Opting into collaboration with Good Good Work

Relationships are built on mutually understood agreements. More often than not, these agreements are based on mutually implicit understandings of common terms. Employee, best friend, peer, co-worker, manager, president, CFO, etc. all have implicit meanings which we assume are commonly understood. In my experience, we can often trace problems in relationships back to misalignment in these implicit understandings. Our expectations of another person do not align with what they believe is expected of them when our agreement is only as deep as a single word like “client” or “consultant.” At the end of the day each of us has our own unique understanding of these words.

At Good Good Work we strive to make the implicit explicit. We also strive to be transparent. To that end, I’m going to dig a little deeper into how we engage with clients.

The Master Service Agreement

From Wikipedia:

“A master service agreement is a contract reached between parties, in which the parties agree to most of the terms that will govern future transactions or future agreements.”

Download the template here

We see the MSA as the opening of a relationship with a group we are going to do work for. In fact, before we do any work for a group, we require that they sign an MSA. Typically, the MSA is followed by a Statement of Work (SOW), which defines the scope of a project. The MSA acts as a foundation for the relationship while the SOW defines very specific acts. Legally speaking, the SOW supersedes the MSA whenever they are in conflict. The MSA “catches” anything that isn’t covered by a SOW. This allows us to create Statements of Work that are tidy and precise.

We break our MSA up into a few sections:

  • Preamble
  • Rate
  • Legal Requirements
  • Cultural Norms
  • Client Cultural Norms

The preamble and legal requirements aren’t really interesting; you’ve probably seen this kind of stuff in many agreements and it’s thoroughly covered online, and you really should talk with a lawyer about this kind of stuff anyway.

We define the rate  as a means to set a standard hourly rate for any work that falls outside of a Statement of Work. This allows us to do little things for our clients without having to create a whole new SOW. For instance, we were asked to do a discovery recently for a client, but quickly found out that they had an emergency with their server. Due to a little bit of technological malpractice on the part of a former consultant, they were 200% over their server space limit and were about to be charged some $700 by their hosting company. We were able to swoop in and save the day because we had the MSA already in place to account for this kind of out-of-scope work.

This might seem small or petty, but we can avoid uncomfortable situations because we are explicit like this. Having a Master Service Agreement allows us to do work without putting us or the client at risk.

Cultural Norms

What I’m really proud of here is our cultural norms section. This is something that Katie developed after years of working on her own. She developed an arsenal of legalese to protect her against bad clients who stiffed her or stole her work. In spite of that, she found that there were practices some clients would engage in that couldn’t be curbed through legal language. What it came down to was expectations and our misalignment around them. For example:

[9:45 pm] Client: “Hey I’ve got an urgent request, can you do this now?!”

This is a text message we’ve gotten far too often. The work day is over and we are trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance when an urgent request comes in. This signals different expectations. The client expects people to be on call, perhaps because they are on call (for whatever reason) at night. It’s a minor thing but again, this is about setting expectations so everyone can be happy. We cover this exact scenario in the maintain professional boundaries section of our cultural norms:

As it turns out, our Clients are pretty great! We love to socialize and get to know them on a personal level. We’re all about happy hours and hikes instead of dumping catch-up and hang-out time into meetings. One-on-one time shouldn’t cost money. We also like to keep work inside standard US business hours (10:00-18:00 eastern time, Monday-Friday). If we get text messages [see documentation]—or emails after hours—it’s 99% likely we won’t respond. But we’ll certainly get back to you the next time we’re in the office.

This gives us the power to say “no” and mean it. We’ve set a boundary and now it’s just a matter of pointing to the document everyone signed and saying “nope sorry can’t do that, we agreed.” This might seem trivial, but consider the power dynamic of someone who controls your livelihood making a demand like that.

Beyond being able to say no with confidence, it also supports our own development of healthy work habits. I’m constantly reminded of this agreement, that I have with all of my clients, when an email pops up on my phone while I’m out with friends. Not only do I have no obligation to look at it, I’m actually incentivised not to respond lest I break my own agreement!

The Client’s Cultural Norms

We provide space for our clients to add their own cultural norms too. We want to know what they expect and how they work. We haven’t yet actually tested this part of our document with any clients, so I can’t say how well this works. If you want to try it out with us, just book a consult here.

What I do know is that this little bit of work upfront can save a lot of heartache down the road.

