Transition Greater Than Learning to a platform co-op
Proposal closes in:
Proposal at a glance
What's is being proposed
As we set out on this journey our intention was always to transition to an entity structure that is better aligned with our purpose and vision. After a several weeks of discussion and some preliminary research we believe the best structure is going to be a platform co-op.
What is a platform co-op?
“A platform co-op is a digital platform that is designed to provide a service or sell a product – that is collectively owned and governed by the people who depend on and participate in it. They offer a positive alternative to platform capitalism – as characterised by Facebook, Amazon, Google, Uber, Airbnb – which has been criticised for extractive and exploitative practices.”
The reasoning behind this is multifaceted. We believe that a platform co-op is an organisational and legal structure that can support us in fulfilling our purpose and realising our vision:
“A community governed social learning platform and collective of ethical change makers designing trustworthy organisations to deliver positive social impact.”
This platform co-op structure can provide
- An organisational structure with shared ownership and democratic governance. One that incentivises member contributions to design the platform tech in a trustworthy way and support the whole ecosystem in learning
- The mechanisms for the data we all generate through interactions with the platform to be managed by the community in a democratic way (i.e data trust with open and closed data)
- A pathway for values aligned individuals and organisations to combine resources, expertise and capital to increase the likelihood of positive social impact at scale
- A method for organisations that are currently competing for share of mind, heart and wallet to join forces
- Better quality and more affordable learning experiences and capability uplift programs to members in their journey to design trustworthy products, services and organisations
- Infrastructure to support members in delivering their expertise to global clientele, and
- A way for surplus financial resources to support a democratically managed community fund for the purpose of community projects
The specific details of how a platform co-op might work is yet to be formally decided, but the principles of cooperatives are relevant to reflect on.
- A co-op is owned and controlled by its members. It exists for the benefit of its members, who may be customers, workers, suppliers or the wider community.
- A co-op is democratic – this means every member has an equal say in how it’s run and how profits are used.
- Every member contributes financially in some way – from buying products, working for the co-op, investing in it or deciding how to spend its profits.
- A co-op is an independent business, owned and controlled by its members.
- It offers education and training to everyone involved, so they can develop the co-op and promote the benefits of co-operation.
- It co-operates, works with and supports other co-ops.
- A co-op supports the communities it works with.
- There's spaces for people to discuss and share ideas.
- Ways to easily form groups and converge on defining problems areas.
- Tools to coordinate and collaborate on community projects.
- Tools to create interactive e-learning experiences and short courses.
- A directory of ethics tools and techniques that's curated by the communities using them.
- Infrastructure for directories of ethical tech vendors and responsible innovation service providers.
- Ways to create proposals for big collaborative projects, changes to governance, or technology infrastructure.
- Along with ways to vote on key decisions that impact the community and other stakeholders.
Some of the high risk assumptions we have are:
- Existing community members will overwhelmingly support this direction
- A financially viable business model can be established by and for the community
- Existing community members will be willing to provide financial contributions for membership
- Compliance cost will not become overly burdensome
- Tools to support democratic decision making at scale will be adopted and effectively used
- Existing community members and prospective members will support capital raising and commit financially to attain shared ownership
- Diverse not for profit organisations (and commercial for profit ones) across the ecosystem will be willing to join and become members
- A compelling proposition can be co-designed to deliver platform services to global clients
- Global clients will be willing to work with a co-operative of this nature
There are loads of things to consider. This is by no means an exhaustive list but is enough to start discussions with you and all the current community members.
- Is a full co-operative structure the right one vs a company with a co-operative constitution?
- What is the best jurisdiction to incorporate this entity in?
- How will seedling capital be raised and via what fundraising instruments?
- What membership types there will be?
- What are the responsibilities of each membership type?
- Who are the initial core team members and how might we recruit and on-board them?
- What third party software tools do we need to support scalable democratic decision making?
