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Inside Igalia: Scaling A Co-op Beyond 100 Members

A look inside the Igalia Cooperative.

Igalia is an open source tech co-op success story. We have been around for 22 years; we have 140 members. We play an essential role in several open web platform projects such as Chromium/Blink, WebKit (WPE & WebKitGTK), Firefox and Servo. We have contributed to GNOME / GTK+ / Maemo, WebKit / WebKitGtk+ / JSC, Blink / V8, Gecko / SpiderMonkey projects, amongst others.

The reason we started as a co-op and the reason the focus of our work is Free and Open Source software are one and the same. Both are implementations of our values, in a word: egalitarianism.

In this talk you will hear a bit about our history. We will focus on how we found our FOSS business niche and how we grew from a few friends to 140 people in more than 25 countries all the while maintaining our flat organization structure. You will learn what it’s like to participate in a company that is run by an Assembly, the decision making body that includes every Igalian, instead of a hierarchy of bosses.

We hope that this talk will expand the limits of your imagination on what a company can look like, and that next time you think about starting your own company or looking for a new job, you consider a co-op!

Slides available at: https://www.slideshare.net/igalia/inside-igalia-scaling-a-coop-beyond-100-members

Transcript

Host: Please welcome Valerie Young, open source powerhouse, a person who needs no introduction.

Valerie Young: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the talk “Inside Igalia: Scaling a Co-op Beyond 100 members,” a working title for which was “More FOSS, Less Boss.”

So who am I? I’m a programmer on the web platform team at Igalia. The web platform team works on web browser specifications, and implementation of those specifications, and I specialize in accessibility. I’ve worked at Igalia for two years. I’m a pre-partner, I’m in the pre partner stage – which you’ll hear what that means later – at Igalia. And also I’m a cooperative enthusiast. I have worked in lots of kinds of volunteer cooperative organizations over the course of my life. I’ve lived in co-ops, helped run cooperative book fairs or farms. So I’ve seen a lot of successes and a lot of failures, and I’ve really enjoyed working at Igalia.

So what is Igalia? From the outside, this is what most people know about Igalia – our clients, our prospective clients, people who apply to us. They know we’re an open source software consulting company, that we’ve been around for a while, since 2001. We have 140 people in 25 countries, so we’re quite big and quite international, and you can hire us to do a lot of things like writing and implementing web standards, like I mentioned. But also we work on language specifications and compilers like JavaScript. We also help embed things, specifically browsers, but also other things, and we work on the Linux multimedia and graphics stacks.

So what is Igalia from the inside? This is the thing that less people know about, not intentionally, just sort of by chance. We are completely flat, and cooperatively owned, and cooperatively managed. That means we have no bosses, no managers, no CEO. We all make the same amount of money, and we all have equal decision-making power. And it works. It works really well. Not only in terms of us being a company that’s been around for 22 years, but it also really works for the employees that work there.

Here are some success metrics related to that: the employee turnover rate – that’s the average number of people who leave over the average employees of that year – is around 5%, maybe a little less, at Igalia. And the industry average across tech globally is 13%, which is over twice as much. And so how long do people stay at Igalia? It’s hard to say because 140 of us haven’t left yet, and we’ve been around 22 years, so there are plenty of people who have been here more than ten years, more than fifteen – although we are growing more every year as we get larger so the average is about seven years. And I’ve only been there two years, you might have noticed, so I’m kind of a baby Igalian, in a way.

So why do people not leave? I believe, and also many Igalians believe, it’s because we’re cooperatively managed. That means that Igalia remains in the intersection of all of the employees values, interests, and needs. So the work that we do is the same as what we value across the whole company. As an employees interest even changes over time, the work remains in that interest. And as your life changes over time, the company continues to meet your needs in terms of your working conditions. So again, it’s great.

