Hi all. LIke the title says - I am looking for people to work with. But to get here I have to start somewhere else…
I used to work in IT, as a QA /software test analyst, requirement analyst, defect manager, team leaded. Industries: banking, telecomms, printing, medical software, then more printing, then more banking. About 15 years. I know how to set up the defect mgmt processes, how to manage them, prioritise them, follow them up, report and retest them. How to write a test plan, what a test plan is for, who should be interested in it and why - it’s not necessarily a useless doc, but can be. I know how to coordinate diverse teams in diverse timezones. I like to think that I have a nice talent of being able to see what other people’s talents are.
I worked in Bath, Bristol; Swindon, London, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Brussels and Amsterdam. Then…
Myself and my partner moved out into the sticks. Needed a breather from big cities and big companies and big projects.
Having been working on a variety of projects in and around our property, and tried our hand at producing organic food and selling it, we have come across many challenges. Those challenges have led me to think of new solutions that would benefit not only myself but other people and planet too. They are to do with a mobile app that would sell locally grown food locally. The platform I envisaged would be available globally, but run locally, by locals and for locals + any surplus woudl be channeled to the projects that benefit the planet. And the second one is - how to fund startups in a way that doesn’t tie them either to banks or to VC?
Then I tried to find funds for these two projects and was not able to… so far.
Having reflected on what next - I concluded: I look for people to work with. Either on these two projects if there are people interested, and if we together can raise the funds we need, or on other projects that are worth doing and that could benefit from my set of skills and experience. I culd join an existing coop or we could set up a new one if that makes more sense.
I am looking for remote work - ad-hoc or steady, full time or part time. Reasonable rates. Am in CEST timezone (Central European, Paris, Brussels, Berlin).
Thanks for reading.
I look forward to your thoughts.
Hi all. LIke the title says - I am looking for people to work with. But to get here I have to start somewhere else…
In general, I am very sympathetic to those topics. I have no remote work, or anything to offer/suggest though.
The title mentioned France, so maybe you meant CET? (Although France is currently in CEST, the summertime version…). ECT is Ecuador.
Yes, something like OpenFoodNetwork, but mobile app and not website. I have made contact with them too… perhaps it is possible to work together. And yes, I mean CET… Central European Time - thanks for correcting me. I corrected it in my post now. There are quite a few initiatives like that already, I know, but that is not the reason not to try to do better if better can be done. It is a crowded space, though, … which may be good, because it shows that there is a lot of interest in those things now,or it may be less good because everyone ends up competing with everyone else and confusion reigns as to which network is better and why.
Hi there, thanks for sharing your journey and the idea. No doubt funding is critical in getting something off the ground, I will share a few things on this.
Earlier this year PCC (The New School) and Mondragon ran a two-month programme for platform (multistakeholder) co-ops. There was several hundred people from across the globe taking part and lots of skills got pooled, most ideas still turning into MVPs, some of them might proceed to raising capital. Mondragon team said they will host another iteration of the programme this autumn…
Before Covid we (at Animorph) were considering setting up another co-op; a bit of research on the capital aspect is in our blog post.
Perhaps Savvy co-op could be a good case study?
Hello Szczepan… Thanks for all the links. I shall have a look around… But here’s what I thought about … what startups could do. They could ask their customers to helps them raise funds - which they would later repay through reduced prices on their services or products. This way they would not have either banks or VC to worry about. There would need to be some kind of open ledger type thing where it would be possible to see exactly how much money came to the startup from their customers and how much they repaid through reduced prices - which can be done through a tech solution… This would prevent capital flowing to the VC-ists and would allow it to stay in the locality or community and work could still be done.
I had a quick look… what still seems to be the case, even in coops, is that capital/investors, funders and customers are seen as parties separated from each other by their different spheres of interest. Capital investors have one interest: ROI. Even in coops. Even when they package it nicely and call it something else, and even when they are concerned perhaps about workers and environment. Their interests are not necessarily those of the founders or the customers or the planet. The interest of the founder then becomes the interest of the investor, as that is the deal they tend to make - one way or another. The customers then have to take it as it comes… if they don’t readily want to, then they have to be manipulated into it, by means of ‘clever’ marketing etc. As Zuck famously put it: ‘dumb fucks’.
Whereas, what I would like to work on with people who may be interested is: a model/platform where customers are investors. They invest small amounts and are repaid through products and services, not necessarily in cash. Therefore, they will remain customers because they have vested interests. Therefore they don’t have to be manipulated into it - which saves a lot of human endeavour which can be put to better use. It would be a kind of customer lending. The advantages would be many, for both customers and founders/startups or anybody else.
I have been looking high and low over the past year or more to see how these things are done. And even in the incubators/accelerators, and coops and everywhere I have looked - the capital investors are a separate category from founders and customers and they all end up a litlle (or a lot) played against each other. But if customers do become investors, that changes the picture.
