Just saw this blog post from @Kayleigh : https://outlandish.com/blog/preston-the-new-co-operative-city about stuff going on in Preston. I wasn’t aware that CoTech were involved. Great news, as I’m involved in an initiative in Kirklees to do something similar, and we’re making strong progress on the digital infrastructure front already, so I’m very keen to learn more about what’s happening in Preston in terms of IT so that we can perhaps avoid wheel reinvention.
“strong progress on the digital infrastructure front already” - more details please @Graham
“I wasn’t aware that CoTech were involved” - I don’t think we really have been, yet. But @Kayleigh went up to that event and hopefully CoTech are now more plugged in?
A small (but growing) group of us are setting up a Solidarity Economy Network in Kirklees. It is the second most badly hit local authority in the country in terms of the cuts imposed from central government, and the prognosis in terms of business as usual is not good. As of the last general election we now have a postion where all four of our local MPs are Labour (that’s not happended for a good while). The foucs of the project is to implement some Preston/Evergreen-style programmes to refocus institutional procurement to support local businesses, and support and promote cooperative enteprise alongside that. Within this broad context we’re looking particularly at social care and the scope for creating community based care cooperatives, and looking at the role of digital infrastructure as an enabler for all for of the above.
In large part inspired and triggered by the work done by @shaun in Ashton under Lyne under the auspices of the DCMS Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund, I’ve become aware that Network Rail is enhancing and opening up access to their fibre network, with the Manchester to York line (which runs right through the village where I live) being the pilot project for that. If we can convince Kirklees Council of the value of having a digital exchange, tapping into this new fibre, we can create a digital hub with dark fibre access to IXManchester and IXLeeds (i.e world class digital conectivity). And if we can make the case for the hub and exchange to be managed cooperatively by the various stakeholders, I’m hopeful that we can then build out some programmes to improve skills and business incubator activity on top of that and in support of the solidarity economy vision. We’re some months into the programme, the case has been and continues to be made, and it feels, so far at least, that we are winning the argument. Much still to be done, of course, but worth the effort.
Nice, tell them all about Chattanooga?
I do know about Comoodle and have followed it with interest since the early days of the project. As I understand it - I was chatting with one the Comoodle team at an event recently - they are actively looking for other local authorities/communities that want to use the platform, so if you know anyone that might be interested…
In terms of community-owned infrastructure, and in particular fixed wireless, there are opportunities coming along with 5G, and we’re certainly not ruling it out as an option here, although I see the priority being to get access to fast affordable fibre, so that any access network that is built has the necessary backhaul.
I’m not convinced about Indienet frankly. It might be great, but I can see other things in support of developing a more participative municipal “partner state” culture and approach that may be more effective. Anyways, early days.
Just to add to Graham’s comments. Community-owned wireless projects have been around for many years - in the UK back to Cybermoor. They have been important because they make the case for co-operative ownership of at least some of the infrastructure - rather than just reselling like The Phone Coop. With projects like B4RN and now the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Cooperative we have cooperative ownership of the fibre itself, and sometimes the duct.
In the digital space - and elsewhere - coop models have so often been marginalised adding value at the very top, most frothy layers of the value chain. While CoTech fights hard to hold the line on worker control and ownership, it begs the question: ‘ownership of what?’ - ownership of our time and labour. We remain - largely - stuck as agencies, working to the demands of clients, hired hands. Yes, in control of our destinies (well, sort of, a bit like a freelancer contols her/his destiny), but co-operatively owning precisely nothing.
Freifunk is a huge community wireless in Germany where people share their connection through a hybrid open WiFi/Mesh network. Used many a time in Berlin when my mobile internet wasn’t working
Good point, at Webarchitects we don’t really develop software these days so the amount of code we contribute to the commons is limited (mostly Bash scripts and Ansible Playbooks) but we do have a committent to use FSF approved licenses and we do own all our own server hardware and perhaps the most important thing we do is host sites and servers that allow members and clients to own their own data, rather than hosting it with a US based multinational corporation (this allows people to not use, for example, GitHub for code, Google for email or AWS for servers or Microsoft 365 for office documents etc etc), but is this drifting off the topic of this thread and covering the ground we covered last year in the Autonomous Infrastructure thread on Loomio…?
Hey Graham, I’ve just got back from holiday and picking up emails/messages. Thought I’d paste your email here and respond to it for posterity/transparency.
I spotted your blog post on Preston the other day.
Very interested to learn more about the work that is going on there, for two reasons really:
I’m working on a solidarity economy project for my own local authority - Kirklees - and we’re keen to make links with what’s happening in Preston and elsewhere. I’ve known Gareth Nash and Dave Hollings from CMS for years, and I know that they are very closely involved in a lot of the cooperative stuff going on there, but it’s probably fair to say that neither of them are particularly digitally minded. We’re trying to get a new digital exchange concept up and running here, with a cooperative element to it, so anything we can learn from what’s happening in Preston on the digital front would be very interesting.
As my co-op is part of CoTech, and I’m relatively close to Preston, if there’s anything I can do to help move things forward there I’m very happy to help.
I did post a version of this on the CoTech discourse thing, but I’m guessing that you aren’t a frequent visitor there. Anyway, it would be great to hear from you, and to help if I can.
We got involved with Preston last year. They consider worker co-ops a valuable part of community wealth (yay) so our early conversations were understanding where/how Outlandish and CoTech could be involved.
They don’t need any tech from us at the moment, but there is a project to make the graduate technical arm of the UCLAN i.e people who are already delivering commercial projects into a worker co-op who will then join CoTech. They’re interested in using some of the internal systems that we’ve made and use, as well as understanding how co-ops work. The ball is very much in their court with this, as the people who run that department might decide that they don’t want to become a co-op.
That’s all there is to mention at the moment, but let me know if you have any questions.
Was just looking at the programme for the Ways Forward conference in a couple of weeks (looks great!) and spotted @shaun will be talking about the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Cooperative so came here to see if he’d mentioned it here yet… which he hasn’t!
I’m wondering if TDIC ought to be CoTech members too?
TDIC is not worker owned or controlled, so wouldn’t fit with CoTech’s (in my view too narrow) eligibility guidelines. It is however a very significant innovation.
It’s worth pointing out that the eligibility guidelines could be ammended (the really basic CoTech constitution has details of the process). I’d be really interested in any suggestions you have along those lines @Graham!
On the basis that form follows function, I guess the first thing is to be clear about why CoTech exists and what it is seeking to achieve. As a network of worker owned/controlled cooperatives that have some involvement in technology I think that Cotech has been of benefit to some of its members, and has perhaps made some impact in terms of promoting the cooperative option in the tech industry. I guess for me, CoTech has not achieved its potential, and over the last year or so it feels like things have gone pretty quiet. It will be good to catch up a little in Sheffield and discuss where people want to take things.