Evolutionary Leadership Institute

You can also read this interview on Medium.

The Institute for Evolutionary Leadership (IEL) provides content, process, advice, and access to thought leaders in relevant fields to help people, organizations, and communities get ready to redesign our world and make it more just, sustainable, and flourishing. They are a hybrid social enterprise that combines a consulting & training company with a cooperative community of practice.

How they use Cobudget? To enagage their member community (who makes recurring financial contributions) in resource allocation and to empower them to fund their own workshops.

What type of activities do they fund? Events such as workshops, travel expenses of members, systemic change work.

Total in Funded Buckets = $15,006 USD | No. of funded buckets = 32

IEL practise what they preach, and have designed collaborative finance into the heart of the operating model of their Evolutionary Leadership Community.

Everyone who offers a workshop chooses their own pay-rate ($130/h and up, according to community’s Operating Principles), and each workshop is funded collaboratively through Cobudget by other members. Any additional profits from ticket sales are then returned to the members, who decide what workshops to fund and offer next month. Using Cobudget to manage the money made from their workshop offerings, the ELC are able to create a virtuous cycle of resource sharing among their members. The more workshops they run successfully, the more money flows to the community to hire itself. At the same time, they’ve helped deepen engagement and participation in the network itself and used community funds to organize social events for members and sponsor members’ community related traves. For example, thanks to community support, one member was able to travel from Athens, Greece to the San Francisco Bay Area to participate in the Evolutionary Future Challenge and eventually she became one of the three recipients of the main prize of the event.

“Being able to offer members direct participation in making financial decisions has increased attendance to workshops, and a growing sense of ownership within the community.” ~ Fyodor Ovchinnikov, Co-Founder & Managing Partner

Now the community is seeking to expand the variety of proposals they fund to include seed funding for systemic change work: the main idea is to leverage the community of teachers and practitioners who understand deeply what systemic change work is, and delegate funding decisions to this collective mind. With the proof of concept, community funds could be matched with external funds provided by forward thinking players in the fields of philanthropy and impact investing.

The Institute for Evolutionary Leadership is working to support leaders redesigning cultures and institutions for a more just, sustainable, and flourishing world. The IEL puts on events, deep trainings and other gatherings for its clients, the public and for its own members. The institute’s community of practitioners is self-managed - and one of their main focuses is facilitating the sharing of best practices amongst colleagues.

In your words, what is cobudgeting and how do you do it?

Based on collaborative management of a community finances, we have a budget that we distribute every month (and whatever we don’t distribute is added to the budget of the following month).

Cobudget is a wonderful tool to track what we’ve done with our budget. It’s a way to allocate this money to proposals that our members come up with, these are mainly;

  • Webinars, workshops, and educational programs

  • Social events

  • Community-related travel

  • Seed funding for systemic change work (in the plans)

Our next step in engaging community is to use Cobudget to fund systemic change work. To do this at a scale external funding would be very helpful. That is why we are currently developing our own impact assessment metrics (with support from our impact assessment partners) and working on selecting pilot projects that we could fund and show the results to potential funders.

Delegating funding decisions to our members would allow funders to leverage the expertise of people who are doing deep intentional work and who have a practise of distributing money every month. This, in turn, helps navigate the complex field of deep systemic impact that goes far beyond treating symptoms or our systemic social and environmental problems.

What are some of the most interesting or helpful buckets that you have seen?

We’ve been funding educational initiatives primarily. One of the most interesting was a 22 hour personal development programme - we are currently funding it workshop by workshop.

Photo: Members of the IEL community deep in discussion

What have you noticed in your organisation since you began using Cobudget?

When we started with eight founding members, every member had a share of community funds to manage every single month. As we grew the complexities of life (family situation, intensive client engagements, etc.) start interfering more and more with the ability of some members to do the work of reviewing all the proposals and make conscious funding decisions. Whenever someone missed the funding their money was being unused. Those members usually wanted to delegate their share to others but we did not have the process for that in the Operating Principles at that time. This is what eventually prompted us to design the institution of ‘managing members’ - this enables people to opt in to manage their money for each round - if they choose not to spend that money we know that it is a conscious decision - every month you have the opportunity to click ‘yes I want to manage funds’. Now that have over 50 members, usually about 15-20% of our members opt in to manage community funds in a particular month (with some healthy rotation of managing members) - overall it’s very sustainable.

What advice would you give to an organisation starting out on the tool?

Pay attention to culture - Cobudget is great technology and has everything you need but the cultural component is super important. If people do not have experience in distributing funds in this way you need to help engage them. In order for people to feel comfortable to write proposals and fund proposals they may need to have support - so especially when you have a larger community it pays to be proactive and reach out to people and offer them assistance for their first time. A critical mass of people is powerful. And if you bring people together with intention it works.

In a world without Cobudget you would…

I don’t know - Cobudget is an ideal platform for us. Without it we would be using some ugly spreadsheets. This technology is an enabler of a new way of doing things.