"Platform Cooperative Network" Category?

Hello. There is some discussion over at the platform-coop list about moving entrepreneurial discussions to a forum. Rather than create our own forum, perhaps it’d be possible to have a new category here? The subject matter would be anything directly relevant to those building platform cooperatives. Including insights about bootstrapping, membership recruitment, attracting capital, forming organizationally, conducting democratic operations, etc. Specifically it might be a place where those who are thinking of bootstrapping a platform cooperative may be interested in sharing their thoughts to help vet ideas. I would further define the scope of this forum to encompass topics where a cooperative is made in a manner compatible with our existing business & social environment. Personally, I would go even further and say that to be effective and pragmatic, a platform cooperative would often be chasing tail-lights, with only one primary differentiation from other competitors: the cooperative ownership by members.

This need isn’t currently addressed in other places. Platform cooperatives would be different from, say worker cooperatives or solidarity movement or local currency initiatives or communities that wish to transform society as a whole, in that their focus is enabling user owned infrastructure. Platform cooperatives would be orthogonal to particular technologies such as block chain currencies. I personally think that platform cooperatives are necessarily disjoint from free/open source licensing, there is no reason to require how a platform cooperative needs to license their code – it’s hard enough to get investors in a cooperative, saying that you’ll give away any intellectual property free of charge makes it even harder.

Anyway, I’m just curious if this forum might be a home for these kinds of discussions. So that I could follow/participate only on this topic, it’d be helpful for it to be its own category.

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Hi CCE,
Thie Category is definetely a very good idea I support fully. Before reading your post in this forum, I posted a message in the platform coop mailing list about the governance process of the platform coop movement. It is a little bit long:
Hi to all,

Being member of a small german platform coop for webhosting, attending regularly plattform coop meetings in germany and being active in this mailing list, I applied for a membership in the platform cooperativism consortium for our platform coop.
We are well networking with the german coop association - which are mostly very traditional and sceptical about digital coops. So I think we can give valuable input to the movement.

I than realized, that membership fees for the platform cooperativism consortium has changed very much.
So lowest membership fee for small organization is between 2000 and 4000 $ per year, which is far far beyond our budget as small platform coop.
With the current membership model, the platform cooperativism consortium excludes small platform coop to be regular members by definition.

This rises to a bunch of questions, how democratic is the governance structure of the platform coop movement itself:

  1. What is the role of the platform cooperativism consortium for the movement?

  2. How do we make democratic decision concerning dealing with money in the movement?

2a) How do we make decisions how to use the money from google.org for the platform coop toolkit?

I know some webhosting coops - which are highly interested to be integrated in the development of the platform coop toolkit, in the deciscion making process, which software frameworks are used for developing and maintaining the platform coop toolkit, and in testing the platform coop toolkit on their own coop governed web hosting platforms
Especially when it come to mobile media, it is a very difficult part to use software frameworks, which are really open source and are not depending on google services. Google as one of the leaders in platform capitalism is extremely clever to embrace both the open source and the social impact business scene to make them depending on Google Service.
Even if it is planend to make the platform coop toolkit available as Open Source:
An Open Source platform toolkit, which depends in some core functionalities on Google Services is not a real alternative to platform capitalism. I have serious concerns, that this will be the case for the platform coop toolkit.

  1. Which kind of legal framework do we create, that coops from all over the world can be voting members in the governance process of the platform coop movement?

This is a tricky question es e.g. coop associations are often not coops itself…

The International CO-operation Alliance ICA - the global association of the coop associations - has recently opened a discussion forum https://patio.ica.coop to discuss IT strategies, IT Toolkits and IT services for the global coop movement. Several IT and webhosting coops are active in this forum.

I will open a thread on how to cooperate with the platform coop movement and ask for ideas which legal framework could may be used to integrate IT coops as voting members into the platform coop movement.

Regards
Jan-Peter


Jan-Peter Homann
Botschafter / Ambassador Hostsharing eG


mailto:jan-peter.homann@hostsharing.net

Hello, Patio community. My first post. I was a bit surprised, Jan-Peter, that you’d post this here where the context for your questions might be missing for subscribers. But for whatever it’s worth, I’m posting here what I posted on the “platformcoop discuss” list. I can’t add the links and attachments, though. The post will be incomplete but hey, better than no response at all.

