and the director has an excellent reputation.  It is funded by members who subscribe, and through the income generated by doing commissioned research and reports.
I don't know anything of the detail regarding how it was set up but it is only a few years old. I've commissioned research from them and it has been outstanding. As far as I can tell, the bulk of the Director's work is commissioned but when she has enough time, she follows up her own areas that she has wanted to do research on.  It is the kind of organisation that I would gladly volunteer my own time to to support research on topics I'm interested in.
So I could see ET developing something like that.  Perhaps not commissioned work initially, but if people took a lead on their subject area and others were able to support finding data sources, doing lit reviews and data analysis under the lead of one or two people per topic then perhaps some reports or research studies could get underway. Anyone with a research background can advise on methodology and so on.
I'd be happy to put my time into something like that.
by In Wales

Last week I was asked to do some preliminary research on the idea of a non-profit that is affiliated with Universities and  for-profits. One such entity is "partners in health"
www.pih.org
The idea behind this is that many funders prefer to fund services, not so much research...at least this is true in the health care field...not so sure about the political/economic/etc/etc world. Having a non-profit allows for charitable giving with tax write-offs (or no taxes), and it can affiliate with Universities and for-profits, who can support the service-oriented non-profit, whereas the non-profit can benefit from the higher visibility Unis and corps.
by whataboutbob


paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:16:38 AM EST
As regards your footnote, maybe I'm dense but I can't think offhand of a product or service that an ET virtual consultancy can offer either more cost-effectively or in higher quality (though I'm willing to be convinced).
by dvx

"There is a numerical fact that if 1000 people gave 10 minutes of their time, 6 days a week, there would be the equivalent of 25 people fully employed."
That is nonsense. The amount of useful work that can be performed by a single person in 10 minutes a day is very nearly zero. You're falling into the mythical man-month fallacy.
Miguero

I'd say an hour is a minimal slice for writing type work that you're doing day-in, day-out. Three  hours if you have to pick it up from two weeks or two months ago and spend and hour working out what the hell you were doing.
10 minutes might do for answering a service call, but that's a different matter.
And for something highly technical it may take eight hours to pick up from a couple of weeks ago.
by Colman

Not true. You don't know my business. Most of it is spent in short period connection with others on a variety of simultaneous projects at various stages of development.  The only time most of us spend continuous effort of say 4 hours is when we are working individually on our speciality contribution to the agenda.
by Sven Triloqvist

In Switzerland, setting up a non-profit is super easy...it is only making it charitable org. that takes a bit more work, but not much. How is it in the UK and elsewhere?
by whataboutbob

