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.