Here is how we think about the PCC:

“The Platform Cooperativism Consortium (PCC) is a hub for research, community building, and advocacy for co-ops that make the digital transition.” (Our website will relaunch soon and reflect this language).

There are many hubs for the movement: from the PCC in NYC, PCC sister organizations in Hong Kong, Japan, soon also Sweden, to Nathan’s Internet of Ownership, Open Co-op, Start.coop, Unfound, and platform co-op working groups in Germany, Australia, Italy, Brazil, as well as other countries. Cooperatives UK and the Nesta Foundation have become trailblazers for this work, too.

The PCC is all but one hub in that movement.

Now, The Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy (ICDE) at The New School is the research arm of the PCC.

Find The New School press release is here:

https://ww2.newschool.edu/pressroom/pressreleases/2019/platformcoop2019.htm

We launched a new Twitter handle for this as well: @pcc_global
There you can follow the research on platform co-ops in the ecosystem.

The hope for this project is to bring the intellectual resources of The New School to bear on our community. We are proud to have welcomed our inaugural cohort of 6 research fellows in April for the launch of the Institute. Their research reports will be presented at our conference, November 7-9, 2019.

We hope that cooperatives will come through and endow the cohort of young research fellows for 2020.

When we convened the PCC in 2017, the goal was to bring the resources of the network of supportive institutions to this fledgling movement. This was helpful to an extent. You can read the roundup of 2018. We were able to help many cooperatives to become more visible. Here are a few examples from Selma, NYC, and Ahmedabad. We wrote references for many co-ops when they applied for grants and it created an international network that supported many co-ops to date. We convened many community chats on Zoom. Here are few examples: Namya Mahajan (just a few days ago), Damion Bunders, Jack Qiu and Gigi Lo, Ela Kagel, Nathan Schneider, others. You can find recordings of these community chats on Youtube.

The PCC worked with policymakers:
Platform cooperativism became part of the politic agenda the German Social Democrats(SPD), we introduced this work to the Labor Ministerial at the G7, the British Labour Party included platform cooperativism in its digital manifesto, and we are currently working on legislation with several U.S. Senators. You may also remember the legislation that a Policy group of the PCC authored: A New Bill of Rights for American Workers Building Support for Cooperatively-Owned Businesses that are Democratically-Owned and Governed.

And yes, lo and behold, in the spirit of light-hearted community support, Stefania de Kenessey wrote a platform co-op anthem (attached). The Portuguese version is in the making. If you’d like to translate it and record a version in your language, please contact us.

One of the main projects that we are working on is the Platform Co-op Development Kit (with the IDRC and our co-designing partners in 5 countries) and the conference for fall 2019 (as part of a series that I am convening since 2009). We co-convened our last event with our colleagues in Hong Kong.

We are talking with about 3-6 emerging projects in the ecosystem a day. When I see “we,” I’m referring to Michael McHugh, myself, and a cat. (While many people assume that Nathan and I work together or are married or something-- we are in fact comrades who support each other but we have not directly worked together for a long time).

What I am trying to say is that the limited capacity of the PCC short-changes many people who ask for our support. There are only so many hours in the day and we cannot respond to everybody with the same intensity. We need more onboarding initiatives.

This lack of capacity is also the reason why I am not a more frequent contributor to this mailing list.

How do we financially support all this?

The grants do not include any operational support for the PCC’s day-to-day work.

Now, this may not come as a shocking surprise to many of you but Google.org is not a co-op: all details of that grant had to be detailed before we applied. Roughly half of it goes to the IDRC in Toronto that co-designs the open source logistics platform with our five pilot groups. It goes without saying that they do way more work than the grant supports. The people who benefit from the grant are mostly precarious workers in co-ops India, Australia, Brazil, Germany(, and the US. You can find details on our blog. The other half pays for one person at The New School and a course release for me. We have been working on the legal side of making it easier to launch platform co-ops with a Cyber Clinic at Harvard Law School and we are about to create an interactive map of the ecosystem based on a survey that we’ll launch soon. Contact us if you’d like to support this effort.