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Introducing Jason Wiener’s new website

When Katie and I set off to create Good Good Work, before we even had a name, we were looking for legal advice. We wanted to start a social enterprise that was prefigurative, legally sound, and reflected our radical values. Katie and Jason had been moving in similar circles in Colorado for a while (most specifically, platform cooperativism) and his name kept popping up. It didn’t take us long to realize that we’d be great collaborators.

We decided to work with him to design our business, you know, the one that eventually evolved into the Good Good Work Co-op. Our relationship was built on mutual aid and in-kind trade. As he set up our business we began working on his website, which we all felt didn’t express his professionalism, skill, and leading edge practice. 

Here’s the home page of the old site.

A new Vision

The first step in refreshing a website is taking stock of what’s there and envisioning what could be there, or what’s missing. Jason and his team had a lot of ideas for what they wanted the site to be. We sat down with them over multiple meetings and determined what their vision for the site was long term. Through this process we also began mapping out the site, it’s pages and content. This was a process of looking at what was on the site and determining how that existing content would translate into the new design. This was also a process of determining a road map towards the greater vision for the site.

The bigger picture, longer term vision for Jason’s site is to have a place online that supports the cooperative movement. Jason and his team are dedicated to promoting and facilitating change where it’s most needed. Their work is fully inline with our work in that way. If we support Jason’s team, we’re supporting better legal standards for the folks out there doing good work.

Our job is often taking a vision, in this case Jason’s vision for a dynamic interlinked resource hub, and subtracting until we find a starting point from which we can begin to build that vision. This “version 1” is a lot like base camp at the foot of a mountain. We are aiming for the top, but we need to start somewhere (plus we want to launch something sooner than waiting for it to be perfect later).

Distributing project management

To accomplish and track this we set up a content tracking spreadsheet which determined the pages, their content, and the current status of those pages’ progress. We then split them into V1 and V2. Ideas that were out of scope for V1 were recorded for V2. We (almost) always build a content tracking sheet for our projects. It helps us in a few ways:

  • it keeps everything in one place
  • it allows us to work asynchronously
  • it sits inside Google Drive so we never have to worry about project management software and learning (or paying for) new systems
  • it gives team members the authority to change things on their own as needed
  • it reduces the stress on project leads by distributing knowledge

This process allowed us to stay focused on building something that we could launch in the short term while tracking our larger goals.


Style Guide

Once we understood what we were building it was time to define a style guide which we would follow when designing the website. This included colors, website features, and typographic treatments.

This became the literal guide to visually redesigning the website. Home page mockups were made to get a sense of how elements might appear together on a page, and once approved we began to develop the WordPress theme. We used Theme Foundry’s amazing Make theme for our base.

A note on branding

Our aim in branding is to re-establish what we mean by “brand”. It’s less about sales, and it’s not just the logo and color palette. A brand is about the total experience people have with you and your company/group. It gets into your norms and language and the photographs you choose to represent you. It’s about how you treat people and how they feel when they walk away from an experience with you. We covered some of this in the brand guide and some of this in our conversations with Jason and Steve.

Check out some of the home page mockups from the first design pass:

jason wiener site mockups jason wiener site mockups jason wiener site mockups

Pro tip: We love using Make. Many of our clients come to us with WordPress messes on their hands. Often the Visual Composer and a bunch of other plugins have been installed and are either in conflict, are soon to be in conflict, or are unsafe because they’re out of date and updating their plugins would mean creating a conflict. Make has a lightweight and flexible page builder that we adore but avoids all the messy code conflicts.


Jason really wanted to have some new photographs for his site and his business. At some point he reached out to us to find a good photographer (Katie was a photographer in a former life) who could capture his professional approachable brand. We set him up with a few folks and he chose Jonathan Galbreath of Brightly Creative. Jason’s team and he seemed to really hit it off and the pictures are the proof.

Jason Wiener, international man of cooperation  Steve Kelton, legal aficionado extraordinaire

Putting it all together

As the content was being generated, edited, and adapted from the old site we were also developing the WordPress theme on a development server. Our copywriting and editing team consulted with the Jason and his team on their content, our designers created mockups and style guides, and the developers turned it all into code. We were able to rapidly develop the site in parallel through cycles of internal communication. Content would update layouts, layouts would change design, and design would move theme code in different directions. We tracked these changes through Gitlab’s issue tracker and our content spreadsheet.

In the end we were able to deliver a highly polished refresh to a stale website. You can see the new site over at jrwiener.com.

Thank you

A big thanks to Jason and Steve, and our own internal team of talented Good Good Workers for making this project a huge success! We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with Jason’s firm as they develop more resources for the cooperative community and make legal services accessible for the rest of us.

