Posted by: Tony Shannon | April 30, 2018

Discovering Platform Cooperativism

So back in time….

My student and early working life as a medical student/ junior medical doctor felt like a personal challenge, the need to learn to be able to do the job properly etc, by myself initially, then quickly as part of a team effort. Soon after I commenced work at the clinical frontline, it was clear that other areas of science were relevant, so aside from my training in emergency medicine, I took an interest in the principles of effective management and information technology.

That led onto a journey as a clinical leader in healthcare improvement with information technology and over time the realisation that the health IT market was holding healthcare back.
So after about 10 years in the field I began to push a somewhat uncommon view that healthcare needed a blend of open source and open standards based IT , later to be known as an open platform.

So that journey in healthcare has been interesting enough and felt again like a somewhat personal challenge, to learn to do lead that mission properly, initially fairly alone, then over time as part of a team effort.  What the last year has heralded, has been another great life lesson and stage of the journey when I think about it..

By way of further reading in other interesting disciplines (in particular a couple of sociology/economics texts that I have highlighted here) ;

In the last year or two it has become clear to me that there are major forces underway across the globe that are uniting, slowly , steadily, without any diktat or coordination from on high, but are clearly signs of a deep pattern that must be intrinsic to human nature I think.

These very disparate missions share a few key elements;

  • Aimed at improving society for the greater good
  • Aimed at challenging the (malfunctioning) economics status quo
  • Largely bottom up efforts, not top down
  • Most local>national in their outlook but at the same time, interestingly, plenty are international>national in their outlook
  • Many can be explained as “Think Global: Act Local”
  • Many are value driven and value the power of human cooperation (as much as competition) in tackling the grand challenges of our time
  • Many understand the value of information technology and those revolutionary networks that the internet has enabled.

Though I am trying to describe a wide range of initiatives that I am seeing in greater numbers in many places that I look.. one term helps to encapsulate a large portion of these change agents.

In recent weeks that I have discovered platform cooperatives and “platform cooperativism“..

Some definitions:

“A platform cooperative, or platform co-op, is a cooperatively owned, democratically governed business that establishes a computing platform, and uses a protocol, website or mobile app to facilitate the sale of goods and services. Platform cooperatives are an alternative to venture capital funded platforms insofar as they are owned and governed by those who depend on them most—workers, users, and other relevant stakeholders. ”

“Platform cooperatives differ from traditional cooperatives not only due to their use of digital technologies, but also by their contribution to the commons for the purpose of fostering an equitable social and economic landscape.”

“Platform Cooperativism is an intellectual framework and movement which advocates for the global development of platform cooperatives. Its advocates object to the techno-solutionist claim that technology is, by default, the answer to all social problems. Rather, proponents of the movement claim that ethical commitments such as the building of the global commons, support of inventive unions, and promotion of ecological and social sustainability as well as social justice, are necessary to shape an equitable and fair social economy.”

Without needing to debate those definitions , it is great to see and start to understand this emerging platform cooperativism, as most of those involved seem to share a genuine interest in openness and sharing.

So now I see my own work, our work in the Ripple Foundation as one strand of many within an emerging network of;

  • People who want to effect change in the world , as a group effort , ie a cooperative effort
  • Aimed to tackling a problem/issue that requires smart minds to work together, i.e. cooperate with a touch of activism, cooperativism
  • Understand the power of open source and open platform technology as a means to that network transformation, i.e. leveraging an open platform.

If this is as interesting and empowering to you as it is to me, start checking this very thought provoking material out , from an open coop meeting I didn’t know about last year.

Looking forward to open coop 2018 already!

 

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