Yes, The New School supports us in many ways. Space, logistical support, etc. We are grateful for that but it does not allow us to convene the conference or hire a person to respond to the many community inquiries coming from countries all over the world. So, how did we address the funding conundrum?

We set up a Circle of Cooperators, which starts at an annual $2000 for small organizations. (Just to put this into perspective: we are paying between $50,000- $60,000 for the international conferences that we convene without charging a fee .)

The backing through the Circle allows us to offer the community daily support, the annual convenings, the making of connections, and the much-needed research.

Contact us if you’d like to join the Circle!

Europeans should keep in mind that there is little (if any) public funding support in the U.S., which makes us dependent on philanthropy or the people we benefit.

In terms of governance, we had an intensive session with the Sustainable Economies Law Center to investigate if our new Institute should be a cooperative itself but we agreed that it simply did not make sense for what we do. In the same way, the co-op form is not the answer to all needs in the world either.

Any platform co-op can join the PCC for free right away- - but the Circle supports most of this work. They are the ones keeping our lights on. The current website does not reflect this new structure of Affiliates and Circle yet but we’ll make the updates soon.

If you’d like to support this work, contact us.

We need many organizations worldwide to support this ecosystem. You can support the PCC and our new research institute (I hope you do), or you can set up your own organization, co-op, or consultancy. All of it is sorely needed.

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Hi @Trebor , @Jan-Peter, and @cce ,

Welcome to the forum, and thanks for sharing this information (also congrats Trebor on your successful launch, I liked your post on Facebook.) I just wanted to share that I’ve been taught by 2 New School alumni during my academic studies so I’m happy to see it as a leader in modernizing the co-operative model.

There may be a difference of opinion so forgive me for being blunt; I think it would be a great idea to host the PCC and/or other Platform discussions on this FOSS software that’s supported and funded by the ICA as opposed to mailing list discussions. IMO, mainly because mailing lists are a pain to go through to find conversation history and contact individuals (personal opinion). I know there are tools like Pony that help facilitate this, but forum software like Discourse are built to facilitate easier searching of information, as well as have some extra features that email doesn’t have.

" (Our website will relaunch soon and reflect this language)."

You could even link or integrate the patio forum into your new site.

I, or one of the other admins (if I can speak for them) would be happy to set up a private category for your community on Patio.ica.coop and I volunteer to help with the onboarding and any implementation you might need assistance with. We can even create separate categories for the different "PCC"s if others choose to participate. One of the goals of this forum is to increase the intersection of coop-minded IT experts with other Co-ops that may not have that expertise or capacity, so the more participation and networking effects the better.

Hi Trebor ,
Thank you very much for explaining the current status of the platform coop movement, with its self organized hubs in different regions and the platform cooperativism consortium at News school as also mentioning the creation of the platform coop development kit with grant from google.org.

I like the patio forum, because it links both IT coops from all over the world with the ICA.
Currently, more or less all coops are national organization under a specific national legal framework.
(commercial) platforms and open source projects are international. This makes it a little bit tricky, to governance platform coop infrastructures inside the established national coop associations structures.

If e.g. the platform coop development kit has been tested successfully with pilots in three different continents, ICA could may become a hub to inform its national member coop associations about the project and provide informations how national coop associations can help to promote and establish the founding of new platform coops.
The IT coops using this form could be the hoster of the new platform coops and exchange best practices in platform coop hosting through this forum.

Hi everyone,

I’m Hyungsik, Strategy and statistics coordinator of the ICA. It is not surprising that a discussion on platform cooperatives is here. When this forum was conceived, the ICA Global office had two approaches on the relationship between cooperatives and technological development. One was a more pragmatic approach raised by IT staffs (who are usually users of IT services) in ICA members and IT coops or IT providers of the ICA members. This approach resulted in this forum where different stakeholders join for discussing and sharing about various tech issues. On the other hand, thanks to a resolution adopted in the ICA General assembly in Malaysia 2017, the ICA has tried to understand and support new forms of cooperatives which have been conceptualized as platform cooperatives as proposed by Trebor. So far, the work of the ICA focused more on having a common understanding about these new cooperative models. Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK worked hard for producing a discussion document on this issue (which will be circulated soon among the ICA members). Based on Ed’s work, ICA Board decided to create a working group on platform cooperatives. According to the Board decision, its role would be 1) to promote discussion on this issue among ICA members, 2) to conduct a critical review on new cooperative initiatives in view of examing issues and difficulties they are facing, and 3) to analyse propositions for supporting and promoting platform cooperatives, which were proposed in Ed’s document and to connect them with ICA’s concrete actions. I was staffing person for this approach but now the role was handed over to my colleague, Santosh Kumar, Legislation coordinator of the ICA Global office. The working group is not yet constituted and we are discussing about how to implement Board decisions.