Well, there we are. A few minutes into my talk and how to scale a co-op beyond 100 members: be a co-op. Right, okay, well obviously it’s more complicated than that. And the goal of the rest of this talk is to demystify some of that complexity. The goal here is not to just tell you how cool Igalia is for a whole hour, although I do think Igalia is very, very cool. The goal here is to inspire you and to make more real to you the possibility of cooperative management by describing a successful, cooperatively managed company. I’m also hoping to give you a bit of an intuition for what is necessary for a co-op to succeed, so that you can recognize when it is being successful, and you can also recognize when it’s starting to fail, or and things need to be adjusted, or potentially just disbanded. You know, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

And to continue we’re going to start with the abstract. We will get into the specifics, but over the course of my career in cooperatives, I can say that I believe these are the essential ingredients to a successful co-op. And they’re things that you’ll see in Igalia soon. But in the abstract, number one is equality. The more equality, the better. It’s difficult to have a group of people feel like equals in this unequal world, so it’s something you have to put a lot of effort into. But again, I think it reaps a lot of benefits.

Two is shared values and goals. I think this is obvious to anyone who’s ever worked on a volunteer project. Of course you have to have shared values and goals. The goals of the project have to be shared by all the members, so the same in a cooperative enterprise.

Three is trust: also very obvious. It’s hard to make a decision with a group of people when you don’t trust each other, when you’re suspicious or assuming the worst. And it’s notable that the previous two ingredients really help this third very essential ingredient. It’s easier to trust your fellow project people when they equally share in the success and the failures of the project, and it’s much easier to trust, obviously, when you know that you’re all working towards the same shared goal, and that you all explicitly have the same values.

And finally, respect and appreciation. Again, perhaps this goes without saying, but for someone to participate equally or happily, they have to be respected and appreciated. And even to respect and appreciate your peers, you have to be respected and appreciated.

I want to point out, that these four essential ingredients for a cooperative are not actually really necessary for the traditional hierarchical firm. And I think hierarchical firms are created to continue to exist, specifically to continue to make profit, without these four essential ingredients. That’s not to say that they’re built to not have them explicitly, it’s just that they don’t need them, and they could compromise them for other goals of the company, specifically usually profit. And the organizational structure made to handle the lack of these is pretty obvious: it’s a ton of management, and perhaps micromanagement, to handle the lack of trust of employees. Also, there’s a lot of lack of transparency to handle the fact that the company sometimes makes decisions that are against the values of the employees. Also, I think I had a third example. Oh yeah, of course! There’s a lot of carrots-on-the-stick at a company to keep people there despite the lack of respect and appreciation – this feeling that if you work harder, you’ll get a promotion, and then you’ll be respected and appreciated; or if you work harder, you’ll get a promotion, and at least you’ll get more money.

So let’s talk about- oh, wait, actually…there’s another point of emphasis here, which is just that imagine instead of being at a company where it’s not necessary to meet these needs, even if they’re saying they’re trying to, but working at a company that won’t work if these needs aren’t met. So there’s a lot of built in greatness to a co-op, when it’s working.

So the organizational structure of a Igalia: historical. I’m not actually going to talk a lot about the history of a Igalia because it’s changed a lot in 22 years – so it’s a lot more than you could ever cover in a talk – but that’s in part by the design. The organizational structure you need for ten people is different than for 140 people. I can tell you that it has maintained the goal to be as flat as possible the whole time. Equality, and as much equality as possible, has been an explicit goal of Igalia. And also, we never took an outside investment, which again, helps the workers actually maintain control over the company. And there was a talk earlier this week about creating a profitable open source company without venture capital. So you can look that up, by Ann Schlemmer, if you are interested in starting a co-op and you are just too exposed to the funding model of investor funding.

So the rest of this talk will be about the organizational structure of Igalia today. There are four parts that I’ll go over. The first one is the stages of Igalia, and that’s how you advanced in the organization. I mentioned I’m in the pre-partner stage. Then I’ll talk about the assembly, which is our decision making body. Sometimes people at Igalia say the assembly is the boss, which is not really accurate, but we say that sometimes. Three we’ll talk about the agreements, which is how the company operates, the organizational structure as it’s written down. And four, teams and commissions. Who does what work?

So first the stages. There are three stages. The first year you’re in the staff phase. That’s kind of like an onboarding year; a whole year of onboarding. The second two years is the pre-partner phase, and at that point when you become a pre-partner, you are a full decision maker at the organization. And in the third year, approximately, you enter the final form of an Igalian, which is partner or the legal co-owner. And the goal is for everyone to become a partner. So the goal is for everyone to move up in the organization and over the course of approximately three years. So that means since you’re only staff for the first year, and you’re only a part partner for the next two years, most people at Igalia are partners.

