Community and Co-operation: talking about #Tuttle

Saturday saw me hunkered down in the bunker that is Centre for Creative Collaboration with a bunch of like-minded folk for what Lloyd called “TuttleCamp”. This was a small, unstructured (in the BarCamp style) gathering to talk about organisation and issues of Tuttle Club.

I’ve written about Tuttle before; essentially it is a Friday morning meetup where interesting people gather together and talk about – well, whatever they want to: what they’re up to, things they’ve seen, ideas they want to kick around. I have been a regular at Tuttle for fifteen months or so, and when Lloyd said he wanted to hold an open discussion about what Tuttle was and where it might be going, it seemed to make sense to help out and contribute to the debate.

Much as it pains me to say it, Tuttle is all about the C-word: community. It is basically just a space – the C4CC, at the moment – and some people to fill it. It is largely self-organising – there is no structure or presentations, just people sharing conversations – and this is one of its strengths; but someone has to make the coffee, someone has to tidy up – and TuttleCamp was about how this very basic level of organisation should be organised.

The housekeeping might not seem much, but it has to be done, every week, and it has been falling to Lloyd to do it. This was easily sorted – we broke up the role that Lloyd plays on Friday mornings into its constituent parts, and from next Friday anyone can sign up to help out in one of these ways whenever they are going to be at Tuttle. (Of course, just because someone’s signed up doesn’t mean that no one else can contribute – feel free to get involved!)

We talked quite a lot about the culture of Tuttle: what it is that makes Tuttle what it is, rather than another networking event. Partly this is down to its consistency – people know that every Friday, they will be able to find Tuttle. But also it is down to its openness and inclusivity; its ease with ambiguity; and the community’s belief and acceptance of distributed power. (Those were the characteristics I noted; there may of course be others!)

Whilst the Friday morning meetup is the bread-and-butter of Tuttle, in the last year there have been a couple of other community-based projects – such as Tuttle2Texas and Tuttle Consulting. There are also TuttleClubs or Tuttle-like activities in over thirty places around the world, which share the kind of culture and values of Tuttle. Much of the day was spent talking through how to support these different ventures – what kind of structures were needed – and where what people did became a Tuttle project rather than just something that they were doing.

This was interesting: we were talking about what structures were needed to best nurture something that many people view as being unstructured, and that as being one of its best characteristics. It felt a bit like we were laying down the rules for a rule-less society. Good, but uncomfortable.

There is an interesting balance between the freedom, ambiguity and unstructured nature of something like Tuttle and the needs to have some sort of governance. If Tuttle is more than Lloyd – and if it is a viable community, it certainly needs to be – then it does need to have some form of governance. Up to now, it has been an ad-hocracy – and Lloyd has picked up much of the work. Creating a more formal structure provides for longevity – but of course risks building something that constrains the freedom and ambiguity rather than facilitates it.

Rather than creating a limited company or partnership, the model that seemed to meet the community’s objectives was some form of co-operative – there are several models. Allowing anyone who comes to Tuttle to be a member of the co-operative (thereby maintaining the inclusive, open culture), this democratic structure could enable both commercial (as someone described it, “not for loss”) activity as well as “not-for-profit” projects supporting community activities, (including the Friday morning gathering.

These are early days – the precise nature of the co-operative and the details of its relationship to it members (its constitution) have yet to be decided; and since it was suggested that anyone who goes to Tuttle could be a member, anyone can get involved, too.

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