Jumping in here - This is as good a place as any.
My thoughts on this are as follows:
a reasonable goal would be to have our ideas influence public discourse more, and see ET (or ET-inspired ideas) quoted more often. While that may sound a lot like let's-make-Jerome-a-pundit, and it will be hard for the outside world not to focus on one or a few persons, there is real value in the collective debate, and it is the debate itself that I'd like to promote;
one way to do this would be to send links for ET content around - posting on blogs, emailing it to journalists, writing to institutions and pundits and the like. This is done on a small scale by some members already; it could be extended, or made more systematic. Having someone with the time to build up the database of contacts, and identify the places where it's worthwhile to post about ET would be a requisite, I think.
another, more ambitious, would be to take the time to make summaries of some of our discussions, and distribute these around as finished products. That requires (i) the time and ability to prepare summaries (ii) some process for ETers that participated in the discussion to veto or not the summary (iii) the infrastructure to send these around.
another option would be to push our collective LTE and Op-Ed drafting output. This has worked well in the past, and it can still work, provided that more of us do it. This need not be initiated by me or a FPer, as it has majoritarily been the case so far.
Now, the money angle is relevant insofar as we might want to get someone's time committed more explicitly to doing one of these things or others, and that requires that someone to be compensated for. Should we go that route, and create a structure that actually employs someone, 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'm wary of bringing money in anyway in ET. I still think that with a few more committed volunteers, some basic organisation and task sharing, and, quite simply, more members, we can do a lot more of what we do right now, without compromising the quality of debate nor the motivation of participants. In the past few weeks, we've seen an increase in readership, diary writing, and active participants, and debate quality is as good as ever (including some lighter threads). I think we need to build on this.
Jerome
I think ET is a unique place where a high-level collective debate can take place while being open to anyone who wants to participate.  It is a unique place for sharing information and knowledge and I have learnt a lot here. In fact, it is one of the best examples of collective intelligence-building I know. Participating in ET is an asset and I think we all benefit from the knowledge we've acquired through ET in our professional or broader social activities.
While I understand those who would like to see this extraordinary intellectual potential better exploited, I am very sceptical about ET becoming a consulting organisation or a think-tank for several reasons. First of all, I have been working in the consulting business and with think-tanks for years and I know how hard it would be to convince potential customers of the specific added value of ET and to establish our credibility in a sector where the competition is very hard. Except for a limited number of persons who know it, ET is not a brand yet.
But the most important issue is that if we were to develop this kind of activities, it would have a major impact on the nature of ET, the way it functions and on its image. Why? First, consulting and online collective blogging don't have the same purposes, timelines and priorities, nor do they require the same skills and work organisation, so make them coexist would be very difficult. Also, combining non-for-profit and for-profit activities within the same organisation is almost impossible; I know several organisations that tried to do it and none of them have succeeded. ET contributors involved in business-oriented projects would inevitably focus their time and energy on these projects. Finally the ET image would be blurred: for our audience, a key asset of ET is the fact that we have nothing to sell.
However, ET can be a place where people can meet, discuss projects proposals and create ad hoc teams around common projects. It is already the case and the more it happens, the better. We could even expect those who have started successful projects thanks to ET to make a financial contribution. But these project's are ET's by-products, not it's raison d'être and that doesn't make ET a think-tank, nor a consulting organisation.
I agree with you: our first goal should be to develop our audience both by expanding our users base and by building a network of media (the press, blogs...) who would channel our ideas or link to our debates.  The recent links with PSEmanifesto and the LibDems show it is possible.
We have been very successful in drafting LTEs and Op-eds. I think we should focus on producing more of them. In order to do so, we should improve the way we work, maybe by adopting collaborative tools.  We could also produce more in-depth contributions (a ~10 pages note) on some issues. I doubt we can easily make a summary of our debates: it would require a lot of work. I think it's better to identify an issue on which we would like to draft a note, to define the document's plan and to collectively work on it.
And just to add as a throwaway that while "Individuals" have Agendas, and "Organisations" have Agenda's - of which the most pernicious is the pursuit of profit above all else - "Frameworks" are simply relationships and do not have Agenda's, although I could conceive of a Framework as an Agenda.
Chris Cook

"What is true IMO is that collaboration and cooperation are the major factors in ET's building success. It is inevitable that these processes would produce all sorts of relationships that might have a life outside of ET - personal, political, professional etc. As they do."
I agree and I think that ET's fertility, i.e. its capacity to foster multiple relationships, including professional projects, is one of the best indicators of its success.
"I don't see any reason however why such a 'work group site' might not extend the brand in some way."
Sure, in a near future, we will proudly say we were early Eurotribuns and put the label on our projects. In fact I already mention it, but I still have to explain what ET is...
Melancthon


paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:17:41 AM EST
Currently, I can spend 10 hours voluntarily as I am working 1/2nd and studying 1/4th. But that can change on a monthly basis.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com)

Do we qualify for any EU grants ourselves?
by Migeru (migeru blogger at gmail dot com)

The EU does sometimes offer financial support to NGOs, though as far as I know mostly to existing NGOs. Don't know if they'll give money to start one up (I'll try to search some information later this evening). Anyway, it depends on whether we want a for-profit or not-for-profit organisation. If we do for-profit, there's no chance.
by nanne

There are several ways to get funding from the EU. I don't know all of them (but I can make some research). The ones I know are:

