Invitation: New Platform Cooperative Project


#1

For the last couple of months I’ve been working with Mark Simmonds, a cooperative development specialist and a board member at Cooperatives UK to develop a strategy about how we might tackle a number of strategic challenges for the UK cooperative economy.

In particular, we are aware that the constituency of cooperative development specialists is not in a healthy state. People are getting older, with a growing number planning to retire in the not too distant future, very few new people are getting actively involved, in large part because of the fragility of the funding available to pay for the services provided by these specialists. The people who are involved are not well remunerated for their expertise.

And yet we are potentially on the verge of a change of government, with Labour giving strong indications of active support for the substantial growth of the cooperative economy.

Few cooperatives are significantly investing in the future of the cooperative economy (many currently divert profits to charitable causes rather than in support of new co-ops).

Clearly there’s something of a disconnect. Platform 6 (working title) seeks to address this by operating a cooperative digital platform and an associated marcomms strategy which will:

  • Build awareness of the cooperative business model
  • Enable supporters of the cooperative business model to join the platform co-op and contribute - financially and in other ways - to the future of the cooperative economy
  • Enable cooperative start-ups to build a community of interest and support around their business
  • Enable start-ups and existing cooperatives to pitch for funding
  • Provide access to cooperative development expertise, enabling these specialists to amplify their voice and extend their reach, makingbest use of this limited resource.
  • Provide opportunities for peer-to-peer support, in recognition of the expertise embedded within cooperatives (so-called 'barefoot cooperative development workers)
  • Complement the work of other organisations such as Co-operatives UK, CCF, Solidfund, etc.

We’re working on a shoestring currently and so our current MVP design involves a website and CRM linked to a Loomio group for discussion, governance and decision-making, and CoBudget for allocation of funds to projects and co-op start-ups using a collaborative crowdfunding approach (all knitted together with a lot of behind the scenes paddling. We’re talking to both Loomio and Cobudget about how we might further extend and deepen those relationships.

We are also talking to the Goteo Foundation in Barcelona about the potential to partner with them for a later stage iteration, as their current system incorporates a number of valuable features that we’d like to make use of. Early indications are thatthey are very interested to work with us.

We have the active support of the whole of the UK cooperative development community, and are now actively looking for interest and support from other individuals and organisations who share our vision of a vibrant and growing UK cooperative economy that is committed to investing in its own future.

Clearly we’re going to need to work with developers as key parts of the team in order to help us build out and extend various iterations of the platform as we progress. And of course we favour working with co-operators and cooperatives to take things forward.

If anyone or any organisation in this community is interested in working with us, please do get in touch with me, or make yourself known in this thread.

We’re curently finalising a submission to the Unfound accelerator programme, due by the end of this week, and it would great to be able to include names of more active supporters.


#2

Sounds great, we would love to provide web and email hosting and any DevOps / Sysadmin help as needed.


#3

@Graham - Good to hear and much needed. Lund’s like it aligns well with what I’ve been proposing, and now at early stages of working on, and this kind of development clearly needs everyone to work together as far as possible, so count me in.
My thinking now has moved towards mutual credit rather than a crypto token to support the co-operative exchange platform, and, Holochain, if it proves itself to be secure, reliable and as a scalable as promised, for the infrastructure. Apart from a fraction of the Blockchain energy costs, a completely distributed system that scales as each additional user adds their own (spare) computing capacity, seems right for a co-operative platform.


#4

Please also count Digital Liberties in. Richard Barbrook and I are particularly interested and like Bill I envisge Holochain as a potential for the infrastructure.

I would welcome the opportunity of having a phone-call and/or email exchange to develop this relationship.


#5

Many thanks for expressions of interest so far. The current agreement in the Loomio group we’re using is that new members can be invited to join if no existing members raises an objection. Consequently I’ve added a post there with the names of people who have posted here, and will send an invite in the next few days assuming that no objection is raised (which seems highly unlikely, but I’m bound by the rule that was set).


#6

I am particularly interested to involve people from this community that may be able to advise and input expertise on a technical front, as we take the project forward. I’m keenly aware of the time and cost implications that can can arise as a consequence of technology decisions, and whilst I believe that the approach that we have thus far adopted in terms of technology makes good sense, as we look further into the future things become far less clear cut.


#7

Sounds like a great project @Graham.

CoTech was intended to be roughly what you describe for a small co-op sector - (technology-focussed worker co-ops). Since there are some co-ops in the network that can’t afford to pay their members living wage there is obviously need for such a support service.

We also already have Loomio and CoBudget set up, which gives us a bit of head start. We’ve all invested quite a lot in the setup so far, so it would be nice to leverage what we have.

One problem that we obviously still have is getting some funds to distribute. I’m not entirely sure what the plan is here, but it would be good to have one.

Anyway, Outlandish would love to be involved.


#8

Actually, looking at the Unfound thing, it doesn’t appear to come with any money attached.

It seems to be focussed on ‘startup’ style ventures that already have a business plan, and need help with tech. I may be reading it wrong but, if that is the case, maybe a platform for Space4 or CoTech would be more achievable?


#9

excellent work Graham - count me in to help with Comms / Marketing etc
best
Oli


#10

Great to have your support @harry and Outlandish as a whole. Our focus is wider than just tech cooperatives, although we do see CoTech very much as a central element/partner/pillar/collaborator of what we are working to create, given the increasingly fundamental role of technology in business. Our goal is to complement what’s already there rather than compete, and by bringing things together in new ways and offering innovative approaches, to create synergies and add value. And of course to bring in new funding that isn’t currently being tapped.

The Unfound programme is actually coincidental and potentially fortuitous. It popped up at a time that enables us to make good use of it, if we are successful in our application (its deadlines have imposed some discipline on our development work!). There are some aspects of the programme that do look to be very interesting and useful (notable for me being the chance to gain insight into how/whether Stocksy handle good governance with 1000 or more distributed co-op members and how their systems enable/support/get in the way of that).

Keen to continue the conversation!


#11

Thanks Oli. Great to have your support.


#12

@Graham, I’d love to collaborate on this project. Would the team have a place for a frontend (React + Redux) or backend (PHP + MySQL) developer?

You can find out more about me here: http://igor-novikov.me/


#13

Thanks @Septi - I’ll be in touch.


Request For Help - Starting an Business-Infrastructure Co-operative
#14

Hi @Graham, happy to also provide hosting pro-bono


#15

As work progresses on this project - albeit somewhat slowly at present becuase everyone’s really busy and it’s all pro bono at this point - we’re looking at using the OpenCollective service to assist with fundraising and disbursements as they are a good way ahead of where things stand with the Cobudget project right now. I’ve had calls with a couple of their people and they seem really open and interested to work with us. One thing I’d like to consider is the potential to integrate the opencollective platform with GoCardless. They currently work with Stripe and Paypal, both of which have charges that are substantially higher than GoCardless, and for UK/EU people at least, GoCardless feels like a better way to work.

I’m wondering if anyone in the CoTech community might be interested to help on this, and if so, on what basis.


#16

Greetings from the States. My biggest concern at the moment for all of our efforts in building tech Co-ops is the “tyranny of structurelessness” and duplication and/or diffusion of effort. There seems to be plenty of talent with only small slices of time & focus available to work on any given project.

The trick, it seems to me, is how to organize all those time slices into a cohesive and focused whole. That is one of the problems I’m trying to solve.

I’m available to help your efforts and have general software dev skills in a number of domains & languages. While I used to work at PayPal, that doesn’t seem like something you need help with. Let me know how I can contribute (+8 hrs time zone).

Great to see the progress you have been making on this! Cheers.

Alan