Ownership and Governance Principles for the School for the Future

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In this summary document I outline the current intention for the ownership and governance structures of the School. There are a few general principles that will likely remain consistent, applied in specific structures. These specific structures are more tentative and may change based on feedback from students, instructors, staff, and other advisors.

The school is meant to model the worlds it is built to give birth to: worlds in which it is an ever-increasing pleasure to live while contributing ever more value to others. Our goal is to choose an organizational structure that contributes toward ever-increasing flourishing in the world. To achieve this the school  has adopted the following principles for the governance and ownership of the school:

  1. To distribute decision making across the school community. This is more likely to produce better decisions for both individual community members and the long term health of the school.
  2. To distribute financial value across the school community. This more accurately reflects the real origins of the value of the school and will incentivize school community members to produce high quality contributions to the school and thus further raise the value of the school.
  3. To be both fair and quickly scalable. Potential economic and environmental crises demand both.

Generally speaking, the decision making structures of the school are intended to make the school simultaneously flexible, resilient, and sensitive, and capable of decisive action and perseverance towards its ideals. There are many organizational structures that exist in theory and in practice which aim to achieve this. Some of these structures are quite old and some are quite new. 

The school is currently planned to be structured as a for-profit cooperative, owned and governed by staff, instructors, students, and investors and advisors. However, voting rights will not be distributed uniformly, instead they will roughly reflect past contribution and future commitment to the development of the School. Some decisions regarding the structure of the company and its overall strategy will be delegated to the voting body as a whole, and some decisions will be delegated to individuals or sub-groups. There are many ways to implement all of this and many finer-grained decisions to make which have not yet been decided.

Initially I will own 100% of the school and set the direction and have ultimate authority on many of its decisions. Over time, my ownership share will be reduced as shares are distributed to instructors, students, staff, and investors/advisors. Eventually, I expect my ownership and voting share to settle around 30% with greater than 50% owned by other internal community members (staff, instructors, students) and not more than 20% owned by external investors. I hope that these ratios keep power significantly rooted in the community as a whole, while allowing me to still play a special role in setting the direction and philosophy of the community, until passing that role on to others as well.

More should be said about student ownership. There will be multiple levels of student participation in the school. At the most superficial, students will take advantage of free access to pre-recorded courses and discussions accessible in a public commons, and at the deepest end students will take size-limited live courses with instructors (until the school includes a residential campus, when even deeper engagement becomes possible). At some point along that gradient students will start earning equity stakes in the school itself. Ideally, for some significant percentage of students the value of their ownership share of the school will be far greater than the cost of taking courses.

All this said, it is not clear to me whether the cooperative structure outlined above is good enough, so it is there as an initial structure to iterate and improve on over time. This iteration on our own structure may occur quickly. I am currently being advised by individuals experimenting with very novel organizational structures, and will continue to educate myself and seek the guidance of the School’s instructors and students.

Zach Schlosser