Worker-owned co-ops are coming for the digital gig economy
"As companies like Uber and Handy flail, they’ve cleared a path for worker-owned digital platforms to replace them–and now, there’s a new toolkit to help them get started."
@h "To that end, Scholz’s organization, the Platform Cooperative Consortium at The New School, is debuting a Platform Co-op Development Kit. With a $1 million startup grant from Google.org (part of a $50 million economic development grant competition), the Kit will help bring worker cooperatives into the digital economy, and fund the buildout of platforms that will support their work."
This concerns me a bit... I'd prefer Google to stay out of the platform coop world, TBH
@h @samtoland @Antanicus It definitely highlights the importance of being willing and able to patrol the boundaries of "cooperative" and poke at people who attempt to trade on the model's good will while violating the statement on cooperative identity.
The other question this raises implicitly for me is why #coops and #coop movement institutions w/ significant capital have not stepped up to support #platformcoop development at similar levels, and what needs to be done to get them to do so?
@samtoland We, the cooperativists, in the most general, broad, and all-encompassing meaning of the expression.
We lack standards, we lack cohesion, we lack a narrative that makes sense outwardly, we lack education, there's no end to the list of things we lack compared to our enterprisey counterparts.
(save for the canonical case studies and success stories)
I would be a little more careful about flippant remarks like 'we are a mess'.
I think the duality of 'we are X' or 'we aren't Y' isn't very useful, and succeeds in completely minimising the tremendous amount of work that many people have put into building out the movement and the ecosystem in the last few years.
Fair enough to point out areas for improvement - but I'd recommend a slightly more thoughtful approach (and accept you may be missing some progress).
But I'll accept what you say in good faith ;)
The challenges etc. - you wouldn't find anyone here disagreeing I believe - lots of work to do as you've outlined in one your replies...
But there is progress on this on a near daily basis - let's not forget this #socialcoop! :)
@samtoland My vantage point is that the capitalist enterprise is already well on its way to own everything. I believe that's a fairly uncontroversial notion, not a special, strange, odd vantage point.
I was trying to make myself clear because you couldn't understand what I was talking about. I don't have a personal urge to come back in six months to do that again.
By this I don't mean that we have to be an uniform thing like the Borg, that would be the death of it.
We need to retain the diverse, and multicultural nature of the cooperative movement, and deepen that.
But we do have an imperious need to double down on technological development and education. We're decades behind the enterprise world and it's an advantage we can no longer keep giving.
The simplest radical coop idea I can come up with:
We need to keep the coop culture and deepen its multicultural richness staying true to its original values and doubling down on them, add the enterprise choreography and technically advanced know-how to act like a more unified front.
And steer clear of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.
@Antanicus Tangentially related, Michele, you may remember that last year I attempted to introduce the concept of Business Process Management. We later got busy with other more basic things. I'm thinking of inter-coop cooperative work using something like this.
The free software code already exists, the know-how exists, we're lacking an enormous educational effort.
And I don't mean teaching Microsoft Word.
@mattcropp @Antanicus @samtoland @h It is my experience that cooperatives, especially larger older richer ones, are very risk averse, and have come very late to the digital party. Also, I don't know what it's like where you are, but here in the U.K. we do't have a tradition of the cooperative movement investing in its own future (it tends to put more into charitable causes, ironically). I'm hoping that this mill from the Google Foundation might stir some action.
You're right that G moving into the space might shake things up a bit.
What do you think is more likely... that 1) The rusty risk-averse old coops will reject G because they don't hold #cooperative values at heart
2) Being risk-averse they will use whatever tried and true rubbish Google throw at them. And oh, also shitloads of money!
On the one hand, Google moving into #coopspace is some sort of validation. Or at least confirmation that capitalism is finally dying. I'll take that gladly.
On the other hand, it would be nice if they just went to some other world to ruin things elsewhere.
hahaha you're absolutely right.
Plenty of people (including co-operators) need to see some 'success' from the #platformcoop movement (either in adoption or raising capital) before they get involved.
As soon as #Resonate raised some signficant capital... it has a bit of a snowball effect.
Expect the same with this.
But concerns should be addressed though.
They've definitely been (frustratingly) slow to the party - but co-operativism is inherently risk adverse (which isn't necessary a terrible thing in all cases).
Platform building is a really risky business - requiring a lot of capital and often a very uncertain return.
But things are developing.
