Let Me Handbook That For You: A User’s Guide To Open Value Cooperativism

Guerrilla Translation is obsessed with documentation

Documentation is a very important aspect of the work that we do in Guerrilla Translation. As an experiment in Open Value Cooperativism, we expect to make mistakes and discover new ideas as we develop, grow and maintain our collective. We also realise that in forging our own path, we’ve created systems that are not always obvious to the uninitiated who may be interested in joining or just learning about our approach to collaboration. For this reason, we have dedicated a lot of time and effort to discussing, recording and presenting what we have learned and created. Sharing this information is part of our mission to create commons that contribute to the betterment of society and to encourage others to participate in the economy in ways that recognise and nurture all those involved.

Guerrilla Translation’s first major documentation project was the Guerrilla Media Collective Wiki. The wiki is a wealth of information about all things GT, but due to its non-linear format, it serves best as a reference for those who have some idea of what they’re looking for. To meet the needs of those approaching Guerrilla Translation for the first time, it was decided that a handbook would be necessary[1].

Keep This Manual The GT Handbook is a document that welcomes the reader into the world of Guerrilla Translation with a more narrative, colourful approach. It is aimed at those who have joined or are interested in joining the collective, are researching our model or have an interest in a practical understanding of Open Value Cooperativism and/or Distributed Cooperative Organizations (DisCOs). The GT Handbook takes much of the information from the wiki, but presents it in a more vibrant, digestible and sequential format. As it will be one of the first points of contact with us for many people, we wanted to design it to be approachable, welcoming, informative and at times funny. As a group that cooperates across geographic distance, we make a special effort to create a jovial and warm cyber-atmosphere, and we wanted the handbook to convey that.

The GT Handbooks (click here to download). Cover design by Mireia Juan Cuco, background image María Castelló Solbes . Guerrilla Translation logo by Surfero Satánico.

The GT Handbook is the step-by-step guide to joining and working with Guerrilla Translation. Its contents are broken down into the following sections,some of which can function as stand-alone handbooks:

  • Hello and welcome to Guerrilla Translation
  • About GT
  • Becoming a Guerrilla Translator
  • The Open Coop Governance Model
  • Working in Guerrilla Translation
  • Convivial Tools

The first two introductory sections are rather short and simply help orient the reader to the sea of information they are about to plunge into. After that, the “Becoming a Guerrilla Translation” chapter presents information on GT’s 9-month onboarding process for new members—how you will be looked after, trained, integrated and what your responsibilities to the collective will be. During this 9-month process, new members will spend a lot of time with the handbook and wiki as they learn about our collective and how it works from the ground up.

The next chapter focuses on the DisCO Governance Model and will be of interest to those who may not be particularly involved with GT, but want to learn something about our model for their own collectives or activism work. Here we present the concept of value sovereignty and how this solidarity-based strategy allows all members to contribute according to their capacity and have the value of their contributions recognised. It is illustrated in terms of Guerrilla Translation but is applicable to countless other situations.

Finally, the last two chapters focus on GT’s work process. This includes how we handle client translations as well as our own pro-bono work, how we distribute responsibility and communicate within the group and all of the tools that allow us to work this way. This very practical account of how our collective functions is mainly a how-to guide for new members but can also serve as a source of ideas for those exploring the inner workings and operations of their own collectives.

At over 200 pages, the GT Handbook is no casual read, but steps have been taken to make the document more navigable. Each section is “equipped” with a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) section that summarises the content without getting into unnecessary detail. Ultimately, the handbook aims to give the reader “the big picture” of Guerrilla Translation. Those joining the team will have a mentor and a buddy to talk them through our unique ways of working, and the Handbook should feel like an extension of these conversations. For more detailed explanations or reference, links to the corresponding wiki entries are present throughout the text.

Sharing is Caring (and Other Aphorisms)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Handbook plays a significant role in the redistribution of power among group members. We believe that “knowledge is power” and, as new members are onboarded, they stand at a disadvantage in terms of how much they need to catch up to already established members. In the interest of maintaining equal distribution of power within the collective, it is imperative that we go to great lengths to make sure that information is readily available and understandable to all members. The Handbook is the first step.

And broadening the scope beyond Guerrilla Translation, we offer up the GT Handbook as a resource available to all. It is not a static document, as it will surely change as we learn more and continue to grow, but we remain dedicated to sharing our experiences and knowledge along the way. We hope that this labour of love is useful to you and, whether within or outside of the scope of Guerrilla Translation, that the knowledge, in turn, continues to spread.

Future editions will broaden the scope from Guerrilla Translation to Guerrilla Media Collective – our cooperative structure, which is currently developing other nodes beside translation. This will also form the basis of a much broader DisCO handbook. (Click here to find out more about DisCO: Last Night A Distributed Cooperative Organization Saved My Life: A brief introduction to DisCOs)

Download and read the Guerrilla Translation Handbook


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Produced by Guerrilla Translation under a Peer Production License.

Written by Timothy McKeon
* Translated by Ann Marie Utratel
* Images by Tausend und eins