Contribution to the Node-London Reader

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Coordinated by Cinzia Cremona


The ResourceCamp

Introduction

For Disclosures, Critical Practice convened a ResourceCamp on Sunday, 30th March 2008. The ResourceCamp addressed what we consider the 'elephant in the room' of open organizations - money. Or more specifically money and its 'open' management.

Critical Practice is an 'open organization', though we prefer the term 'self-organised cluster'. We use Open-Organisations.org guidelines for our organization, because we recognise - after Theodor Adorno - that indeed, all art is organised and managed. Being sensitive to how we manage ourselves is an important part of our 'critical practice'. The pragmatic character of open-organizations guidelines makes them really useful for structuring our activities. Borne of participation and analysis of previous open organizations like Indymedia, they stress process, functionality and accountability. Yet to our knowledge, none of the online guidelines or documents mentions or addresses how to value and manage money or more generally resources.

BarCamps, from which the ResourceCamp took its inspiration for Disclosures, are an international network of self organised, user generated unconferences — open, participatory workshop-events — often related to open source methods, social protocols, and open data formats. Sessions are proposed and scheduled among attendees. Everyone is encouraged to contribute by dividing their time equally between presentation and questions, observations and exchange. Anyone can initiate a BarCamp using the BarCamp wiki for guidance.

Resources

In the last year Critical Practice has engaged and struggled with questions of value, money and economies of resources. Perhaps, these themes are what we have in common with most art organizations, NGOs and self-organised groups – organizations that function in mixed economies of funds, fees, volunteers, generosity, grants, etc. We do not have, and would never have, enough money to pay people proportionately to their participation. And much of what we value - creativity, conviviality, knowledge, experience, etc. - is difficult to quantify and reimburse.

To address this situation, Critical Practice convened the ResourceCamp as the first step in drafting guidelines for open resource management. Contributors included Kuba, Neil, Corrado and Marsha, Peter, Anna, Cinzia, Trevor, Ian, Eileen & Ben, Jem, and Marcel. Video documentation of their presentations is available Swarm TV. Beyond our stated goal – drafting Open Budget Guidelines – we engaged in peer-led, practice-based research; a process that expanded our shared knowledge and engaged other people and presentations within Disclosures. Peter, Anna, Eileen, Ben and Marcel offered useful and often provocative insights that challenged our emergent approach to resource management.

Below is the notational flip-chart transcript kept by Michaela during the ResourceCamp

FLIP-CHART NOTES

These notes were made during the ResourceCamp. They are a sketch of the presentations and responses from participants, without discriminating between different types of contributions.

Kuba - HOW TO DIVIDE A CAKE?

Economy as a cake with 4 layers (from Hazel Henderson):

1. Market
2. State
3. Love
4. Natural environment

1 & 2 are concerned with individuals
3 & 4 deal with the collective

What are the Art World applications of this theory?
‘Mother Culture’ is made up of language, tradition, everyday practice.
A slice of cake contains all 4 layers
Who has the power to slice the cake?
‘Natural’ resources are assumed to be endless

Without social/emotional investment – the top 2 layers can’t exist


Neil – GENEROSITY: THE ECONOMY OF THE GIFT

Flat hierarchies based on goodwill
‘All art is organised’
Critical Practice as open-organization/self-organising group
Open-Organization guidelines are pragmatic but… no mention of money
Money (actually managing money is comparatively easy)?
We can pay for specific tasks – i.e. skills and labour (e.g. admin work)
problems arise in mixed economies
Volunteers gifts and generosity
More money is not a solution
How do we reimburse conviviality/friendship?
Can generosity be reimbursed?
GENEROSITY is the problem.
Risky generosity – creative surplus is invested in CP
Is this sustainable?
Finance ≠ Gift Economy
Can we quantify investments and expenditure?
How do we prevent exploitation (personal/institutional)?
Ethics and the capital we produce
Capitalist economy puts the competitive market first
Love = Gift Economy
Potential exploitation of everyday exchanges
‘Love is evil’ – Zizek

Can generosity be reimbursed?


Corrado and Marsha -THE TROUBLE WITH ASKING

The accountability of desire
Openness – online budget as ‘best practice’
Asking: how do we recognise those who don’t ask to be recognized?
Open Congress – a wikified budget
Some retracted their budget claims
Asking too much?
Is the wikified budget coercive?
E.g. What is involved in choosing a cheap/expensive hotel?
Sofa –Sharing instead of hotels – but what if there is no buy out?
How do systems condition personalities?
People participate in different ways
Open Organizations accommodate certain types of personality
‘Impression Management’
Selecting people who can afford to be generous

Transparency as a principle – how does it function in practice?


Anna - WHERE DOES THE ACCUMULATION OF CAPITAL GO?

It’s not generosity but commitment
Free labour in the art world can build reputation
The cultural field is seen as a main source of funding
What about political aims as motivation?
What happens when we call ‘Politics’ ‘Art’
What happens to the capital you produce?
We have to teach ourselves how to respect different forms of labour
The importance of logistics
Desire – arts practice
Desire - political practice
Subjectivisation:

It’s different to be a ‘me’ for ‘me’, rather than a ‘you’ for ‘them’

Peter -TRANSITIONAL PRACTICE

The co-operative – ‘To each according to their need…’
The dynamics of an organization change as needs change
When dealing with public money – we have to respond to formal budget terms
In Transitional Practice – everything is negotiated
Contributions ‘In Kind’ (for match funding)
Budgets should be organised around tasks – but these are always negotiated
Working within an institution – is transparency a good thing?
Membership of an organization
Does the online relationship change the relationships we can have?
What’s the online/offline relationship?
Trust and Prestige
Prestige doesn’t make itself. How do we value it?
Trust optimises personal resources
Trust is its own reward
Do we operate within a contradiction?