  • European Commission calls for tenders: they are open to for-profit organisations ad well as non-for-profit, but they must answer a specific demand of the EC and follow the terms of reference. In this case, competition is tough and there are many specialised networks of research centres and think-tanks. The main issue is to establish your credibility/reliability.
  • European Commission calls for proposals: these ones are to proposals on subjects that relevant to the activity of the concerned DG issuing them.They are open only to non-for-profit organisations, universities research centres, public administrations and local authorities (however the organisation which gets the grant can subcontract part of the project to other organisations, including for-profit ones). These proposals are presented to a jury which decides whether or not they accept to finance the project. The main criteria are the following: professional credibility and financial reliability of the leader organisation and of the projects partners; European dimension of the project measure by the number of countries involved in the project (not less than 6 now); relevance of the project vis-à-vis the DG's policies; innovation... Usually there are two deadlines a year to submit projects.
That means if ET would seek EU funding, it would have (at least n the beginning) to build partnership with existing credible organisations in several European countries. It is possible: I have organised and coordinated several such European projects.
Some more information about calls for proposals:
the EU can finance up to 80% of the projet's costs, which means at least 20% must be brought by other partners;
a detailed budget must be established and followed in order to get the funding.
by Melanchthon

A typical take-out from the Environment DG's LIFE+ programme (funding for 2008):
Under the terms of Regulation (EC) No. 614/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 May 2007 concerning the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE+ Regulation) the Commission invites European non-governmental organisations, which are primarily active in the field of environmental protection, to present proposals with a view to obtaining a financial contribution for their operation.  Contributions would be towards the costs that European environmental NGOs have to bear in carrying out the activities provided for in their 2008 annual work programme. Applicant organisations should be operating at a European level, either singly or in the form of several co-ordinated associations, with a structure (membership base) and activities covering at least three EU Member States. Activities and membership base should primarily be at a European and not at an international level.
The Programme will be open to the participation of European NGOs established (legally registered) in EU27.  Organisations should have been legally constituted for more than 2 years and have had its annual statement of accounts for the two preceding years certified by an approved auditor.
This is the only grant I found that seeks to support organisations directly rather than tendering out some programme. Haven't had time to look through everything, obviously.
An overview of grands and calls for tender can be found here.
by nanne

Any of the Communication Mediums can be a source of revenue: books, music, film, pamphlets, lectures, radio (broadcast/internet,) YouTube, television, & etc.  (Even websites, gadzooks :-)
by ATinNM

Living Labs -
Bob, you should have a look at this:   http://www.cdt.ltu.se/projectweb/4421cddc626cb/Main.html
and this:  http://www.wlc.fi/etusivu_eng.htm
by Sven Triloqvist

"Living Labs bring together Enablers, Utilizers, Developers and Users.
These co-creators include the public sector, business and science parks, incubators, universities, companies and, of course, the end user communities, both non-professional and professional"
"Living Labs use real world testing by end-users in an authentic digital, physical, and social environment. For Living Lab partners, this process ensures that emerging technologies, and the innovative products and services they enable, are fully developed before they reach the market."
But you'd probably be more interested in the way they are financed and structured. All of these projects come under the EU CoreLabs and CLOCK programs. These are running at least to 2010, if not 2020. So they are still open.
Time for you to jump on the EU bandwagon, Bob ;-)
by Sven Triloqvist

What I have found is that there are a few experts in the byzantine workings of the EU funding whirlygig and that the only way to do it is through them. There's a very particular language to be used containing certain key words and phrases that are guaranteed to make eurocrats swoon. How you present your budget is also highly arcane.
It is not for the likes of you and me, though I have had a painful two days of passing this language through my brain and attempting to put it into the words and framework of mortals. The problem with the EU is that they start by handing you the detailed blueprints of the machinery and fail to mention that it is actually a locomotive, until you are already confused.
by Sven Triloqvist  

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:18:39 AM EST
I am not entirely happy about you deleting the previous diary because that deletes other people's comments as well. There are ways to hide a diary without deleting it.


We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 02:59:48 AM EST
I will consult, if there is a next-time.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 10:46:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't been following this debate as closely as I should have, but two things jump out at me:


  • TBG said

    1. ET as blog.
    2. ET as think tank and policy influence putting out formal policy papers.
    3. ET as ideas lab.
    4. ET as commercial consultancy and job agency/network/cellular organism/etc.
    As I understand it the point of 1. is to become 2.

