We’ve already talked about the Enspiral network as a living example of Open Cooperativism. By that we mean, P2P/Commons-oriented ethical enterprises configured to build a real collaborative economy where all stakeholders, and the environment they inhabit, are taken care of. To find out more, it’s worth reading their FAQ. Here’s what Enspiral’s Alanna Krause has to say about it: “Finally. If you’ve ever wondered what the heck Enspiral is, here you go. Can’t believe it took like 3 years to write these two pages of info.” Worth the wait!
What is Enspiral?
Enspiral is a virtual and physical network of companies and professionals brought together by a set of shared values and a passion for positive social impact. It’s sort of a “DIY” social enterprise support network. At its heart, it’s a group of people who want to co-create an encouraging, diverse community of people trying to make a difference. For more see the About Enspiral page.
What is the structure of Enspiral? What are all these different parts?
Enspiral started as a small group of contracting computer programmers who wanted to organise their working life to put more time and energy into making a positive social impact. Then it started to attract a much larger, diverse group of professionals who also shared these social values. What evolved was a network of different companies and individuals, with different skills, focuses, and ways of working.
Now there are a range of Enspiral Ventures, independent companies that maintain a voluntary relationship with the Enspiral Foundation. The Enspiral Foundation supports the whole network and holds the social mission vision of Enspiral – more people working on stuff that matters. The Foundation shareholders are the Enspiral members, who each have one share, and its budget is made up of voluntary financial contributions from the ventures. The legal structure is a limited liability company with a charitable constitution, meaning it’s not a profit making entity and all funds are reinvested.
“Enspiral” refers to the big picture concept of the network in all its diversity. There are other ventures that use the Enspiral name, but it’s important to remember that they are separate companies. These include Enspiral Space (coworking hub in Wellington), Enspiral Services (a range of teams and freelancers, doing programming, design, and consulting work for clients), and several others.
What’s the difference between Enspiral and other aligned organisations and programmes?
Enspiral is friends, supporters, collaborators, or partners with a range of other organisations with aligned goals and values. This diversity is awesome because different people need different kinds of support.
Enspiral is generally unstructured, and tries to maximise both collaboration and autonomy. If you’re an independent, entrepreneurial person with a deep commitment to service and social change and want to discover your own way to have an impact alongside like-minded people, Enspiral is fertile ground. But you’ll need to find your own way, and there’s no programme or official support.
There are several great social enterprise programmes in New Zealand that offer more structured programmes (which are partners with Enspiral):
Lifehack Labs is a partnership between Enspiral and the Ministry of Social Development – a 5 week design-led bootcamp to kickstart impact projects for youth wellbeing.
The Akina Foundation’s mission is to grow the emerging New Zealand social enterprise sector, through workshops and an accelerator and incubator.
This list is by no means exhaustive in terms of programmes supporting social enterprise in New Zealand! There’s a lot going on we don’t even know about, and new stuff starting up all the time. We think that’s great.
How do people get involved?
Enspiral is a network primarily based on high-trust, personal relationships. We try to be as open and welcoming as possible to create a low barrier to entry, but at the same time, we don’t have a drive to do recruitment. We don’t really offer job opportunities. Everyone here has found their own way in, and their own livelihood to support them to do the work they are passionate about.
Many people get involved through working at Enspiral Space, which often hosts drinks on Fridays and afternoon teas on Tuesdays that everyone is welcome to. You can also come along to events with Social Enterprise Wellington, a meetup group jointly hosted by Akina and Enspiral. Other people get involved through working with one of the Enspiral Ventures. If you want to talk to someone at Enspiral, you can contact us and tell us about yourself and we’ll try to connect you up to someone on an ad-hoc basis.
“Joining Enspiral” means becoming a Contributor and being invited into our online communications platforms and to participate in collective decision-making. Find out how Enspiral Contributors and Members join and relate to the network, and the expectations that come with participation in the collective here. To become a Contributor, you need to be invited by an Enspiral Member.
What is Enspiral’s culture?
Culture is at the heart of Enspiral – people choose to be part of a community and deeply respect and trust each other. Twice a year there are retreats when everyone goes away for a few days of bonding. Enspiral is a flat organisation and extremely collaborative – there is no traditional management hierarchy. You might say it’s essentially anarchist, in the best sense of the term.
Enspiral is an experiment. We are good at trying new things, failing early and learning quickly. We are continuously evolving. It’s a laboratory of innovations – social enterprise is an emerging sector where no one has the answers yet, and our approach is to encourage autonomous experimentation with company structures and business processes.
We develop new tools to make this collaboration more efficient and then open-source them. Enspiral’s pattern has been to identify a core organisational process and then figure out how to make it more collaborative, from decision-making to budgeting to strategy setting. Our culture is highly influenced by agile software development and the structure of the internet itself, with interconnected nodes and free-flowing information.
We have a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion here, which we take seriously and celebrate.
How do I find out more?
If you want to dig deeper, here’s a start:
- The story of Loomio, and how Enspiral does collective decision-making.
- The story of Cobudget, and how Enspiral does collaborative funding.
- Joshua’s inspiring talk on programming for social impact.
- Alanna’s talk on disruptive, trust-based leadership.
- Alanna and Vivien being interviewed by management expert Gary Hamel about Enspiral and Loomio from a business perspective.
- Ben’s talk at the Personal Democracy Forum on Loomio and the wave of social change of which its a part.
- MJ Kaplan’s report including Enspiral: Growing the Next Generation of Social Entrepreneurs and Start-ups in New Zealand
- A long list of media articles about Enspiral and Enspiral companies.