Hi from Steve Gill at VME (soon to be VME Co-op)

Hi @SteveGill.

Great story. Come across Mario Gerada (Omnicare Cooperative) in Malta by any chance? Like you, man on a mission.

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Not met Mario Gerada, no, but sounds interesting! Is this him? https://www.facebook.com/Mario.Gerada1

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Hi @SteveGill, welcome!

Have you given much thought regarding what license you might use when open sourcing your code base?

These days the most popular ones are the MIT/BSD/X11/Apache style licenses as these allow the corporations, who release a lot of code using these types of licenses, to, in effect, privatise the code by distributing complied code without the source code — these open source licenses grant you the freedom to make the code closed source.

If you don’t want your code to be allowed to be made closed source then you would need to use a Copyleft license which enforces sharing, for example the GPL or AGPL.

Hi Chris, I haven’t looked into the right license yet, no - but I agree its a very good point. My ideal would be something that could be used freely by co-ops but not allow our (non co-op) private competitors to just steal all our work and embed it into their products. Difficult to do but at least if our license was right would help.

Ideally it would be a system only accessible to co-ops, because we’re building competitive advantages into this that we don’t want the big retailers (non customers) to be able to access. However I cannot see a way to do this, unless its only registered co-ops given access to github?

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Still working on it @harry but should have everything ready for Open Co-op.

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Nope :slight_smile: (Tho ‘this’ Mario also lives in Malta…)

http://www.omnicarecoop.org/Pages/about_message.html for ‘my’ Mario

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There is the Peer Production License, but the only project I’m aware of that is using it is looking at using another license.

My suggestion would be the AGPL:

The GNU Affero General Public License is a modified version of the ordinary GNU GPL version 3. It has one added requirement: if you run a modified program on a server and let other users communicate with it there, your server must also allow them to download the source code corresponding to the modified version running there.

It wouldn’t stop non-coop private competitors from using the code but it would force them to share any changes they made to it, so if they added some additional code for some new feature you would then have access to this to incorporate it into the core codebase — sharing would be enforced, I think this is probably as good as it gets in terms of co-operative software licenses.


Nope :slight_smile: (Tho ‘this’ Mario also lives in Malta…)

http://www.omnicarecoop.org/Pages/about_message.html 1 for ‘my’ Mario

I think its the same - his facebook page says “CEO & Founder at Omnicare Cooperative Ltd”.

I’ve got a mutual friend so I’ll try and make contact. Thanks for the heads up!

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This is an excellent idea. I have a meeting with the lawyer tomorrow about the conversion so I’ll raise it with him at the same time - thanks!


Hi Steve, and welcome. Your plans are exciting. I’m particularly interested in the Co-op Exchange project and learning more about how that will work, to enable new mechanisms for investment in cooperatives.

On the licensing front I don’t see why you shouldn’t use or build on the peer production license - it sounds like a great fit for your software.


I’m particularly interested in the Co-op Exchange project and learning more about how that will work, to enable new mechanisms for investment in cooperatives.

I thought I’d replied to this, sorry Graham! There will be more details posted very soon, hoping to get things ready for Open Co-op. I’m super excited about this though :smiley:

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The Malta prime minister is an amazing story, and I certainly like the idea of Maltese platform cooperative Silicon Valley, I would move there tomorrow if I could :smiley: !

I made a “debate” with @Graham on Kialo about the future of platform cooperatives, whether the focus will be more on platform coops with globally spread or locally clustered membership. However, it might very well be that platform coops that have a globally spread membership will be registered in concentrated geographically in one or few countries.

One problem with sustainable growth for global platform cooperatives, like Social Coop (a microblogging platform coop similar to Twitter) is that although in practice it’s a cooperative, and very democratic one, the democratic decisions are not legally binding. It’s very hard to impossible to have a legal cooperative with global membership and asynchronous decision making.

On the other hand, you only need one country to make it very easy to set up cooperatives that anyone from anywhere can join easily, and platform cooperatives take a big step forward. With traditional cooperatives, every country have to make its own laws about cooperatives.

I was first betting that country could’ve been Estonia, but now I’m starting to think maybe you and the people involved there can make it happen in Malta instead, no pressure though :smiley: !

There was some talk in Social Coop about registering as a Maltese cooperative. Social coop didn’t generally see it relevant yet to turn into a legal cooperative, but there seemed to be pretty widespread agreement that in the long term we need to have more binding legal structure, and operating as a Maltese cooperative seems like one of the best ways to do it. The fellow who proposed this in Social Coop is from Malta himself, I don’t know him personally but since there probably aren’t many people on the planet who has put so much thought into platform cooperatives and Maltese cooperative law as you and him, he might be someone you want to contact. Here is his account on social coop and here is his Loomio account. I also linked this discussion to him.

Let me know if I can be of any help, although I’m afraid my only useful skill is translating stuff from English to Finnish :smiley: . I am also involved in WeCollective, and we would certainly love to take part in the Co-op Exchange based on what you have written about it.

Exciting stuff! See you again on Open Coop!


Is it really? I think pretty much any UK legal structure could be used for such an enterprise, no? Some advisors are risk averse and advise against having non-UK members, but legally there is nothing stopping anyone doing it, and lots have already done it.

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I stand corrected, I understood from the Loomio discussion in social coop that legally binding cooperative structure would be difficult to set up and that the Maltese law was exceptionally flexible, but even it had problems (requiring identification). I also know Finnish coop law has similar problems, but now when you mentioned I also remember reading that in UK you often use gas bills and such as identity verification, something that would be unthinkable here :slight_smile:.

This option was never brought up in the Loomio discussion regarding social coops legal structure, I have to ask them if they would be interested in it some day soon.

Do you happen to know if it’s possible for a foreign citizen who doesn’t live in the country to set up a cooperative in the UK?

