A newsletter about the Cooperative Digital Economy
January 06, 2020 by Trebor Scholz
The Year in Platform Cooperatives
With this Year in Review, we inaugurate a periodic newsletter updating you on the cooperative digital economy. We’ll share practical and theoretical insights situated in their political contexts -- from research papers, news articles, and podcasts, to emerging projects, events, and job opportunities.
This has been a significant year for the cooperative digital economy. In this age of pessimism, we need bold near-term alternatives such as digital cooperatives that build a more democratic future with shared prosperity. Newcomers to this community might not know much about “platform cooperatives.” They are businesses that use a website, mobile app, or protocol to sell goods or services. Platform co-ops rely on democratic decision-making and shared ownership of the platform by workers and users.
The newsletter is published by the Platform Cooperativism Consortium (PCC) at The New School in NYC. We are a hub that helps you research, start, grow, or convert to platform co-ops. The PCC works with hundreds of platform co-op businesses with tens of thousands of worker-owners around the world.
Whether you are reading this in the Bay Area (US), Kerala (India), Emilia-Romagna (Italy), Catalonia (Spain), or elsewhere, write us with news and updates in your language at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best for the year ahead, Trebor Scholz & the PCC
Smart, in partnership with Saw-B and Febecoop, convened "Platform COOP Brussels," supported by the Brussels-Capital Region.
Beyond these events, Ampled, an ethical web platform for music artists became a cooperative. Read more.
New School professor and opera composer Stefania de Kenessey composed an anthem for the platform cooperativism movement. Listen to ithere.
Write to us with your new projects to be featured in our next email@example.com
Updates from the PCC
In 2019, we launched the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy at The New School with an inaugural cohort of Research Fellows. Read about our Instituteand watch highlights from our April 2019 launch event. Learn more about the research topics of our Fellows. Their full-length reports will be published on our website in spring 2020. In addition to Research Fellows, we also formed a Council of Advisors to guide our work.
Who Owns the World? PCC Conference In November 2019, the PCC brought together 150 speakers from 30 countries, with more than 700 participants and thousands of viewers of the livestream! The event was supported by the PCC Circle of Cooperators, Open Society Foundations, and the Ford Foundation. You can find photo documentation and video archive of the event on our conference site. We added links to the video documentation in the program. You can also download most slideshows and presentations by clicking on the hyperlink to the File Swap folder within each session. You can also watch a series of short video interviews with 39 participants here.
You can also relive our Friday night keynote conversation between Wilma Liebman and Anand Giridharadas.
Senator Gillibrand noted: “I was proud that my Main Street Employee Ownership Act was passed into law last year. It reforms the Small Business Administration to help retiring business owners transfer ownership to workers, consumers, and farmers. That includes co-ops, which have for too long struggled to access this very important federal assistance. I want to extend my gratitude to the Platform Cooperativism Consortium and the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy at The New School for all their efforts and pulling together today's event, and then leading the research that is driving new innovation in the cooperative sector.”
The Platform Co-op Development Kit The Platform Co-op Development Kit continues to evolve and move forward as a collaboration with the Inclusive Design Research Centre. The Kit is supported by a grant from Google.org. The work ahead focuses on building an online resource library hosted on our revamped platform.coop website, and developing first iterations of share infrastructure for platform co-ops. Check out the project’sFluid Project Wiki pageonline to read up on what’s next! And consider getting involved with our mapping project, to survey the global movement of digital co-ops! Reach out to Travis Higgins, Survey Project Lead, for how to take our short survey by writing to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And check outthe richly detailed blog postfrom the coopathon we hosted on mapping, facilitated by Danny Spitzberg.
Community Hangouts from this past year included talks with Namya Mahajan on the SEWA Model, Greg Brodsky and Stephen Gill on Financing Platform Co-ops, Jack Qiu and Gigi Lo on Platform Co-ops in Hong Kong, Jutta Treviranus and Colin Clark on the co-design approach for tech development, and several others! See highlights on our blog page.
PCC Out in the World In 2019, additional meetings and travels by the PCC have bolstered platform co-ops globally. Meetings and collaborations from 2019 included:
Trebor Scholz met with the President of Sewa, Mirai Chatterjee, discussing future collaborations. Sewa Federation brings together some 300,000 working-class women in the informal economy in India. Sewa is also a union with 1.7 million members.
Trebor presented to the Legislative Assembly of Kerala, India.
A discussion of our research with Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac.
Trebor met with the President of Japanese Trade Unions, Mr. Koga and with Prof. Mizukoshi at Tokyo University, Akiko Taguchi, Director of the ILO in Japan, her colleagues, and Osamu Nakamo of Worker Co-ops Japan.
Trebor met with the leader of the Preston City Council Matthew Brown to integrate platform co-ops into the “Preston model” in the UK.
