Holonic Architecture — Hylo 3.0.0 Release Notes

Clare Politano
Apr 3, 2021 · 8 min read

The Hylo stewardship team is excited to announce the release of our Holonic Architecture update, live today! This release represents the culmination of our work over the last two quarters with the Planetary Health Alliance, and features a significant evolution in Hylo’s community architecture. After a thoughtful inquiry into how best to support coordination between groups, we have reimagined community relationships on Hylo to be much more flexible, composable, and representative of how groups collaborate in the real world. Our new group architecture is critical for the work of PHA, their 200+ member organizations, and similar networked groups, who won’t find this unique feature set anywhere else.

This “holonic” architecture sees each group as a whole part of a larger whole. We are expanding on Hylo’s current capacity supporting one layer of group nesting (many communities that belong to one network) to allow for infinitely nested groups within groups within groups. Any group can now be a part of multiple “parent” groups, and can contain multiple “child” groups. This powerful composability is paired with group Visibility and Access settings that allow group stewards to create exactly the right container to support their members and reflect how the group interacts with the world around them.

In contrast to platforms that create closed membership silos, Hylo empowers groups to collaborate not just inside their own membership but with other groups, coordinating impactful action toward shared goals. Holonic Architecture builds on Hylo’s existing cross-community conversations in order to give groups the power to coordinate at the scale of movements.

Here’s everything you need to know about holonic architecture, in addition to many other big updates we’re releasing at the same time.

P.S. — PHA’s Annual Meeting is coming up and it’s going to be epic! Check it out.

Holonic Architecture

  • Group moderators now have the ability to create multiple subgroups inside a group, and join groups together to reflect a larger ecosystem! It’s now much easier to create groups for a specific theme or purpose, and easier for everyone to discover relevant groups and connect with their people.
  • A change to Hylo vocabulary: We have transitioned to using the more general term “groups” instead of “communities.” This change recognizes that Hylo is for all kinds of groups, including organizations, affinity groups, alumni, ecovillages, and more, so we wanted to pick a descriptor that is welcoming to all.
  • Existing Networks with Communities in them have been converted into Groups with subgroups inside them. Existing Networks with Communities in them have been converted into Groups with subgroups inside them. For any groups that were using that setup, please reach out through Intercom if you have questions or something seems broken.
  • To support this change, almost all of Hylo’s routes (urls) have changed, in part to reflect the switch from communities and networks to groups, but also to make them more clear across the application.

Groups can request to join other groups or invite a group to join them, and these invites/requests can be canceled, accepted or rejected by moderators of the other group. This all happens from the new Group Settings page Related Groups.

A new Groups tab on the sidebar takes members to the new Groups View showing all the groups in relationship with the current group, organized by parent groups and child groups of the current group.

From this view, members can learn more about these connected groups, see their Visibility and Access settings, request to join those groups, and navigate to them.

Looking at a group’s stream will show you all the posts to that group, plus all the posts to any descendant groups that you are also a member of.

Visibility and Access Settings

An important part of holonic architecture is giving each group sovereignty over how it relates to the groups around it. Each group now has the capacity to choose Visibility and Access settings that match how that group shows up in the world. Here are the options:

In addition, Restricted Access groups now can specify questions that must be answered when a person requests to join the group. These are set up in the group Settings page, and the form with the questions to answer shows up anywhere we show a “Request to Join” button to a prospective member.

This means that a person using Hylo can see:

  • All groups that they are a member of
  • Groups that are set to Visibility: Public
  • The parent groups of all groups they are a member of
  • Child groups of all group they are a member of (unless the child group has set itself as Visibility: Hidden)

These groups will be discoverable in the Groups View or on the Map, greatly enhancing the ability for people on Hylo to find and join groups that are meant for them!


Thanks to a number of UI enhancements, Hylo is continuously becoming more beautiful and easy to use. Here are the gems from this release:

The Create button on the left sidebar opens a new modal where you can create any kind of post OR a new group! You can now create a Project or Event from this modal instead of having to go to the Projects or Events section to do so.

