There is more than one way to price a workshop : experiments in shared economy

For those of us who work in participatory design, what does it look like to extend engagement to questions of money as well?

So you’ve got a small budget set aside for professional development. You find a training that looks good on paper, costs say $100 to attend and you register by paying the fee and submitting your name. At the end of a long day of powerpoints, you leave with a few notes in hand and your receipt/attendance confirmation for the human resources department, never having given much thought to the cost or value of the workshop.

At Percolab events that doesn’t happen.   

For many years now, we has been experimenting with different ways to engage with with cost and value of trainings. Percolab has taken inspiration from practices in the Art of Hosting community, from The Commons, and in particular, a practice that our colleague Ria in Brussels introduced us to: the shared economy.

With each of the open workshops that I was a part of hosting in 2017, we experimented with different ways to present this useful practice. Most of us are not comfortable talking about money. We have very little practice being open and transparent about how much we would like to earn, how much we can afford to pay, and the value we receive from a training. With inspiration from my colleagues around the world, this is what I have learned so far about how to present the shared economy in a way that is inviting, clear, reassuring and effective.

Experiment #1

At the self-management workshop we hosted back in May, we gave participants two options.

1) Register and pay the listed price on Eventbrite ahead of time


2) Engage with the shared economy by paying a small registration fee (so that we know you’re actually coming) and then paying the remaining amount, of your choice, at the end of the event.

It sounds like a pay-what-you-can model, or a sliding scale, but that’s not the idea behind it. While we do want our workshops to be accessible to anyone regardless of their financial situation, what we were aiming for was a shared economy practice. It’s an opportunity to take into account the budget of the event, and then choose what to pay based on the information available, including the number of participants. i.e. “sharing” the cost.

What’s unique about this model, is that it’s an engagement. You are agreeing to share the responsibility, and cover the minimum cost for the event to run successfully.

At the end of the workshop, we share our budget with you (including how much we would like to receive as hosts/facilitators/trainers). We then divide the total cost by the number of participants and everyone makes a choice based on that proposed average cost.

The result?

For that particular event, about half the participants paid the listed event price ahead of time, and half engaged with the shared economy. Our budget included the cost of the room, catered lunch, printed materials, and the time and expertise of the facilitators.

In the end, it turned out that this two-option, shared economy acted like a sliding scale. If you had a company paying your training bill, you paid the full listed price. If you were an independent, or coming from a non-profit organization, you participated in shared economy. Some paid a bit more than average, some paid a bit less. Everyone has a fairly good idea of where they fit on a scale of income, so they know for themselves if they can contribute a bit more than the average, or not. We covered all of our costs, and paid ourselves. And we learned something about the demonstrated need for accommodating different budgets.

But there was more to be experimented with.

There is also the question of perceived value. Are you engaging with the budget and making a choice that is not just a matter of what you can afford, but the value that you have received? Are you consciously participating in the financial reality of your learning experience?

For those of us whose profession it is to increase participation and engagement in events and organizations, this is an important question. For the trainings that are based on, and designed for engagement, it seems pertinent that we extend that engagement to the question of money as well.

Our good friend Frederic Laloux asked similar questions of his readers when he published the online version of his book (which was a foundational building block of our self-management workshop) Reinventing Organizations.

The idea is, “I cannot know what the book is worth to you, so I’m not sure a fixed price makes much sense.” It’s an experiment in abundance where I trust that when I give, I will also receive.”

When our colleague Nil was in town, co-hosting The Money Game with Cedric, they took inspiration from the gifting economy and asked participants: “What would be a contribution you could offer that would give you joy?”

This consciousness around our relationship to money is important to us. We are shifting our budgeting and allocations for project work internally away from a time-based model (how many hours did it take you to do this?) to one that factors in complexity, expertise, and value. Some very human qualities of the work.

Experiment #2

At our most recent evening workshop, on the topic of generative decision making, we decided to combine a few of these ideas, and encourage an engagement with the value of the event.

As we closed the session, we asked participants to write down on one side of a paper what they learned, or are taking away from the workshop.

On the other side, thinking about the value this event has had for you, write 3 numbers:

1) A contribution that would feel unjust or too low,

2) An amount that would feel like too much for this evening of learning,

3) A number that you would feel good about contributing to this event, based on what you have learned and what you can afford.

The first step was about reflecting on value and money on your own.

