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A Tale of Organising Robin Hood

####How does Robin Hood organise King’s deer for everyone (the proverbial, not wanting to exclude by diet)?

In the July Newsletter I hinted at the inner workings of how Robin Hood the organisation organises.

This post will expand on that, will throw in some history for context and will hopefully arrive at a more open understanding of what the secret sauce is, and where in the forest Robin Hood is headed and from where we have come. Secret sauce, it turns out looks alot like hard work. I’ll also try to lay out the nuts and bolts of the how (which tools do we use, and who are using them).

I myself only joined in 2014 - so there may be parts of the story which I skip over - if you can fill in some details, please do! I am sure it is not just me who is intrigued by this type of stuff.

@Tere has written some useful posts which will be peppered through this post. There is an excellent introduction to the forums here:

The catalyst for this post was a conversation with one of Robin Hood’s long time friends, members and now advisor Geert Lovink (@glovink) who asked:

####What was Robin Hood Coop in the past & how did it happen?

Before I get started, @Tere (thanks again!) has written a very useful FAQ which explores the differences between the different aspects of the process of Robin Hood. Read that if you haven’t already.

So, lets recap. Robin Hood Coop (RHC) is a community-led data-driven Hedge Fund-like organisation run by academics, hackers, investment consultants and artists - to name a few - all contributing voluntarily (without payment). It was founded in 2012 in the aftermath of the 2007/08 financial crisis and set out on the mission to find new ways of expanding and protecting commons.

Here Akseli (@akseli) one of the initial founders/thinkers of Robin Hood describes the initial meetings and collection of energies and peoples:

This initial iteration of the project was organised through email, skype / google hangout and physical meetings at our Open Offices / Pop up Labs, with monthly(-ish) newsletters being sent out using MailChimp (indeed this is one of the best, though still incomplete, public records of that period ).

The fuel in the furnace of Robin Hood’s organisational engines was passion and people contributing their time for free. The core people involved knew each other personally, at least through a few hops, and the slowly growing membership was largely attracted from Robin Hoods growing network of pioneer adopters. The times when media outlets ‘discovered’ us, there would also be upticks in the membership.

“But you run a successful data-mining algorithm on the stock market. Isn’t that synonymous with a machine that prints money?” .

Partly true. Yes - so far, it has made roughly €150,000 for members and projects. And, no - although profitable thus far, the rules laid out by member decision during one of the early member meetings do not allow payment of staff (and is part of why returns at times are so remarkable).

Anyway - I digress. An initial website was built by John W Fail and over the next 2 years the coop attracted 300 members and €0.5 million in Assets Under Management (AUM). At some point John moved on and handed over to Matthieu. During this first period the people behind the (at the time gmail account) inbox of Robin Hood, were Stephanie and Ana (with stints from others). For many of our members, this will have been the main contact with the inner workings of Robin Hood.

Beyond the day-to-day running of the co-op (which can take between 2 - 8 hours depending on the time of year) there are the directors of the coop. Their mandate is to oversee matters outside the remit of day-to-day routine tasks which is normally organised through monthly (or more often when needed) Skype group calls.

That pretty much sums up the early years. Email, skype and irregular (albeit very energetic) face-to-face meetings at our ‘Offices’.

What we learned from these early years was that with 0 budget for marketing, when we connected or spoke with people something in the idea of Robin Hood sparked a great enthusiasm (Read this post on Robin Hood as a process) Concurrently - it was clear that the model of burning the contributors enthusiasm for fuel was unsustainable. The tools being used and the way they were being used were also exhausting (those who have jobs where you bounce emails backwards and forwards can sympathise)

By spring 2014, summer 2014 the latest, it had become clear that we needed to do something. We needed to reorganize. There was too little AUM, too few members, too much potential burn-out and too much bureaucracy. Do we end the project? Or can we find a way of transmuting the core energy and spark of Robin Hood into something sustainable for the people pouring time and energy into the engines of the Robin Hood machine that could also scale beyond Dunbars number and tap into what Robin Chase calls the exponential growth of PeersInc collaborations. By Autumn a specific plan was proposed to the wider membership, which was accepted.

