Osioke Itseuwa, Angus McLeod, Nick Meyne, and Federico Piovesan
A case study on the design of digital identity and trust networks for a cooperative ecosystem
Democratically governed, and collectively-owned cooperatives and modern digital platform cooperatives have been unable to access the plentiful capital investment available to established powerful platforms such as Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and Spotify. Guided by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) ‘Principle 6’, cooperatives are wired to cooperate, not compete with each other, but in practice, this advantageous cooperation between cooperatives has been difficult to realise or fund. Despite the good intent, 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. Co-op credentials is a project from a consortium of cooperatives seeking to provide an infrastructure of identity and trust for cooperatives and their members.
In this submission and 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 cooperatives.
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.” (Hirel, 2016). Therefore, we have framed a very broad question for our action research:
“How can cooperatives cooperate better in order to improve their cooperative experience?”
We have kept the question as open as possible so that in the discussion, we can uncover more of the hidden, implicit opportunities for valuable interaction between cooperatives. 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 on “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 cooperatives from a variety of industrial, social and economic sectors.
Keywords: identity, trust, community, platform cooperatives, ecosystems, systemic design, cooperatives, co-operatives, collaborative