Design process on Community Supported Software (CSS)

Karrot Siegen session on CSS

Expectations / framing


maybe using the design sprint could be fun? but maybe too structured. forgot about the paper. maybe a presentation about the paper?

main expectation to find some common ground, and a bit of exploration.


no expectations. not too sure what this is about. looking to discover more about the paper.


happy to give an intro on this approach, how it was born in the context of karrot, maybe refer a bit to study design, exploring CSS concept.

curious to see how design sprint could be used?


rubs eyes do I have expectations?

maybe if vasilis tells us a bit, can add some more thoughts…

maybe a brainstorming kind of session, and dreaming. could be nice, instead of a real focused thing.


make sense to hear Vas intro, time is limited, refresher to this topic, emerging


brainstorm and discuss, unlikely to reach a proposal, but nice to start thinking about it. come up with some ideas we can later use.

Presentation from vas on the paper

From Beets to Code: Lessons from Community Supported Agriculture to Community-Supported Software

maybe some How Might We questions?


In 2018 was in Berlin, was reading about CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) - an alternative way of producing and consuming food, farmers and consumers form a co-operative as a closed system, and decide together what they’ll cultivate. Farmers and consumers co-manage the land/equipment, etc. decide together through democratic processes. Consumers participate in the cultivation of the food through members-shifts. You might have to do a couple of shifts to get your produce. A system behind them to co-ordinate this. A closed system in ideal scenario, so every part of the production process from cultivating land to distributing food is done by own members.

So, back in 2018 in Berlin, was “homeless” for a while, moved to CSA for a couple of weeks, doing member shifts, was exploring CSA. In Karrot there was a discussion about Karrot-as-a-garden, caring for plants, like a community garden. Then doing some shifts in Zurich in a CSA getting hands-on experience, 500 people in a well organised system. Really struck me!

Maybe we can try and incorporate this model into differnet contexts, e.g. physical spaces that have trouble with community oragnising. Suggested it to the space, interested but didn’t happen. But in karrot, nathalie was thinking about it. Met a CSA researcher who showed me CSX project ( - adapting it to different contexts. They looked at bakeries and brewaries. So thought to look at adapting this model to colletively owned and managed digital infrastructures. Connecting karrot users/developers/etc. to bring together “digital farmers” and the users.

Then did more organised study research, and interviews. Finding more about the intracies and nuances. Invited 8 people who are into grassroots software community, bonfire (, juntagrico (, and karrot. Some interesting things came out.

One thing interesting in my eyes, different terms used for more collaboratie approach to software. Beyond open source (Nick keeps saying open source is quite hollow), platform co-operatiavism (quite introvert as model, taking models like uber, but workers own platform - still distinction between producers and consumers). Commons-based peer production (Commons-based peer production - Wikipedia). So maybe need another term.

Community-Supported models are older and already established.

Lots of conversations about funding fatigue, and their own agendas. Are we accountable more to funders, or members/community.

Members of CSA have a membership fee, and they pay it up front to secure the income of producers/farmers, they receive a veg bag which has what has been available this week.

So, accountablity… idea for CSS could be karrot users directly support karrot with monetary funds, take shifts (participate in management and development of karrot)…

Butze summary (ChatGPButze)

looking at how CSA has inspired CSS, 5 key points:

  • community collaboration (collaborative spirit) → participatory design at scale
  • democratic decision-making (members engage in governance)
  • membership and funding models (membership fee structure, fixed fees, tiered fees, crowdfunding)
  • sweat equity and member shifts (not technical tasks) + peer to peer digital literacy
  • transparency & accountability (budget plannig and resource allocation) + shared ownership
  • locality and community building (create a sense of community around software) + federated connections (“glocal”) → solidarity

Vas: one of the CSA I visited (“more than vegetables”), and we talk about “more than software” - not that you just get a product, but get skills on how you grow potatoes and become involved in direct democracy.
Vas: a lot of CSAs are recognised as food production systems, and get subsidies as a result. so fixed, tiered funding, hybrid thing, include subsidies from nlnet etc.

Reflections/feedback/conversational mode

mmm popcorn discussion session :popcorn:

maybe move towards committing to further exploration? leading to a design process?


