Questioning the values of work, ownership and principles of equality


Building the Cooperative Internet

We’re off to America in the wake of the latest election.

Not to campaign (well, perhaps) but to talk about values in the internet economy and coop models on the Internet.

We’re going to be taking part in Platform Cooperativism – Building the Cooperative Internet, a 3-day conference at Civic Hall, organised by The New School.

Platform cooperativism is about the social organisation of emerging technologies which aims to re-design with community wealth in mind. It is an emergent movement opening up discussion around democratic governance and collective ownership on the Internet for a fairer future of work.

“The cooperative platform economy can become one of the counterforces to the defects of the on-demand economy. It is a strategy for reversing wealth inequality, gender inequity, environmental degradation, and systemic racial injustice. The experiments now already underway show that a global ecosystem of cooperatives can stand against the concentration of wealth and the insecurity of workers that yields Silicon Valley’s winner-takes-all economy. They show that the Internet can be owned and governed differently.”

This matters

It matters because there are a plethora of new ‘on-demand’ services setting up and technology fuelled services that have already become household names.

When we’re asking ourselves ‘what’s the next Uber model?’, are we really asking what a good, fair and value-driven organisation looks like and what ownership and fair work should really look like?

As you’ve probably read in the news, notably the protest by Deliveroo riders in London, this new economy doesn’t always have the rights and values of staff at the heart of a service.

I see this in contrast to organisations like Timpsons who we recently interviewed for our new Snook Series. They have flatter structures and talk about one another as ‘colleagues’, putting staff at the heart of their service design and delivery. But these companies have developed their values over long periods of time. How do you replicate this in the fast-paced growth of new services born out of the digital age?

With Silicon Valley, entrepreneurship ‘farms’ and unicorn companies glistening on the cover of our business weekly, we need to question the values of work, ownership and principles of equality.

Platform cooperativism is emerging at a crucial point.

Over the next three days, we’ll be looking at how, in the age of the on-demand economy, building and developing models that show us the Internet and affordances from what we’re building can be owned and governed differently. And how can we borrow and replicate in a new format the heritage and values of coop movements? What do new organisational models look like? What platforms should we be building for this new workforce? Technically, how does this work?
I’m hoping to leave with more questions than answers.  After all, that’s the best start to a movement, a curious one.
You can read more about Platform Coop here and here. We’re also talking at Civic Hall on Systems Change on Monday at 1pm in New York. Members are welcome to attend.