From Metagovernment - Government of, by, and for all the people
This page describes an institutional organization (such as a non-profit corporation or a cooperative) which may be formed to perform institutional functions of the Metagovernment, and possibly the Metascore project. Current organizational functions are performed ad hoc by individuals and/or by the Startup committee.
To form or not to form an organization
Reasons not to form an organization
The Metagovernment is not simply a non-profit organization; it is an attempt at a new form of governance. Using an old governance structure suited for a charity may not be appropriate for protogovernmental body.
Having a board of directors or other ruling body would violate the spirit of collaborative governance. Cannot we use the software an [[active project for governance?
This still leaves at least one major question unanswered: how can such software be administered without being subject to corruption? See Metascore#Distribution_model for some suggestions.
This is a global organization and would not fit appropriately under the laws of any single existing nation.
If we need to collect money (for building a server farm, for example), we still can do so without a formal organization.
- Third-party structure — The Software Freedom Conservancy provides member projects with free financial and administrative services. However, they have informed us that they prefer to support software-only projects. Therefore, they may consider supporting the Metascore project but not the larger Metagovernment project.
- Ad hoc donations — People can contribute by simply paying for what is necessary. For example, if we wanted to place an ad in a newspaper promoting the project, one individual (or an ad hoc group of individuals) could simply buy the ad themselves.
Reasons to form an organization
The following reasons have been given for starting an organization.
- Administer passwords, software, and hardware.
- Remove dependence on any particular individuals.
- To avoid possible corruption.
- To remove single points of failure.
- Collect and manage funds.
- Provide a point of focus for other organizations to interact with.
If we do form an organization, following are some considerations for how it should be formed.
Type and location
It would seem likely that this organization should not be affiliated with any existing nation. It needs to be determined if we must choose a particular nation in which to organize. It seems that this is the case, in which case, we need to choose a nation in which to form. The nation in which we form may have an impact on the kind of organization we can form.
Possible host nations
Potential nations in which to organize include:
- Switzerland — Some major international organizations, such as Care International, are based in Geneva. There may be legal reasons that these organizations choose Switzerland.
- United States — Ed is based here, so this would be easiest for him. But the laws of the United States are complex and intrusive, and it may not be the best location for this organization.
- United Kingdom — At this moment, the UK is heavily represented in the Startup Committee, so it may be easiest to form there.
Instead of trying to organize as an institution in any particular location, we could attempt to incorporate as an online-only organization, with no physical presence. Clearly this would have murky, radical legal issues, and would likely make dealings with financial institutions and other commercial entities difficult. Nonetheless, this idea bears further investigation. An additional advantage of this formation is that we could then use Metascore as our sole governance mechanism and not have to worry about local laws trying to force us to have a formal leadership.
Research on how to form a non-profit organization
The most common non profit organization form in Germany. Not every "Verein" is non profit, this status must be evaluated and can be granted by the "Finanzamt" (IRS). The criteria for being granted this status are declared here Abgabenordnung §51ff.
In short the status is granted to organizations which are "Gemeinnützig" (charitable/dedicated to a cause beneficial to society). This entails some required statements in the "Satzung" (charter) to ensure that members don't benefit financially from the organization as it pertains to their membership.
Being granted this status exempts the organization from certain taxes and reduces costs for registering. The cost for registration ranges from €75-120.
The minimum number of members required for the formation is 7 people. For the formation the "Satzung" must be written which has several required clauses, especially the name, purpose, and domicil of the "Verein". Aditionally the roles of "Vorstandsmitglieder" (board of directors) as representatives of the "Verein" should be defined.
Members are not liable for claims against the "Verein". It is only liable with the principle of the organization.
I can think of 3-4 people that would be candidates to register as members here in Germany. As is to be expected in Germany there is some bureaucracy to go through and it would be good to have a diligent local member for bookkeeping and registration. Having all 7 required founding members be local would make things much easier, but so far I haven't found anything that would require members to live in Germany.
Registration requires founding members to sign the charter which would be more difficult if not everybody were locally present. Theoretically Germany has legal regulations for electronic signatures  but practically, I'm not sure a local official would be able to cope with such advancements ;). Even if they could though, only certificates registered with certain providers are accepted.
For further reading, these sites may be useful:
Resolution: Proposal 2
Deadline: June 30, 2009
Title: Forming a formal organization
Author: Ed Pastore
(Explanation of the problem.)
(Comments to the issue here.)
Title: Metagovernment must be a part of DemocracyLab
Author: Mark Frischmuth
DemocracyLab has offered itself to include Metagovernment project into its organization.
- Viewed from outside, we will be able to raise money (i.e. receive donations) and be represented legally through DemocracyLab, because we would be "a part" of it.
- From inside, things are going to be as usual, two separated projects. They will not take decisions for, nor money from us.
- This en-masking operation can be temporal, till we create our own organization.
(Comments to the proposal here.)
Do you support this proposal?
- Matías: Yes, I like it.
- Aaronwinborn 01:26, 7 May 2009 (UTC): Seems reasonable; having an umbrella organization may make any necessary fund raising potentially easier.
Title: Metagovernment becomes a coordinating group or tribe of related projects, rather than a formal organization
Author: Ed Pastore
While many people in this project share a common vision for Metascore, this project might better serve the end goal of open governance by being a true meta-organization. That is: instead of being one of the many online governance projects, this group is already well on its way to being the coordinating group for all of those projects, as is emerging in Standardization.
So I would like to propose that the original software development group continue as the Metascore project, and the larger group of groups be called the Metagovernment project. This "new" group would not be as much of a formal organization as a "tribe" or coordination group, where all the great ideas of the various projects can be bounced off each other and promoted together.
See the complete text.
- Suggestion that we revisit the phrase "open source governance" and try for something a little broader... perhaps just "open governance" or "online governance." Ed Pastore
- Would definitely encourage another name without reference to technical history of "open source software". Open governance sounds good. OpenGov, FreeGov, Open Democracy also come to mind as names. Marcos