Another problem that could be solved this way would be raising the initial sum necessary to be able to make a start at all. The captal investors don’t tend to do that, they tend to come onto the scene only once the business exists and can prove that it is profitable by submitting their annual accounts as a proof. But how can one get started at all if one doesn’t have personal resources, or friends and family who can prop them up?
Sorry, this is not exclusively linked to the subject of coops, but just thought to see if there would be people around here with whom something like this could be done (namely a new fintech solution that would allow capital to not flowback out to capital investors, but instead to stay in the community that invested into businesses in their own locality or industry ) - as the spirit of coops is what would go well in a project like this.
If interested, please get in touch.
In the recent stir to action festival there was this session Family Farm Succession and Community Ownership (video) where Charlotte Hollins talked about their community ownership process for Fordhall Organic Farm where 8000 people bought £50 community shares (from my memory), which enabled them to raise enough money to get it all going. Maybe this goes in the direction you’re thinking? The key bit for me was becoming embedded in the local community.
I have followed Fordhall for while. They inherited a working farm, and used this process to build tearooms and such things. All good. I dont follow it too closely now, so not sure what their ‘investors’ can do with those community shares, ie what those shares entitle them to?
However, I am not specifically talking or thinking about farms - that model is known as CSA and it already exists and is practised - I am rather talking about CSB - cummunity supported business. It can be embedded in a locality but it can also be’embedded’ in a specific online community, why not? Or a specific industry. I am talking about raising initial funds necessary to be able to start a business, without relying on banks and VC. And maybe even later, like they did in Fordhall - raise money from their customers to grow or extend the offer.
I wasn’t thinking about shares, as that is not my area of expertise, although, that’s certainly one way of doing it. I was talking about repaying the customers through products and services until such time and the value of investment is completely repaid (and not forever) and possibly even a little interest. But the essence being - repayment in products or services and not cash and without diluting the equity, so that the new business is not forced to chase cash at all costs, but can, if it so chooses, make better decisions, take better care of workers, environment, etc.
Fo example; an electrician wants to set up a shop in a town. They advertise on this new platform and invite people who anticipate needing electrical works in their house to invest with them. Those people would then become customers of that new business, and the business would have the first feedback, the first ‘bouche à oreille’, etc. If, for example, a customer invests 500 GBP in a new electrical business, they would be entitled to 500 GBP worth of discounts on services later on. Thus they would be repaid. What it means is that the electrician would pay themselves less when working for their ‘customer/investors’ than for other clients. And customer/investors would be paid back their investment. This could be handled via some tokens or vouchers. Or some smarter way. It would be in the electrician’s interest to treat their first customers well and do a good job for them and thus get recommended.
There are more possibilities there, things that can be done, but this is the essence… It could be used by anybody and it would be especially maybe useful for coops and it could be run by a tech coop.
Sounds like crowdfunding with perks, e.g. indiegogo lets people put money in, and if it works out, they’ll receive a specific perk. And it seems to have at least some usage from local businesses, e.g. https://www.indiegogo.com/explore/local-businesses (or the open source platform goteo looks interesting, and also has a perks feature called “rewards”).
Given these platforms exist (even if they’re not exactly perfect), I have a feeling the harder part is getting cool new projects to start, use the platform, and then getting sufficient people to hand over their money
I’d love to see this happen more, I think there is a lot of idle money sitting around… and cool projects and ideas…
Why is getting a cool new projects to start hard?
Corwdfunding - as far as I understand - asks people ‘to hand over their money’ - ie to donate. The perks are often things like t-shirts and similar that do not come close to the value of donation. Of course, because otherwise donation wouldn’t make any sense and it wouldn’t be a donation at all.
If those platforms offer crowdlending - then repayment is in cash. Not services/products. Or the investment is against equity. Nobody does it against services/products that I know of.
I was looking at NextDoor https://fr.nextdoor.com/ . You know that one? Well, they claim to help local businesses, and neighbourhoods in general, by being a local marketing and networking platform for them. But… they also claim, in their news section that they have raised a capital of 170 million USD. So - they will have to somehow repay the capitalists. One way or another. Where are they making their money from? the Neighbourhoods. They don’t say anything about their business model -at least I didn’t see it. But one guesses they sell data entered by their users in the neighbourhoods they claim to help. That’s the in thing to do, isn’t it? Who do they sell it to? Big boys and girls. Whoever they may be. But why would the big boys and girls buy data from neighbourhoods? Because there is something in it for them - otherwise they wouldn’t. So… it seems that far from helping the neighbourhoods, the NextDoor actually sucks the money out of them, or helps others to do it.
I am thinking how to not let them do it, basically. Or at least how to try.
They do it in so many ways. Payment gateways/platforms… They get a percentage of all transactions worldwide. Everybody who shops online sends money to them - from all countries of the world - even the poorest ones. When tech community could design a nice payment platform that is cheap to run and that lets the money stay locally - in every locality of reasonable size. There are so many things that can be done - simply by changing the business model and instead of sending the money from all over the world to Silicon valley, people could keep some of it locally and do something for themselves and planet.
