I was at OFFDEM over the weekend. I met people from co-operatives in the Netherlands and Germany. There is an effort underway to produce a German CoTech, and there is interest to do this in the Netherlands but without a large number of co-operatives to draw from. In France/Belgium there are a few different organisations which have similarities to CoTech (e.g. Libre-Enterprise)
I wanted to moot the idea of organising a CoTech gathering outside of the UK, and ask what people thought about this? I would find it easiest to organise in Paris where I’m based, but I think Amsterdam is the more accessible/plane-avoidant from different places (accessible by boat and train from the UK)
We could help with the founding of other CoTech networks in Germany, Netherlands and elsewhere directly in the gathering
We could look to create European federated structures directly in the gathering, both for co-operatives and other areas where it’s useful (e.g. for European hackerspaces)
There may be efforts like this already which I’m unaware of and it might be duplicated work
I’m aware that some people will need a long time to apply for a Visa on international travel, if they live in the UK but have a “third country” passport, so I’d propose organising it for quite some time in advance? I don’t know if this will be enough mitigation for everyone?
I have some experience organising CoTech gatherings (I helped organise the Newcastle gathering in 2019), but would obviously need help
Why Something Different
In terms of bootstrapping other CoTech networks we could probably achieve this without a gathering with the help of a few people who were active in the founding of CoTech
The organisers of OFFDEM aren’t organising it again next year but were looking for people to take this on. It was a good event that has been growing each year and it would be a shame not to have a fourth addition
What I’m looking for in this post
Initial thoughts and if it’s popular then a direction to head in (e.g. to narrow scope, to arrange a call, to find people who would help in actively organising)
If organising a co-op event in mainland Europe, why not do it Brussels. Cooperatives Europe, CECOP and the ICA are all based there in the same building, and given enough lead time they might even be able to help with marketing the event, possibly provide a venue and cup of tea, It would also raise the profile of CoTech and tech cooperatives in general, amongst the people that work for these orgs.
If looking to establish a European network of tech co-ops, especially if worker-ownership is a principle, then CECOP should really be putting resource behind that. @Sion knows the reality of life in CECOP (they are probably skint), but it s worth asking.
While I’m sure such an event would be interesting I’m less clear about what the goals are (hey I’m not even clear about what CoTech is for).
I met comrades from https://coopiteasy.be & https://coopdevs.org and we’re trying to find ways to work together. I’m based in NL myself so could be a contact person for such a network. Coop IT Easy were interested in doing some Co-op Cloud training sessions.
Down to discuss this and further build out from CoTech.
I’ll try my hand at giving CoTech a (limited) definition:
A federation of tech co-operatives in the UK
Useful for new co-operatives (like mine) who exist in part because of the support and contacts of CoTech, and certainly learned our sociocratic processes from CoTech and Outlandish in particular
Useful for the social connections it provides (e.g. Co-Op Cloud came into existence from CoTech connections)
Useful when using CoTech as a brand to apply for work from large organisations (it has happened once or twice)
The initial goals I had in mind:
Helping organise the next steps towards CoTech-esque organisations in France, Netherlands and Germany (these are just the people who have expressed interest in doing a European event)
Taking on the task of European federation, i.e. duplicating CoTech, but on the next scale up (for now this might just mean putting a bunch of faces, committing together and making new tools (website, forum, loomio)… and that’s already a lot)
Possibility of goals we could extend to if we’re comfortable with a bigger scale:
Possibility of expanding to other organisations (e.g. I’m aware of hackerspaces in London, Paris, Strasbourg and Brussels) - so European federation for these kinds of orgs as well, if we get the people there to do it
Open for new ambitions, but also keen to narrow down the core scope
I’m noting that there have been some enthusiastic responses and nobody yet has raised any critical concerns (please do!)
I’m proposing some first steps:
Contact CECOP, ICA, other organisations in Brussels
Propose some dates
Propose a scope
Get an initial budget, search for sponsors (including CoTech fund). Figure out how much we need from ticket sales
Open a Loomio poll (as soon as we have some rough estimates, dates etc)
I’d potentially be interested in doing pre-network work, finding who is around EU way, doing work and finding out who wants to form a block. And for what purpose. Find out the needs of people first and put a clear framing on it. It’s a huge effort ofc.
Going to formation without doing some leg work would probably leave us in the same situation as CoTech now - great humans, good info sharing and job network, good party here and there but not really clear how to go further and build political clout. I have a dual sense of CoTech being both inspiring and dissapointing at the same time. It’s the lingering vagueness? Like I don’t really want more “CoTech-esque”. I don’t rule out reaching higher levels of organisation but it’s been years and I thought we could do more together in that time.
I’m mostly invested in Co-op Cloud atm which has quite a practical focus. Sharing tools and resources for wiring up open source apps. From there we’re building up the governance and it’s going fine. But the groundwork has already been laid for the project, so people have a clear reason why they enter.
I wonder what the groundwork would look like for such a network here? Mixing wires with the CoTech threads and the new threads but I guess if we were to go out talking to people we’d have to have a clear story on what we did and what we want to do.
Btw we’ve met and discussed the federation model with CoopCycle folks who are doing an excellent job imho and have based our Co-op Cloud model on that. I think it’s very clear what they’ve done and I’d like to see a similar levels of clarity in CoTech and beyond. It’s worth taking a look!
You can organize an online gathering, and you can also add an in person option so people can meet in a particular place. In this case you can invite people from across Europe. And even from other places.
Just to ping and say that I’m still interested in organising this and I’m just wondering when the right time will be - with the recent developments of CoTech possibly joining workers.coop and possibly hiring a network coordinator it might be better to consider something towards a European federation later down the line (at least I think there’s no rush)