#PhoneCoop are supporting 2018.open.coop and set up a Co-operative Innovation Fund.
The bigger commercial #coops need a kick in the backside for sure, and many apex & co-op development organisations could be doing a lot more.
But it's a matter of poking/prodding and doing the hard work... consciousness raising! This takes time, is intensive but pays off in the long run.
It took the neo-liberals 30 years to establish hegemony... but it had profound effects in the end...
#platformcooperativism started in 2014 remember
@samtoland @Graham_Mitchell @Antanicus @mattcropp I have to say I’ve worked with many beneficial organizations who thought they could have a “strictly financial” relationship with companies like Google and found out the hard way about “fruit of the poison tree”.
I don’t mean to be hand-wavy about it, but making a concrete case is going to take more time than I have. The tl;dr is that it’s not impossible, but it requires a level of discipline and self-control I’ve never seen IRL.
Not so much that taking cash in the first instance is such a terrible thing, or necessarily corrosive.
But it starts putting bringing people into the room, which doesn't necessarily have such a great long term impact on ethos.
I'm always reminded of how the 'traditional' environmental movement got co-opted over time....
I wonder how the #PCC could/should put up firewalls - maybe more accountability?..
@jjg @mattcropp @Antanicus @Graham_Mitchell my gut is that since the funding has happened... the #platformcoop community (including those working at the #platformcoopconsortium etc.) should be actively thinking about how to deal with issues like this - and hopefully address them.
I'm far from ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater in this case - and I suspect I'm not the only one.
Plenty of great work and great people involved.
I think we need all of the above here. The mil from Goog will help support particular kinds of things, including things big co-ops would be less likely to support. But just as important are the emerging co-op-led investment opportunities. And things like the mil from RChain to Resonate. And more. We need many pieces. In the scheme of what we need, the Goog mil is just part of the beginning.
This is the open source of cooperativism taking the money whilst it's fresh and available, desirous of shaking hands with the killer robots company, leaving cooperative values aside, and being very correct expressing their concerns that the baseline might possibly be shifted when everything in history indicates that the baseline will all but certainly be shifted.
I can't waste a minute more, it's a fork.
@jjg @mattcropp @Antanicus @Graham_Mitchell @samtoland that there is a longstanding, working (even legal?) definition of what is a coop helps. The strategy of "locking it open" like open source licenses, to prevent cooptation (different kind of coop heh)
There's a Denver "commons" space that is just a business incubator space sponsored by the likes of Comcast and Wells Fargo. 🤢🤢🤢
@jjg @mattcropp @Antanicus @Graham_Mitchell @samtoland yeah, which reminds me. I need to talk with a space that opened up in my neighborhood calling itself a "coop" but is rumored to be simply a nonprofit run space. I think it's important that even if well intentioned, the term maintain its integrity. Call it a community space if you're not actually a coop.
@clayton @samtoland @Antanicus @mattcropp @jjg Agreed. I'm not concerned that Google is about to swallow platform cooperativism. The money is petty cash to them, and probably jus tone of many projects that they support annually.
The reality is that the overwhelming majority of on-the-ground-cooperation happens outside of what we might consider to be the formal cooperative movement, and if Google.org is interested in doing something in that space, I see that as a major step forward.
Milestones along the long and winding road include:
Highly successful worker co-op Poptel (an ISP providing email services to trade unions and the likes of the ANC back in the days of apartheid in SA), wanted to raise some serious money and asked the traditional co-ops to help. Had they backed Poptel, it would today be one of the major ISPs in the UK. Instead it ended up going into private hands.
At the end of the 20th century the innovative but broke worker co-op federation ICOM merged with the rich but doomed (by consolidation) Co-operative Union to create Co-operatives UK. A fantastic opportunity to bring the creativity and energy of the worker-owned sector together with the wealth and market power of the trad co-ops, but the opportunity was fluffed.
Ten years ago we pitched what we'd now call a platform co-op business model to a major consumer co-op in the UK. They declined to invest (a very modest sum). Likewise Co-operatives UK. Had one or other (or both) backed us, the platform co-op mvmt would be 5-10 years ahead of where it currently is.
Different countries have different realities due to the variations in the local legislation and incentives that governments have created for the coop sector over the last 100 years.
In some countries too little, in some countries too much.
Seeing as things stand countries where governments intervened too little may have a comparative advantage if they want to break new ground, as long as they don't sit idle waiting for Google to mess things up
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