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Enspiral Network

Warning, don’t read this blogpost when:

  • You want to have a lot of money.
  • You are interested in being the boss.
  • You are interested in being a successful entrepreneur with VC funding.

Cool, glad you kept reading, now there are just the two of us, me Dennis, (nice to meet you) and you… hi.

I’d like you to promise me one thing. Don’t share this post with anyone. Take it as it is with all the spelling mistakes, the bad English, and incomplete thoughts… if you want to talk to me use the comments or write me an email at dennis.vanderheijden@gmail.com

I know you want to share, it makes you look cool and makes you feel like the likes are worth it, but you will see that this weird idea that I’m about present might actually have a big impact on you. So unless you are absolutely convinced that this is something you could stand behind, share it by just telling one person about it. Since I decided not to give this blogpost a good title you will not find it again Googling, and you won’t share it that easily. But that’s ok…

If you share it to the wrong people, be aware that this might mean your employees rebel against you, your VC gives you a call, and your entrepreneur buddies pat your back like a sore loser…

I’m expecting to write this for only for two people.
You and me.

Enspiral Happened To Me

I cannot sleep well … I found this wonderful project of 150 people in New Zealand called Enspiral and after spending a couple of weeks reading everything about them I can now say, they’re nuts! And I love it… (see why)

I want it!

In short, what they did was build a company where everyone gets one vote, everyone that brings in money can decide where their money is spent on, finances are transparent and they’re probably one of the few people I know of that feel fulfilment in their daily life doing awesome projects in technology that touch sustainability, the community, and have a social impact on the world. The only reason why I’m writing it is because I missed my flight to see my daughter, bad 3G and a feeling that this is a good time to share my thoughts, with only … you.

Imagine that in twelve months from now, you wake up just like now, but with wonderful energy. You went to bed last night with so much energy that you had to listen to some meditation music and by 1am, you fell asleep with a smile on your face, happy but tired. Your last thoughts floated away were the of how funny it was that 12 months ago you read this strange blog-post from this guy you never met that set it all in motion, for the first time in months you finally are okay with the fact that you might be a rebel and heretic but it does not matter, it just feels right. So much energy and you could not sleep since new ideas such as how to help your community and the world,  and for the first time, you decide not to share any of the inspiring phrases on your Facebook wall and like another of those cool homes in the woods you will never own. It does not matter, you are working on something that enables your friends and family to take a break from their endless cycle of a so-so job, decent salary, rent, high cost of living, traffic, and the pressure to leave something better behind for the kids–  but actually feeling helpless. You know the food you’re eating is not healthy, the neighbours don’t know you, your coworkers are nice but wear a mask (like you) and the only real positive energy you feel are the days where your kids smile, where the music flows, and when you get a real hug.

Again feel free to move on to check your Facebook wall and close this tab, that was a long paragraph and it will only get worse 🙂

I’m amazed, you are still here?

Maybe it’s just you and me, but don’t you feel there is more work to do in the world than you and I are doing? I’m a good guy just like you. I’m good to my team, I give lots of time to my community, helps tons of people, I’m a dad that spends time with his kids, I give their mom a break by taking them to places so she can grow her own passions and career or just take a long shower. I’m a good guy… really. But still just being a good guy does not tackle the biggest problems we have created for ourselves. I was kind of stuck. But I saw this video of Joshua Vial after bumping into Enspiral on one of those random clicks. Do you know what he did and what I would like to explain to you in this blogpost? Well… here we go, finally here is some meat…

Stop Controlling Everything Trust It Will Be Fine

The best that I can piece it all together, Enspiral did the following: they got around 10 people together that were in search for a different life. Enspiral LogoNot a life as a hippie, or even part-time hippie, abandoning the world of money and reading auras. No, the only thing that they did is find high paying projects and started invoicing from one account as one company. Just starting as part-time technology and consulting work helping each-other out. They put in $70 USD a year and around 20% of their contract work in a bucket. They decided there would not be a boss and started making decisions by consensus and lastly, the one that made the money would decide himself what would happen with his contribution.Meet Enspiral Foundation with these principles:

  • Do projects that have a social impact
  • Every member pays $70 a year to be member
  • Members pay 20% of the revenue on the work that came from Enspiral to Enspiral Foundation
  • Any Enspiral decision would be made by consensus
  • All had one vote

Wow, what!? You mean I have to pay 20% for this scheme to work, I’m out… I thought it sounded fishy…

Bye!