If only one day we can convince each other of it…
I think you explained this in your opening post
From a few projects I clicked some of the perks seemed just like things that customers would buy, like drinks from a cafe, seems you can just choose how you want to use it. Kickstarter seems already heavily used for getting money from doing pre-sales.
Maybe the fairbnb model relates to this, see how it works, but that’s quite different to the pre-sales funding model.
I’m not sure I quite understand what you want in relation to all these things, or how to go about it, but good luck!
What I am looking for is people interested in projects like the ones I describe above - to work on them together. LIke the subject of my post says.
I believe that a lot of good things can be done by putting the tech in service of planet and people.
OK, to continue this thread…
It is clear to many that we need an alternative economy that would serve us and the planet much better. It is also cleae to many that tech can play an important role in the process of transitioning to something better.
The first thing could be to assmeble an… assembly… I know. Sorry. But seriously, assembly that would voluntarily consider what could be involved and possible ways forward. Social media comes to mind, but I don’t want to use facebook for that
Can anybody suggest a good social media platform, reasonably ethical, and preferably decentralised - it doesn’t have to be free (inexpensive would do) , as long as one can talk on it freely without being spied on? Is there a social platform that is set up as a tech worker coop?
Then interested people could join and contribute.
Sounds kind of like you want Mastodon as a Service which could possibly be provided by social.coop but you would have to move them in that direction
Hey, thanks very much. I’ll try.
There is a social.coop strategy summit later this month, so if you join you can participate in that and help shape what it is for (I currently co-ordinate the tech stuff for social.coop, although rotating out of that role soon).
Cool. Thank you very much.
Continuation… If anybody has some spare time, energy and will - would you please join me in experimenting with https://groopit.co/ to learn how it works in groups of people and see if it could be useful to do some good brainstorming… It is freemium, we can start with free and if looking good, we could then see how to continue. If not looking good we go somewhere else.
What I want to brainstorm about is how to get the funding model in place for starting up coops and similar economic structures that do not extract the capital from localities and communities, that do not borrow from banks or get trapped by the VC, where to find the funds, how to make sure the funding continues in perpetuity so that the movement can grow and what the role of tech can be in it.
I know it is a big chunk, but… ‘he who dares wins’.
Only skim read this thread, but here are a few more thought/s links that might be of interest
Re customers be investors:
Yes, as @nick pointed out, much (I think, most) crowdfunding is actually pre-sales at a discount. But the customers don’t become co-owners so it’s not like investment in shares etc.
One good/ popular example that pre-dates crowdfunding as we know it now is the story of Deli Dollars. The Schumacher Society did a bit of research back in the day to see how business got their start-up finance. They found that in many/ most cases it was wealthy friends or relatives (often a granny) giving collateral for loans from banks (i.e. if they don’t pay the loan back, I will). So they started a thing called SHARE (Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy) that let people put money into a specific account at their local bank, and then local start-up businesses could ask to use the money in this account to be used as collateral for their business start-up loads. It was a network of surrogate grannies. Then one day Frank Tortoriello approached SHARE to see if he could access the network to help move his deli to a larger premises. But they said “actually, you don’t need our network of surrogate grannies, becaue you’ve already got a network of customers - just sell them del-dollars”. Deli-dollar were basically just vouchers that could be spent at the deli, that were sold at a discount and had a use-after date.
(there are quite a few other good little films about it online too).
Back in the early 00’s I read about Deli Dollars in David Boyle’s book Funny Money. I also discovered large mutual credit networks like Bartercard, and I ended up writing this proposal for a Sustainable Enterprise Agency which included my idea of “Quality Quids” which aimed to combine the two: people could pre-buy Quality Quids at a discount and then receive credits which they could spend with a network of social enterprises who agreed to accept them. IMHO it’s still a fucking brilliant and obviously needed idea, but sadly I never managed to get the idea of the ground back in 2002.
Anyways, even in the model customers were still not becoming proper co-owning members like they are in co-ops. But these days there is the FairShares stuff which does enable this.
See e.g. this overview:
More details in e.g. this book:
The closest thing I’ve seen to someone trying to create something like Quality Quids (but without the mutual credit bit) is Credibles and their “edible credits”, see:
As for sort-of aligned to the original post mobile phone apps, see Olio:
It started of as a way to reduce food waste by making it easy to give away to other local people, but looks like they’ve now expanded to be a kind of mobile app freecycle.
That’s all for now
They are basically Withdrawable Shares in a Society. i.e. they can potentially earn interest (although I don’t think Fordhall pay any interest) and can be withdrawn, subject to Director approval. They also make you a legal member/ owner of the Society which means you get to elect the Board and vote in AGMs.
More on Withdrawable Shares (generally referred to as “Community Shares” these days) here: