What we see now and our hope for the future.
What is an Open Organization?
An open organisation is an entity dedicated to performing a given activity in a transparent and inclusive approach. It embraces a culture of openness, sharing and engaging with its community and making sure stakeholders are constantly kept updated and represented in the management of the organisation in such a way that they can effect change.
Decentralized Open Organization
Decentralised open organisations are entities that have
no central authority. They are completely managed by a
community of people distributed across the world,
bounded together by a common goal. Decentralized
organizations can leverage collaborative frameworks
built on blockchain technologies to create an entity
that is self-sovereign, open, equitable and censorship
Blockchain technology provides an immutable ledger on which records of an organisation can be stored immutably and available to the public.
With the added benefit of smart contracts, these organisations can build applications that are executed decentrally; Applications that are unstoppable and automated. Decentralized organizations can handle most activities of an organization on-chain. Examples of these activities include governance structure, ownership structure, compensation structure, labour management, voting, authority delegation, dispute management, financial management and more.
Decentralized organizations may be governed democratically or through custom models that grant temporary authority to delegated members.
Centralized Open Organization
An open organisation can be a centrally governed organisation with a need to integrate openness into its processes. Transparency can be injected in form of:
- Decentralising governance while keeping some equity.
- Decentralising the execution of parts of its applications via smart contracts.
- Managing its finances on the blockchain.
- Managing its source code on-chain.
- Executing its applications on trusted centralised enclaves that can only be configured on-chain.
For instance, Alice intends to develop a digital currency. Her customers expect speed, great UX and interoperable with their existing applications. They do not care much for decentralisation, but they demand openness. Alice could decide to develop a blockchain-based digital currency. However, most blockchains today cannot meet her customer’s requirements without additional features built on central servers somewhere. These servers run proprietary codes that are not open source and on private servers; If Alice did this, she would have violated the openness and speed requirements.
On the other hand, Alice could instead create a decentralised source code repository, push codes to the repository and issue an on-chain instruction that will have the application executed in a trusted/secured enclave on AWS, Google Cloud and others. With this approach, Alice will have successfully created a digital currency that is fast, easy to upgrade and most importantly, open to everyone. Alice will be unable to reconfigure the execution enclave without creating an on-chain record that will be visible to all.
The kind of open organisation we envision does not currently exist in today's centrally run organisations. A core issue is the misaligned interests of the shareholders, product teams and users; We find that users have very little say in the behaviour of their favourite organisations because they are either not paying for the service they enjoy (which makes them the product) or are not financially invested in the team. The teams are legally bound to prioritise the interests of shareholders. As such, most organisations believe that users are not owed openness and should have no voice.
We believe the ability to create organisations that are user-first will be driven by open source collaborators building on a structure that enforces openness. With the world increasingly becoming more connected, remote work is becoming more acceptable, the barrier to launching any internet-based business continues to drop, collaborators distributed across the world will find it easier to create a decentrally governed organisation capable of providing solutions to many problems we face today. They will offer their skills to many of these organisations at their own time and terms.
It is hard to build provably open organisations centrally due to the challenge of tracking and verifying all activities of an organisation from all possible channels and the need for blind trust. Open, collaborative platforms (e.g. Github) offer centralised frameworks that force contributors to trust maintainers to keep and manage shared assets like source code, passwords, finances, intellectual property and more. They support single owner architecture where one user must perform all administrative functions; This is understandable as someone must pay the bills. However, it is unacceptable to communities intending to stand on equal footing and be part of the overall governance and management of their shared enterprise.
It does not end with the collaborative platforms — The single owner structure is the de facto administrative structure for millions of centralised dependencies that collaborators of decentrally governed projects will depend on. Some of such dependencies include hosting services (AWS, DigitalOcean), Payment Services (Stripe) and Advertisement Networks (Adwords, Facebook).
How can collaborators build open, equitable, distrust-free organisations on the back of systems that recognise a single identity?
How can a distributed team working to create a decentrally-run alternative of Airbnb handle the management and governance of their Stripe (their payment processor) account without worrying about the theft, mismanagement or censorship by a colleague who maintains the key?
The easy answer would be for collaborators to work with trusted people or getting these dependencies to support multi-owner architecture. These two options are not practical.
People who share varying values and have no basis to trust a stranger will not agree to delegate trust of sensitive resources to random individuals. Also, it will take much work to get existing dependencies to alter the workings of their systems to favour a structure that does not offer them an immediate incentive.
How it can work
There are several areas of concern preventing the emergence of genuinely open organisations comprising of distrustful collaborators. They are either not available on centralised collaboration frameworks or not designed to minimise trust.
A collaboration framework built on centralised technology does not offer true ownership to collaborators. Any form of ownership offered is at best an illusion — Best described as layer-2 ownership. For legal reasons, the framework provider assumes layer-1 ownership and extends it to collaborators. Any project built on these platforms will not be able to extend true ownership to collaborators; This is a disincentive for collaborators to build valuable organisations.
Regardless of how great and exciting the idea of decentralised organisations seem, they will be outnumbered by centralised entities who for legal reasons demand an identity they can work with; They will not go asking for whom to engage within the decentralized organisation. For open, decentralised organisations to be able to compete and access similar benefits available to fully centralised organisations, they must act in unison under one shared identity that must be decentrally governed.
Open organisations require a governance framework that is agnostic, only providing primitives and constructs that allow these organisations to design the kind of on-chain governance model they want. Governance is needed to coordinate and agree to issues surrounding ownership, the shared identity of the organisation, finance, dispute resolution and more.
We described open organisations and the type we are working hard to enable. We also discussed our motivation and some of the concerns that we believe must be solved to encourage and foster these kinds of organisations. Our mission is to enable a world where people can work together under clear terms agreeable to collaborators and users — a world where users matter and open source grows beyond static projects.