Okay, to be honest, identifying and defining the different stakeholder groups within Polis was something we’ve been working on for quite some time. While working on this we realized that identifying Stakeholder groups is not so hard. The hard part is defining the different rights these groups have.

Why did we bother?

The biggest reason for us to identify the different stakeholder groups is to allow us to define specific rights for each group. By doing so we try to make sure that there is a healthy balance within the system, so that different stakeholder groups can be represented and have an influence on decisions without overpowering the other stakeholders. There are numerous examples of big corporate companies where this balance has been distorted, and where investors or shareholders influence the decisions in such a way that the outcome is only beneficial for their group, and not for the employees, local communities or environment.

Having these different stakeholder groups allows us to give each group specific rights for things like benefits, voting rights, hiring process, access to systems, and many more. This allows us to further specify the level of influence and benefits specific stakeholder groups have within the ecosystem. We believe this is necessary to create a system that is balanced and where power doesn’t get centralized.

What Stakeholder groups are there?
In the future we most likely will expand the amount of stakeholder groups we have so that others, such as investors and users, can be represented in there as well. Currently we have identified three different stakeholder groups:

The Contributor (CO)

The Contributor can be anyone who is working with Polis as a consultant or does specific, time-limited, work on a project. It isn’t their intention to fully join the organization long-term and become a voting member; however, their advice is invited and desired. Their relationship with our organization is usually expected to be temporary.
Contributors can have voting rights for a small subset of issues related to their task/roles, and can’t vote on our Constitutional Policies. On the other hand, their advice on all issues is invited, & valued.

The Aspiring Worker-Owner (Aspiree)

An Aspiring Worker-Owner has the intention to become a permanent Worker-Owner in the near future. To become a Worker-Owner, the Aspiring Worker-Owner needs to complete a transition period, which allows each of the Polis Worker-Owners to find out if the aspiring member has the essential technical, social and democratic-governance skills to become a valuable participant to our organization on a long-term basis.

Aspiring Worker-Owners can have voting rights for a subset of issues that significantly affect their task/roles, but can’t vote on constitutional policies. On the other hand, their advice on all issues is invited, & valued.

When an Aspiring Worker-Owner joins the organization the team and that person will formulate the terms of their transition period. If the Aspiring Worker-Owner completes the transition period, they can be nominated to become a Worker-Owner.

Worker-Owner (WO)

The Worker-Owners are the driving force of Polis. They intend to have long-term engagement, and are committed to the long-term success of the organization, they actively participate in the democratic processes and take initiative to improve our procedures & organizational culture.

The Worker-Owners have voting rights on democratic decisions that pertain to their team and to the larger work environment of the organization; e.g. hiring new Worker-Owners, adopting company policies, and other community wide issues that are not the domain of other stakeholder groups.

(Note that the description of the roles is copied from the Stakeholder Policy in our Constitution on the 2nd of January 2020. For the latest version make sure to click the link)  

How to become a member of a Stakeholder group

For both the Aspiring Worker-Owner & the Contributor, the teams can decide who to hire. They have to collaborate with them and will use their team budget to hire them.

When an Aspiring Worker-Owner or Contributor is nominated by their team to become a Worker-Owner, the team creates a proposal and share that with the rest of the organization. All Worker-Owners of the organization can then cast their vote to approve the nomination of the Aspiring Worker-Owner. (for full and most up to date version of this process see the Becoming A Worker-Owner Policy)

Challenges we’ve had in this process

While working on this policy, we quickly realized that differentiating and assigning rights to the different stakeholder groups relates to all other policies as well, which made us realize more and more that we need to clarify different policies as well. Some of them are completed by now, e.g. how each stakeholder group can leave polis (in)voluntarily and some will need more work in the future so that we can define the differences for each stakeholder group, e.g. consequences for remuneration, having shares and other benefits.

Challenges we still have

Having the different stakeholder groups makes it easier for us to differentiate between benefits & rights for each of the groups. However, currently we do not have a clear method for defining what “level” of decision making is required for certain decisions. We’ll need to create a framework that provides clarity about that.

In the coming months we will most likely see new Stakeholder groups emerge. This will require updates to policy and could affect the other roles as well. We’ll have to be aware of this and make sure that the differences are clearly defined so that everyone can understand what is expected from them and what rights they have.

Besides the challenges we’re aware of, we will probably learn other things once we have more experience with setting the Transition terms, onboarding new members, letting teams take initiative in hiring new Contributors or Aspiree’s, and many more. Once we know what those lessons are, we will definitely share them again!