    That isn't my understanding at all: Melanchthon puts it well:
    I think ET is a unique place where a high-level collective debate can take place while being open to anyone who wants to participate.  It is a unique place for sharing information and knowledge and I have learnt a lot here. In fact, it is one of the best examples of collective intelligence-building I know. Participating in ET is an asset and I think we all benefit from the knowledge we've acquired through ET in our professional or broader social activities.

    ET is the manure in which other projects can take root and grow: those projects must not replace ET, in my view. The point of 1 is to be 1 and to enable 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


  • By the nature of ET, it would be undesirable to have an ET Thinklab or whatever which would be seen to be speaking for ET. It would taint the discussions and associate ET members with documents they might have deep disagreements with. I think that any projects coming from ET could be part of an ET Network (say) but shouldn't be branded as ET Anything directly. There's nothing to stop them using ET as a forum or building on ET debates but they'd be ET users, not representatives.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 04:23:19 AM EST
In the model we propose the "Open Corporate" ET LLP would not be an "organisation" but a "framework".

It therefore would not actually "do", "own" or "employ" anything or anyone - its members would do so as they "self organise" within the LLP framework.

In particular, it wouldn't have "representatives" speaking for "it" because it's not actually an it=object at all but a relationship - that between members.

The idea that it is possible for people to interact in this way without an "organisation" is to me the most radical capability of the UK LLP.

It takes a bit of getting your head around, for sure, and I am sure some people will find it difficult to go beyond existing conceptions..

ET as manure? I'm sure rg will have a suitable illustration......

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 04:52:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure that's just lovely in theory.

In practice it won't be seen that way. Do you really think most people outside the organisation are going to care about the internal details?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 04:54:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no "organisation" with an "outside" and an "inside": that's the difficult thing to grasp.

No one is "excluded" because it would be up to an individual whether he/she participates or not having used the ET blog exactly as now and maybe found a collaborative project with one or more other ET'ers he/she is interested in working on.

The ET LLP framework would simply be there for anyone who sees a benefit in using it.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 06:11:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, so no bank account, no trustees (or whatever), no formal membership, no decision making apparatus since there's nothing to make decisions about. What use would it be? What protection would it provide, from who - that being the point of legal entities, after all?  It wouldn't issue documents - that would be the individuals -  so it would provide no protection against libel and it would have no financial role.

In fact, in what useful sense would it even exist?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 06:48:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would allow, say, Sven and In Wales (and their current photo opportunity) to agree - within the context of a project-specific "enterprise agreement" who gets what in respect of the proceeds from the sale of In Wales's photos to the client that Sven obtained.

Either there would be informal "trustees" (analogous to the operation of a cricket club bank account)or a formal "Not for profit" legal entity, which would be the nominal "owner" and custodian of a bank account.

An administration member operating within the framework would maintain accounting records and make any necessary payments in accordance with the enterprise agreement specification eg Sven x%; In Wales y%; Admin etc z%.

The LLP would act as an umbrella for any ET'ers who wish to use it collaboratively in dealings with the outside world. So while invoices would be issued by the admin member on behalf of the individuals they would be payable to the "Custodian".

Note that it would be possible in due course to see the LLP as a Guarantee Society, providing a collective "guarantee" backed by a "default fund" into which  Members paid a provision of a% of revenues. This could enable ET'ers to engage with clients they might not otherwise be able to.

Even were that not done, Members would still have the benefit of Limited Liability. Personally I would not expose myself to the threat of libel proceedings the way that Jerome is now.

There would be a formal membership, probably by joining a "club" of ET "operating members" but this would be entirely "open".

No-one who uses the site would have to join.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 08:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So it is an organisation. Would it issue documents in it's name? It would have to, if people wanted to benefit from the protection?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 08:15:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the LLP operated by issuing invoices to external clients then, yes, it would be an organisation - and that is the norm for LLP's used conventionally.

Limitation of liability would indeed only apply to transactions entered into by Members on behalf of the LLP, which again would imply an organisation.

"Clients" might become "customer members" of the entity, in which case they become "inside the box" and party to an "Enterprise Agreement" rather than "outside the box" and entering into an adversarial contractual relationship.

