I was recently was recently interviewed by Nati Lombardo and Alana Krause for the “Humans of Loomio” series. The full interview transcript is below.
I’m Stacco Troncoso, I was born in Madrid, Spain, but I spent my adolescence in London, England. Most of my time nowadays involves the day to day running of the P2P Foundation, where I’m strategic director, but I am also the co-founder of Guerrilla Translation, which is a P2P/Commons-oriented translation collective and co-op. I’ve worked as freelance translator in film and TV for many years and I’m also a musician and artist. All of these things somehow coalesce into the work I’m currently doing, which is also my life’s passion!
Tell me about your group – what is it? What do you do?
The P2P Foundation is an organization and network that researches and advocates for Commons-oriented, P2P dynamics and cultures. What this means, basically, is that we study modes of non-hierarchical value creation in many fields and see how this would apply to politics, production, property, governance, etc. Apart from research, other essential parts of our work are communications, networking and advocacy. You can check that side of our work in our Commons Transition site, or our daily blog.
In fact, Guerrilla Translation was inspired by the P2P Foundation and specifically, the theoretical work of its founder Michel Bauwens. We tried to imagine how to apply all of Michel’s recommendation for what an Open Coop should be, but applied to translation. This includes things such as active creation of commons, copyfair licensing, contributory accounting, post-credentialism, and many other innovative aspects. The collective is three years old now and we’ve provided a wealth of pro-bono translations from English to Spanish and viceversa in our Spanish and English websites. Combined, we’ve translated and published more than 130 pieces.
Shorter works like articles, essays and interviews are not as often translated as books, but they’re popular with readers who want access to more work by authors that they like. That’s how this got started, too – we were reading works that we wanted to share with our Spanish or English speaking friends and found that there weren’t enough articles in translation to share, so we started doing it ourselves. We’re not amateur translators, though, we’re experienced professionals and we practice old-school, handmade translation. All our stuff is done by humans: one translator and one copy editor working together to get the author’s message across as accurately as possible. And it’s great for the authors, too. They recognize that there’s a wider audience for their ideas, and sometimes that inspires them in turn to investigate and write about their new audience’s context. We love what we do!
Right now we are working in collaboration with four small, commons-oriented publishers in Peru, Spain, México and Argentina to translate and publish David Bollier’s excellent book, “Think Like a Commoner”. This project is patterned after the P2P Foundation’s proposal to “Design Global, Manufacture Local”, which describes an open, participatory global design commons that feeds the production of material objects, partaken by small, locally-oriented coops and manufacturing shops, makerspaces and fablabs. In fact, this particular project is called “Think Global, Print Local”, and is presently being crowdfunded through Goteo.org, a great commons-oriented financing platform (and very good friends of ours).
It works like this: Guerrilla Translation is translating the text into Spanish. Once we’re done, we will release the digital version on the internet under a Peer Production License so anyone can read or download it. Then, if someone wants a paper copy, they can get it printed and shipped from their nearest publishing node. We strongly believe that the project is of interest to commoners worldwide, and not just Spanish speakers, as it prefigures the sorts of productive capacities we want to encourage. Which is why we plan to expand the network very soon, in order to start publishing and printing English language materials – so stay tuned!
Why is working collaboratively important for your group?
It’s essential both from ideological and practical points of view. I think that collaboration has been relegated to an underdog position within the range of possible human interactions. Working within a system that favours and excuses competition as something desirable or even preferable – whatever the cost – turns this ideological position into a self-perpetuating myth, with disastrous consequences. But collaboration isn’t just a feel-good buzzword which will magically banish all of our woes. It is an often painful personal process of reevaluating your beliefs about yourself and others, and taking apparent risks. We are simply not taught to collaborate in this society, so we have to teach ourselves and each other. Sometimes it feels like groping in the dark, but when you reach out and find somebody else’s hand, it’s the best feeling in the world. Hanging on to each other when it’s needed, or letting go at the right time, is where the real work seems to be right now. The more we do it, the better we’ll get at it (and sharing it with others).
What problem were you trying to solve when you went looking for a decision-making tool?