Points of friction are potentially points of change

Cinzia - THE PERSONAL IS ECONOMICAL

What is the nature of a resource?
An attempt at a personal balance-sheet on a collective project
Is it possible to keep a ‘Personal Balance Sheet’?
Income /Expenses
What is the value in leaving the question open (risky)?
How far should we use the language and models of corporations/capital?

1: Transparency/Accountability – Is it possible?
2: Power/Hierarchy - A few have access to resources. Do the lines need to be made clearer?
3: Trust/Transparency

Do we need to know everything in order to trust?
The rewards of generosity

1. Materialistic (Money/Time)
2. Decision-making (Political power)
3. Interpretation, reflection on what we are doing (trust)

Self-actualisation – we can’t begin to measure this
TRUST - A precondition of making
Concerning the density of the social bond
Patterns of communication

- Each project should be considered in its own right
- Precedents can be deceptive

Trevor - THE COST OF OPPORTUNITY

Value is a sacrifice one is prepared to make
Opportunity costs
Choosing one option over another

- One uses of time over another
- The decision to participate or not
Assessing the true cost of any course of action
How do we account for implicit hidden costs?
Is value imposed rather than intrinsic?
What about Volunteers?
What do they gain in terms of acquiring skills, visibility, personal growth?
How do we relate personal economies?
In a fragmented field – how do we edit?
Supply as reverse demand
The metaphor of tuning into radio frequencies
Are choices always rational?
Either/Or is more than a choice between 2 options
Personal Economics – How far and why am I invested?

Why do we use models of scarcity to manage abundance?

Ben and Eileen - OPEN MUSIC ARCHIVE – THE BUDGET

A resource for future use:

60% pressing record – 500 discs
20% venue hire
10% flyers
10% transport

No-one was paid
Records were not sold but people were asked for a donation
Different sites/forms of distribution
Bidding against other artists – Undercutting? Sustainability?
Where does an open-organization end and this type of organization begin?
What are the benefits to the people involved in creating the resource?
Does this way of operating privilege those with independent income?
Vinyl seen as best resource for all involved
How could you track resource use?
When we have digital means, why go back to traditional market?

Emphasis on performativity

Jem - THINK OF A NUMBER – PRINCIPLES OF OPEN BUDGET MANAGEMENT

How does a group choose a number?
Behind this simple task there is a multitude of principles – each with pros and cons
Open budget management – Harrow residents
Principles, definite objectives – principles met?

1. Influence
2. Information
3. Deliberation
4. Feedback
5. Independence

Possible Principles:

Consider each case Flexibility Aims/Desire Priorities (tasks) Monetary strategy and other implicated transactions

Marcel - EXPLOITATION

Good to measure exploitation
Avoid measuring using money and capitalism
Digital(ism) is a useful abstraction
Protection afforded by licences may be an illusion
We ‘own’ gestures, not substance
Reciprocity of GPL is a political gesture
There is no exploitation if feeding back according to original values
Law – contracts – relationships
Default on love!
Reputation systems – potentiality in assigning judgments/values (?)
Copyright infringement = false
Clarity at the beginning
If you want to make money – do business
Common responsibility

Make justice where it doesn’t exist.

Draft Budget Guidelines

These guidelines were extracted from the ResourceCamp, expanded, condensed and evolve online at Draft Budget Guidelines

Oscar Wilde, in Lady Windermere's Fan has Lady Windermere say "The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

This is a draft set of guidelines for individuals and organizations trying to practice in an 'open' way. They are explicitly intended to facilitate the open, transparent and accountable management of financial resources, although they inevitably mesh with human, social, intellectual and material resources too. The guidelines are an open and ongoing project.

General Principles

Purpose

   At all times, but especially at the beginning of a project, try to be clear about your specific aims and time-frame. 

Simplicity

   The more complicated resource management is, the less likely it is to be well managed. 

Flexibility

   The resource management process should be flexible; resources and needs will change, frequent reviews are helpful. 

Guidelines

  1. Organize resource allocation around clearly articulated tasks, services, needs, specific people, goods or projects - bearing in mind these are subject to continual review.
  2. For each project: 
       a) Estimate/allocate the appropriate resources 
       b) Estimate/record all the incomes (investments) 
       c) Estimate/record all the expenditure 
       d) Total your income and expenditures 
       e) Review 
       f) Make adjustments as necessary 
  3. Invest for future gain, and try and build resources for others.
  4. Respect and evaluate different forms of income and expenditure - obviously nothing is 'free'. And perhaps think of a 'total audit' of personal (and collective) intellectual and emotional investment, time, energy, materials and space that make a project possible - the opportunity costs.
  5. Appointing a resource coordinator is useful.
  6. Be transparent with the available financial resources; publish the financial resources (e.g. on a wiki), and clearly describe the process by which participants can access the funds - ie through the resource coordinator.
  7. Be clear who has permission to act, and who is empowered to make decisions - rough consensus is good. Try to avoid the 'Big Other' of hidden power and responsibility.
  8. Ensure flows of accrued capital are distributed equitably.
  9. Public transparency should guard against misuse and corruption.
  10. Consider each case for funding, or demand upon resources, in their own right. Precedents, although useful can be deceptive.
  11. Use resource management as a plan for future action.
  12. Use points of friction as opportunities for reflection and change - changes in practice and to the guidelines themselves.
  13. Take responsibility, and do not look to apportion blame for the mistakes of others, especially the 'Big Other' or the resource coordinator.
  14. There is no intrinsic value, so be sensitive to the sacrifice - the opportunity cost - implicit in one choice over another.