Today, I'm speaking to Richard D. Bartlett, aka Rich Decibels.


During the Occupy movement in 2011, Rich caught a glimpse of a different way of being together — more compassionate, more intelligent, more creative, inclusive, and animating than he'd experienced as a student worker or citizen up to that point. Since then, he's been on a mission. In 2012 he co-founded Loomio, a digital tool for deliberation and decision-making in groups of 3-300 people.


In 2016 he co-founded The Hum, a management consultancy for organizations without managers. The Hum has recently published an online training course that shares what they know about working in highly decentralized organizations. Rich is also a Director and longstanding member of Enspiral — a network of people supporting each other to grow up and to get paid for doing meaningful work.


Rich has a daily writing practice. He writes about how people work together, at any scale, from relationships, to organizations, to social change, and he's prolific on Twitter and on Medium. His fascinating book (currently in beta) is called Patterns for Decentralized Organizing and can be downloaded from Leanpub.




In this conversation we talk about:

  • How growing up in a strict fundamentalist Christian upbringing, and decoupling from that, shaped his outlook.
  • His complex relationship with atheism and religion today.
  • How he discovered love and solidarity in activism.
  • Technologies of organizing.
  • Forming decentralized decision-making processes.
  • Nihilism in the face of dysfunction as a form of cowardice.
  • Loomio, and collective decision-making software.
  • Status and hierarchy.
  • Shifting culture through fermentation.
  • And the concept of stewardship.


We spoke in mid-June 2022, and I was excited to talk to Rich since he's been introduced to me by Daniel Thorson, whom I interviewed here in episode 10. I've been following his writing on Twitter and find the idea of decentralized work and collaboration fascinating, exciting, and challenging.


It's perhaps the greatest question of our time: now that we're all connected and have incredible tools of self-organization, how can we make better decisions together? How can we outcompete centralized organizations? And how can we benefit from the wonderful richness of so many brains without descending into chaos, nihilism and mob rule?


This conversation is one of a dozen or so weekly conversations that we already have lined up for you with thinkers, designers, makers, authors, entrepreneurs, and activists who are working to change our world for the better. So follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app, or head over to to subscribe.


And now let's jump right in with Richard D. Bartlett.




[5:23] Life in the Present

[8:07] Early Childhood Community

[10:33] A Complex Religious Journey

[18:37] The Occupy Movement

[23:45] A Transformational Insight

[28:21] Cowardice and Courage

[30:40] Membership Groups

[35:16] Intersecting Communities

[41:06] Status and Hierarchy 

[44:35] Fermenting the Right Culture

[48:21] The Stewardship System

[51:58] A Short Sermon