How Igalia use Loomio to set a collective strategy

Igalia is a worker-owned, employee-run cooperative consultancy focused on open source software and services.

We recently sat down with co-founder Xavier Casta√Īo to discuss their journey, their organizational model and their collective strategy setting processes.

Since inception, 20 years ago in 2001, the team has grown to over 120 open source developers delivering a range of services and contributions to open source technology projects.

As an organization Igalia has been evolving built on values of worker ownership, social responsibility and commitment to free and open source software.

Igalia started in Galicia and has become established as a leader and strong contributor in open source technologies, particularly in the web engines space.

As Igalia grew they maintained a strong inclusive culture around decision making and strategy setting and have used the General Assembly process as a key pillar in their organizational model.

What is a General Assembly?

A General Assembly is a formal programme or event where an organization’s controlling group (ie: shareholders, Board, members) hold discussion and make decisions concerning the strategic direction of an organization.

Typically the decisions made in an assembly are relatively formal and often enshrined in a constitution, charter or set of formal agreements or business plans.

These meetings were traditionally held in one physical space, with everyone together in the same place at the same time. For remote, distributed organizations or where it is important to create inclusive processes where all voices are heard and discussions considered over longer periods of time, some reinvention of the traditional General Assembly process is needed.

‚ÄúNothing that is relevant to the whole organization can happen without going through a general assembly process.‚ÄĚ

At Igalia a General Assembly process is run bi-monthly, remotely and includes everyone who has been working with Igalia for more than 1 year.

Key organizational functions like strategy, marketing, operations etc are presented at assemblies by ‚Äėcommissions‚Äô which operate as working groups to hold context and set up key discussions and decisions to be made at assemblies.

This bi-monthly process is augmented by a ‚Äėpermanent general assembly‚Äô process operated via mailing list where decisions are made between assemblies as needed.

The whole process is held down and supported by a commission focused on running and improving the General Assembly process.

For Igalia, this bi-monthly commitment to assemblies requires significant organizational resources. They use Loomio to save time and enable inclusive participation by focusing on discussion on specific threads, polls to gauge interest and deliberation before proposals to confirm transparent decisions.

At Igalia a General Assembly process is run bi-monthly, remotely and includes everyone who has been working with Igalia for more than 1 year.

Key organizational functions like strategy, marketing, operations etc are presented at assemblies by ‚Äėcommissions‚Äô which operate as working groups to hold context and set up key discussions and decisions to be made at assemblies.

This bi-monthly process is augmented by a ‚Äėpermanent general assembly‚Äô process operated via mailing list where decisions are made between assemblies as needed.

The whole process is held down and supported by a commission focused on running and improving the General Assembly process.

For Igalia, this bi-monthly commitment to assemblies requires significant organizational resources. They use Loomio to save time and enable inclusive participation by focusing on discussion on specific threads, polls to gauge interest and deliberation before proposals to confirm transparent decisions.

Why is a General Assembly useful?

Effective, inclusive strategy development.

A GA is a great way for a distributed or remote working organization to create an inclusive strategy. Think of it as investment in a formal process that gets everyone on the same page about what the collective goals and priorities are for the next period of time. When designed and executed well it will be a high leverage use of everyone’s time.

Democratic participation and inclusive engagement.

When people are engaged in a process, they buy into the outcomes. For an organization seeking to most effectively engage their members, creating ways to meaningfully participate in direction setting is critical.

By designing a process for democratic participation and inclusive, transparent engagement you create the conditions for developing an organizational strategy people deeply understand, believe in and want to see succeed.

‚ÄúLoomio is a great tool that has saved us a lot of time. If any organization needs to integrate distributed decision making, then Loomio is going to be a great place to start. It is a tool that is here to stay in Igalia‚ÄĚ

Bringing people into the process, being inclusive, transparent ways of working is foundational to the values of Igalia and the underlying mission of the free and open source software movement.

Beyond values, the organizational model has had other non-obvious benefits for Igalia.

By creating this structure it has meant that the team not only has clarity on their own work they have consciousness and care for the whole organization. People are able to bring their influence and contributions outside of their roles to help further the wider goals of the whole organization.

This level of engagement and buy-in requires additional time and effort from everyone but has resulted in an extremely engaged team, focused on the shared mission.

Igalia competes for talent in the technology sector. This is a highly competitive market, with Silicon Valley style venture backed companies paying huge salaries and offering perks that are beyond the reach of most organizations.

Igalia’s unique culture and focused mission has helped them build and retain a high talent team without flooding the organization with outside capital. By genuinely creating a co-owned organization with highly inclusive, transparent processes they have bootstrapped an organization with many long term committed team members and highly engaged, loyal Igalians.

Building strategy and making decisions using Loomio

Loomio’s history of general assemblies has roots in democratic activist movements, where people would use a simple protocol of hand signals and behaviors to function effectively as a very large in-person group, repeating the speaker across the crowd, and working to obtain consensus with hand signals.

Loomio was built for groups to harness their collective intelligence, align strategically around priorities and make clear, transparent, actionable decisions together. It is a critical tool for running a general assembly process well.

Specific features that enable this include:

  • Threads
  • Polls
  • Proposals
  • Chatbot integration into common chat tools (slack and discord).

Think of Loomio as your boardroom in the cloud. It is an online space, away from the noise and fast moving chat, used for prioritized, facilitated discussion, deliberation and decision making.

With each discussion thread you can control who is invited to join giving you total control of whose attention needs to be on which discussions.

All discussion and decisions become clear, transparent and shareable - not only the end decision made, but the context, thinking and iteration to get to that point. This is vital for ensuring people can later understand now just what was decided, but why.