From the beginning, I thought that partial convergence of two approaches would be very natural but hoped that this forum would be always open to broader issues around cooperatives and technology in general. Most cooperatives need to develop their activities and business in line with the technological development. On-line platform based cooperatives are a very interesting and promising model but one of various issues we have to deal with. ICA WG on platform cooperatives will focus more specifically on this issue to help ICA entities and members to understand better the model and make their position on it. All of you will be able to join the discussion organized by the WG in one way or another.

I and my colleague Santosh will be happy to follow your discussion here and also to see you in other discussion places.

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Kevin, this is so kind. I’m not asking for a private category, I’m asking for a public one. I’d prefer it have a charter that follows Trebor’s definition of a platform cooperative. Many of us are fleeing the platform-discuss list since it’s become inundated with an advocacy of free software, p2p technologies, coin initiatives, and general anti-capitalist nonsense. Many of us wish for a space to talk about the entrepreneurial work of building platform cooperatives.

Having a category for Platform Cooperatives doesn’t preclude other topics. What it would do is bring traffic and attention to this forum from those interested in Trebor’s initiatives.

In particular, Discourse lets various interest groups have their own space, so as to group birds of a feather, but yet not discriminate. For example, you could also create a category for “Cooperative Currencies & Protocols” or something like that. There’s a large number of people who strongly believe that we must abandon current organizational and market structures in their entirety in order to escape the death grip of capitalism. I would absolutely be thrilled to see such an orthogonal sub-forum here as well… mostly so that those who have this outlook on the world would have a place to discuss these critically important topics among their fellow-travelers – and I could press the “mute” button for that entire category.

Hello. I very much appreciate the welcome. Would this forum kindly construct an open “Platform Cooperative Network” Category to facilitate this discussion? There will be some moderation burden, since things that are off-topic (e.g. p2p coin advocacy, among others) need to be flagged and removed.
I can understand if this isn’t in your charter and don’t want to host this conversation.

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Created: https://patio.ica.coop/c/platform-cooperative-network

We’ll look after moderation based on flagging posts, but if you’re interested I think we can give you (or someone you’d like to delegate in the future) moderator privileges for that category if you’d like?

Kevin. Wow. Sure, I would be fine with having moderator privileges. I’ll survey to if there are others who would prefer to help moderate (e.g. Nathan, Trebor, etc.). One of the challenges outlined by Nathan on the platform cooperative discussion list was the lack of diversity in our previous discussions, and hence, it’s important that moderators grow a bit of diversity. To get started, would I be able to edit/sticky a charter? Then we could prepare an announcement to the platform-discuss list about this alternative venue. - Clark

I’ve posted a draft charter. What would be great is if we could sticky it and disable followups (and un-sticky/delete the current topic). I’d be able to edit it in the future? Anyway to make it more anonymous, I’d prefer it to not have my pretty face on it. So, yea, I guess being a moderator would be helpful. Thanks!

I stickied it. But apparently Category moderation isn’t out of the box. I help with a NodeBB forum for credit unions in Canada so I thought it would have been the same, sorry. I found a topic on the Discourse forums discussing this; will look into and get back to you about moderation.