This is when we started talking about Robin Hood 2.0. Tere has written an excellent post looking more at the practicalities of the relationship between Robin Hood the process, Robin Hood Coop (RHC) and Robin Hood Services (RHS) which you can read through this illuminating post introducing Robin Hood Unlimited.

Internally this transmutation started to take place with the way the organisation communicated, which in turn has been fundamental to the change in the way we work. We migrated from gmail to hosted emails. We shifted from mainly relying on email for internal communications to using Slack.

Email has mainly been used for communications with the wider membership and prospective members. Many of you will have already have met Cyberfriar Tuck (@TeppoVesikukka ), The princess of the precariat (@ana_fradique ), Skinny Jeans (@Harri ) or Lady of the forest (@sari_stenfors).

Slack vs email as a tool was a fundamental shift. Less time was spent on organising when and how to work and shifted towards a much more furious and dynamically energetic approach aided by the fluid communication chat tools like Slack afford. The core team (putting something between 15 - 80 hours per week) organise around ‘production lines’ (which are channels in our Slack instance).

-attraction-branding (@Akseli & @sari_stenfors)   
-co-op (@Tere & @ana_fradique)  
-communications-networks (@danielhassan & @Akseli)  
-investor-relations (@sari_stenfors & @Akseli)  
-kitchen (where we all pop in each morning to have a freeform chat)
-legal-business (@raphaelechappe & @sari_stenfors)  
-newspaper-diigo (pulling together articles to read together)
-organisation-hacking (@Tere & @danielhassan)  
-products (@Tere & @Benjamin_Lozano ) 
-team-development (a rotating HR department where we each do stints of 3 months)

Each production line has two stewards who present the workings / needs of the production line at the weekly meeting (which is noted in a living document). In this way the entire project, from all angles keeps moving forward step-by-step. Production lines are free to work in the way that best suits them and can call on the help of the HR department if they hit any bottlenecks. This structure of organising will look familiar to anyone who has read ‘Reinventing Organisations’.

Meetings within production lines, meetings with other contributors and upcoming events are all posted within a shared calendar so that anyone can see what is going on and where the meeting is being hosted. Todo lists / the main projects which production lines are working on are noted within Trello (which link through the the related slack channel). In this way you can see how it becomes possible to create a vibrant digital workplace spread across 10 different countries and various time zones.

Annual member meeting is now distributed and digital using an online collaboration tool called Loomio, meaning participation in the annual member meeting grew 8 fold.

Most recently, we have set up these forums which are a natural progression in the transmutation we have been going through, one where we are finding ways to be more open by default. Robin Hood the Idea can only be realised together. We welcome you here to get involved in the process of creating new economic space.

Thanks @glovink for the prod to get this post up!

All questions and corrections welcome.

People involved to date (I am sure I must be missing some contributors - so please let me know! I would like to thank you for you hard work!):

Teppo Vesikukka, Pekka Piironen, Sari Stenfors, Ana Fradique, Harri Homi, Pekko Koskinen, Stephanie Barbier, Benjamin Lozano, Vinay Gupta, Ian Grigg

Sakari Virkki

####Board Members:
Liisa Välikangas, Akseli Virtanen, Tere Vadén, Tiziana Terranova, (Jan Ritsema asked to be relieved January 2015)

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Geert Lovink, George Denizens, Sarah Meikeljohn

####Web Developers:
Mathieu D’Alexis, John W. Fail, Daniel Hassan, Dave Hrycyszyn

####Open Office contributors:
Brett Scott, Denis ‘Jaromil’ Rojo, Alina Popa, Ion Dumitrescu, Florin Flueras, Emanuele Braga, Enric Duran, Rachel O’Dwyer, Gianluigi Biagini, Camilla Pin, Stefano Lucarelli, Erin Manning, Andrea Fumagalli, Brian Massumi, Cosima Opartan, Inderpual Johar, Emanuele Andreoli, Luca Chiaudano, Emma Dalesman, Maddalena Fragnito, Luca Guzzetti, Marcel Mars, Maria Tengarrinha, Carlo Vercellone.

####Independent filmmaker following RH:
Mette Reitzel


Thanks for the overview, it makes it more inviting for everyone to join in on the efforts when the organisation is transparent!