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Volunteer guide: Our organisation

How Activist Handbook is organised
Last update: Dec 2, 2021

In this article we explain how Activist Handbook is organised. We will talk about how we use circles and roles to work more effectively. By understanding your own role better, you will be able to contribute without continuously having to ask permission before you act.

At Activist Handbook, we're experimenting with Holacracy, a way of organising we're not normally used to. Make sure to get acquainted with the basics if you have trouble understanding the idea of Roles, Purpose, Domains and Accountabilities.

Ethics of Holacracy

There are certain “duties” in holacracy that, when respected, make the work pleasurable, fulfilling and efficient. What these are and what they mean can be found in the section below

Duty of Transparency

The duty of transparency is particularly important for team alignment. Each circle member is expected to provide transparency to other circle members, upon request on following subjects:

1. Projects and next-actions
sharing the projects and next-actions tracked for any of your roles in the circle.

2.Relative priority
sharing your honest judgment of the relative priority of any tracked projects or next-actions compared with other activities.

3. Projections
sharing a rough estimate of when you will likely complete a project or a next-action, given current information.

4. Checklist items and metrics
During tactical meetings, reporting on metrics and checklist items requested by other circle members.

Duty of Processing

The duty of processing means that in addition to the duties you hold in your roles, you are also accountable for processing messages and requests from other circle members, specifically:

1. Processing accountabilities and projects
upon a request to process an accountability or a project, you have the duty to process it into a clear next-action, or to get clarity on what it’s waiting for.

2. Requests for projects and next-actions
upon a request to take on a specific project or next-action, you have the duty to consider the request, and to take on the task if it fits one of your accountabilities.

3. Requests to impact domain
upon a fellow circle member’s request to impact a domain you control, you have the duty to consider the request and, if you decline, to explain why the proposed action would cause harm.

Duty of Prioritization

The duty of prioritization constrains how you deploy your time, attention, and other resources

1. Processing over ad hoc execution
you have a duty to prioritize processing inbound messages and requests from fellow circle members over performing next-actions for your own roles, except for certain time-constrained work. Note that this duty only extends to processing the inbound messages into clear next steps, and not necessarily taking those next steps.

2. Requested meetings over ad hoc execution
when a fellow circle member requests you attend a governance or tactical meeting, that takes priority over getting work done (again, except for certain time-constrained work).

3. Circle needs over individual goals
you have a duty to prioritize in alignment with any priorities or “strategies” specified by the lead link of the circle—a topic we’ll return to in a later chapter.

Understanding roles

Roles are not job descriptions. They are dynamic structures made out of 3 components: purpose, domain and accountabilities.

Roles are dynamic. They change based on projects and next actions that are needed in order to fulfill the purpose of specific Circles. The role you are currently filling and its purpose are in your accountability and in your domain. You are expected to get acquainted with it and to adapt it to your sensibilities through integrative decision making which takes place during governance meetings.

Unlike jobs, which are driven by task-specific actions (ex: sending e-mails, organizing an event, researching specific topic etc.) roles are driven by their purpose and accountabilities which are focused, but flexible (ex: creating new roles within your circle; supporting new members of your circle in fulfilling their role; training a fellow circle member to ensure having a smooth transition in the case of having to find a successor to a role…)

Key role components

We work together in circles. For example, we have a communication circle, which is responsible for managing our social media, recruiting volunteers and welcoming newcomers.

These circles, are just expansions of specific roles. Some role turns into a circle when it becomes too complex for one person to handle. Every circle and role have a purpose, a domain and accountabilities. Below we explain what these mean.


We believe that every person, or group of people, should be able to contribute to our project in a meaningful way. We do not like bullshit jobs.

That is why every circle and role have a clearly defined purpose: a reason for existing. For example, the purpose of the finance team is to pay attention to financial health of AH through raising funds, managing accounting and handling the budget of our organisation.


In many organizations, people feel like they have to ask permission from superiors before taking initiative. We do not think that is an efficient way of working, and superiors do not exist.

Instead, we clearly define a domain for each circle and role. People are completely free to do whatever falls under their domain. For example, our localisation circle can start initiatives to set up new local communities, without having to ask other circles first.


People have lots of ideas about what “we” should do…
But “we” doesn’t do it.

Brian J. Robertson

We want to make sure that you understand what others can expect of you, and what you can expect from others. Instead of throwing you in the deep, letting you guess who is responsible for what, we write down clearly defined accountabilities.

These accountabilities are ongoing activities that a role or circle is responsible for. Basically, it is the work a role is supposed to do. For example, our events coordinator is responsible for organising regular social events such as movie nights.

In practice

We publicly share all roles and circles. To find our what roles and circles Activist Handbook has, check out these pages:

Democratic & adaptable

Organisations change over time. In many cases, a board of directors decides top-down that a reorganisation is needed. We do it differently.

Circles can define their own roles within their circle. We also regularly organise meetings where we collaboratively decide if any changes are needed. We call these meetings governance meetings.

How we got here

When we started, we kinda just did whatever we felt like doing. This resulted in lots of creative ideas, but very few concrete plans. As we grew our number of volunteers, the need for change became more and more apparent.

We realised that in order to make impact, we had to organise ourselves in a more efficient way. Being inspired by movements such as Extinction Rebellion, we based our organisational structure on Holacracy.

This seems like an interesting topic to write more about. If you have the time, feel free to do so.

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