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Platform Cooperativism Conference: A Download

This past weekend I went to The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges what follows is a download of my notes from the weekend. There were loads of great speakers and the organizers did a great job of centering voices that normally aren’t visible. I went to the first Platform Co-op conference in 2015 and the growth and maturing of the community and movement is inspiring. Get ready for a non-linear dump of links and information!  First off, you can view archived livestream of the whole event here.

Zebras fix what unicorns break

Learned about Zebras Unite and their conference Dazzle Con (Katie will be there). This movement came out of a great think piece called Sex and Startups and has turned into a movement. Basically they are promoting funding more feminine business practices. Here’s an image from sister.is that they shared:



This platform helps organize workers in legacy industry to build and exercise power.

Open Collective


This platform helps groups skip the incorporation step and just start transparently managing and collecting money.

“How can your idealism be corrupted?”

Co-ops for a better world



“Co-op are lacking the tools to scale democracy”

22% of freelancers get work via platforms

On the topic of platforms…

“How do we build trust with culturally defuse people?”

Something we are thinking about here at Good Good Work.

National Cooperative Business Association


Co-ops aren’t new, they are a foundation of America:

42 million people get their electricity from co-ops.

Next Century Cities


Like the electricity co-ops but for broadband. Just look at RS Fiber.

Data Farmers


A coop for sharing and owning data from farms.

This book!


“Economic power controls political power”

Another book: Change Here Now

Oh, did you know these folks were a co-op?


ESOP loans

Joseph Blasi talked about ESPO loans, a way to get credit to buy an asset and have that assets profits pay back the loan. Co-ops can use credit to buy companies. I don’t get it but I like the idea!

The crown jewel of the platform coop movement, Stocksy.com

Arcade City


Peer to peer ridesharing.

“Financial institutions are platform monopolies”

Modo Car Share


20 years of sharing cars in Vancouver.



Real Patient Insights.



National Domestic Workers Alliance helps support domestic workers.

“The [current] system is designed to make us fail”



Decentralized Blockchain-based Organizations for Bootstrapping the Collaborative Economy.



A mastodon micro blogging community server run as a platform coop.



The bHive Cooperative is a community owned person-to-person sharing economy platform being developed for Bendigo by a team of five local entrepreneurs. bHive is the future of work.

“Make choices of least regret”







A cooperative that support freelancers, something we might want to model Good Good Work after… Smart takes care of the paper work and mutualizes costs.

Cooperativism is NOT new, it is a strategy of oppressed people.


We have HUGE purchasing power

The government is the #1 buyer of technology, let’s get them to prioritize buying from co-ops.

Universal Basic Assets


Income comes from assets, beyond income people need assets.

Read more about the idea

Holo Chain


Sweet sweet blockchain!



More blockchain goodness.


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Fractals: Considerations for More Effective Change-Making

Last month was the 6 year anniversary of #OCCUPYWALLST, a political movement in the US that needs no introduction. September 17th, 2011 was a pivotal point in my life. It was the day I started down a road divergent from the status quo, the day I left the confused world of early 20’s “adulting” and joined The Movement. It brings hope of a world arranged in such a way that poverty is impossible and extractive ecocide is not the basis of economic activity.
It took me three years to begin to grasp a very important lesson that The Movement demanded I learn.

Photo by Steven Diaz on Unsplash

“Change must start from within”

It’s almost cheesy in its simplicity. But this was such a profound realization that I recall the exact moment it truly stuck. Sitting on a low wall, looking over the East River on September 17, 2013, I realized that change starts within me. This is why a protest that seemed to be about big banks and income inequality spent so much time talking about systemic racism. It’s why I was constantly being told to “check my privilege,” why I was told to examine my bias. The systems that created the economic crisis of gross inequality didn’t come from nowhere; they came from people just like me. People who hold within themselves the schematics of oppressive systems. It is through people that these horrors are birthed and through them that the horrors are overcome.

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves.”

Bell Hooks

In this quote, Bell Hooks is describing the connection between violence against women with the internal violence against one’s self. She makes a similar connection to police violence in the US and its roots at home. There is a thread of commonality that runs between the unaccountable violence we see from police as an institution and the individual acts of violence we commit against ourselves and others. The way we treat ourselves as individuals and those around us is linked to the whole of a culture.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

As Above, So Below

I believe the message here is that we cannot hope to address systemic violence in our institutions if we do not also face the violence in and around ourselves.

More broadly, we cannot change anything outside of ourselves if we do not also change within. This is why:

“Change must start from within”

I don’t believe that it is a controversial thought, that a person who commits domestic violence will bring that same violence into their workplace and, inversely, a workplace that is violent will be carried home by those who work there.

