What do you want to discuss at Wortley Hall in 2017?


#1

Please post comments on this thread regarding the topics you would like to discuss and any issues you would like to raise at Wortley Hall in 2017. The planning meeting on 8th September 2017 proposed an agenda with streams and sessions — was anything left out? Is there anything you want to talk about that isn’t covered?


Planning session for Wortley Hall weekend - please fill Doodle
Facilitation at Wortley Hall
#2

Thanks @chris for this. Despite the fact that I’ve been arguing the need for action in the nexus where cooperative values and principles meet digital since before the turn of the century, I’ve actually been very peripheral in the development of what is now called Cooperative Technologists (CoTech). Kudos to all those of you with the time, the energy and the cash to have driven the project this far. It is a great initiative.

My sense of where things stand currently may well differ from what others think, but: I don’t think that there is a clear vision/mission beyond the broad notion that coming together as a network of tech/coop people/orgs is “a good thing”. Consequently I’d advocate for a session at the beginning of the conference to discuss/agree what CoTech exists for. Thinking perhaps that this was all done and dusted and that I’m (as is often the case) talking rubbish and just missed the memo on that one, I checked the wiki and website but couldn’t find anything there that I could characterise as a statement of purpose, so I’m proposing it as a fundamental start point for the proceedings. If the people at Wortley can agree it in 10 minutes or less then I clearly am talking rot, in which case the event can very quickly move on to developing the strategies and operational policies & procedures that will enable CoTech to achieve its goals most effectively.

I’d argue that even if those more closely engaged than I do feel that there is a clear and shared purpose, investing a short time at Wortley revisiting that is probably no bad thing, given everything that has happened in the last year or so.

So, in summary, two items for the agenda:

  1. What are we seeking to achieve together?
  2. How shall we best do that?

#3

Out of interest, did The Manifesto seem an insufficient statement of intent, purpose and so on? Seems significantly beyond just saying such an entity is “a good thing” and outlines a pretty strong purpose, goals and norms. What is perhaps lacking is concrete activity towards these goals.


#4

Hi everyone. Dan Sofer and I have just had an interesting meeting with our local Labour councilllor. She would like to know more about how we see CoTech challenging and addressing issues within the commercial tech sector. Specifically, she would like to understand how co-ops, and CoTech particularly, are challenging ‘the gig economy’, precarious work, unpaid/low paid internships that are only available to the wealthy, and high pay gaps within companies. I think this fits into a wider discussion of how we see CoTech disrupting the capitalist economy.

Is this something that we could discuss at WH? I’d say it could fit within Branding and Marketing, and perhaps Sales and Business Development. Though perhaps a new conversation about ‘Why does hiring a co-op make economic and social sense?’ could be proposed?

Appreciate the above is perhaps a bit broad, so if anyone would like to chip in and refine feel free!


#5

Thanks for responding @alex. I did read the manifesto, and have just read it again, prompted by your post. I view this as a statement of values and principles. It offers a broad view of what the network believes in, and the stance it would adopt in anything it might undertake, and as such I think it is a fine document. What it does not do - for me at least - is say anything about what CoTech will actually practically do, other than using our skills to create a fairer world. For me, creating “a fairer world” is very very vague and offers no real measurable goal. I think that what is needed is something far more tightly focussed, building on this broad statement, that will enable people to define an action plan and deliver real practical outputs and outcomes stemming from that.


#6

Totally agree Polly.

That was the main reason we (Autonomic) decided to form a co-operative was to try and build sustainable work for ourselves. Many of use were unemployed, working in the service sector or in quite precarious tech work.

We are personally planning on affiliating to the Industrial Workers of the World (https://iww.org.uk/) union as a workplace branch to ensure that there is a counter balance of power within the co-operative and that our members have recourse to organise outside of the actual co-operative structure itself. We are also doing work for clients that are aiming to tackle these problems (including the IWW).