- What is the mechanism through which surplus financial resources are distributed or allocated?
- What security measures need to be in place to support large numbers of members using the platform infrastructure?
- What methods of identity verification will be required by law for this type of organisation and how will these be implemented in an ethical way?
- What is the name and brand for this new organisation?
- Explore and assess existing community support for this proposal
- If existing members supports this transition we continue on
- Develop a simple preliminary feasibility study
- Short list of potential founding members (individuals and organisations)
- Create a Memorandum of Agreement with these parties
- Co-design governance rules (Constitution) with the founding members and the existing community
- Establish the ownership structure and any capital raising instruments needed
- Incorporate as a co-operative and commence commercial activities
* The time frame for this is about 9 months. Intention to have a new entity established by March 2022.
Who needs to be involved
As initial founders we are seeking your support for this proposed transition. On face value we believe most community members will be supportive of this proposed change. Support from you can come in many forms. The easiest way to do this now is to indicate your preference for this proposed decision below in preliminary voting. If you have messages of support or skepticism then get involved in the community discussion.
As we move through the exploration phase of this proposal, we’ll be sharing progress and presenting more conceptual details. There'll be opportunities to co-design how it might work. To diverge and converge together. Share stories in what ever way you're comfortable with. Be that a poem, an equation, drawing, song or interpretive dance.
We'll discuss and debate, collectively sense make and decide as a community on the direction we'd like to take this over the coming months. Along with the community discussion in the forums and some ad hoc co-design sessions opportunity for some real-time discussion is important. Please see this community discussion for details on community calls.
Community town hall meetings have been scheduled. These meeting will involve presentation of issues that have been raised, strategy for the transition and formal voting on the proposed changes to the organisation. Notice will be given to the current community via email, we'll also be sharing this via Twitter and Linkedin.
We’ll have 2 sessions to accommodate different time zones. You can register for these town hall sessions now.
Get involved in the community discussion
Proposals can have funding already allocated or be proposals to be funded.
Documents & Links
As the saying goes, we're always building on the shoulders of giants. If you want to explore some of the what informed the proposal these links provide a glimpse into the exploration we've been doing for some time. They cover everything from the cooperatives movement, voting mechanisms and governance to funding models and coops helping other coops.
- Platform Cooperativism Consortium
- Sociocracy - Collaborative Decision Making
- Video: The Future is Cooperative (disclosure - youtube link)
- Quadratic Voting - overcoming the tyranny of the majority problem
- Video: What is Quadratic Voting (disclosure - youtube link)
- Report by NESTA: Platform co-operatives - solving the capital conundrum (opens PDF)
- Article: How to Invest in Cooperatives
- Incubator for coops - based in Australia
- Accelerator for coops - based in the US
- Stocksy - artist-owned cooperative for stock photos
- Enspiral - collective based foundation supporting social entrepreneurship
- Timefounder - platform coop that built a tool for using the slicing pie model of equity splitting
- Loomio - platfrom coop built tool to assist groups with collaborative, consensus-focused decision-making
- Mondragon - one of the largest worker owned coops in the world
Preliminary voting on this proposal indicates the initial direction of your preference. This is used to gauge the interest before formal voting is done. As deeper understanding emerges you can change your preliminary vote until the proposal is closed.
A “tick” = proposal supported
A “cross” = proposal not supported
Update - 17th May: We had to make some big changes recently that impact this community proposal.
You can read more about it here.
Update - 25th May: I've created a series of videos talking through conceptual and future state aspects that provide a reference point for exploration. They cover what we're designing for, how membership might work and the types of membership. Governance and ownership of the cooperative. Applied learning projects, member levels and community ventures. The commercial model, the ecosystem entities, connecting broader ecosystems and the domains of the platform architecture. You can watch the videos here.
Update - 25th June: I've extended the duration of this phase to the start of December. This provides more time for community involvement and input. Join the Matrix chat if you have questions