The second step was to share the budget of the event.

We listed the cost of the room, the snacks we provided (essential for an event at the end of the workday) and what we hoped to receive as hosts of the event. For the line item relating to the honorarium for the facilitators (our pay), we set a range for what we would each be willing to receive, on the low and the high end, for this evening of work. We had a similar range for the percentage that we would put back into the Percolab pot for overhead as we do with every project.

We counted the number of people in the room and did the math together for the average amount each person would need to contribute to cover the cost. We were left with a range depending on whether the facilitators were to receive their low-mid or high honorarium amount.

With that, we told participants which methods of payment were available, and left the rest up to them.

The result?

The added step of having each participant reflect on their own about their relationship to the value of the event was important. It changed the nature of the conversation and the participants were more engaged with the budget we presented.

For ourselves, it felt more honest to list a range for the pay we would each receive (and to be clear whether it would be split 50/50 between us and why). As organizers of an event, it is not easy to declare how much you would like to make. Mostly because we don’t practice it very often. And then to discuss with a co-host whether we are splitting the profits evenly or not, for whatever reason. It’s a step that I push until the last minute every time. But being able to include it in the presentation of the budget makes it that much more transparent and that much more clear.

Things to experiment with next time:
How could we include the collective aspect of shared economy? Until now participants have been making the decision on their own, with or without time to reflect on value first. What if we had a discussion about it and shared the responsibility openly as a group?
This is something that was factored in when the Shared Economy was first piloted at a learning village that our colleague Ria was a part of. To read more about the origins of this idea:

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What is the pay system you dream of? Beyond the taboo of money

As an employee for 16 years, I was thankful for my regular pay checks. I never really gave a thought to how I would dream of being paid.  In 2007, I co-founded my own company and I was faced with the freedom and possibility of all that compensation could potentially be. A journey began.

At the start, submerged in the business of starting a business, my associate and I agreed on a model that was a cinch to administrate, though somewhat naive: equal salary. No need to waste time tallying up who is bringing in more business or debating who has more value. All company earnings go into a collective « pot » and equal pay comes out, irrelevant of what each person put in. A bit idealistic you might say? Yes. The model requires similar work experience, similar weekly work hours and similar vacation time. And of course it also requires sufficient revenues for all.

As the company grew, we realized we wanted to offer freedom and possibility for people to create the working rhythm and pace that suits their needs and desires. We didn’t want to systematize any obligations, giving preference to diversity and modularity. This meant that we needed to move on to a different compensation model.

Initially, we were attracted to an algorithm based compensation model. We were inspired by Buffer’s approach. They even have a transparent salary calculator whereby you can find out how much you would make if you worked there.   What were the variables that could help us establish our own contextualized formula?

After a bit of in house exploration we crafted a proposal for the team with our percolab variables as complexity of the work, experience and risk. We held a team workshop and each of us plugged in numbers to try to see if the formula would work for us. Major flop! The process revealed that working abstractly with numbers caused us to create a collective salary budget much higher than the funds available. We were operating from a dream scenario rather than reality. This is when it started becoming clear that the path to fair and equitable pay required the whole team to understand money flows of our company.

But how could we do this? The regular salary model offers stability and regularity of bi-monthly pay checks of fixed amounts as well as benefits. We generally have little influence or involvement in this approach as it is directly linked to an organisation’s budget and pay scale.  The freelancer model offers flexibility and autonomy around our earnings as we are responsible for negotiating our own contractual agreements. The latter model usually comes with extra administrative burden and stress to be able to ensure regular and sufficient pay. Was there a way to blend the advantages of these models together?

Things were becoming clearer. Not only did we want self-set salaries but we also wanted to allow for variance from month to month in the amount each person was earning or wanted to work. As simple as that, we broke free from our fixed salaries and stepped into a negotiated agreements model that we also call variable self-determined salaries.  In so doing, we each gained control over our earnings, began benefiting from a shared administrative system and were better able to leverage the collective work opportunities amongst ourselves to help ensure regular and sufficient pay for all.

Our percolab model goes like this.

