Nick Meyne, Angus McLeod, Osioke Itseuwa and Federico Piovesan
Democratically governed and collectively-owned cooperatives and modern digital platform co-operatives have been unable to access the level of capital investment available to powerful platforms such as Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, Spotify and WeWork. Through ‘Principle 6’, co-operatives are ‘wired to co-operate, not compete’ with each other. Still, in practice, this advantageous co-operation between co-operatives has been difficult to realise, and ‘silos’ have persisted.
To grow the cooperative sector as a whole, the connections between cooperatives need to be efficient and focused on mutual value-creation. Connections cannot flourish without identification, discovery and trusted safe interaction. Coop credentials is a project from a consortium of co-operatives seeking to provide such an infrastructure of identity and trust for cooperatives and their members.
In this work-in-progress paper, we explain the project as a story of collaboration within a complex ecosystem and present our experience in action research and co-design for a community of co-operatives. The most important metric of growth “is not the increase in the number of users but the growth of the number of interactions between them.” (A.Hirel). Therefore, we have framed a very broad question for our action research: “How can co-operatives co-operate better in order to improve their co-operative experience?”
We have kept the question as open as possible so that in discussion we can uncover more of the hidden, implicit opportunities for valuable interaction between co-operatives. We believe co-ownership and community participation are essential to the co-design process and that an adaptive, evolutionary approach to co-design is the way forward. We expect the work of Bateson (Aphanipoiesis and Warm Data Labs) (Bateson, N. 2021) to be informative in our research and the design of our cooperative ecosystem. In particular, we will consider coalescence and the merging, mixing and fusing of context across diverse co-operatives from a variety of industrial, social and economic sectors.
Keywords: identity, trust, community, platform co-operatives, ecosystems, systemic design