Project Based

The work that we engage in as a cooperative must have a well defined scope if we are to remain focused and successful in the long term.  Although we are not (at least we should not be) in the business of mass-producing the same designs over and over again, we must establish an approach to our work that allows for predictable and repeatable outcomes.  Our strength lies in our ability to adapt to changes in market forces and customer needs through efficient use of the techniques and technologies at our disposal.  While projects may be produced in a variety of media, from furniture and textiles to electronics and software, a consistent and guided approach allows designers to express their ideas in a manner that is consistent with the stated goals and techniques of the cooperative.  
Proposed projects need not adhere to a limited set of materials, processes, or outcomes, but they should be guided by a common design approach or “aesthetic” and they should have a clearly defined strategy for execution.  Each project undertaken (or “sanctioned”) by the cooperative must be vetted for the commitments necessary for its successful completion.   These include but are not limited to:  projected time frame, labor hours and skill levels, shop space, materials, budget, marketing, and distribution.  In a sense, each potential project should be presented for the member’s consideration with its own miniature business plan.   Part of this plan should describe the “narrative arc” of the project with a clear beginning, middle, and end.  The question of how we will get it out of the shop and move on to the next project is in some ways just as important as how a project begins.  Each project will have its own narrative that may end in a variety of ways.  Potential outcomes could include a short production run with marketing and distribution handled in-house, licensing of designs for off-site production,  or assistance in setting up members of the coop or the general public  to take on production themselves as an outside project.  The members will determine a maximum desired workflow for the space based on project size and scope, and projects will be scheduled to utilize the available space and to avoid creating overloads and conflicts.
One oft-repeated piece of advice for writing business plans, bylaws, etc. is not to “reinvent the wheel”.  If someone else has already established a business model that is close to what you are trying to achieve, then you should learn from the work that they’ve already done for you.  One particularly useful model to study in relation to LiveWork is the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.  Many of Kickstarter’s methods serve as a useful guide for the necessary policies and procedures at LiveWork.  The physical manifestation of LiveWork Studios can, in some ways, be seen as a real-world version of Kickstarter’s online model.  Whereas Kickstarter is focused solely on providing funding for creative projects through online fundraising, LiveWork supports the actual physical production of such projects.  The project-based model is effective in both a crowd-funded environment as well as in the production-oriented environment of a worker’s cooperative.  The front-end design, research, and market analysis necessary for successful projects is best handled outside of each system, and this serves to encourage each designer’s efficiency as it focuses them on the elements necessary for successful production.   A designer/builder’s overall compensation is then based on their “authorship stake” (a predetermined percentage of the profits set aside for the author of the proposal) as well as their hours spent in production and the overall success (profit) of the project.
In speculative design work such as this, it is very difficult to tell which ideas or designs will make it through to completion, and it can quickly become a drain on the business to support these speculative efforts that may never pay off.  This is where the collaborative model excels, because members can develop their ideas off-the-clock while taking advantage of the resources offered by the space.  This unpaid labor is  then compensated through the member’s authorship stake in the projects that are seen through to completion.  This functions as a kind of incentive system that rewards both creativity and efficiency.  The role of the organization here is to support the research and experimentation efforts of the designers by providing the tools, materials, and space necessary for their individual explorations.