What The Movement taught me with #OCCUPYWALLST was that I couldn’t hope to change the way the world worked if I didn’t change the way I worked within the world. If I want women to be equal I’d better treat them as equals. If I want equality, then I must practice equality in my life.

The fractals of change

These thoughts are not groundbreaking; the Dalai Lama was tweeting about this before I even integrated it into myself.

What I want to do is apply this truth to work we do and how we do that work. Consider the leap between me not interrupting women at meetings and systemic violence against women being eliminated. I’ll admit, a single act of not-being-a-dick doesn’t do much to erode thousands of years of systemic oppression. But the actions of the self and the actions of a culture are fractal reflections of each other, with too many steps in between for a single act to resolve this deep-rooted issue.

For the purposes of this article, “culture” is defined as the dominant form of human activity on earth. This could be K-12 education, nation-states, money, etc. Basically, everyone except for the 0.01% of tribal people still holding on.

If we consider culture to be a mighty river, then the individual is but a tiny spring that flows into it. These individual springs flow together to form a small creek, and all the creeks join together to form a stream, and the streams join to form the river…we can see how this analogy might be used to map the fractals of human endeavors. The individual flows into a group, the group into a team, the team into an organization, the organization into sectors, the sectors into economies, the economies into culture.

Image taken from Pexels

So, if we agree with the premise that “Change must start from within,” we see the fractal connection between the atomic part (the individual) and the whole (culture, or all humans). Change the humans, change the culture. This connection is present between every step in that system. To change the family, you must start with the family members. To change the team you must start with the members of that team. Again, I suspect that this isn’t earth-shattering news to you. Basically, what I’m saying is, “To change the whole you must start with the parts.”

There is a relationship between the components and the whole. If you want to change the educational system, teachers will change how they teach, schools will change how they run, school districts will change how they operate, and so on up the fractal ladder. If we want to address police violence we must address violence along the fractal, from violence against the self to domestic violence, to violence among nations. The violent tweet is connected to the bombs dropped on Syrian children is connected to a bully beating up a peer is connected to the violence that the bully witnesses at home. All are parts of the fractal.

Photo by Rostam Torki on Unsplash

You are part of the world and part of the fractal

At this point, we must be careful not to get lost within ourselves. Change along these fractal ladders happens all at once. Its influence is omnidirectional, happening up and down and at all points. It can be easy to confuse the need to start within with the desire and ease of staying within. We must address state violence as we address police violence as we address our own violence. It all happens in tandem. The spring flows at the same time as the river.

You might think that you need to do all the internal work before facing the work that needs to be done in the world. This is not the case; I can advocate for a carbon tax while still driving a car. You can and will be a hypocrite and that’s okay.

The whole system moves at once. We start from within because it is where we have the power to start. I can only move my body. I cannot move yours, yet by moving my body, I inspire yours to move too.

Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash

What you do is how you do it

Let’s consider how we make change in the world. The kind I’m talking about is often done through activism and organizations with social good as their bottom line, which in the US take the form of non-profits or a 501c3. These organizations seek to change something other than the numbers in their bank account. The idea that “Change must start from within” is probably very familiar to them. Personal development, anti-oppression training, and other means to change the “within” of the individual are often present. But what doesn’t seem to be given much thought to is how these organizations’ structures mirror the fractal patterns they target for change.

Can an organization that wants to reduce inequality in the world complete their mission if those very patterns of inequality exist within their own organization?

“Change must start from within”

Even if the people in the organization are all woke as f**k, that organization also needs to start from within.

This is the fractal ladder we must climb to get out of our current crisis. Just as we need to look inward to work through our internalized biases, so too must our change-oriented organizations look within. How can a group fight for women’s rights if women are talked over in meetings discussing this very subject? How can a group push for greater democracy in the world while organized as a tyrannical hierarchy? How can a group demand equality while it’s interns go unpaid?

It is this relationship between the meta and the micro that we need to address. I do not mean to say that a group cannot work toward change without being perfect. Instead, we need to always remind ourselves that working towards change means working to change –on all levels of ourselves, our lives, our peers, and our culture.

This is why my co-op chose to organize as a co-op instead of any other hierarchical business model. This is why we spend so much time working on our internal culture. If we want to be able to shift other groups’ culture towards alignment with their goals, we too have to shift our culture to align with ours.

“Change must start from within”

This post also appears on Medium.com if you’d like to click buttons about it over there.

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