Groups wanting to use participatory decision-making methods can find the distribution of finances one of the most knotty area to work out how, particularly pay and benefits - aka, how we distribute resources among ourselves.

To help this, the Reimagining Pay portal brings together a range of thinking, case studies, tools and areas for experimentation to share insight from groups that have implemented alternative approaches beyond the fixed hierarchical approach that is commonplace.

This case study focuses on setting benefits in a team in a relatively complicated set-up. It intends to share an example of how this was done, not to suggest a methodology or a blueprint for it.

About this case study

In late 2021, Dark Matter Labs embarked on a participatory process to update our benefits structures across our 6 companies, and over 10 geographies. In this case study, the Pay & Benefits Steward at DM outlines how we approached and executed this work.

By ‘benefit’ we mean the wide array of infrastructures put in place alongside pay to provide people with the safety, security, facilities and learning that they need to unlock their agency to create value in their work.

We needed to consider various individual needs, overall financial capacity, systemic needs (e.g mission, future team members, responsibility to the wider world), as well as pre-existing social security structures and various legal regulations.

The aim was never to create ‘the ultimate benefits system’ but present a significant upgrade, while building deeper relationships, exploring the role of infrastructures and working together in mutual care.

Things learned

Building on the great work of others:

Some of the tools and approaches we were inspired by (/directly used) in this process were:


In a conversation about pay at our team gathering in August 2021, several questions about benefits were raised. These questions felt increasingly urgent and we lacked the architecture for anybody to provide answers.

So in October 2021, the Pay & Benefits Steward held two team sessions (for different time zones) presenting a proposed approach for pay and for the iteration of benefits.

This established a rough approach to benefits including the overarching principle that we would aim to make the equivalent investment in each geography, but that each geography’s approach would be distinct to the local conditions and ensure that minimum conditions are met everywhere.

At this point we sought consent from the team to spend a month exploring contexts in greater detail, before actual sign off of a firmed up approach.

Everyone had 48 hours to object, 5 or so people reached out and had discussions directly with the Pay & Benefits Steward after which everyone consented.

Screenshot from the presentation to the team in the October 21 whole team Pay & Benefits proposal

Screenshot from the presentation to the team in the October 21 whole team Pay & Benefits proposal

Once signed off, the Pay & Benefits Steward gathered various members of the ops team to collectively decide who would hold different actions that would need to be executed in the process. We laid out the various components that we would need to work through and nominated ourselves to hold different parts of it, fleshing out the shape and nature of the question ahead together.

Screenshot from our October ‘hard ops’ team session to put in place an action plan

Screenshot from our October ‘hard ops’ team session to put in place an action plan