And of course, you might be familiar with an inverted version of this triangle, the hierarchical firm, which I’m not going to make a lot of comparisons to. But I have to say that at Igalia, again, it’s an explicit feeling, and an explicit appreciation that we’re not in competition, and self-interested competition, to move up a triangle for fewer and fewer seats. It’s an amazing feeling to just be working with a bunch of people that, again, you’re not in competition to, which starts the basis for distrust.

So who makes decisions at Igalia? I mentioned before, it’s these top two stages: the pre-partner and the partner phase. This group of Igalia is called the Assembly of Igalia. So back to our homework – we’re going to be doing this the whole talk – how do the stages provide essential ingredients to a successful co-op? One, they build trust. The trust building is a two way street. Before we want a new Igalian to be joining the assembly, we want the assembly to trust the new Igalian. And we also want the new Igalian to trust the Assembly, and trust that the company is already operating in their interest. Also, the stages act really as a way to onboard new Igalians to the concept of equality. You can’t just be told you’re an equal, you have to experience it, and you have to really feel like you deserve it too, I think, and we’re not used to that feeling. Unless it’s explicitly cooperative, there’s no other organization in our life where we’re an equal among all of our peers. Maybe in free software? I don’t know, maybe. Anyway, so – not always in free software, as we know. Anyway, so that by the time that Igalian becomes a partner, they already have a deep feeling of shared ownership. And these steps between the stages are almost ritualistic affirmations of that fact.

Okay, onto the next structure of Igalia, the assembly, our decision making body. The assembly is all of the pre-partner and partner Igalians, as I’ve mentioned. It’s also two half day meetings every two months, and an email list. I know what you’re thinking: “You got to be kidding. A whole company runs on two half day meetings and an email list! Is this crazy? How many…?” Anyway, generally that is the assembly, but maybe to help you understand a little bit better, these are the major uses of the assembly as I see them personally. One is to keep Igalians informed about the status of the company. Two is to start problem solving discussions for yet unsolved problems. And three, to get feedback on concrete proposals that affect the whole company. And four is final approval or notice before something goes into effect – that final check before it’s something that Igailia now does.

Some concrete examples of assembly material include things like new clients and new contracts. This, I guess, would fall under- it’s kind of like a mix between keeping Igalians informed and final approval, because these clients and contracts are usually long time in the works with smaller groups of Igalians who know that that contract is going to be reviewed by all of Igalia. So no one’s going to sneak something in there that the rest of Igalia doesn’t believe we should be working on. New investments are similar. New investments are things that we decide to put work into learning ourselves, potentially new areas of work. That usually starts in a smaller subset and then is offered to all of Igalia to discuss. That’s often can be more of a discussion.

Newer Igalians, new hires, are approved by the assembly. Anything related to money, like salary, donations, and savings is also discussed and approved by the Assembly. And also changes to our working conditions, the agreements which we’re going to talk about later, those things are discussed by the Assembly. And often changes to our working agreements really go through this process. Ignoring the first step, keeping people informed, the changes to the agreements usually come out of perhaps a problem solving discussion, because there’s something that’s not quite working out, or something that needs to change about the structure of Igalia. And then some smaller group makes a proposal about that change, and then that proposal, that change, after feedback is worked into actual language to put into our agreements, and then the final approval before it lands.

Which, if you’re familiar with cooperatives, is really a consensus building model. And very rarely do we feel like we’re voting at a Igalia. We often just call everything a poll. The point of the poll is not only to get a bit of an up/down signal, but also to get lots of feedback.

So how does the assembly provide essential ingredients to a successful co-op? All assembly decisions, and reasoning of all assembly decisions, are available to every assembly member, and that builds trust. The company is completely transparent. We can see where those assembly decisions came from, and we can even see evidence of them having been contested and evolved. And also the Assembly acts as an oversight body, keeping the company aligned with our shared values and working towards our shared goals.

