Can generosity be reimbursed

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I'm Neil Cummings, I'm part of critical practice

We convened a ResourceCamp

BarCamps are an international network of user generated unconferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants — often focusing on early-stage developing projects, and related to open source methods, social protocols, and open data formats.

Because the form seemed to suit the theme of disclosures - of openness and FLOSs modeled cultural practices- and also because we wanted to take disclosures at face value and “move beyond’ previous FLOSS inspired events.

So we suggest a ResourceCamp to tackle the 'elephant in the room' of open organizations, and those in receipt of public funds - the management of money and more generally the distribution of resources.

Critical Practice is an Open Organization.

Critical Practice convenes to enact critical practice within art, the field of culture, and organization – that’s what it says on our home page

We are an open, or we prefer the term self-organised group, because we use guidelines suggested by open-organizations.org - for our organization.

And we do this because we recognise -after Theodor Adorno - that all art is organized.

So how we organise has to be part of our 'critical practice'

The OO guideines are fantastic. - thanks Tony Prug and others Practical, pragmatic, born from participation and analysis of previous OO's - like Indymedia.

They stress process and functionality. But as far as I'm aware, in none of the documents, is there any mention of money, or resources and how to value and manage them.

And this is often what Critical Practice, struggles with most. And perhaps most organizations or groups – node.London’s evaluation, in mixed economies – funds, fees, volunteers, generosity, grants, etc

We have an annual buget from Chelsea College of Art and Design. which we try to manage from within our wiki - so its transparent and publicaly accountable

But like the budget on our wiki for Disclosures - two people used it. We are often hesitant about spending our money Or, we struggle to spend it and not generate ill-feeling.

I wonder if we struggle to spend it ethically?

There is some advice online like from the civil society about open budgets

· Boost transparency and help to curb corruption.
· Give rise to incentives to enhance efficiency in departmental spending.
· Foster consensus about difficult budget choices, and foster accountable and democratic government.

But we know all that already, that’s about transparency and accountability.
Not how to spend.

We do not have, and would never have, enough money to pay people for their input in terms of time.

And much of what we value - creativity, conviviality, knowledge, experience, etc, are difficult to quantify and reimburse - intangibles or?

Its true that:

1. some of us are paid (crudely said) to participate by Chelsea in Critical Practice.
although often over and above any calculation of the labour costs/fee, and this is external to our budget
2. we sometimes pay people a fee for specific tasks - web management, design, travel, editibg. etc
this sits well in line with the functionality of OO, and rough-consensus decision making
3. where we struggle (I think) is to know who to pay, when, and for what kind of intangible participation.
To equitably distribute limited resources, in a mixed economy

And it could be that generosity is the problem. Many of the most active participants within CP have no formal attachment to Chelsea, and are not financially reimbursed for their participation.

They invest (riskily, and perhaps in the short term) without remuneration I suggest in the short term because, how can this be sustainable?

Their financial needs are met elsewhere, and any ‘surplus’ (time, energy, attention, etc) is invested in CP

So CP, essentially runs on the generosity of an invested surplus?

But I realise (recently) that the problem may not be about: how to reimburse generosity...........perhaps this is simply not possible.

Especially if generosity is an investment, without interest, in a calculated return.

We get something back – a feeling of wellbeing perhaps, professional pride, peer esteem- without knowing, or necessarily caring what the return is

There are few formal ties within CP, almost none, and yet some people feel tremendous obligation - we have discussed and worked upon issues of the gift after Mauss and Battaile And we are aware of Aristotles theories on the appropriateness of giving in his Ethics

I think the problem, is how to nurture generosity, and not exploit, or unethically capitalise it.

Much of the web 2.0 phenomena seems built on the aggregation on the enthusiasm and generosity of it's participants - the capture and marketization of generosity.

Should, and can, open organizations avoid the replication of this expropriation?

One of the most obvious things:
Is that one of the core logics of OO's is the public ownership of knowledge.
We use open content licenses –so that collaborative knowledge cannot be commodified.

And yet, this still does not resolve the issue of generosity
Is the university, and more specifically me (the person most associated with CP within Chelsea) the beneficiary of this generosity?
we would not be here at disclosures without having accrued a certain amount of cultural capital

How can we ensure the flows of accrued capital are distributed equitably?
And how can we build a sustainable organization?

OO guidlines stress processes, and the need to continually carry out (replicate) processes within organizations - indeed that might be a good definition of an organization.

'There are never fixed states'

So we understand the conflicts in ‘mixed economies are not to be resolved.
But to help manage them, some guidelines would be useful.


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