A new group creation modal replaces the old community creation wizard. It allows you to set the Visibility and Access of the group, as well as select one or more parent groups for the new group.


A new, streamlined signup flow makes account creation a breeze.

We’ve introduced a simple in-app onboarding tour where Axel the Axolotl introduces new members to key Hylo functionality.

  • Everywhere we show a list of groups, we now sort them alphabetically. This includes in the group selector when creating a post, in the affiliations lists on user profiles, in personal settings, and in the navigation drawer.
  • The Save button on the personal and group Settings pages now sticks to the bottom of the viewport so it is always visible and more clear when something needs to be saved.
  • We upgraded Projects to have location and times. Now they can appear on the map, and show whether the task has been completed or not.
  • Many more small fixes and improvements to the UI on mobile web.


We’ve upgraded personal profiles with new key details:

  • Members can add organizational affiliations (for groups on Hylo or not) and these appear on the personal Profile.
  • Members can edit their Profile to show skills they have and skills they are seeking.
  • Profiles now show project membership, events attended, and all recent member activity.
  • We introduced a new personal Settings page for Invites & Requests where you can see any current invites and requests to join a group, and cancel, accept, or reject them.

Mobile Apps

Last but not least, we’ve made big improvements to the mobile apps as well! Holonic architecture is fully reflected in the mobile apps, in addition to layout updates and usability enhancements for a smoother experience.

  • The holonic architecture conversion has been implemented, with the new related Group View and group navigation menu, and join questions when requesting membership to a Restricted group.
  • Updated Group Creation includes Visibility and Access options, plus the option to associate with a related group.
  • The stream filter can be set to show Events only.
  • There is a new option to view Public Groups & Posts, matching the web experience.
  • A redesign to drawer and tab navigation (moving Search and Messages to tabs) makes for a more intuitive experience.
Groups View on iOS

Take it for a spin and let us know what you think!

We’ve put a lot of love and late nights into building these features, and we’re excited to release them to our community and see what you do with them!

Please let us know what you think — questions, comments, bug reports are all welcome — through the Feedback and Support tab in Hylo. We’re a small team but we’re listening, and we’ll do our best to resolve any issues promptly.

One thing we’re noticing for existing networks is that the topics didn’t get copied from subgroups to the new parent group. For communities that were using the network functionality, members may need to re-subscribe to topics in certain groups.

Our deepest gratitude

We want to express our deepest gratitude to everyone who made this release possible. Thank you for believing in Hylo, and the future of cooperatively-stewarded technology for thriving!

The Planetary Health Alliance — Huge thanks to the team for your thoughtful engagement with us through all the co-creation sessions to develop this feature set. It’s a privilege to work with such a potent case study of a network organization doing great work in the world!

Our Product Team — Tibet Sprague, Aaron Brodeur, Neha Sharma, Loren Johnson, Pospi, Shen-Shen Wu, Tom Watson — thank you for all your hard work. You are amazing!

Hylo’s Open Source Community — Thank you to everyone at Building Hylo contributing your insight to the development of this open source project. We especially appreciate our beta testers, code contributors, our Prosocial circle and Governance circle, our crowdfunding participants and all our donors and partners. It’s an honor to collaborate with you in service to a thriving planet.

More coming soon!

Terran Collective

A community of care and practice in the Bay Area bioregion.

Terran Collective

A community of care and practice in the Bay Area bioregion. We amplify cooperation among people regenerating our communities and our planet, by building systems and tools that grow trust and relationship. We steward open-source community platform Hylo.

Clare Politano

Written by

Software engineer building regenerative technology for collective governance @terrancollectiv. Student of nature. Aerialist and explorer.

Terran Collective

A community of care and practice in the Bay Area bioregion. We amplify cooperation among people regenerating our communities and our planet, by building systems and tools that grow trust and relationship. We steward open-source community platform Hylo.