We continued exchanges with Dieter Janaschek, a Green Party member of the German Parliament and specifically, the Committee on the Digital Agenda.
In South Africa, Trebor met with leaders Omar Parker, of the National Union of Public Service & Allied Workers (NUPSAW); Myrtle Wittboi, General Secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union; Gloria Kente, of WC SADSAWU, and Professor Darcy Du Toit & his research team at University of Western Cape.
Ongoing Research on Platform Co-ops The PCC has continued its on-going research projects exploring the potential for platform co-ops in India, funded through an Open Society Foundation grant, with additional explorations focused on the potential for platform co-ops in South Africa, Brazil.
Writer Anand Giridharadas wrote about platform co-ops recently: “If it is so easy to build platforms these days … why couldn’t workers and customers create their own platforms? Scholz [has] embarked on a global adventure to locate and study various attempts to do just this. The idea lived already … Here was a rarity: a no-strings-attached idea for actually changing the world.” “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World”-- Book by Anand Giridharadas
The New York Times shockingly revealed that Big Tech “lost its way” in the past decade. Their report chronicles the growth of various tech companies and their effects on our elections, privacy, and health. "The Decade Tech Lost Its Way"- The New York Times
As we are working with cooperatives in India, we are deeply concerned about our brothers and sisters in that country where Prime Minister Narendra Modi branded two hundred million Muslims as internal enemies. "Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India" -- The New Yorker
PCC friend Francesca Bria, former CTO of Barcelona, published a widely celebrated report about her work as Barcelona City Council Commissioner for Digital Technology and Innovation. Her report develops a vision for cities worldwide to adopt “ethical, open, and responsible innovation, moving towards technological sovereignty.”
In Spain, Stacco Trancoso published the DisCO Manifesto, a deep dive into the worlds of blockchain, commons, cooperatives, AI, feminism, and economics.
Co-operatives UK and the Nesta Foundation published “Platform Co-operatives – Solving the Capital Conundrum.” Authored by Simon Borkin, the report is a concise introduction to platform co-ops and the British Community Shares Model of capitalization. Platform co-ops struggle to attract much-needed funding but this report outlines pathways for solving the problem.
Anna Burnicka and Jan J. Zygmuntowski are exploring the potential of platform co-ops in Europe and specifically in Poland. They write that "The investment potential of platform cooperatives in Europe is significant, as can be seen from the estimation model. There is nearly €1.3 billion of financial resources that could be allocated to such entities annually. In Poland, this potential amounts to 47.7 million PLN." “#CoopTech: Platform Cooperativism as the Engine of Solidarity Growth”-- from Instrat and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation
An international group of researchers authored this paper bringing together researchers from different Human-Computer Interaction sub-communities to “identify future research directions in HCI around cooperativism and platforms.” “Cooperativism and Human-Computer Interaction”-- from the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Haifa-based researcher Yifat Solel recently wrote that “Platforms create opportunities to enhance users’ democratic involvement in different aspects of their economic and social life. The technology allows direct and long distant participation and thus can help develop — perhaps for the first time in such magnitude and scale — a democratic economy.” “If Uber were a Cooperative: A Democratically Biased Analysis of Platform Economy”-- from The Law & Ethics of Human Rights
Global Conference in Berlin Mark your calendar for our 2020 global platform co-op conference to be held in Berlin in November. An informal organizing committee is already taking shape -- do let us know if you would like to be involved! So far, several Berlin groups have taken the lead in putting together the conference, in collaboration with the Platform Cooperativism Consortium here in New York City. These Berlin-based groups are:
A Course on the Cooperative Digital Economy In Spring 2020, Prof. Trebor Scholz will teach the first university course on Platform Cooperativismat The New School. Guest speakers from across disciplines will join Prof. Scholz. Course materials will be eventually organized into an online course available onplatform.coopas part of the Platform Co-op Development Kit. Write to us if you’d like to form a local learning group. email@example.com
Writing for the PCC Throughout 2020, we will be publishing short, public-facing articles onPublic Seminarfocused on the themes of a democratic internet and the cooperative digital economy. Let us know if you are interested in contributing a short article, written for the general public on these issues. Public Seminar is a great venue to promote emerging ideas in support of platform cooperativism.
Summer Course in Italy This July 2020, Trebor will teach at the Summer School in Global Studies and Critical Theory focused on “Theory, Technology and the Political Imagination” at The University of Bologna, Italy. Considerapplying for participation.
Jobs at the PCC We are building an online resource library of texts, books, articles, and other media that address issues in the cooperative digital economy. We need someone with experience and interest in archiving and libraries to help us catalog and organize resources. Please get in touch if you would like to work with us at the PCC for a few months on this project.
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