Nathan Schneider – Welcome to the Internet of Ownership
Journalist and organizer Nathan Schneider discusses how the platform co-operativism “ecosystem” is developing. His use of the word “ecosystem” is used throughout the presentation, gesturing towards a certain type of strategic orientation and profile for platforms to consider themselves as allies and bottom-up institutions. He brings up the notion of platform co-operativism as ownership design, asking how we can do things better to organize the ways we communicate with each other. He locates platform co-operativism as part of a digital governance agenda, through models involving *code, *policy, *finance “rent capital, don’t be rented by it,” *education, and *governance (remembering the diversity and geographical specificity of governance models). Platform cooperativism, he notes, involves the recognition that value creators can be value owners, building solidarity along the technology supply chain.
Schneider brings up and invites attendees to use the website http://www.internetofownership.net and help build a direct of resources like legal templates, event announcements, instructional documents, which he describes as an ecosystem.
In addition to cooperatives who have opposed more sustainable alternatives to huge apps like Uber, there is the strategy of ownership transitions (conversions) that are off-shoots of more stable organizations, working with incubators so founders can take ownership of what they build, but it can also be incorporated into larger structures if it becomes a successful model. Schneider ends on a hopeful note, encouraging people to think of what platform coopertivism is trying to build as an ecosystem of ideas, we are building together.
Jahn begins by discussing the difficulties of translating offline experiences to online organizing, these are often different sides of the digital divide that require us to understand how access also determines ways that people working on the ground are able to translate they are doing online. Jahn has focused on projects which integrating digital literacy and integrating the learning of skills.
In one project she’s worked on, the website (https://contratados.org/) migrant workers enter reviews about their employers. There is a fear of retaliation that has prevents migrant workers from using the site. Even to get people to write reviews, requires a holistic organized effort of getting people education, digital access, childcare, etc.
Jahn also worked to reach the 200,000 domestic workers in New York. Has created some audio-novellas where you can call in to hear more about your rights. Worked with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. In addition to providing for resources, encouraged people to identify and be proud of their work as caregivers, and not to be afraid to identify as caregivers.
Jason Wiener – Green Taxi
Next up: president and attorney Jason Wiener who founded the organization on the behalf of the worker-owned cooperative http://greentaxico-op.com/, and represented them in working to operate a taxi service in Denver, Colorado.
The story he tells starts with a regulated monopology system of service provision under utility model in Denver, which is replicated in many cities, where taxis have traditionally been regulated as entities using utility models, a legal structure that cooperatives have to work against.
He brings to the audience’s attention, Denver HB 15 1316 A bi-partisan bill that passed under a free market agenda (libertarian) promised to free the market to more open competition, freeing the market from monopoly-like Taxi companies to Green Taxi, a cooperatively and self-financed cooperative. Who is Green Taxi? It is an organization self-funded from contributions from its 800 members (drivers). The most important aspect is that it is 100% worker owned. Green Taxi’s website and app has the same functionality as Uber or Lyft. They like to say that Green Taxi is not for sale so it’s market valuation is irrelevant.
So, he leaves with an important challenge: how is it that micro-entrepreneurs are able to take such risks, being at the whimsy of the platform?
Joshua Danielson – Loconomics
Currently based in the Bay Area, it’s an “app for booking local services that’s cooperatively owned by service professionals.” https://loconomics.com/
He goes over the by-laws as a sort of center for the way they understand the app’s relationship to enacting its cooperative mission (by-laws are open source with a CC-0 license). Goals were to:
* Make it a polycentric governance structure
* Checks and balances with aligned incentives
* Staff trusteeship with collaborative design process
* Pay market rate employee salaries with cap
* Cooperative profits shared among Owners
* Loconomics is not for sale
Key take-away: an important principle of cooperatives is to work with other cooperatives and like-minded stakeholders to build new systems outside of more corporately owned models.
Emma Yorra and Ryan Perry – Coopify
“What if worker-owned businesses could “cross-pollinate with other cooperatives and clients to achieve economies of scale?” - http://community-wealth.org/content/coopify-new-platform-bringing-broad-based-ownership-your-smartphone
Coopify is similar to things like Taskrabbit, but represents a worker-owned services that connects clients to worker-owned cooperatives.
The team provokes the question, “why co-ops?” Co-ops provide leadership opportunities and basis of building community and worker-based support, ways to advocate also for women-owned and sustainable business models. How do we grow demand and take market share from venture-funded models? They have been using design thinking, rapid prototyping as a way to compete with venture-backed models and “refine the product.”
In light of the new US administration coming to power, such economic systems are a responsibility and a way to address the political fears of the rising neoliberal regimes.
Camille Kerr – ICA Group
Why are the people taking care of our loved ones, doing caregiving living in poverty, and going into debt? The ICA group advocates for "co-operative models" and "management solutions to business problems", doing business consulting, governance design, and democratic design. They emphasize how business consulting can be part of the co-operative movement by introducing more sustainable and worker-friendly business models to more traditional supply chains and companies.