So onto the next structural element: the agreements. These are a combined values, bylaws, terms of employment, benefits document. It’s written down and version controlled, PR is welcome, although substantial PRs will have to be approved by the Assembly. And the agreements contain our working conditions, which I think includes our values, because we only work on contracts that are within our values. It also includes how much we pay ourselves – which, by the way, every year at Igalia that I’ve been there, we vote to increase that number – and how many vacation days and other benefits. It also contains a lot of process information, like how to progress through the stages of a Igalia, how to handle difficult financial times, how to amend the agreements, which company decisions need consensus from the assembly, and which things just need majority vote.

And a FOSS interlude. So we are a, free and open source software consulting company, which is perhaps why it’s relevant to be talking about this at FOSSY, where we are, and free software is talked about twice in our agreements. This is one of the sections on free software and our agreements, and I’m just going to read the bolded parts. It says, “Igalia will give higher priority to projects both internal and external, where the outcome of our work is license and published in a free and open way.” So this has been, motivation of a Igalia from the very beginning. Not only did the group of people who started Igalia in Galicia, Spain want to start a company where they felt like they were equals of their peers. They wanted to start a company where they didn’t have to move out of Galicia, their hometown, for a job. And they also wanted to start a company where they only worked on free software. And we only we hire people within that value, so we maintain that work.

And then the second bolded part says, “However, each Igalian can ultimately use the software of their choice and that better fits their needs. And this is also, I think, an important point to emphasize, a cultural norm at Igalia, which is to be flexible and to adopt the needs of new members, and to treat them as equals when we’re discussing their needs or the company needs. In general, we do only work on free and open source software, but some people do run non-free software on their personal laptops, and that’s okay. It increases the diversity of the company from our perspective.

So how do the agreements provide essential ingredients to a successful co-op? For one, the agreements enshrine our shared values and goals. It’s written down, you know what they are and we know we all agree with them – it’s all laid out – and it also provides a scaffolding for equality between Igalians. And again, trying to keep a group of people equal is a real big effort but the scaffolding is in our agreements. The fact that we all have equal pay is part of the agreements that requires consensus to change. So imagine 140 people agreeing that some people should be paid more, and some people should be paid less. This is part of Igalia that’s built in.

Also, the back to this point about this cultural element of Igalia. This isn’t written down, but the agreements are flexible and changeable. There’s a culture that they are okay to change. This provides the basis for respect, and appreciation, and equality between older Igalians and newer Igalians. Because if the whole company was structured only based on what those first ten people thought, then the company is written in a way that benefits those ten people, and perhaps less the people who later on joined the company. And when I [say] equality, I really mean equality across every a Igalian.

So, the last section: the structure. The last thing that I wanted to talk about were the teams and commissions of Igalia, which answers the question of who does what work. So this is a little funny Venn diagram of the teams of Igalia: these little circles represent groups of people. There are technology teams on the outside, the darker orange, and the technology teams are groups of people that work specifically- we’re consultants for a specific kind of technology, like I’m on the web platform team and we work on web standards. And then in the center there’s the support team. And the support team, we’ll talk about in a bit, but it does a lot of the company-wide work. And there’s overlap here because there are some support people who are also on the technology teams.

So now we’ll go into the details. So these are the technology teams that we have at Igalia: there’s eight of them. In the technology teams there’s two kinds of people, the consultants which are on the outside of the bubble – these are the programmers who work on internal and external projects – and then there’s the support people who are in the overlap, and they work on things like sales, contract negotiations, project management, running team meetings, stuff like that. And just to further explain the complexity here, some people are half support and half consultants, so the work is divvied up in a quite flexible and unique way.

And then there’s the support team, which is a very, very important team at Igalia. These are the people who work on things like finances and payroll, system administration and internal tools, running company meetings and polls, communications and marketing and generally being very helpful and wise. It has a lot of Igalians that have been there for an extremely long time and have an intuition for cat herding and have seen Igalia evolve the whole time, and are there to help shepherd any evolution that needs help to continue into the future. Also, as much as we have an HR department, it’s just people in the support team. There are people who have more like roles. So if you wanted to talk about changes in your health condition and just needed to like go over that with someone and figure out a new schedule that works for you better, someone in the support team can work with you on that. Yeah. So that’s the support team.