I’m sure there are wide range of political perspectives within the CoTech but it would be great if we could start working towards a consensus against these awful precarious conditions that many workers experience. We should also be thinking about proposing a strategy for how they can be overcome through co-operation and mutual aid.


#7

I think there was meant to be a working group around purpose at the event
and in the run up to it? That would seem to cover whats being proposed
here. At the last planning meeting there were a few different streams
decided, but as far as Im aware only the Branding & Marketing one has met
so far, and that only once. The governance one is the other key one for me,
as we need to clarify the overall decision making process.

Personally I feel like what CoTech does is fairly clear, if not yet well
articulated - and the external version of that is something that we in the
branding and marketing group can work on developing and proposing.

For me, its at core about technology business that are owned and controlled
by their workers working together with other similarly structured
businesses, to support each other’s success, and through that and other
activity, demonstrate that those models are both viable and of benefit to
society - compared to the default model most tech companies have now.

So in practice that mean knowledge and skill sharing, collaboration on
getting work, joint projects to promote cooperative values and expand the
cooperative tech economy (such as Space4), and lobbying for more support
for cooperative tech business from government and other bodies - among
other things.

In terms of your question Polly, definitely that needs more exploring, but
I think the primary way CoTech can disrupt the current tech economy and
thereby support gig economy workers is by supporting alternative less
exploitative models of business, and demonstrating that these alternative
models are viable options for new (and existing) tech companies. So again
projects like Space4 that support the development and growth of different
types of tech company is one way CoTech addresses this - and I’m sure there
are plenty of other ways all the member companies are helping as well.
Founders & Coders giving free tech courses is certainly one example.

Dan


#8

Hi @Graham,

I think if you can make it to an event at some point or get involved with one of the working groups it will make a lot more sense. This is a do-ocracy after all.

This event is very much focused on the points you suggest - what do we want to achieve and how do we achieve it. The same is true of the last event and I feel the ‘open spaces’ format worked quite well.

I was a bit offended by the post you made on the other thread that described last year’s programme as “weak” - a lot of people put a lot of time, effort and money into that event and I’m pretty sure each of them considers it a great success.

I personally do not think we need consensus around our final goal, strategy or tactics. I think trying to get to such a point would take a long time - certainly not the 10 minutes you suggest. I think instead we should focus on consent - what are we happy to do/be part of/have done in our name. That’s a much lower barrier - everyone on listed on the website can be said to consent to the copy on the Manifesto, Join and About pages.

In terms of defining what the network does, perhaps we could list what it’s done instead. That way we don’t have to debate what everyone wishes it would do and whether wishes are horses. I’ve created a new thread where we can start listing that stuff. It’s going to be a good list I think.


#9

This seems to be a move from “I don’t think that there is a clear vision/mission” in your previous comment which is cool.

Here I’m broadly in agreement with @harry, it would be better to begin with a reflection on what CoTech has already done in the year 2016-2017 since its founding and what of that has broad themes that should be expanded or missing parts that should be added. Perhaps this will clarify and resolve the questions you have.

For me at least it seems you are coming from a different place, beginning in imagining CoTech in the abstract. Whereas I see it as something that already exists and is already doing things and has been for twelve months. Maybe not the perfect things to reach its goals, of course, but it has acted. It seems a bit of a dodge, but I guess you are saying “what does it do” and I am saying “well, the stuff that it has done”. Perhaps unhelpful! I agree this can always be improved upon and clarified and made even more pragmatic.


#10

Thanks for the response @harry. To address your taking offence at my remark about the programme for the last Wortley Hal event: I was voicing my opinion, based on trying to ascertain at the time if it would make sense for me to try to get along to that event given that I could only at best be there for perhaps three or four hours. I couldn’t identify a suitable opportunity. It wasn’t intended as an attack on any of the substantial effort that was made by many to make that event happen, and I think I’ve already paid tribute to that effort. Neither did I suggest that the event was not a success.

