Our principles

Food Shift - Principles

In order to guide our work and help us better coordinate and collaborate, we are attempting to elucidate a number of principles that we can base our work on. This is the first iteration of those principles.

  1. Conversation is change. Conversations are important. We are operating from the assumption that our food systems are living systems and as we have conversations we are also learning together. This means that the food systems we are included in are also changing. Action towards regeneration can come out of the learning that we can do together in conversation.
  2. All learning is mutual learning. We want to support and operate from the view that learning is something that is done in the context of different perspectives contrasting and coming together. We want to create learning environments where we all come as peers and continiously redraw our maps together rather than focusing on just disseminating information.
  3. Growing a living culture. We are focused on growing a culture where people that are involved are able to express themselves and co-create the evolution of this particular culture. We recognize the need to adapt to the context and needs that emerge in our work with food systems and want to encourage fluidity while using structure like these principles to ensure a direction towards regeneration.
  4. Whole systems considerations. We purposefully do not limit ourselves to working with a particular “part of the food system”. We view think that creating a networked support structure for regenerative emergence includes supporting many different facets of the people, projects and organizations that are involved in the shift. Conversations and initiatives can include but are not limited to things like personal practices, economic models, exchange of genetic materials and emotional support. We do not know what is needed to shift our food systems so we are open to working with the needs that emerge.
  5. Welcome a multiplicity of language. We encourage participants in our forum and activities to use whatever language we feel comfortable with. Conversations could flow in and out of many languages and we encourage people to ask for translations and clarifications where they feel a need for them. Having a multiplicity of languages and ways of speaking could hopefully lead to crossings of more cultural perspectives which may lead to deeper learning together. It is also important that people do not feel impeded from engaging in conversations because they feel a need to speak in a way that does not come naturally.
  6. Participation over commitment. We want this network to be a place where people are inspired to contribute without a fear of becoming stuck or laden with extra responsibilities. While we, as humans, are accountable for the commitments we make to each other, we try to ensure that people feel welcome to participate and also not participate when their energies are drawn elsewhere. We are aspiring to keeping the boundaries of the network as open and porous as possible so that people, projects and organizations may flow in and out of interaction as seen fit with their needs.
  7. Working out loud. We encourage the use of this platform to have conversations in the network in order for others to be able to benefit from the insights that are had as well as joining in on conversations that started before someone arrived. Let us attempt to avoid back-channels where possible so that we can enjoy a larger degree of coherence together.
  8. Striving for transparency and distribution of power. We intend to make decisions that are taken in the organisation in a way that is transparent for everyone to see. We also strive to distribute the decision-making and the power that comes with it as far out to the edges of the people involved in a certain issue as possible.

Handbook – Table of Contents

Below are some examples of principles of distributed organisations.

The Transition Network Principles

Edgeryders Principles

  1. Who does the work calls the shots . Edgeryders is a do-ocracy, rather than a democracy. If people want to do something and they have the energy and resources for it, they do not need permission, and they get to choose which things are done, and how. No one who is not personally involved in doing something has the right to tell those who are how to do it, within the limits of the law (you cannot charge clients without issuing an invoice, that’s illegal) and of the good functioning of the common infrastructure (the invoice needs to be recorded on our accounting software, otherwise you’ll break our system). As a consequence, we never vote on projects, we only check that they don’t break the law nor our infrastructure.
  2. No plan is the plan . Our values make Edgeryders a very decentralized organization. The company has no overarching strategy, just values and principles for collaboration. All the intentionality is at the level of the projects: the company can be interpreted as a federation of sovereign projects.
  3. Project sovereignty . Sovereignty means that the person or group running the project is responsible for its financing (it has to find the client or backer), and it gets to allocate the project’s budget, with no interference from the board. Every Edgeryders project contributes to the common resources with 20% of its budget, and disposes of the remaining 80%.
  4. Teams . The absence of an overarching strategy has a negative consequence: you might end up going from project to project, without a real professional development trajectory and with a high risk of “getting lost”. So we try to work in small teams of twos and threes. Teams give themselves goals, and their members help each other stay on track. Teams also allow for a division of labour: it may not be efficient that we all become salespeople, but neither is it fair (or resilient) that only one or two people are responsible for dealmaking. So, we try to put financial and operational autonomy at the level of the team, rather than at that of the individual or that of the whole company.
  5. Mutual support . Project leaders are encouraged to offer each other paid, meaningful, fun work in each other’s projects. This custom does two things: it encourages people to come together in a tighter web of collaboration and it adds to our individual resilience, because everyone is looking for (good) work for everyone else. Normally, the core members of Edgeryders get first ask on paid work procured by other core members (provided they have the right skills, of course).
  6. Working out loud (and in writing) . We communicate by being transparent, and letting each person decide which information she wants. This means we do not send each other emails (strongly discouraged within the company, a necessary evil when dealing with the outside world). Almost our entire workflow happens in writing on the company’s online workspace. This way, everything is written down, has a URL and is searchable. For short-lived communications (“Have you paid XYZ’s invoice?”) it’s OK to use the Matrix, but anything substantial needs to be on this platform to be findable and open. Company directors and collaborators also have access to our accounting platform, which ensures financial transparency.
  7. You are responsible for staying in the loop, not for keeping others in the loop . Once you have documented what you do on the platform, you’re good. No one can accuse you of being untransparent or not keeping them in the loop. We do this because we value doers and their work. Doing more does, in Edgeryders, come with a responsibility of documenting what you do, but no more. Once the documentation is there, no one is allowed to claim ignorance of it as a way to accuse the doer of not being proactive enough in communicating. This is a way to protect doers from vetoes or sniping from non-doers. If you want to be informed on a project, read upon it. It’s all there. For example, you can set to “tracking” the relevant categories and topics on the platform.
  8. Administrative minimalism . We recognize the need for tidy process, especially at the low level. At the same time, we are strongly averse to useless paperwork, and determined not to have anyone doing the bullshit job of creating administrative processes for others. Admin work is almost always unpaid in Edgeryders, to make sure our incentives stay aligned with not having any beyond the bare minimum. As a consequence, we are extremely cautious in adopting new common tools or procedures, because each person needs to make her own adoption decision. Occasionally we decide to give something a try, and then we promise each other to use the tool faithfully for a short period and see if the promised benefits materialise.
  9. The board stewards the common resources . Edgeryders is formally run by a management board (Estonian: juhatus ). In Edgeryders, the board stays away from day-by-day (because management sovereignty) and formulates no strategy (because no plan is the plan). What it does do is care for the common resources. It (a) watches over the company’s reputation . This is done through the exclusive power of representation of the company, granted to each member of the board individually by Estonian company law. If someone tries to do something crazy or pernicious like making Edgeryders landmines, the board will simply refuse to sign the contract, and the company will never be legally implicated. (b) It decides small financial investments into business development ; for example, the #research-network was funded by the board. © It maintains the common services (hosting, accountant, banking, some software development for internal use…), making sure that people and teams in the company always have a functioning vehicle for their projects.
  10. Festina lente. (Latin: “make haste slowly”). Our system is very efficient, but it reacts badly to emergencies and “I need it yesterday”. This is good. Designing the system around emergencies would just encourage us to be sloppy. Instead, we commit to respecting each other’s work. Move well ahead of deadlines, and be considerate of other people’s workflows. Never work on the day of the deadline; only exceptionally, and with abject apologies, ask others to adapt to your own emergencies. Remember that people have a right to refuse to act on others’ lack of planning.