So besides being on a team, Igalians also have these other two things which I’ll go over briefly. We have roles and we’re also assigned to commissions. Roles are something that are within a specific team, so that’s why you see these dots on a leaf of the flower. This is work that both the consultants, and the team, and the support team share. It’s work that only takes up a couple of hours a week, or a couple days a month. It’s work on sales, work on strategy, work on recruiting and interviewing, communications, internal training, external demos. I’m on the the recruiting and interviewing team, which means that I review all the applications that come in and set up interviews and do interviews, and then talk to the rest of the people about on my team about whether or not we should want to hire this person, or can’t hire this person right now.

And then, the other thing is commissions, which are also commissions of the Assembly. So these are assembly members who belong to any team, including technology teams or the support team, and they work on company wide coordination tasks that should include people across every team instead of just people on one team, or just people on the support team. So there is an assembly commission that is in charge of putting together the Assembly agenda. There’s the Agreements Commission, which is in charge of making sure that the agreements are up to date, and wordsmithing if we need to add something new to the agreements. There’s the diversity, equity, inclusion commission, the strategy commissions – there’s usually more than one – that has to do with any particular new technology we’re working on or product that we need to coordinate across multiple teams.

And then there’s the Corporate Social Responsibility Commission, which is the all fun commission, so I’m going to give it its own slide. We’re here today because of the Corporate Social Responsibility Commission. We had a discussion a year ago where we thought, “Well, maybe part of our corporate responsibility, our responsibilities to the world, is talking more about the success of our internal model.” But other fun things that they’re in charge of is donating 0.7% of our income. That’s to NGOs and non-profits, decided on by Igalians, and every year we decide how to divvy up that 0.7%. And one of those things is a natural, native, reforestation effort in Spain – the Igalia forest, as we call it sometimes. And, like I said, the CSR Commission is responsible for this one day track as FOSSY.

So the roles, commissions and teams are voluntary and dynamic. It changes based on interest, need and encouragement. And sometimes it’s by mandate. For example, the Assembly Commission has to have rotating members, and at the same with the strategy Commission. There are things that we want to make sure we’re rotating through the members of Igalia. And what does this do? This is a very important point. I think that the dynamicness of our roles leads to respect and appreciation between the members of Igalia. This is a company where we collaboratively all share the work and decide who does what work. At Igalia you’re not hired to a specific job description to fit like a gear into a machine, whether or not you like the parts of it, or you’re even good at the parts of it that are listed in that job description. You don’t have a boss that’s micromanaging you or interested in offloading specific kinds of work to you. So, that means that over the course of your years at Igalia you really get to find the ways that you contribute best. And that, of course, really leads to a lot of respect and appreciation from your peers.

And also because it’s all negotiated every contribution, in a way, feels like a gift, a lot like in free software. Actually, there’s several things at Igalia that I think are very similar to free software. One is this feeling of- I would say a lot at cooperatives in general that feel similar to the organizational structure, that you see in free software, the feeling of being in a free software project. For example, every contribution to the company or the project feels like a gift. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the warm, fuzzy feeling of getting literally any kind of good contribution to your project. Well, I feel that way anytime anyone does anything good for Igalia, or makes my job a little bit easier. Also, you can really see and appreciate the work that other people bring in free software projects. Not all the kinds of works are transparent, but a lot of the work is transparent. And I think there’s a recognition that we should make the work as transparent as possible so that we can respect and appreciate it.

And also, in a weird way, we can avoid the kind of work that we hate and are bad at, and will make other people resent us. So it’s a minor point, but I think it’s an important one in a way. And I do have an asterix there because at Igalia, of course, it’s a company – there’s work that has to be done. But there’s a culture of trying to find a solution if something’s not working for you. The culture is in part that if something’s not working for you, you bring it forward and try yourself to find some other way to contribute, but also that other Igalians will help you do that. We recognize that people are different and bring different things to the table. And this is just, a baseline fact about humans, I guess, in general.

But also we have many problems similar to FOSS, at Igalia specifically. And I think that’s in part because we’re fully remote. But we do – and maybe because we hire from the free and open source software community a lot, actually – but we do have some trouble onboarding and training new members, specifically bringing on junior members. And just like in free software projects, you kind of have to be pretty good at learning by yourself in order to be comfortable at Igalia. We are constantly problem solving, and aware of this, and trying to figure out ways to make that better, but it’s an ongoing problem that we see.