There would be no invoices and the VAT consequences of this would be interesting. I haven't been involved in this yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Where all of the "stakeholder" participants come within such an an "Open Corporate" LLP umbrella then limitation of liability simply is unnecessary because there is no-one left against whom protection is needed.

This is essentially what happened in relation to a film LLP I was involved in: actors, producer, myself and "Angel" investors all became revenue sharing "Partners".

The film has not made a penny, but there is no question of a "default" requiring limitation of liability  to protect us from creditors, because there aren't any: it's all "Equity".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 09:03:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Limitation of liability would indeed only apply to transactions entered into by Members on behalf of the LLP, which again would imply an organisation.

So, for there to be any point to incorporation at all - since everything else is possible without LLP status, surely? - documents would have to be issued in the name of the LLP? The only thing an LLP gives you that a partnership doesn't is limited liability?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 09:19:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The completely "open" ability to incorporate to an agreed common purpose is IMHO perhaps the most significant legal breakthrough in the last 100 years, at least.

Limited liability is an add-on, and a morally dubious one if obtained without anything given in exchange.

The LLP allows the same collective/ multilateral ("Joint") action by two or more people with a common purpose as partnership does.

But crucially it does not have the individual/ bilateral ("Several") responsibility of Partnership.

It is, I think, unique in this new synthesis of the collective and the individual. It opens up entirely new "property rights" and "tenure" possibilties.

This "Open Corporate" capability is hugely important IMHO at all levels of enterprise from couples all the way up to governments. There is no area of policy that could not be improved upon through adoption of an "Open Corporate" partnership-based approach, I believe.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 09:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wonderful.

Now, back to my question: is it the case, in your understanding, that for the libel and other legal  protections - which you cited as important - to hold, that the documents would have to be issued in the name of ET LLP, by its agents?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If one of the activities of an ET LLP were to be to publish documents either on or off-line then it would be the LLP that would be the "Publisher" and therefore potentially liable for libels by its Members as agents.

In which case the LLP would actually be "doing" something, to wit, publishing.

But it would also be possible for the "Founder"/ Custodian LLP member to be, not Jerome personally, as now, but (say) a "Not for Profit" Company Limited by Guarantee, and for this entity to be the "Publisher" and protected by its own limitation of liability.

In which case the LLP would be the framework defining the legal relationship between the Publisher and the other stakeholders, eg the service provider who operates the platform, and investor "Capital Members", if any.

There is more than one way to skin the cat.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:02:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but there's still a cat: a publisher, which would be the personality of the "think-tank" for legal and practical purposes.

My point, is that that publisher should not be seen to speak for ET, and should not be branded as such.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:05:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Being as though Jérôme "owns" the ET "brand", projects can use the brand if and only if he agrees.

The problem here is that ET represents a community of people and that Jérôme branding anything else "ET" is bound to find people complaining that the new project is speaking for the community when it shouldn't.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:13:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe, but it's a question of perception by the world outside ET regular users. An "ET LLP" would be an entity with the same name as this place and different purposes, whatever they are. This would lead to a blurred image of ET and would probably be counterproductive vis-à-vis the goals Jérôme mentioned, i.e. influence the public debate in Europe.

I'm all for ET being a springboard for many projects and I hope I will be part of some of them. I also think it would be a good thing for them to mention they were born thanks to ET, but I don't think they should be branded "ET projects", mainly because, as Colman rightly points it, only a few users would be involved and other users might disagree with their statements or achievements. Were an entity named ET to publish a paper or a study, its conclusions or recommendations would be understood as representing the view of all ET users.

Even the LTEs that have been drafted here were not published under the name ET, but signed by persons mentioning they were ET editors or users. Fortunately, there is no "party line" here.

Let hundreds of flowers blossom, but don't give to all of them the same name!

 

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 05:29:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I think have just said, I don't envisage an ET "entity" at all: the ET LLP would be a "relationship". But that's not an easy idea to assimilate.

There would be no "ET projects", but there would be "ET'ers projects".

The ET LLP would not have a "purpose" as such, other than simply to be there for its Members.

The purpose for which Jerome - as founder - set up the ET site would remain as it is ( I don't think I've actually seen it written down).

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 06:20:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, there would be no "ET branded" publications or projects.

