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Dear FASST friends. FASST has moved on during 2016, so I’m getting a few things in writing before the end of the year.

FASST (Freedom, Accountability and Structure for Systemic Transformation) is an “experiment in collaboration”. It is an emergent organisation, and its shape is becoming clearer as more of my friends and contacts join me in the exploration of what it is and what it may become. (FASST’s story to date can be found in the archives of this site.)

Some of the current investigatory questions behind FASST are

  • How can the example of Open Source Software development be applied in other, less structured, situations where people are collaborating with each other?
  • How far can the model of Holacracy be applied to FASST (an emerging organisation where people are working on things that are not necessarily their paid work, and they are collaborating with each other in a very “light touch” kind of way)?
  • How does the FASST experiment fit with the ideas of a shift from competition to collaboration in some business contexts and elsewhere?
  • How does FASST relate to “Exponentially Human” and other connected ideas and developments?

People and FASST

FASST is about people I know, and how we (and others) can collaborate more effectively. To me FASST is currently about discovering how “people with a purpose” (relating to some kind of systemic transformation) working with maximum individual freedom, can support each other in some way, enabled through effective structures and clear accountabilities.

As FASST becomes a reality I’m recognising different ways that I’m mentally categorising people regarding their relationship to FASST:

1 – The FASST core group

These are people who are interested in “how FASST works”. Their main interest in FASST is in its “operating system”.  People in the FASST core group are interested in the development of structures and procedures that will enable FASST to do the kind of collaborations it wants to do in an effective way.

2 – FASST people

These people are doing something “collaborative” with me (possibly something as simple as having “buddy” conversations to help each other along). They have agreed that I can think of our shared activity as coming within the boundary of FASST.  They are accepting of my interest in analysing what we are doing together, and the “value” that we get from it.

The ways that we behave together “in FASST” is helping me to define “FASST culture”. Our small collaborations help me to see patterns and possibilities for FASST procedures and structures.

3 – People who who are interested in FASST, but are on the edge of it

These people are a bit like lurkers in an online group. They have some interest, but are not actively involved. The fact that they are “on the edge” (neither in nor out) helps me to see where the current boundary of FASST is.

4 – People outside its boundary

Beyond the boundary of FASST is “the environment in which FASST operates” – the wider world, where people have no connections with FASST.

There are some people in that wider environment however who do contribute informally, and incidentally, to FASST. That happens when we explore ideas and thus I gain new perspectives on things relevant to FASST. However I don’t talk to them about FASST itself, because they have let me know, implicitly or explicitly that their interests lie elsewhere.

FASST and Enspiral similarities

I’m interested in organisational structures that are emerging in rapidly changing and interconnected world. In that context I’m interested in organisational similarities and differences between FASST and Espiral.

Organisationally there are similarities. FASST has the “FASST core group”, and “FASST people” while Enspiral has foundation members (at the core of the organisation) and contributors – see People Agreement. Regarding “people who are interested”, there are people who are not actively involved in Enspiral, but attend events.

Enspiral is much bigger, than FASST.

Enspiral is well established, and is a network of social enterprise ventures and social entrepreneurs working together with shared vision and values. It has a business model that is working. FASST has a long-term model for financial sustainability for itself and its people, but it is an unconventional model, with several stages of development (I will write about that elsewhere). At this stage it is simplest to think of FASST as a collaborative community, of value to its people, but not generating revenue for them, and not providing services for people outside.

In October I attended an Enspiral workshop in London called “Open Enspiral: Working in a Participatory Organisation. The details (my highlights) said –

Enspiral is a bold experiment in participation by design. The organisation uses the tools of business to create positive social impact and develop software and practices for non-hierarchical, open and participatory working cultures.

Ways of working are prioritised so people can focus their energies on what is most meaningful to them. This is a half-day workshop where we cover a set of five modules on these standard business concepts:

Money: How do you democratically fund a community? 

Decisions: How can you come to consensus with 300 people and not sit in long meetings?

Management: How do you hold accountability and support in an organisation without managers?

Leadership: How might distributed leadership actually work?

Governance: How do you enact governance in a participatory network?

Enspiral’s home page says  “More people working on stuff that matters – Powerful things take place when like minded people connect.”

I came away inspired by Enspiral and with useful insights about FASST’s organisational structure. I also recognised structural similarities with other emerging organisations that I know.

Recognising the importance of the “core group”

The issue of the “core group” is important, especially where organisations are trying to grow with flat organisational structures (as being explored by the Teal for Startups group). In flat organisations there is a need for some group or individual to curate the structure and “DNA” of the organisation – see Us and “Networks as a driver of system change?” by Catherine Howe

Using “enspiral” and “inspiral” as generic terms

I like the idea of a generic term for organisations which are structured with the three elements of

  1. People around the boundary in some way
  2. Others actively involved
  3. A core with additional responsibility

Rather than dream up a new word I’ll adopt my friend Dil’s suggestion. Pointing to the examples of “hoovers” for vacuum cleaners, and “biros” for ball point pens, he suggests calling these organisations “enspirals”. However, given the original Enspiral is for people doing paid work I’m cautious about applying the term “enspiral” to organisations where there is no initial economic connection between the people and the work they are doing together. Where the three part structure exists, but people are inspired to collaborate for some other reason, without the complication of money changing hands. I’m going to change the initial letter and call the organisation an “inspiral”.

Organisationally FASST is…

At time of writing FASST is an “Inspiral” (with the three part structure described above).

Because it is an “inspiral” its costs are minimal.

People are involved because they see value in being part of FASST.

Financially they cover their own costs.

It is similar to a network, but more formal.

(A network is like an extended family, in that it is hard to say where it begins or ends. People who are in FASST are here through agreement.)

FASST deals with immaterial things like ideas, information, mutual support, and new insights.

Where it generates new ideas, knowledge, insights etc anyone in the group can use them – but not in any way that would prevent other people in the group from using them as well.

The ethos of FASST is one of openness and contributing to an “information commons”.

As an inspiral, at this stage of development, FASST has no need for a formal business plan or model of financial sustainability, because it’s not dealing with

goods or services that are for sale, nor with physical objects.

If it moves into creating financial opportunities for its people, or it gets involved in any kind of financial transactions, then it will need to reorganise itself.

We can expect that its shape will shift in some ways during 2017 – but this is where we are now.