I have recently been asked about my thoughts on potential conflicts of interest with regard to others.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I have come to the (somewhat uncomfortable) conclusion that I do have a deep-seated problem with the whole issue aaround conflict of interest within an open community like INDEXcoop.
DAO’s are complex and still evolving as we speak, people from all walks of life are called to them and want to get involved. As we wish to build relationships with other organisations it’s inevitable that members will become involved in groups that have the potential for competing interests.
Even so, such links can only strengthen ourselves and our relationships.
So, what’s MY problem? (and it is mine)
I don’t have a problem with others who seek to make a profit from their relationship with me (or INDEXcoop), whether by mutually beneficial arrangements or by trying to exploit us due to the incentives they face (although I will fight against the latter).
My challenge is when it comes to people who (I believe) face competing interests which include building the coop and trying to exploit us for their / a 3rd party’s benefit. I find it, particularly when an open organisation is interacting with a closed one.
When I’m faced with someone who I believe is in such a position, I react in a number of ways:
- I feel stress
- I don’t want to engage with that person
- I don’t want to trust that person
- I don’t want to collaborate with that person (on that topic, or any other)
- I don’t want to share my knowledge with them.
I think these are pretty normal reactions, understandable (particularly for someone like me who prefers to avoid conflict) and I’m normally pretty happy to take a step back / avoid (and go and play with a spreadsheet…).
So, why is this a problem for the coop?
Firstly, I’m fairly senior in the coop, and as such, I have a responsibility to stand up for what I believe is best for the coop and INDEX holders. So, my avoiding conflict is a net bad thing for the coop.
I would like to apologise to those people where I have failed in my responsibility to the coop to engage, and the inevitable frustrations this has caused them.
Secondly, I don’t think I’m the only one.
I think that others within the coop feel similar:
- Unengaged from important conversations
- A lack of trust with fellow contributors
This means that some things don’t happen, or the coop’s interests are overrun due to the absence of engagement, or people who should be involved in critical cross-functional discussions are omitted.
This is something we need to be thinking about and discussing.
To some extent, I would expect that every active contributor has other interests that may conflict with the coops long term goals at some point or other. However, for many, they are so insignificant that formal disclosure is disproportionate.
Others (as above) have conflicts that they have disclosed and everyone at least understands.
Some community members have refused to make a disclosure in the absence of a coop policy that requires it.
So, do we need a conflict of interest policy?