DisCO Principle 5: Carework is the Core

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DisCOs are centered on carework: Here we refer not only to the caring practices and mutual support among the members of a DisCO, but also to the many activities that keep the collective healthy and thriving. This includes administrative tasks, commitments, management and other material inputs. DisCOs function as living organisms that need to be cared for, discussed, and periodically adjusted.

In short: Care is the blood that pumps through DisCO’s heart, care among its members and care towards the DisCO itself.


Care and affective labour, so often invisibilized and taken for granted by the traditional economic logic, are acknowledged as essential in DisCO and thus supported and embedded in its very structure. Feminist Economics invites us to value things that are not valued in the market, such as care, nurturing, invisible work, unpaid organizational and community-oriented work and mutual support. Conventional economic rationality is profoundly “male-centric” and promotes behaviors like competition and individualism. In contrast, solidarity, care & reciprocity are considered extra-economic and feminine.

Definitions of care abound in Feminist Economic literature. A useful one for our purposes would be as a disposition towards how we engage with people and activities, including economic ones. 

Berenice Fisher and Joan Tronto offer the following take in Toward a Feminist Definition of Caring:

On the most general level, we suggest that caring be viewed as a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our "world" so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web. This effort to keep life going does not assume that certain people (women rather than men) have a special ability to sustain our world or that some efforts (healing rather than house building) make a more important contribution to sustaining life on earth. Nor does this notion of caring assume universal standards concerning what is needed to maintain and repair our world. We know that human "needs" change with the historical, cultural, class and other contexts. We also know that such contexts involve power relations that affect the content, definition, distribution, and boundaries of caring activities. Thus, the caring process is not a gracefully unfolding one, but contains different components that clash with each other. By identifying these components we should come to understand the rich and knotty texture of our caring experience, why caring can be both so rewarding and so exasperating.

Approaching relationships and actions with care presupposes awareness of, and sensitivity towards, the needs of others. It encourages interdependence and a sense of purpose that transcends the individual self. This expanded notion of the self as a living process forged in communities and in concert with nature stands in stark comparison to the myth of the "self made individual" and standard western economic rationality. Contrast that with the rationality of Ubuntu, a term originating in various Bantu languages from South Africa that refers to the deep interdependence between self and other in a community context. 

The following is extracted from Free Fair and Alive: the Insurgent Power of the Commons:

Ubuntu Rationality describes a logic of human interaction that recognizes the deep connections between a person’s interests and the well-being of others. It points to a dynamic where a person’s unfolding requires the unfolding of others, and vice-versa. The term is a counterpoint to the conventional idea of economic rationality, which is defined as self-interested, calculative, acquisitive behavior which tends to be at the expense of others. When people can see themselves as Nested-I's embedded in a Pluriversal set of relationships, they begin to exhibit Ubuntu Rationality.

Care transcends the self and puts us in touch with a larger reality more in line with social and environmental realities. None of this is new: care-based dynamics are (nearly) universally evident in the raising of children, care for the elderly and attentive empathy toward friends. Unfortunately, in many cases they are both invisibilized and/or exclusively ascribed to women. Highlighting the prevalence of care as a the building block of our relation to the world and each other helps us recognize the vitality of decommodified work and its value. 

DisCOs are organizations that create things to share: objects, ideas, services, solutions, systems, or art, culture and music, and they do it with love, care and purpose. This means that DisCO is specifically focused on carework within the workplace. Revaluing carework in the workplace is an intentional way to provoke a cultural shift, where carework is valued in other areas, including private and home life, with many other potential shifts as spillovers.[1]

In DisCO we define carework as any kind of work that supports the health of the collective without generating income per se.[2] Within this overall definition, we then distinguish between two mutually supporting types of carework.

Caring for the DisCO and its mission:

First, there is carework for the health of the collective as a system and entity — we call this the DisCO CAT. This means any kind of administrative or behind-the-scenes productive work that keeps the collective running and functional. Rather than demoting these tasks to underpaid administrative assistants and/or outsourcing them to a separate managerial class, actively caring for the DisCO's mission ensures that the care is not watered down in mechanistic, heartless or purely profit-oriented ways, but rather treated with love, diligence and intention. Remember that DisCOs want to build things that last, and which can be used and tweaked by others. To do this right, we need to build them with care from the get go.