OK, but what would be the nature of this "relationship" and its purpose? In other terms, what would it do/allow to do?

Please, don't answer "whatever the members will want". Provide illustrations.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 07:02:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two comments:

  1. I do not see using the ET brand in any way. I was only half-kidding when I suggested "Milo Minderbinder Memorial ...". My sense of ET involvement is to piggyback on the technical structure (e.g., adding a "folder" to the existing blog structure), if allowed, primarily for easy access to the "company's" activities for ET members.

  2. I agree with Chris on most aspects of organizational structure, except that we seem to diverge on the necessity of specifying the "relationships" that you mention via bylaws. My vote is for very definite rules, particularly in the case of any fiduciary matters and warranty issues and arbitration of disputes and official roles.


paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:57:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding this blog, I agree with Sven here that we need to set up a separate infrastructure, if the idea takes off.

Operating the 'think tank' from this blog will also bring the association which some here don't want.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 02:30:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One aspect of the LLP which I think has not been fully understood, and which applies to ET-type efforts, is that it allows many different legal structures to work together in a way that has not been possible before. So individuals, limited companies, cooperatives, societies, housing associations, parliamentary parties, member web sites, even Boy Scouts groups, can join together in common endeavours as allowed by the individual rules of their incorporation, society, club or whatever.

Of course, each could be contracted to the other in a series of bilateral agreements, but only the LLP allows them to have a single bond that connects them all.

It is my opinion that the broad political influence to which ET aspires requires a lot more than LTEs, and it requires a lot of different skills. Planning, drafting, promoting, spreading, fund-raising, motivating and so on. It also needs different kinds of organization in cooperation to carry out the various tasks involved in turning talk into action.

ET is very good at what it does - dissecting, planning and drafting. And I believe that that role should not be changed. Adding on promotion, spreading, and fund-raising to ET would change it - most likely for the worst. However I see no reason why ET should not be part of a network of different skills who are driven by the same desire for change.

I am not even sure that this grouping of like minds needs a promoted public name ie the name of the LLP. It is more important IMO to expand the skill base than promote a brand. It is also more important to those connected into the network that they are connected, than it is to have a public display of power. It is more of an inward bond than an outward brand.

I've changed my views somewhat over the course of this discussion...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 05:21:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like the idea of Milo Minderbinder Memorial LLP.

I think it could even incorporate itself next week, it only needs three members, or thereabouts, and a hundred quid or so.  Then those members can scheme--here!--about how sharing the load is...the future...woooooooooooooooooooooo........  (A 'w' to the power of 23 or so--I learn things!)

Milo Minderbinder Memorial LLP may have an academic element--who knows until it incorporates?

I think there would have to be articles of incorporation, some written text akin to The Principia Discordia

The Principia Discordia

Some excerpts from an interview with Malaclypse the Younger by THE GREATER METROPOLITAN YORBA LINDA HERALD-NEWS-SUN-TRIBUNE-JOURNAL-DISPATCH-POST AND SAN FRANCISCO DISCORDIAN SOCIETY CABAL BULLETIN AND INTERGALACTIC REPORT & POPE POOP.

GREATER POOP: Are you really serious or what?
MAL-2: Sometimes I take humor seriously. Sometimes I take seriousness humorously. Either way it is irrelevant.

GP: Maybe you are just crazy.
M2: Indeed! But do not reject these teaching as false because I am crazy. The reason that I am crazy is because they are true.

GP: Is Eris true?
M2: Everything is true.
GP: Even false things?
M2: Even false things are true.
GP: How can that be?
M2: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

GP: Why do you deal with so many negatives?
M2: To dissolve them.
GP: Will you develop that point?
M2: No.

GP: Is there an essential meaning behind POEE?
M2: There is a Zen Story about a student who asked a Master to explain the meaning of Buddhism. The Master's reply was "Three pounds of flax."
GP: Is that the answer to my question?
M2: No, of course not. That is just illustrative. The answer to your question is FIVE TONS OF FLAX!

I'm thinking there would have to be some underwriting statement.

"All profits are used in the first instance to pay the day to day running of ET."