I’m not suggesting that CoTech needs to define a “final goal”, but I am suggesting that it would greatly benefit CoTech to articulate clearly what it is doing/going to do in terms of building a “fairer world”. @dansmallaxe helpfully suggests some things. I’ll read the list of achievements to date with great interest, as I’m sure that my perception, from the fringes, is hampered.


#11

FWIW Pete, Sion and I have, actually, been building an agenda:

We’re planning on doing collaborative agenda building at the event through an exercise I’ve used a thousand times and has proven effective. We should remember to compare the outcomes of that exercise (assuming, of course, the facilitation team actually runs the exercise) with anything that happens in this thread.


#12

@laura that’s great :slight_smile: but would it be possible to use our wiki for documents like this? It does have a WYSIWYG editor and you can copy and paste from Google Docs into it and preserve the formatting and if anyone needs an account just shout. If documents like this are on our wiki it makes them easier to find (we can use the category ) and thanks to the versioning we can see their history etc. There is also a (albeit a little crude compared to Google Docs) potential discussion page that can be created for each wiki page (see the link at the top left) and is our own autonomous infrastructure running GPL’d software on co-operatively run servers…


#13

Sorry @Graham - didn’t mean to get emotional. I find it’s easy to miscommunicate on these things. Hope to meet you soon.


#14

Hey @laura - thanks to you @PeteBurden and @Sion for putting this together.

Just wanted to flag that some people (myself included) would prefer little or no structure to the event, while others (such as yourselves and @Graham) would clearly prefer more structure.

Can I suggest that we see the organised/facilitated activities (if they happen) as one stream rather than as encompassing the event.

I personally would like to do some actual writing of code and documents, and a broken-up conference-like programme isn’t very compatible with that.


#15

I don’t want more structure. What I’m keen to see is clarity and focus.


#16

I am proposing (like last year) that there is no formal agenda other than “30 tech worker co-ops meeting to further their common interests” - I understood you were after something different. It wasn’t intended as a criticism - apologies if it came across that way.


#17

A lot of meta talk here :stuck_out_tongue: … I’ll respond to @chris’s suggestion of agenda ideas / suggestions

Two things that interest me:

Co-ops + open source

Principle 6 (Cooperation Among Cooperatives) + open source sounds like a great recipe to me.

There seems potential for much tech-level sharing, and making some cool, reusable, high quality stuff. Why not be open source by default?

At Outlandish I’ve been working on building starter kits for standard project-types that include docker dev environment, and automatic branch-level deployments to openshift/kubenetes, and potentially this knowledge/learning/infrastructure is useful in a much wider context.

“Click here to create your co-op”

Something I would love to see is a “create a co-op” thing that gets you up and running as quickly as possible, not just information about how to do it, but actually doing it.

So, click click click typey typey typey click typey click typey, and boom!

  • a website
  • a bank account
  • some founding organization documents
  • some business identity documents
  • etcetc, whatever boring other things you need

Two things that do this for more regular business types are:

Premises:

  • lots of small co-ops = better than a few big ones
  • founding co-ops involves doing lots of boring things, when people would rather be coding/designing/whatever
  • more people would join the co-operative movement if it was easier to start one

#18

Yes @nick this sounds brilliant. I’ll definitely be around to talk about this, great suggestions and thoughts.


#19

On the second of those - am working on a project with similar sort of aims at the moment, should have more to share soon hopefully, and certainly by Wortley Hall. Is looking at how to make the setup process easier, but also how to make the idea of coop models more attractive in the first place


#20

Indeed - thanks @nick for getting us back onto the right track.

Updating the website so that it:

  • is easier for people to update
  • contains much more open data - e.g. max and min pay, gender balance, biggest and smallest project, etc.
  • better articulates the branding messages currently being developed
  • tracks collaborations between co-ops and other outputs of CoTech
  • groups the companies and/or technologies by sector - e.g. Design and Print, Hosting and DevOps, etc.