Caring for the people who work in the DisCO:

Second, there is the carework of supporting the humans in the collective. This very important aspect of carework recognizes that every DisCO is made up of individuals who each need emotional support, understanding, special consideration and a sense of belonging and purpose. Happy, supported individuals who feel they can express themselves creatively will, by nature, produce better work. This isn't unknown to the corporate world, it's evident in concepts like Ikigai or a wellness culture oriented towards performance in the workplace. The twist in DisCO is that this balance isn't a compromise between individual fulfillment and productivity for absentee shareholders, but a meeting ground between individual, societal and environmental needs.

Finding the balance between caring for the DisCO's mission and the people bringing it to life is essential. If you only care for the mission and see the people fulfilling it as subservient, you will fall into a "means justify the ends" logic. In that scenario, care for the mission would start to feel hollow and joyless. If you only care for the people and lose sight of the vision, it will wither and decay, thereby increasing internal group conflict, dissatisfaction and ultimately the dissolution of a space where both individual and group needs should be met with care.

The Community Rhythms we propose in DisCO can help ensure that communication runs in an open, honest, transparent and respectful way, expressing observations and criticisms about the workings of the group. This makes space for stronger interpersonal bonds and better trust-based communication, employing healthier and more emancipatory conflict-resolution tools. It also satisfies the need to take care of a DisCO's mission, by evaluating both the work done and future needs.

Extending the notion of carework beyond individuals and towards the collective as an entity empowers group members to reframe and undertake (or at least understand) what would usually be considered bureaucratic or administrative work. Upkeep of any DisCO’s social mission is the responsibility of working circles or self-organized teams which collectively manage specific needs (e.g., building community, following leads for livelihood work, evaluating potential members) to ensure that the DisCO is healthy and able to fulfill its values ongoing. 

Another way in which a DisCO cares for its members is the mentoring process, through which dating members learn the ropes of the workflow. Mentoring is always bi-directional and peer-to-peer. Although there’s always something that someone can teach others, special attention is paid to those members going through the Dating Phase (those who have recently joined the team).

DisCO Principle Five is about acknowledging, understanding and applying care to our mission-oriented workplaces, or DisCOs. Beyond the care extended towards the members of the group and its goals and values, DisCOs also do their “main things” with care. Rather than seeking nothing more than efficiency and immediate results, we encourage groups to enjoy their productive processes, bringing back artisanship, craft and the benefits of human production of materials and items that inspire us. 

When we say that DisCO is oriented towards social and environmental ends, we are really talking about care. Putting care at the core ensures that our actions stem from deep kinship with the human and non-human worlds — a key element in shifting our notions of value away from environmental extraction and human exploitation and towards the (caring) nurture of people and nature.


Guerrilla Media Collective is explicitly feminist in its orientation. Members’ emotional well being isprioritized daily. Work is organizedaround these needs, not in spite of them. Every member has a dedicatedmutual support buddy and the collective iscared for through various circles dedicated to community, sustainability, outside peers and more. 

Carework is closely tied to Laneras’ origins, worldview and development. Their project has an ecofeminist nature which prioritizes care towards oneself, others and the environment. Community support networks are essential to their mission and the relationships that members form are strongly grounded in trust, mutual support and interdependence.

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  • We reinforce care among members through a series of community rhythms and mutual support practices.
  • We believe in the power of care as an inspiring alternative to current and dominant patriarchal, capitalist models.
  • We encourage working with intention and care towards the final results, whether services, materials or other hard goods, in a slower and more meaningful engagement that sustains care through the sharing of skills with the end recipient.

Image Credits

  1. It is, of course, essential to highlight carework away from the workplace as the invisibilised animating factor that upholds all market activity. Treated as an externality by mainstream economics and its measurement schemes (GDP, GNP) carework in the home and other so-called informal domains is what allows human labor to exist, let alone be exploited. For more on these basic issues read our recommended books and articles on Feminist Economics and Intersectional Feminism from the [xx DisCO Basics].
  2. Carework doesn't directly generate income but, as part of DisCO Principle 6: Origins and Flow of Value, it can affect payments and rewards post-hoc.