I think so, yes. Pretty sure anyone can. Certainly seen Companies that have only non UK based people as Directors and lots of model rules for cooperative companies available…


Hey Leo, it might be worth asking CoTech members DTC I believe that’s what they’ve done (but might be mistaken!)


@SteveGill - On Maltese possibilities, I had a slight hand in the Malta Co-op Law of 2001 with the help of Godfrey Baldachhino of the University of Malta https://staff.um.edu.mt/gbal1/ who hired me for the job. The current text of the Law is here https://drive.google.com/file/d/10eyWtEJjsZk8T8AmtYI-iNViuMoCBK-_/view?usp=sharing It was designed to meet the needs of the existing users but there’s probably no reason why it couldn’t accommodate a tech workers’ co-op. Godfrey might be able to help.


So might the Malta Co-operatives Board http://maltacooperativefederation.coop/


Holy thread resurrection! It only took another 2 years, and 4 attempts worthy of a book on its own, and almost £250,000 in professional fees, but finally we managed to convert to a worker coop, on Monday 28th September 2020 - my birthday!

The reason for the delay I’ll explain in what’ll have to end up being a book, and like any good book there are goodies and baddies in it, but water under the bridge as VME is now a 35 member worker coop, across 3 countries. I’ll leave it at, I wanted us to be a multistakeholder co-op, but couldn’t convince the retail societies to get involved.

Now that its done, I’m going to be part time at VME so I can be mostly full time on delivering Coop Exchange. We’ve been discussing Coop Exchange with the ICA which is part of the reason for the delay on that, but the main reason has been the focus on getting VME over the line first.

@Cooplawman my apologies for not replying to your post. Part of me going part time is dedicating more time to social media and co-operative forums like Cotech. I am based in Scotland now although hope to return to Malta in the future. For now we’re focussing on getting Coop Exchange live in the UK.


Congratulations! I look forward to reading the book! :smiley:

Please share more details about Coop Exchange. @coopsmark @Graham and myself are trying to pull together a working group to properly spec out a co-op crowdfunding and share/ membership management platform and there is obviously loads of overlap in terms of goals.

I think @Graham has perhaps recently chatted with you about this already?

Looking forward to learning more! :smiley:

Also, will VME be joining CoTech? (I’m not sure, but I think so long as you’ve got UK members you should be eligible. I’m assuming VME is incorporated in Malta?)

PS shame you couldn’t get retail societies to get involved :confused:

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Hi Josef, many thanks!

Firstly, it would be awesome for VME to join co-tech, and makes perfect sense. I’ve been banging the drum for larger societies to spend money with tech co-ops for some time now, most recently in a presentation to the Westminster Co-op party MPs in the middle of this year. There’s a reason it’s called the Co-operative Economy, and there’s a reason why co-operation amongst co-ops is one of the seven principles! I’d welcome any discussions about pushing that issue forward, perhaps with the weight of Coops UK behind it.

Ref Coop Exchange, this deserves a much more thorough response, but the short version is I’ve put in a conservative estimate of about £400k into the project, and am personally taking a substantial cut to my own income to go part time VME so I can spend time on Coop Exchange (which cannot afford, obviously, to pay me a wage!).

Coop Exchange is (or will be, once the finalised FairShares co-operative articles are adopted later this year) a Northern Ireland company, and it has a Maltese company as well. We have been speaking to the ICA in detail on this and still are (although slooooooowly) and a few large societies to invest. It needs around £10m invested to get it off the ground, mainly to employ people but a big chunk is the FCA requirements on capital.

This £10m investment will be in the form of investor shares without voting rights but with a guaranteed percentage of surplus.

Ironically, the regulations make it extremely difficult for us to raise money from the public, which is why we’re pursuing large (international) societies for the first investment round.

Our intention is, once live in the UK, to go live in Europe (via our Malta branch), and then likely into North America. NA is a substantially bigger challenge, likely to require a minimum of £20m for discussions with the SEC, but could be substantially more. That’s why Coop Exchange is a long term project for me, with the rest of my working life dedicated to it. Although it feels like its going slow (and it has the last 1.5 years, reasons why will come out in the book to protect the innocent for now) it is important we get this 100% right, 99.9% is not good enough. For example, a scam co-op raising funds on the platform would sink it. Another example is voting rights - its fine when investors have no rights but if they use Coop Exchange to invest they are user members, with voting rights. Its imperative we are custodians of this coop for the long term future, with indivisible reserves to ensure it can never be broken up or sold for the profit of its members.

Our intention is to get the articles finalised and get working on how we can allow others to get involved and to contribute in a fair and equitable manner. That’s our short term goal right now. Our dream is to have it live in the UK for next year’s ICA congress, but its too early to say if we’ll make that or not.

With regards to the working group you’re talking about, I agree there is overlap but one of the things that drew me to the co-operative movement in the first place is that we co-operate, not be frightened of competition. I’ve always said if someone could solve the capital conundrum before Coop Exchange then happy days, the job is done. So what I’m saying is I’d be more than happy to help within the limits of time, and hopefully vice versa you’ll be able to help Coop Exchange. Perhaps the 2 ideas would eventually come together, who knows. The most important thing for me is that a way for those who support co-operative principles and want to grow the co-operative economy are able to put their money into co-operatives who need it, and as soon as possible, especially because of the massive job losses due to covid. For example, Coop Group opened its 400th store delivery with Deliveroo. If it were to invest some of its community donations into a new co-operative to compete with deliveroo, thereby providing the capital to employ people, and gave its business to that new coop instead of Deliveroo, we’d be off the ground. Its not difficult, but we need leaders and managers who understand co-operative values and principles.

I’ll be posting more over the next few months, but happy to answer any specific questions if it helps.