  1. Each project has a project lead and project budget parameters (projects can be client based and others not)
  2. A fixed percentage of the project goes to the company  to cover our collective services  (our beautiful office, insurances, web services, resources, business development, accounting, work tools etc.) and development.
  3. Together, the project team (anyone in the team) discusses and makes financial agreements based the project honorarium budget, with full transparency. We strive for a feeling of fairness and there is freedom in how agreements are made
  4. Administration of the compensation model is carried out in a distributed, collective way.  Percolab team members keep track of their agreements with standardized tools and are responsible for their own data entry into the online book keeping system (WaveApps). The project lead takes care of all agreements, invoicing and billing with external contractors, clients and suppliers.
  5. Any challenges with a project that have consequences on the budget are managed within the project with the team and do not overflow onto the company.

Each month any percolab member is involved in multiple projects (as lead, team member or business development).  Therefore your salary is the sum of the work you accomplished that month in each project as per your agreements.

For the system to work, everyone needs to make explicit their work availability and skills they can offer or wish to develop within projects.

Suddenly it was if each person was injected with more space, freedom and creativity to sculpt their ideal professional world. A new service went from idea to reality and the team was stepping up to greater challenges  than ever before. Having control over ones earnings reveals itself as a key lever for empowerment and leadership. Services and business development grew. With hindsight it seems evident that for people to be in their full potential having control over their pay is a key condition.  

Underlying principles

  1. Engagement is commiserate with our power to self-determine our own salary and expenses. Each person is responsible for the salary they want to earn.
  2. Practicing conversations around value helps us to better own our own value.
  3. Our relationship with money is not a taboo, but a skill that can be developed.


This flexible compensation model has supported us getting beyond our assumptions and fears around pay. It helps us get to deeper conversations around value and to work with money without it being the finality. The potential of a team is strengthened through this compensation as practice approach. More specifically:

  1. Individual: We are all even more responsible and engaged. Each person is finding her own balance with how much she wants to be working, earning, learning, playing and making their personal projects come to action. We are each developing skills around money, business and value.
  2. Teams: More solidarity, mutual support and good spirit.
  3. Organization: More initiatives and entrepreneurship and more revenues.


1. A compensation model is meant to be energizing a team forward – if that is no longer the case, then try out a different model. It’s as easy as that.

2. A compensation model can be flexible and self-managing

3. A flexible negotiated compensation model can be an enormous driver of individual, team and organisational development.

If you want to know more about this model and the tools that support its functioning, contact Samantha Slade


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Être exposant dans une conférence et vivre une expérience d’intelligence collective, c’est possible!


Tenir un kiosque lors d’une conférence est une expérience souvent frustrante. Le concept conférence-exposant peine à se renouveler, malgré les milliers de conférences qui ont lieu chaque année. Comment faire en sorte que les exposants soient inclus dans l’action et les conversations de l’aire principale? Voici une piste de solution.

percolab a relevé ce défi au Rendez-vous de l’innovation sociale, un événement public d’une journée rassemblant 200 entrepreneurs, chercheurs et innovateurs sociaux. 13339660_1083694351674568_8552338805864078816_n

Pour ce faire, nous avons  transformé l’aire d’exposition en aire d’hybridation en nous appuyant sur l’improvisation appliquée et en nous  inspirant des chimères, les créatures mythiques mélangeant plusieurs animaux.

Au début de la journée, chaque kiosque a reçu une visite de l’équipe percolab et a été invité à exprimer un souhait pour la journée.

Ensuite nous avons installé une animation mobile, en allant voir des visiteurs et des kiosques pour proposer des défis d’hybridation, autour de la question :

Qu’est-ce que nous pourrions imaginer ensemble, aujourd’hui, qui pourrait être réalisé dans le prochain mois?

À travers cette simple question ludique, une intention se greffait à l’interaction : faire naître de nouveaux possibles parmi les forces en présence. Une fois le défi nommé, il revenait aux participants de décider de jouer le jeu et de documenter les idées créées dans le fil de la conversation.

13419118_1083694818341188_4747932269939892590_nAu bout d’un certain temps, la magie prenait : l’activité se créait d’elle-même, en mode autogéré, et une table de récolte des idées de projets hybrides se remplissait peu à peu. Les exposants et les visiteurs étaient énergisés par leurs rencontres et leurs conversations. La question, invitante, inclusive, ludique, bouscule la routine d’un kiosque, facilite le contact avec les gens qu’on vient rencontrer, crée une intentionnalité et une présence différente.

