Hello everyone! I'm a technologist launching an open source multi / hybrid cloud technology cooperative with some fellow colleagues from the DC civic technology community. Looking to learn more about coops, gather and validate ideas, and connect with other cooperatives as we start our journey. Business wise, I'm most interested in #technology, #cloud, #software, #engineering, #operations, #platforms, #finance, #law, and #orgdesign. I love #music, #democracy, and #fractals
@ntnsndr Sure! Also, happy to answer any specific questions. First we are just starting after having built an MVP (finalizing a name next week and deciding exact structure, although I am very interested in a Colorado based Public Benefit Limited Cooperative Association). Our first open source "product" is a modular Content Management System for Infrastructure Management (think of it as a kind of Drupal/Wordpress for secure and auditable system administration built for large scale automation).
@ntnsndr Our long term vision focuses on building federated cloud capabilities between organizations / divisions to easily create shared services and allow smaller/ niche organizations to provide standardized computing, storage, and other cloud services to integrated IT efforts using technologies people love to use. Much like capital based businesses the cloud is being consolidated among large vendors that don't play well together incentivising vendor lockin. We hope to help fix this problem.
@ntnsndr That's a great question, and we are still figuring this out, so we are always open to advice. One of the reasons I have been looking into the LCA is that it allows multiple classes and we really want a primarily worker controlled company that can accept investment (not that we want to rely on it). So we would have employee partners and potential investors. But I've recently been thinking it might be interesting to add a consumer class to the mix. Not sure how that would work though.
@ntnsndr We have agreed in principle to keep it as simple as possible starting out so we don't need 10,000 lawyers to help us figure it out, but changing the ownership dynamic is very important to all three of us. We all met working for the US government and care a lot about social responsibility. But I also care about how we will scale our operations and engage in physical manufacturing (we will have well capitalized competitors). So my mind keeps drifting to a hybrid coop model. Any advice?
@awebb I think simplicity is key. Complex multistakeholder relationships sound nice at the outset, but what happens in a generation when the stakeholder relationships change due to unforeseen circumstances? I think a combination of one core stakeholder class plus a strong mission anchor (like benefit corporation or other purpose structure) might be preferable to balancing several diverse classes within the governance structure.
@ntnsndr Do you have any knowledge of how that might work in a LCA structure that allows some investment (but never a majority)? I know LCAs are pretty new, but have weaknesses been found with that model in the coop community? I have started reading your book and you make note of successful platform coops using multi stakeholder models. Are there good examples of single stakeholder coops in the platform space we can look into? We care a lot about growth because it brings economies of scale.
@awebb The platform coop sample is so new that it's hard to know the long term consequences. Most are multistakeholder. But before that most coops have been single stakeholder, except social coops, which are really more like nonprofits.
@awebb but that's not to say a multistakeholder model won't work, just to say it's a collective experiment.
@awebb in terms of purpose, I know that CO lawyer Jason Wiener quite frequently combines benefit corp incorporation with LCAs.
@ntnsndr Thanks for your advice so far and pointing out a good coop lawyer! That could definitely help. We’ll enquire about their legal service.
@ntnsndr I know you are likely really busy, but was wondering if you might be willing to read thoughts on the start of an organizational model I put together a few months ago and point out potential red flags from your experience and research? I completely understand if you don’t have time (23 pages with a TOC), but if you can you would be helping us see a broader perspective.
If you are interested in learning more, here is a link to the public Google doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16ffR42srHYBl1WEsKGJ-f9vtpryPxAU9irLO6z_M0VU/edit?usp=sharing
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