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Hello Hyungsik and all,
Thank You for your feedback and the support of platform coops from ICA. Here in Germany, we have currently a problem, that several established coop associations are somehow sceptical about platform coops. 18 years ago, we as Hostsharing eG have been the reference coop during rewriting the german coop law to allow online or e-mail voting in general assemblies of coops.
Till today, some associations coaching the creation of new coops still tell groups of coop founders, that physical gatherings are necessary for the general assembly.
My question to ICA, do you would support the aggregation of Know How for platform coop governance both from the technical/organiztional side as also with interaction of national coop laws?
For promoting platform coops founding in Germany, it would be helpful to know, which technical solutions are used worldwide for the governance of of platform coops - especially online-voting processes.
We also need to think about how to deal with transnational issues of platform coops. Do we have samples, if its possible to create and govern transnational platform coops, or is it better to think about technical platforms, which will be the basis for the creation of national platform coops?

Regards
Jan-Peter

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Hello Jan-Peter,

Thank you for your concrete question. The ICA does not have any concrete answer to your question, but it is sure that it will be one of the ICA agenda. The objective of the Working group of the ICA on platform cooperatives will be to research this kind of information among the ICA members and to gather expertises and ideas from them. My colleague Santosh and myself will come back to you and participants of IT network for discussing with you and getting your input on the issue.

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Hello All, I am sure most of us know but sharing for the sake of those of us who do not.

The KU Leuven Uni in Belgium has a center of Expertise on cooperative entrepreneurship and has offered 5 PhD. positions (full-time employment) starting Oct’19 to scholars who’d work on Platform Coops. https://feb.kuleuven.be/drc/kco/kcoforcoops
and the call that is now complete & positions filled -> https://cdn.nimbu.io/s/4tn7vz5/assets/5%20PhD%20students%20-%20cooperatives.pdf

Let’s keep our eyes and ears open on this to get insights and people to contribute to the description, scope and growth of the model.
Cheers!

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I know resonate.is is looking into this because they are a platform co-op based in Germany. One of their members registered on this forum actually.

Legislation on online platforms approved by the CEU. Courtesy : Lexology

On 14 June 2019, the Council of the European Union approved the new Regulation on promoting fairness and transparency of online platforms. The new Regulation will enter into effect in summer 2021, without the need for any further implementation by EU Member States.

The new Regulation is based on two findings. First, several online platforms have superior bargaining power, enabling them to behave unfairly towards the many business users that need those platforms for selling their products and services. Second, many online businesses rely on their website ranking by search engines, which justifies transparency requirements for those search engines. The new Regulation aims to ensure a fair, predictable and trusted online business environment for the benefit of all consumers in the EU.

The main instrument in achieving these goals is the terms and conditions, which must clearly set out the rules for operating the platform. The platform operator can only amend its terms and conditions with 15 days’ prior notice and must give the platform’s business users a further 15 days to terminate the contract if they do not accept the proposed amendments. If the platform operator wants to terminate, it must provide a statement of reasons on a durable medium and give at least 30 days’ prior notice. The new Regulation also requires that the identity of business users is visible on the platform, to allow them to gain the confidence of the consumers.

For search engines, the new Regulation requires that they are transparent about how they determine rankings. If it is possible for rankings to be influenced by any direct or indirect payment, this must be disclosed. If the ranking order is altered or if a website is delisted following a third party notification, the content of the party notification must be available for inspection. Obviously, there is no requirement to disclose algorithms that are protected as trade secrets.

Platform operators must include in their terms and conditions a description of the technical and contractual access, or lack of, to any personal data or other data generated when consumers use the platform. They must also be transparent about the transfer of personal data to other parties, if any.

To ensure that all these principles are complied with, the new Regulation contains a full range of remedies. Platform operators must provide for an internal complaint-handling system that is easily accessible and free of charge. Complaints that are not resolved may be submitted to impartial and independent mediators. The online platform operators must identify in their terms and conditions one or more mediators for settling disputes out of court. As a last resort, judicial proceedings may be required and the new Regulation provides that such proceedings may also be initiated by representative organisations or public bodies.

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Useful, thanks. Do you have link to the source? Also, do you know what’s included in terms of a definition of what a ‘platform’ is?

Hi @Graham

Definitions can be found in this Directive : https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2016/1148/oj
I think “platforms” are construed as online digital marketplace etc.

The Directive relevant to my post before (in its proposal stage): https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52018PC0238

Official EU press release: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_19_2914

The post itself can be found at www.lexology.com -> one needs a subscription to access articles.

Hope this was useful.

Santosh

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