Les visiteurs comme les personnes présentes aux kiosques ont mentionné comment cette simple activité vécue sur le mode de la rencontre et d’un bref moment de créativité partagée leur avait permis de vivre la journée autrement. Le recours à un concept simple, invitant au jeu et à l’imaginaire a fait en sorte que les participants ont pu le saisir rapidement et se l’approprier, jouer ensemble pour créer des possibilités inattendues. Par ailleurs, l’aspect ouvert et intime à la fois a fait en sorte que les personnes qui se rencontraient ont pu parler de ce qui les passionne réellement : leurs désirs, leurs besoins, à partir de leurs expériences. 13342987_1083694858341184_319607807221865154_nC’est un élément important car cela crée un espace de liberté supplémentaire dans l’événement, qui fait en sorte que la rencontre devient immédiatement générative.

Enfin, le fait d’aller à la rencontre directe des participants, et non de tenir un espace délimité pour des activités formelles, a été clé : cela a contribué à occuper le temps et l’espace de manière légère, mais permanente et efficace. À tout moment, nous étions facilement identifiables et disponibles, et en mesure d’aborder les personnes présentes. Cela a contribué à  l’inclusion continue des participants à mesure qu’ils entraient dans l’espace et à créer une atmosphère de créativité bienveillante.




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Learning conversations for entrepreneurship

How can we as organisations learn from each other?

Entrepreneur to entrepreneur, business to business,  talking and sharing openly and freely can become a way of working. Ville Kernan, co-founder of Monkey Business based in Jyväskylä, Finland and percolab co-founders Samantha Slade and Yves Otis, based in Montreal, Canada have been practicing “learning conversations” together. In this article we share our thoughts on how this practice has supported our learning and work.

Ville: Throughout all my life as an entrepreneur, I have been (inter)dependent to people who are doing similar things or things in a similar way than me. One could call them mentors, co-learners or something like that. Since their visit to Monkey’s Yellow Office back in February 2011, percolab’s Samantha and Yves have been one of those. Currently we host each other on a more or less monthly call over Google Hangout.

Samantha: Colearners, cohosting each other. This is what I aspire to all around. What is it that allows you to go from a one time encounter to this rich space of thinking out loud and exploring ideas together with someone you barely know? Perhaps it was the sauna in Monkey Business’ office that just helped soften us all up. There is something to be said for the finnish sauna tradition.

Yves: One question I brought back with me from our visit to Monkey Business in Finland, was how to maintain this complicity that we were feeling? How to talk about our practice, our work our questionning? And how to do that without tripping up on our cultural or linguistic differences? or the time difference?

Ville: These calls are very interesting and important to me. Many times I have felt tired before the call after a long day at the office (due to time difference between Finland and Canada we talk at 4pm), but in the end I have left the call energised and with more clarity than before it.

Samantha: These calls offer a space outside of our regular contexts, with another human across the planet who is sharing similar experimentations, opportunities, ideas. To have flowing conversation in this space helps to gather clarity and strength to act.

Ville: One could call us sister or twin companies. I see or take the analogy from Twin or Sister cities. E.g. City of Jyväskylä is a sisters with the City of Debrezen. However, I believe our connection is more informal and relaxed I suppose. Like friends.

Samantha: There is a term, «impersonal fellowship » that comes to mind where you have deep connection, conversation and trust with someone with whom you don’t necessarily hang out with. This is a concept that fascinates me. We are fellow learners.

Ville: Over the calls we start with a check in, just sharing what’s up and what’s going on in each others’ (mostly professional) lives. What kind of projects are on right now, troubles, challenges or worries, visions, dreams or questions etc. Many things are shared. We share also what we have learnt or read about lately. Our talks are dialogue.

Samantha: And dialogue is the path of learning and sense-making. It is so crucial to have this kind of dialogue when you are working in a domain of innovation – that’s to say that your ways of working, thinking, being are not necessarily shared by those around you.

Yves: No agenda. No program. We run on questions that lead to conversations. What one person says immediately gets bounced around with perspectives and angles that we wouldn’t have imagined.

Ville: We both, Monkey and percolab, share the same way towards our work. Our work is about co-creation of the desired future, where people get along and can be themselves, and thus be more creative, feel better and also be more productive. We both work with various types of clients, and dialogue and doing is at the core of what we do. Thanks to this shared field of work, there are many connections and many things where other company’s experiences help one another.