And also, there are certain kinds of diversity that Igalia reflects from the broader free and open source software community. Although in some ways we’re very diverse, in that we have so many cultures represented, it’s still quite a majority -I don’t know what to call it, but maybe the global North, white men. But anyway, we’re working on it though, just just like the free software community is.

So, looking to the future of Igalia. Anyway, that was that was Igalia as it is now – that’s kind of a snapshot. Again, the culture of change, I think, and accepting change and accepting experimentation, and looking at what works and fails, and how to tweak things is important to the success of a co-op.

So here’s a snapshot from July 26th, 2024, right? But looking to the future, just for fun. We don’t know how much Igalia will grow every year. We actually discuss it, we we decide how much we want to grow the various technology teams based on how much business we’re getting in them. But we have a strong desire to maintain the culture that we have. And we also know that we have to update our processes as we grow, and that causes strain, and it’s a bit of work. So in general we grow pretty slowly. I mean, we’re 140 people after 22 years.

But a glimpse of the future is that sometimes when we think about it, we think we might see more independent technology teams, more support roles belonging to individuals within the teams. And this last point, really this is outland, like no one actually thinks this is going to happen tomorrow, or necessarily at all, but sometimes we do talk about maybe there will be a Federated Igalia. Maybe that’s the right solution for our future.

So that is the whole talk that I have for you now, which leaves, quite a bit of time for questions, intentionally. And I also wanted to say that we have a full day of talks about various topics in this room ahead of us. This is the first day of the tech co-op track, and we also have a panel discussion at 4:30 with all the speakers and some extra people to talk about co-ops. That’s it. Maybe people should come up here and ask the questions in the mic if they have questions.

Speaker 1: {Indecipherable}

Valerie Young: Wow, fun question. How does an international meeting find time for a half day meeting? It’s a bit of a bummer, I can say that, especially for us on the West Coast. I see some nods from my coworkers because our meeting starts at 4 a.m. every two months. We have two days of meetings from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., but I don’t feel so bad because personally I would prefer that to the people in Australia who have to start at 11 p.m. I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of gal. But also we do shift the assembly sometimes to try to make up for that. But the majority of the Igalians are in the Central European Time zone. So that’s how it works out for now.

Speaker 2: {Indecipherable}

Valerie Young: The question was: we talked about growth, but has Igalia ever dealt with contraction? And well actually, no. I was thinking of giving a slide of our growth, but again because the attrition is so low we’ve never had one year [with] less members than the year before.

Speaker 3: {Indecipherable}

Valerie Young: The question is, “How has a Igalia handled the 2008 crisis and the recent Covid crisis?” Well, I think that there were crisises in a way that happened at the company around both of those times, where we lost significant chunks of our business. The one more recently was much smaller, because I think by now we’ve learned to diversify our income quite a bit. So we were able to recover from the loss of income during the austerity period pretty quickly. Earlier on, it took much longer because we had a huge customer, and we lost a huge part of our salary. And we didn’t fire anyone, but there was a short period where salaries were adjusted until everyone was fully booked again. And that money was eventually paid back. So I think that, in part because at a Igalia the work that we were doing was always at least somewhat diverse, we were able to explore other areas of work pretty quickly. I mean, I wasn’t there during the one that happened a half a century ago, but we never fired people, and there’s a resiliency in cooperatives, which I’m not the only person to talk about, and I think is largely unrecognized.

Speaker 4: Another aspect of the finding the time: how do you find the time for those assemblies? I thought pointing out that cooperatives have- just one of the technologies cooperatives have produced is efficient communications around policy deliberations, so that you can actually save time by having these well-structured, large meetings instead of wasting time on a lot of back channel things that get conflict.

