Hi! I’m Hernán from Fiqus Coop, an Argentinean tech cooperative. We are currently working on establishing an R&D department within our organization and are reaching out to other tech coops for advice. Our goal is to create a free and creative space where we can develop solutions and create POCs and MVPs that could generate work for our coop and other coops in the future. Have you had any experience with this in your own coops? If so, we would love to hear about your approach and any thoughts you may have.
Hi Hernán! Our co-op (Go Free Range) has spent some of our time over the years on R&D-type work, for example making our own products, trying to start a credit union and developing open source tools. We’ve typically taken chunks of time away from client work to concentrate on this kind of work. I also worked as a researcher for several years at BBC R&D which is a more traditional R&D department within a larger organisation - I was able to do R&D full time there.
How are you thinking of structuring your department? Will you be hiring dedicated people for it, or using existing members?
Hi Chris, thank you for your response! I’ve just tried to create a sticker for the R&D area at Fiqus with a mission-patch, haha (nice!). We have tried to allocate some time between projects to create things like CoopHub or Coobs, but after spending time and releasing a stable version, we tend to forget about it and continue working with clients without finishing the process. To address this, we need to show what we have done and explore potential business models and stakeholders interested in using it. Therefore, we are considering changing the current modality of time allocation into a more stable R&D area. Our plan is to create this area with existing members and also thinking on the possibility of establish an intercooperative R&D area with one member from different Argentinian tech-coops. In this way, each tech-coop can invest a small amount of time, but together we can create a powerful R&D team that can generate work for other fellows in the future. That’s some ideas we have. What do you think?
While they have a fablab in Montreal for their local hardware prototyping & short-run manufacturing, their main thing is distributed development of locally-manufacturable designs.
gives an idea of the range of things that they are working on.
Their distributed-design approach would work well with co-operatives. As the price-point of digital manufacturing systems has fallen, there are energy-niches that are now feasible and profitable for smaller-scale organisations.
Energy coops, food-growing coops, and, many more within the primary industry sectors.
While we didn’t call it at the time, internal R&D @ Autonomic got us over the line to a working prototype for Co-op Cloud which enabled us to then get funding and bring it to public beta. We then sorted backpay for the R&D work once we had funds AFAIR.
I did read https://www.cs.princeton.edu/~bwk/memoir.html some time after and then was kinda convinced that we need to have a “Bell Labs” for tech co-ops. I think it’d be more interesting to pool R&D capacity across several co-ops. We all run into the same problems all the time anyway…