Samantha: Yes, Ville says it so well. By talking together we reveal to ourselves what we are doing. We get greater consciousness.

Yves: And each conversation leads to its own rosary of little pearls that we put to use right away.

Ville: We have planned concepts together, such as “properly funky entrepreneurship training program”, or an “informal network of companies working in this weird way”.

Samantha: Yes, this free flowing dialogue with trusting open exploration between different cultures and languages lends itself naturally to creative emergence. It’s surprising and not.

Yves: With the desire to continue this conversation, to see what will emerge from it, without any obligation other than a little bit of learning.

Our conversations have always been pertinent and we hope others will experiment with this practice. For those who are also exploring better ways of learning and working together we would love to hear your story.



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L’innovation c’est la pollinisation

Qu’est-ce que l’innovation sociale? Est-ce une rupture ? Une évolution ? Et si on parlait plutôt de pollinisation?

L’équipe percolab a collaboré récemment avec le Rendez-vous de l’innovation sociale organisé par le Réseau québécois de l’innovation sociale (RQIS) dont nous faisons partie. Les multiples expériences de la journée nous ont permis de réfléchir autour de cette idée de l’innovation comme pollinisateur.

Indicateurs de l’innovation sociale et fishbowl

Un guide a été créé par le réseau pour aider à développer ces indicateurs et nous avons collaboré avec Luc Dancause et le projet La carotte joyeuse pour faire un premier essai de mise en application du guide. Lors du Rendez-vous, nous voulions partager cette expérience plus largement et nous avons opté pour la méthodologie de “fish bowl” pour faciliter une conversation avec les 200 participants. Cette méthodologie nous aide à réfléchir ensemble autour d’un sujet complexe, en l’occurrence les indicateurs de l’innovation sociale. L’intelligence collective de l’auditoire pouvait emmener la conversation dans des zones surprises et les personnes ressources qui ont entamé la conversation ont elles aussi appris. C’est une conversation authentique où nous étions tous dans notre curiosité et apprentissage.

rqis fishbowl

Crédit photo: Toma Iczcovits
percolab article : Valoriser et honorer l’expertise dans les processus participatifs

L’effet domino

percolab a tenu une “aire d’animation” lors de l’événement et nous avons apporté des centaines de petits dominos pour explorer l’idée de l’effet domino et l’innovation sociale.

Des gens ont inscrit sur des dominos leur réponse à la question :

Qu’est-ce que l’innovation sociale pour vous?

Le jeu nous aide collectivement à faire du sens.

Nous ne sommes pas seuls à être fascinés par des dominos. Le Metropolis Festival à Copenhague en a fait un événement urbain spectaculaire avec 7000 blocs en béton.

La vidéo montre avec simplicité et brio l’effet de domino :

L’innovation sociale se fait par des petits changements.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Jeu des questions puissantes

Nous avons proposé un jeu des questions puissantes, créé par Helen Titchen Beeth, praticienne de Art of Hosting/l’art d’agir ensemble à la commission européenne. Comme l’aire d’animation était dans un espace public il a fallu ajuster le jeu.

Nous l’avons modulé pour que ça puisse se faire en 6 minutes avec 6 personnes. Une personne a une question et les 5 autres ont 5 minutes pour lui poser des questions en lien avec sa question initiale. Personne ne répond ou fait des commentaires – 5 minutes avec uniquement des questions qui sont posées.

Pour assurer une qualité d’écoute, 2 personnes seulement au centre ont le droit de parole. Les personnes à l’extérieur écoutent et, quand elles veulent prendre la parole, elles changent de place avec une personne à l’intérieur. Quelques personnes doivent faire l’interface avec le public autour pour expliquer ce qui se passe et chemin faisant protéger l’espace intime du jeu. À la fin des 5 minutes le porteur de question produit une deuxième version de la question.


Des gens ont apprécié comment en l’espace de 5 minutes ils ont trouvé plus de clarté et leur question aiguisée et améliorée.

Et puis la magie de la pollinisation a fait qu’un passant nous a demandé si on était en train d’utiliser la méthode d’Augosto Boal, fondateur du théâtre des opprimés au Brésil et ancien maire de Rio. Il est l’initiateur du théâtre législatif qui a développé des techniques pour aider des gens à réfléchir sur des situations et problématiques ensemble en mode jeu. Nous avons ri ensemble – toutes ces méthodes font parties des communs.





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