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Permission to Speak – Leadership Blog – Kelly Vandever Interviews Rich Bartlett on Self-Managed Organizations


Permission to Speak

Leadership Video Blog & Podcast

Hosted by Leadership Communications Expert Kelly Vandever

Permission to Speak is the video blog and podcast that loiters at the intersections of leaders who want their people to speak up, technology that facilitates connections, and results that serve an organization’s higher purpose.

Our guest for this episode:  Rich Bartlett

About Rich Bartlett:

Rich Bartlett has been described as an engineer turned artist, turned activist.  He has a technical background but also got swept up in the Occupy movement which led him to believe that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by an engaged community of empathetic equals.

Rich is a co-founder at Enspiral, a self-managed organization based in New Zealand that we talked about on an earlier podcast with Susan Basterfield.  And he is a co-founder and the Director of Autonomy for Loomio, an organization that makes a robust decision-making software.  Loomio was formed very purposefully in a way that as the organization grows, they would not resort to using a hieratical structure.  Rich discusses what he’s learned about self-organizing groups and what other leaders can learn from this approach.

Topics Discussed:


  • Giving people a voice, particularly in decisions that affect them
  • Occupy Movement
  • Imagine what a better society could look like
  • Consensus decision making
  • Collective intelligence
  • Enspiral
  • Loomio started as a decision-making tool for activists
  • Soon city governments, companies and NGOs started asking about using Loomio for decision making
  • Example of the curmudgeon who would have taken up a ton of time at city meeting, but instead of while using Loomio, actually felt listened to and it made a difference in how he was listened to, and how he contributed
  • Facilitator role in these decision groups
  • Go to Loomio.school for resources for facilitators and others in the decision-making process or using Loomio
  • The tool can be slightly confrontational because anyone can start a discussion, anyone can start a proposal, everyone is entitled to a vote
  • Intentionally constructing a non-hierarchical organization
  • Principles at Loomio: (1) Loomio exists to maximize the positive social impact we can have and to do that, they have to be a financially independent, thriving organization and (2) We’re a democracy tool so we can’t exclude people who don’t have money
  • Loomio is a social enterprise
  • How all of Loomio has fired themselves
  • Googles research on best teams
  • The importance of psychological safety
  • Equal distribution of turn taking leads to high performing teams
  • Care about the thing we’re working on and we care about each other and we’re considerate about the way we communicate
  • Every 6 months Loomio has a retreat, longer they’ve done them, the less work and more bonding
  • Seeing people as a holistic person
  • Regular retrospectives, relieving tensions frequently rather than letting it build up
  • Loomio uses an agile coach
  • Looking for local partners to connect with Loomio and do workshops on self-managed organizations

Questions Answered:

  • How can we create self-managed organizations?
  • What happens if we bring our whole self to work?
  • How do self-managed organizations work?
  • How does work get done when there are no bosses?
  • Is there any decision-making software I can use for people spread out geographically?
  • What do you do when there isn’t enough funding?
  • How do you relieve tensions that build up on a team?

Want to Talk to Rich about His Trip to the US?

Email him at rich @ loomio.org