Prototyping Alternative Organizational Structures

The Prototyping Alternative Organizational Structures working group formed in January 2019 to examine and improve the work of building and maintaining EDGI as an organization. We embrace an explicitly experimental approach to problem solving: identifying challenges, hypothesizing solutions, and checking in on outcomes after a set period to reflect and iterate on the approach. Alternative Org, as it is colloquially termed, seeks to be the locus of change and support for EDGI as an organization, celebrate emotional and other sustaining work, and commit to continuous experimentation with our processes and structures.

As we commit to continuous improvements in organizational effectiveness, core questions under examination have been:

  • How do we best recruit and engage our members?
  • How does EDGI best embody its values?
  • How can we fairly decentralize decision-making authority while maintaining efficiency?
  • How do we help EDGI members work within and not beyond their capacity?
  • How can we make sure our membership feels appreciated and valued for the work they do?

Work in this group takes a few forms:

  • Research and reading around other organizations’ approaches to challenges
  • Discussion within the group to identify problem spaces and ideate approaches to address them
  • Organizing our community to strengthen relationships and implement our strategies and tools
  • Writing and editing protocols and processes that clarify roles, definitions, and approaches

EDGI is proud to be minimally bureaucratic, decentralized, non-hierarchical, and highly autonomous. This is possible in large part because our fiscal sponsor, the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, takes on many of the more bureaucratic oversight functions. But EDGI was built as a rapid response to a single political moment, and as it matures, it requires conscious maintenance in order to sustain itself.

In many organizations and spheres of work in our society, the administrative work and mental labor that go into keeping an organization running smoothly remain unrecognized and underappreciated. That work is often seen as secondary to the primary objectives and outputs of the organization. EDGI seeks to reveal this invisible labor and recognize that it is as essential to what we do as publishing reports and monitoring websites. It is also vital to supporting the humans that make up EDGI and to helping them stay creative and engaged.

We’re (re-)drafting protocols; improving internal communications; experimenting with new ways of building and maintaining connections; and sharing the lessons learned in more than three years of remote work, which are now especially relevant. We’re inspired by other decentralized organizations, such as Enspiral, Ouishare, and the examples in Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations and are learning from them. We hope to build a better EDGI by prototyping future ways of working, and to share our lessons as we go.