Zer politics are best dealt with at Milo Minderbinder Memorial LLP HQ--heh...I agree that...okay...I agree to be represented by Milo Minderbinder Memorial LLP agents--secret ones!  Now, if they could pass me some credits I'll be happy to follow the first rule of the LLP.

I suggest painting the picture via a presentation of Milo Minderbinder Memorial LLP - Articles of Incorporation

Articles of Incorporation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Articles of Incorporation (sometimes also referred to as the Certificate of Incorporation or the Corporate Charter) are the primary rules governing the management of a corporation, and are filed with a state or other regulatory agency.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 06:40:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And if I may be allowed a moment of Cookian visionariness...I believe that these kind of multidisciplinary organizations - that emphasise cooperation over competition - are the answer to the problems of democracy.

What we need to do is to remove the imaginary fences built around corporations, media, consumers, governments, social welfare, religions, academia etc and allow them all to be in the same boat, working together to find better solutions that fit all the problems.

In the long run I see these kinds of vertically/horizontally integrated organizations as being better suited to finding the solutions to sustainability, and probably more efficient in the business sense since what they 'produce' will be pre-sold.

My business of marketing, advertising and communications will die out in its present form. But may re-emerge as 'facilitation' ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 10:51:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's the nub of the problem...

Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem. They also found that as self esteem increases, materialism decreases.


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 11:04:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks to Sven Trismegist, I finally understood what the LLP is: an entity which removes the imaginary fences built around corporations, media, consumers, governments, social welfare, religions, academia.. In other words a shapeless thing that absorbs everything whatever its nature. It's... The Blob!




"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 12:24:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mon ami - your problem can be best dealt with by Whataboutblob - he is trained in these matters ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 01:10:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It must speak volumes that you assumed 1) I had no intention of participating, and yet 2) I was asking for a laptop (for the purposes of ... er, participating.)  

Look, someone has to be the one to bring up all of the possible frightening scenarios this little venture could create.  I don't want to stop you; I want to know that these things are being seriously deliberated.  And I'm still not coonvinced they are.

For my part, I'm already looking into ways I could take advantage of your enterprise to spread my pro-Putin propaganda to the ill-informed masses!!!  

</snark ... since such qualifications are now seemingly necessary>

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:20:49 PM EST
I thought paul had understood the whole exchange about archivists and laptops was more or less in jest. Well, think again.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:23:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
please tell me the difference. As to "snark", I do see a difference; and I didn't recognize poemless' commentary as such, when she responded to your comment concerning an "archivist". Your (Migeru's) reply said something to the effect of "don't be so literal" when I volunteered to serve as a sort-of archivist. Sorry, but I am a literalist to a major extent.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:41:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are we really going to continue to parse what was never anything more than a meaningless exchange?  

At this rate, I project ET's first official white paper to be published sometime around, oh, the day before the whole human race is annihilated in the perfect storm of Climate Crisis Cold War Jihad Economic Collapse AIDS Epidemic Civilization Clash...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 01:58:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At this rate, I project ET's first official white paper to be published sometime around, oh, the day before the whole human race is annihilated in the perfect storm of Climate Crisis Cold War Jihad Economic Collapse AIDS Epidemic Civilization Clash...

hilarious!

concurrent with a really transparent, peoples'-needs-driven european constitution, i wager.

as above, so below...

poemless, if you come over to europe and live for a while, you will learn to Take Yourself With The Necessary Seriousness...

until then you will be merely entertaining us with us-ian levity.
<sznarque>

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 09:44:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What, you don't take me seriously?  Uhm, my country is on a rampage and wrecking everythign its path.  Oh sure, it's just Iraq and thr US and the air quality and good taste now.  But don't think you all are immune.  One day we'll destroy you too.  Then you'd wish you'd taken us Americans more seriously.  Yes, you will...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 15th, 2007 at 12:52:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quick someone, bribe her with a laptop ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Nov 15th, 2007 at 12:53:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poemless, I'd love you to make a series of diaries under the following title:

"Countdown to the perfect storm of Climate Crisis Cold War Jihad Economic Collapse AIDS Epidemic Civilization Clash"

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Nov 14th, 2007 at 05:26:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Already being done.  It's called "The European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch".  Appearing daily.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 15th, 2007 at 12:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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