Enspiral: Building an Open Source Society

Enspiral: Building an Open Source Society

April 12, 2015

“Enspiral is a bold experiment to create a collaborative network that helps people do meaningful work.” - About Enspiral 

Enspiral is a collective network of passionate change-makers based in Wellington, New Zealand. Founded in 2010 by Joshua Vial, Enspiral began as a way to enable like-minded individuals to make a positive impact while also earning a living. 

Enspiral started out as a way for contract computer programmers to share leads, expenses, and office space, so they could have more flexibility by working collaboratively. This allowed them to direct more time and resources toward meaningful work for positive social impact. Different kinds of people - accountants, lawyers, consultants, activists - were drawn to this vision and began launching startup social ventures together.

“The main idea was to help people who want to change the world have the time and money to do so. So fundamentally, it’s about more people working on stuff that matters.” - Joshua Vial

Quickly, the Enspiral community and culture because the most important aspect. United by shared values, Enspiral Space became a vibrant co-working hub. Enspiral Retreats grew in popularity and impact. The community began expanding beyond Wellington into other parts of New Zealand and around the world. 

It turns out nearly everyone wants to work on “stuff that matters,” they just need to be given the opportunity. 

The Enspiral network defies convention. Driven by the intuition that there must be better ways to organize than top-down hierarchy, and inspired by patterns in nature, the community experiments with courageous forms of collaboration, transparency, and cultural technology. Focused on technology for social change, members of the Enspiral network are tackling ambitious project areas ranging from food distribution, peer-to-peer education, and online activism

The Enspiral Foundation was established to steward the social mission, facilitate collaboration, and support the various ventures. Enspiral is legally structured as a limited liability company with a charitable constitution, and all funds are reinvested back into its mission. The Enspiral Foundation is collectively owned by the Enspiral core members (currently about 35 people), and practices transparent collective governance and decision-making.

Reinventing Organizations with Open Apps

As the Enspiral network has grown, members have naturally started building software tools to scale the group’s pioneering organizational models.

One such project is Loomio, an easy-to-use tool designed to facilitate collaborative decision-making. Loomio is free, open source, and gaining significant traction. Still in beta, Loomio has already been used by 77,000 people in 85 countries to make over 25,000 collaborative decisions. The software has been translated into 31 languages and is being used for everything from participatory democracy with local government councils to planning summer vacation within families.

The Enspiral community is also applying this experience to collaborative budgeting. Team members are creating an application called Cobudget, which aims to help organizations more intelligently allocate fiscal resources by getting everyone’s input. As with Loomio, Cobudget is being designed with an emphasis on simplicity, elegance, and accessibility.

“Could we invent a more powerful, more soulful, more meaningful way to work together, if only we change our belief system?” ― Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations

Expanding upon this theme, Enspiral has crafted a purposeful vision for an Open App Ecosystem: “A suite of interoperable tools which support transparent, democratic, and decentralized organizing.” Instead of enriching a handful of companies or monetizing user data for advertisers, Enspiral seeks to make software that decentralizes the assets directly into the commons. As Joshua puts it, this vision represents “a shift from platforms to protocols,” and an effort to use technology to create a society that’s more equitable for everyone.

On April 16-17, 2015, Enspiral will be co-hosting an event called Open Source Open Society in Wellington. In partnership with GitHub, this gathering will bring together global leaders and bright minds to discuss ways in which open source technology can be applied to governance, business, and education. New Zealand’s unique combination of tight-knit networks and friendly government make the country well-poised for these types of collaborations.

To train more software developers, Enspiral members have also recently founded Enspiral Dev Academy. This intensive 9-week education program provides skills training to motivated students who want to get a job in technology. Enspiral has partnered with Dev Bootcamp for the core curriculum and become its first international partner. The program is already seeing amazing job placement rates and success stories. The Enspiral Dev Academy stands out from similar programs with its fierce commitment to diversity and support for students after graduation.

The Namaste Foundation made a gift to the Loomio project last year. We’ve watched the team deploy funds with great efficiency and effectiveness. We’re continually inspired by the Enspiral community and how it is catalyzing interest in purpose-driven work and social enterprises. That’s why we’re excited to make our first Beautiful World Gift to the Enspiral Foundation, which will support the continued development of Cobudget and Loomio, and to document “cultural technology” to help groups use online collaboration tools effectively.

Recent Talks with Enspiral Members

Ben Knight shares the story and vision of Loomio:

Alanna Krause and Jon Lemmon discuss Cobudget:

Joshua Vial talks about the art of entrepreneurship:

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