… Great you are still here, many have given up reading already. That’s fine. You understand money is not the solution, it’s what got you in trouble.

Why Social, Sustainable Projects Are Hard

When I looked around on how I could help my community forward I found an amazing diversity of people trying to help. People saving dogs, training governments, giving permaculture course, and I can just keep on going. What I noticed over and over again was that they usually did this part time. There’s not enough money in it to even pay the rent and while you save dogs, and your kids still need to go to school. So the impact people had is small because the projects are small. The change is slow because too many people are using the planet resources faster that the planet can make them. Anyway, a finite planet is not the topic today and I like to work on solutions. I found these three things:

  • Lack of documented learning from social projects (most people start all over again from scratch or resources are hard to find and maintain)
  • Lack of money to do this for many hours
  • Lack of visible impact

Something just seems wrong that for 40 hours a week, people work in a company that in the essence, does not care about the community. So you can have the money to pay the rent and school so in the remaining hours you can buy stuff that is not helping the community and after that spend some hours helping the community. Seems that you will never win this race like this.

Loomio Example

What if you could do work that helps the community by taking learnings from other parts of the world, make money in the community, get to document the work you did to help  spread the word and make it visible, and have your work now again contributes to the world.

Good, We Are Stuck, Is Enspiral the Solution?

Well now lets go back to Enspiral. It seems they are just doing what you and I are doing. But what happens when there is no boss and everyone has a vote? You get a co-op where people listen and start speaking freely. Nobody has a salary in the beginning so it’s a part-time non invasive way to get started, and I’d like to share what happened that is fun.

By having all the same votes, and having a voice, and having money was set aside, this group started to develop projects that were brewed by the Enspiral members and since there was money “reserved”, they actually could convince and “market” these projects internally. They also asked the people if they wanted to fund these new projects and contribute time to it.

Enspiral has branded projects where people work on Legal, HR, Accounting, IT and some other regular “corporate” activities. Those are also fun for the people that enjoy doing them, for a couple of hours a week. The mentality is that it’s a job that changes when you work in a co-op. You are working to increase the value of your company since it will make your income stabler, you will vote for the right things because you really don’t want to harm or hurt coworkers. You cannot let your ego grow that much since every decision is made by consensus. They use a tool called Loomio that helps them make these decisions fast with all these people and I assume there was an agreement not to bother anyone anymore to vote on the type of paper that they used.

Enspiral Experiment

I think Enspiral is an inspirational experiment that within 3 years, earns around 4 USD million in revenue with 150 team members and hundreds of contributors and partners. The idea that everyone is held accountable for their actions and everyone has control over their funds in a way, and that around 80% goes to the team that generated that income and 20% stays in Enspiral to be divided over the existing or new project in a way that each contributor can decide where their money goes, is something that is hard to find anywhere else, and maybe even harder to understand what a day in Enspiral would look like. But take a look at the video below on how they themself describe it.

The company has three elements:

  • Enspiral Foundation seems to behave like a co-op without much hierarchy that is in control of the Enspiral Accounts where the contributions of members, contributors and service invoices go.
  • Enspiral Services are supportive services that contain Finance, Legal, Coworking, IT etc. These services make money on internal service, and include services to the outside world
  • Enspiral Network where projects that started within the organisation and founded by people from within using money from within are spinned out under a different name but decide to keep contributing around 20% revenue to the Enspiral Foundation. Some of the projects in that network are:
    • Loomio (a collaborative decision making tool)
    • Chalkie (Online platform for projects where you “sell” skills)
    • Bucky Box (building cloud software for an emerging food system, one that solves the food distribution problem)

See the Loomio video

Enspiral and it’s network is a young venture and I think they also see it as one experiment where they (if I may use a parallel to the natural work) grow something, compost it when it does not work, and nurture if when it’s successful, and let the success not blind founders but make sure the revenue flows also to the Foundation like a VC fund.