Valerie Young: Yeah, that’s true actually. Interesting that you point it out, because I think a lot of people think of co-ops as endless meetings, where I think that’s generally not the case because at least in a successful co-op, like I talked about, where there’s high trust, you can just let other people make decisions where there’s high trust, and you have shared values, and you have shared goals. It’s not as important to weigh-in too much, or to bike-shed that much. I mean, we really trust that things will evolve in a good direction, and if they’re not, we can do something about it – that decisions are reversible. And so I have very, very few meetings at Igalia. Way less than any company I’ve ever been in. Like, significantly less. I constantly brag about that to my friends, and I see some nods from my coworkers. Any other questions? Two questions. Go ahead.

Speaker 5: How do you deal with, people who want to work less?

Valerie Young How do you deal with people who want to work less? That is a very interesting question. Because at Igalia for a long time there was a strong feeling that everyone should work the same number of hours a week to increase equality, but that’s changed recently. And also, even during that period of time, it was always possible to have an exception where you need to have time for some reason. These exceptions are written into the assembly, they are things like having to take care of a dependent when they’re sick or stuff like that. Now there’s a bit more of a flexible work schedule, or you can work four days or five days, or anywhere inbetween without this exception, where you have to request to the assembly. But anyway, I think that answers your question, but I think also maybe a little bit more again, back to the cultural values, so that you can work less and you can also take time off, like leaves of absences, quite easily. There’s a culture of doing that with a lot of advanced notice so that we can wrap up contracts or whatever else, but you can take extended leave. But there is a culture of- I mean, we hire a lot of people in free software who really enjoy their work. A lot of us at Igalia really enjoy our work. I love almost everything I do during the work week. But, you know, some people want to work less, which I respect.

Speaker 6: {Indecipherable}

Valerie Young Yeah. So the question is about the tension between, shared values, equality and the fact that human beings are all very, very different. And if you want to have a diverse group of people, how do you balance these things? So I can say that Igalia is just one company, and we do have some explicit shared values and shared goals, and you probably shouldn’t work there if you don’t agree with those shared values and shared goals. And we don’t hire people who don’t have those shared values and goals, so already that part is sort of solved for the most part. I know values are a little more complicated, but we- I think I am not going to try to go into it too much, but I guess the scope of the co-op is small enough that everyone shares those values and goals. The scope of the co-op is for us all to have work that we find interesting in free and open source software. And there’s some nuance, and there’s some disagreements about values which I don’t totally feel comfortable getting into right here. But those are some very small parts of the majority of our work. Like, every once in a while, there’s a contract where we’re like, “That’s kind of like- maybe we shouldn’t do that.” And there’s a discussion about it, and some people believe we should, and some people believe we shouldn’t. So that’s like a disagreement over values. But it’s so rare that that happens that we just don’t do those contracts. Is that enough of an answer?

Speaker 6: {Indecipherable}

Valerie Young Yeah, to repeat that, acknowledging there is a tension, but so far we’ve effectively navigated it.

Speaker 7: Have you been able to, collaborate with other cooperatives, perhaps in this vein, in terms of providing services {indecipherable}?

Valerie Young: No. So the question is, do we support other co-ops? I think that we’ve invested in a telecommunication co-op once. Again, I’ve only been at Igalia for two years, so it’s just my memory of a discussion. But that’s why we’re here, actually, that’s why we have this one day track at FOSSY. It’s the first step towards us doing a little bit more co-op outreach and more co-op to co-op connections. Also, you know, at this point- oh oh well, things are almost- I guess maybe we should transition in a minute and give a little bit of a break before the next talks. But there was another question, I think.

Speaker 8: I was curious about- you said everybody is paid equally. Does that take into account {indecipherable} disparities between countries? {Indecipherable}

Valerie Young: Yeah. Very, very good question. The equal-ness of pay across countries. This is where I mentioned briefly that the inequality of the world really butts heads with the goal of equality in a single cooperative, especially as we hire internationally. And at Igalia the way that we handle that is just the money that we spend on each Igalian is the same – the money we spend on salary. So it doesn’t- my health care is not covered by Igalia, or it’s covered in some complicated legal way. Anyway, it’s just to some extent we just are aware that there’s some complexities we won’t solve, and trying to solve them will lead us down a rabbit hole that will probably lead to more resentment than solutions. Anyway, that’s what we do. All right. Cool. Well, we’re going to have maybe a ten minute break before the next two talks. And thank you for coming to the talk.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.

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