  • still find it super interesting, quite motivated to read the paper, got blocked before at the democratic decision making.
  • can we involve everyone, do we get fatigue, and thinking of sociocracy models (are we all in a circle? would be too big), didn’t find solution
  • thinking in concentric circles
  • also just joined a CSA, noticed a core team, outer circles getting food/members, and then a wider public who are impacted/involved less so
  • not sure how the circles are involved in the governance
  • some german solawis using sociocracy, within the inner circle
  • was drafting an article relating to this, if 3 layers, gardners, members, public, what would be the equivelent in the software world? gardens as karrot team? what are the shifts? (e.g. beta testing)
  • in the context of defining tasks and giving it, rather than fully embedding into the governance
  • would like to review my notes :slight_smile:


  • democratic, same as in CSA, they work differently, some are pay-your-fee, some you really have to work to decide stuff, so important for CSS to not bombard with democracy, and give different options, maybe something that mirrors real life


  • about concentric circles - in the suiss project, had an extra circle, a small group that involved farmers, but also eaters that would act as mediators between farmers and eaters, that would take care of conflicts and organise assemblies, would organise events/assemblies, not all members of CSA
  • one project decided to have animals/meat, created a big conflict, was a long discussion
  • in the first general assembly of the year, they decided the level of the fees, and they do a fiscal crowdfunding process, e.g. “we need 20kEUR to run the farm for the year”, then people put money in, going away from fixed fees, in tiered models, depending on income


  • users are other organisations
  • overlapping concentric circles, not everything is in the same org
  • really likes the potential, wants to enact it, related to personal situation
  • how does it become an operational things, active it
  • great potential for this being a broader model
  • in foodsharing platform, organisation and community are one, karrot is more a tool, hence more distant from community
  • how to get into the story telling
  • change paradigm


  • have lots of thoughts! seeing how to organise them…
  • talking about more than just software, and agriculture, talking about ways of organising in general, how to set up well-functioning organisers, based on some values we cherish
  • I think we should be aware of the specififities of one kind of project vs another
  • with software, it’s really hard to monetize in direct consumer/producer relationships
  • competing with free (cost) platforms, it’s really hard to get that model of costs
  • parallel between CSA and CSS becomes fragile because of perception of value, what you give and take
  • can see benefit of communities contirbuting, e.g. a membership fee, but not easy to attract that, when they can use capitalist platforms for free
  • other attractive thing is the involvement of the users/consumers, a way of direct recipriocracy, to keep the project, but how much can it stay on it’s feet from sweat equity… still need that core part that does more core/specialized tasks
  • something appealing compared to platform co-operativism, which has a clearer division of the labour
  • I wish we can start enacting within karrot
  • can think of ways of getting groups to donate, or some kind of membership fee, tiered fees, etc… depending on capacity, some kind of solidarity fee? bigger groups that might have some funding, could give some money, smaller groups have no money, can use it for free… trying to match capacity/involvement of groups
  • also refering to discussion we had in the mensa, if someone is benefiting more and more from something, try and require more participation, taking into account capacities and situations, e.g. people without time or money
  • can keep solidarity thinking, balancing out the benefits and how much they should contribute, avoiding free-rider problem, few people doing the work and a lot of people benefiting


  • super interesting
  • about funding and hard for offering alternative solutions to capitalist orgs
  • what is our advantage? dependeding on technological literatacy, might value that data is not sold for profit, platforms like facebook are very generic and don’t allow some features based on sociocracy/democracy/etc. so people might be happy to pay a few euros for it
  • many funding methods, wondering if to leave it open for members, often don’t subscribe if there is a fee, but if they’re already using it they might be more encouraged to pay later, so not pay upfront
  • could also include users in this process, and see what they think would be the best, do some brainstorming


  • karrot comes out of gift economy and experimental social processes
  • drifting back from this
  • how can the two cultures come together
  • what are we offering, what is the message
  • we are more like a service provider, other communites are using Karrot


  • overlapping with communites: the view Nick made is from the perspective of the person being in several communites, intermediaries

Proposal: We explore how to meet the needs of the Karrot project through the concept of Community Supported Software. This includes both the implementation within Karrot and the wider model.

Q: Does it mean we commit to implement it?
A: No. We commit to explore how an implementation might be.

Consent reached from: Bruno, Nick, Butze, Jay, Nathalie, Vas

Goals and needs

Design process? Goals, needs (NO How Might We’s allowed)

  • help make karrot be economically sustainable/viable, including needs of core team
  • increase participation and improve the product
  • “talk numbers”, improve the clarity around what we want karrot to provide and if there is a boundary
  • (from SoFa experience) honest approach of what we can provide (e.g. if we realise karrot can’t provide the only money source of a person), taking the impacts on the team into account
  • don’t destabaiszing/risking what we already have, designing new model where users are more involved and we can get to know them more, see if they would subscribe to a CSS model, allow users to be part of decision making if they are contributing, including in decision making of the CSS exploration itself
  • try and make karrot more stable design-wise and financially
    • design-wise: more advanced product, “design sustainability”, close and more effecient collab between users/developers within a design dialogue
      • design dialogue: karrot has own aspirations about the world, and groups have their own needs, so finding the balance between them, without karrot becoming a service to customers
  • won’t develop a CSS model and just implement it… more likely incorporate little features, and iteratively design them
    • put a lot of emphasis on incorporating the users, but need to tell them the story :books: - how can we tell them something is needing to change, maybe over the next 5 years, e.g. videos on the front page, key features of CSS, from more abtract to more tangible, and how to get that into tangible features
  • find a way to relate to more groups through finding a model that bind us