Collaboratively building new economic powers

I’ve been interested when people get together and build their own structures to create the world in which they want to see.

The co-operative movement in Europe shows many great examples -

from its early days with the Rochdale pioneers of England  who banded together in 1844 and quickly grew from strength to strength

to the Mondragon co-operatives started about a hundred years later in the Basque region of Spain

The growing financial crisis sees ever increasing interest in self help groups who are building their own independant economic strength, not entirely rooted in the wider economy.   The severity of the crisis, the way it spreads through the whole financial system threatening to bring increasingly great turmoil sees people looking far and wide for inspiration and a growing innovation to achieve some economic resilience.

Co-operative Integral Catalonia is an interesting new co-operative enterprise which is forming a network which aims to become largely slef sufficient  http://s.coop/pv9t (web translation from Spanish) It is drawing upon numerous influences from modern day innovative enterprises such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banco_Palmas to the experiences operating within a different economic framework within Catalonia during the civil war.

The Transition Towns network has seen a large network of people all aiming to increase the resilience of their communities against economic, resource or environmental shocks.

The ‘open source’ movement has shifted into the physical.  A number of groups are begining to explore how the dynamics of open software and web services can shift into the physical world.  There are a number of European Open Source Economy groups opensourceecology.org but there is more going on which ihas not got the high visability of OSE.  Happily I find many people involved in these kind of projects here at Edgeryders!!

Combine to mix of alternative solutions?

Humm, interesting: I’ve also been thinking — hypothesis — that the various movements out there are making their way into the physical. (My hypothesis is that the Occupy and Annonymous movements are leaving a trace in human bodies.) Well, it’s somehow similar to what you explained. I also believe that more is happening than the bits and pieces that we are aware of.

Given the dimension of the crisis, do you think that these co-operative movement have a possibility of reaching sustainable results? Can these co-operative efforts be reinforced in some ways? What would you recommend, if there was a possibility of creating a mix of alternative solutions? Do you think that a diversified strategy would help?

Crisis or opportunity?

In times of crisis there are opportunities for significant rearrangements in social relations.  ‘Shock Doctorine’ explains the dynamic.

In Argentina during the economic crisis that hit there a decade ago there was a great blooming of co-operation.  Abandoned businesses were restarted as co-ops and there was much co-operation by people in their neighbourhoods setting up food production and distribustion centres.  This was entirely sustainable, there was a big reduction in participation of these efforts as the crisis passed its peak - having said that many of the businesses still exist and many Argentinians are now familiar with how such co-operations can get results when you really need it (food growing / public kitchens).  I think the growing crisis here will be somewhat different to what occured in Argentinia - for a start its international…

Looking further back the examples I posted above - Mondragon and The Rochdale co-op (the seed of The Co-operative Group UK) both started in communities where economic hardships were common.

I think that lots of efforts are crystalising in this direction and that the diversity of these is good.  In a way each is its own laboratory.

I guess that support comes from engaging within the emerging movements helping them to grow - the Rochdale Pioneers were very aware that they should support their co-op, even if it meant the products they bought from their own shop were more expensive today, the benefits would accrue in the future.  This outlook proved to be one of their key strengths and the wisdom of it was quickly made entirely clear.  The co-op went from strength to strength.

Challenges of Coops

In Hungary a few years ago one single member of the local community in the village of Igrici found support from a private donor to establish his old dream, a cucumber coop for all members of the community. He also managed to attract public funding and the coop was making nice profits by last summer when suddenly the cucumber crisis knocked the prices down and they couldn’t sell their cucumbers anymore :frowning:

Some of the major difficulties I see with coops are:

– identifying the right product; the cucumber story shows that sometimes (or recently many times?) sg beyond your will and acts will ruin the entire business

– engaging community members; who is taking the initiatives and how you get community members on board;

– it’s very difficult to build this in communities who lack enterpreneurial skills

Thanks for sharing any experience or sources challenging these issues :slight_smile:

Problems with co-ops

Hello Gyula,

Like your mamo mamo tune :slight_smile:

The cucumber issue has to be a problem with any enterprise - whether an individual farmer, a co-op or some other kind of corporation.  Personally, I like to try and keep my eggs in a few different baskets - so to speak, so if something goes wrong I dont loose everything.

I’d agree with your other points though.  I’ve found the levels of peoples engagement/participation in the organisation of co-ops particularly frustrating.  Even when they are clearly committed they often lack the time, energy or the skills.  I’ve found most people find organisational meetings at least a little bit of a chore - some people really don’t like them.

I wonder if this reluctance to engage is something in human nature?  something to do with the way we are brought up? the way we learn from the way our societies are structured?   The fact that many people are tired from long days work earning cash to pay the bills and haven’t got time to put into something else?

I’ve somewhat happily noticed trends that suggest that organisations/groups tend to operate better when people are given power to do what they think is best (autonomy)

( http://etherpad.openstewardship.net/co-operate - there are some great websites listed related to this at the bottom of this pad in the ‘open democracy/governance’ and the ‘open/collaborative economics/working’ sections )

and when much of the organisation (possibly organisation of co-operation between autonomous agents) is based upon informal interactions.

(From studies in management theory and sociology)

How to practically implement all this, and try it out, I’m not entirely sure but I guess that lots of social events should be planned rather than meetings :slight_smile:

I should clarify that I think that there do need to be clearly defined process for decision making / governance - just that the process should be streamlined :slight_smile:

I’m sure ITC could help here - smartphones or SMS can keep everyone who needs/wants to know informed of what is going on in real time.  Some kind of clever e-democracy system could enable people to keep their agency (most often in co-ops they dont - their power is handed to the board) without having to commit vast amounts of time to engaging in governance.

Other physical world crowdsourcing projects

Quirky crowdsources contributions that lead toward the industrial production of real world items that then get sold in their store. http://www.quirky.com/. What I really love about this model is that it gives equity proportional to anyone’s contribution. Lovely, intricate system they got to manage that.

Ideacious '(http://www.ideacious.com/) is similar, but with a different because they seem to be focused on bringing buyers and sellers together in order to push economic activity. I could see this as a really interesting way to make markets more efficient at the local level. It’s better than a forum to sell and buy pre-existing products because it’s pushing the community to innovate and develop completely new things.

The Ideas Campaign was successful in soliciting over 5,300 ideas to help revitalize and repair the Irish economy. Check out the 17 ideas that received the Irish government’s fullest attention: http://www.ideascampaign.ie/leave-a-message/action-list-in-summary/

Social Media crowdsourcing at the European Council

According to this site, crowdsourcing and social media strategy were deployed in tackling these two objectives: Helping businesses to significant grow their export volume and create 2 million new jobs by 2016.

http://daa.ec.europa.eu/content/extraordinary-social-media-engagement

Social Media crowdsourcing at the European Commission

According to this site, crowdsourcing and social media strategy were deployed in tackling these two objectives: Helping businesses to significant grow their export volume and create 2 million new jobs by 2016.

http://daa.ec.europa.eu/content/extraordinary-social-media-engagement