All software and products they make benefits a lot of people since they have commercial models to grow and sustain their business and are just an open source software so you can take them for free, modify them and if you like, even contribute to them.

This almost sounds like Enspiral is an incubator but that is not the case. There is nobody in Enspiral that will be showing you how it’s done exactly, and how you should do your work. I doubt you will make a lot of money either, but thats not the point. The point is that every day you can work on something that makes money for clients inside or outside Enspiral, you can trust your co workers, the problems are dealt with in the open, and the money and knowledge flows transparently. You will take out of that network what you need to eat, sleep, send your kids to school, save for pension, travel etc. Will you be a millionair… I doubt it. Will you be happy, I don’t know… but doesn’t it sound more attractive than what you are doing you are now right? Well I’ll let Joshua share another story with you that I found inspiring (see video below)

How I Wish My Enspiral Would Look Like in 2020

I’m sure Enspiral will not be able to tell you, but this is what I hope it would look like.

A thriving ecosystem within my community where they have a large group of companies that include:

  • Hundreds or even thousands of co-op members that found passionate work that moves their community, their country, and the world, to move forward.
  • A technology company that is building and maintaining a group of companies with products that is run by the worlds foundations, companies, and co-ops while helping them make decisions based on better reasons than money.
  • A social real estate that own homes that are built with open source templates that can be found on sites like this, this and this.
  • Co-ops that run community gardens where everyone can rent a garden and they offer subscriptions for people to take care of it when they otherwise cannot,
  • A co op caring about the food we eat, making farmers and consumers the center of that company, where both thrive and grow without damaging the health of the community and their ecosystem
  • A commercial composting and recycling that take recycled waste and take energy in the form of gas and the remains are used for gardening or manufacturing (like this one)
  • Fab-lab with 3D printing and CVC fraising machines allowing people to make tools for construction, permaculture and an infinite amount of other offline projects.
  • Hardware factory  based on open source hardware templates that  build hardware like machines, cars, and trucks for farms and real estate / construction.
  • Research centers where they manage to document and share learnings from within the network and stay in touch with other projects while educating the community on new projects that they could get involved in.
  • Home depots type speciality shops and course centers where they work on global open source templates for aquaponics, hydroponics, building, clean energy, water management, and urban farming.
  • Farmers’ markets where online and offline people from the community are pushing local and regional producers to exceed their expectations  by investing and growing with them instead of being on separate camps.
  • Training center where teens are invited to finalize their studies in multiple practical projects and make money for them and the foundation by doing what they wanted to study but now in an environment where they have a voice.

Why Wait for 2020?

I think you don’t need to wait, just as I don’t need to wait for 2020, and just and watch at distance. I think it can be done now. I think the simplest steps are to follow Joshua’s steps in 2010 by taking them now. The steps are:

  • Collect 10 people that have each-others trust
  • Let every member pays $70-100 USD a year to be member
  • Do biz-dev for each member in a way that he will get more projects
  • Agree between members to save 20% of the revenue on the work that came from these projects and it’s clients and put it in the co-ops funds
  • Make decision by consensus
  • Start new projects that we find inspiring
  • Share our learnings with the world

When you see this working, use a co-budget system (see video below) to let every contributor decide where their investment goes and use that money to fund new projects. I think within five years, you will have a diverse network of businesses that care about the workers/founders, follow the set out vision and will grow into something you did not anticipate … but let it go. It’s not your baby, this is a network that was formed on very solid elements like trust, transparency and equality. Nothing but good can come out of that as long as one of your business partners is the earth.