The problem I’ve felt with online collectives is that it can be very hard to communicate all of that “additional”, yet very essential, information that you can’t transmit online: emotion, humour, affection: Think about things that we draw a lot of information from in person, like someone’s expression or bodily posture – all of that totally escapes us online. This is why our online systems of interaction have to be as clear and diversified as possible; to allow more of ourselves to come through. This clarity is essential when it comes to decision making. We need to foster online spaces where everybody can be heard, and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.
How did you hear about Loomio? What made you decide to try it?
I heard about Loomio though an article by Douglas Rushkoff in early 2013, just as we were organizing the launch of Guerrilla Translation. GT was very much inspired by Occupy and the 15-M movement, so we instantly felt that we were dealing with a sister collective coming from the same place. I signed up for the Beta and we soon started to use it for GT. Then, sometime in 2014, we started using it occasionally in the P2P Foundation. In the last two years we’ve been using more heavily, and now it has become an essential communication tool for us. Lastly, we’re using it to coordinate with the groups in the publishing network for the Think Global/Print Local campaign.
Tell me the story of a specific decision your group has made together on Loomio.
A good example comes from the Think Global/Print Local group. The book translation was originally going to be launched under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial License. We got some flak for that, so we discussed alternatives and we finally settled on the Peer Production License. It was great to have the discussion clearly laid out and archived. With this very heterogeneous group we’ve also used Loomio to determine priorities, plan campaign promotion and budgets, solve conflicts, etc.
What else does your group use Loomio for?
The P2P Foundation has a combination of open and private groups. This allows us to have great discussions and collaboration with our extended network, while also giving us some much needed “quiet time” to reflect and mature ideas. Of the former, I’m especially excited about our Commons Transition discussion group. There are some great discussions in there and, as far as that particular group goes, we use it more as a forum. The core working P2PF team also uses Loomio extensively, not just for decision making, but for asynchronous communication in general. We’ve managed to cut out a lot of unnecessary email thanks to Loomio and we can now easily search for and refer to specific discussions and decisions we’ve made.
What does using Loomio enable for your group that wasn’t possible before?
With the Think Global/Design Local group, we were using a mixture of email, voip and instant messaging, and it wasn’t working out. A lot of valuable information was getting lost in the mix. It took some convincing, but we finally got everyone to sign up for Loomio and now communications (and decision making!) have improved tremendously. No one has to hunt through endless email threads to see when such-and-such was decided. It’s all clearly laid out.
Do you have any advice for other users of Loomio? Best practice or tips?
I actually want some advice myself, because I’ve found that the hardest thing about Loomio is getting people to use it! More specifically, to get out of their “comfort zone” of using email for everything. Once they overcome this barrier it’s easy for them to see the benefits, but sometimes we’ve lost people who made a prejudgement before trying it out. My advice for any group is to try to expand its usage beyond decision making and see it as an organizing tool. Specifically, I think it’s a highly preferable alternative to email or social media groups. Email is great for one-to-one correspondence but, in my experience, discussions with more than 5 people often go nowhere and are excruciatingly difficult to read or to join in at a later date. A Facebook group, for example, offers easy adoption, but discussions get lost, can’t be organized into subgroups, and there’s no mechanism for decision making. I might add that Facebook generally isn’t a great place to try to work if you’re avoiding distractions, let’s face it. Loomio solves all of that and it’s backed by nice real humans that you can talk too, instead of corporate goons. Tell everybody to join in!
What is the impact on the world you are hoping to have with your group? If you are very successful, what will be different in the world?
This is a difficult question due to the varied nature of the groups I’ve mentioned. The overarching characteristic is that we want to show that collaboration isn’t something that only happens in isolated instances or invisible environments, but that it can crystallize and become the preferred mode of creating value and caring for one another and the planet we live on. This is a big task, but we believe in that by communicating the potential of these already-existing practices people will see that there is a viable way out of this convergence of crises we’re mired in. At the largest scale (the type of work the P2P Foundation does), success would entail an increased prominence of P2P/Commons dynamics in politics, production and an explosion of creative solutions based in the stewardship of our shared resources. With something much more concrete, like the Think Global, Print Local campaign, we’ll be able to publish and distribute essential books to inspire changemakers without having to concede to the restrictions or wasteful, unchallenged protocols of the traditional publishing world. We would also show that knowledge needs to be free and global, but that production can be local, draw from the commons and also give back to it.
Image by Ann Marie Utratel