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robertogreco : cooperatives   14

Digital Life Collective
"The Digital Life Collective researches, develops, funds and supports Tech We Trust: technologies that prioritize our autonomy, privacy and dignity. Our tech, not their tech.

Forming a co-operative of like-minded people is the best and perhaps only way to nurture Tech We Trust.

We are a co-operative.

Member funded. Member owned. Member controlled. Our rules are published here, and all our member rights and responsibilities can be found here.

Co-operation requires trust, and Tech We Trust requires co-operation.

Why we're here

The norm today is Tech We Don’t Trust. Every time we engage with digital technologies, we should ask – what’s actually going on here? – and the answer is too typically illusive.

We cannot wait for the invisible hand of the market to help solve this. If anything, it seems to guide many companies in the opposite direction for now. We cannot wait for governments to solve this either. In short, we need to co-operate. And that’s why we exist, why we are incorporated as a co-operative, and why we need you to join us.
JOIN US

Why are you incorporated as a UK co-op?

When we got started, we had several core team members in the UK who were willing to put in the effort and take on the responsibilities of becoming directors and founding members, and some with significant knowledge of UK Co-op structures and their legal requirements. Once we are better resourced/bigger, we anticipate having entities in multiple countries subject to our review of the respective technical and legal environment."
accessibility  collectives  equality  technology  privacy  autonomy  cooperatives 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
BSA—Our Strategy: The Dual Power Map
“The Dual Power Map is a strategic jump-off point for those looking to build #DualPower against the oppressive power of the state and the exploitative power of capital, neither of which have any regard for life on planet Earth, let alone Black people.

We’ve meticulously plotted every single Worker Cooperative, Small Business Development Center, Community Land Trust, and Dual Power Project within the United States that you can support right now, and will be updating as time goes on.

It is important we note that as of now, most Worker Cooperatives in the United States are not explicitly anticapitalist as far as their external relations are concerned (how they relate to the rest of society and the world), and many of them have not expressed a radical commitment to maximizing democracy and minimizing inequality as far as their internal relations are concerned (making sure that their own institutions actually hold true to socialist values in benefitting workers).

Cooperative SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) are also not explicitly anticapitalist, and it is on the anticapitalist movement and forces within it like BSA that are focused on building #DualPower to help politicize these institutions.

It is on us to infuse the #SolidarityEconomyMovement with political ideologies that will lead us to a fully democratic society and world where the workers themselves control the means of production in a democratic and decentralized fashion.

SHOW ME THE MAP

There are currently 30.2 million small businesses within the United States.

Of those 30.2 million small businesses, more than 22 million of them are individually operated (no employees).

Nearly half (47.5%) of the 124 million people working private sector jobs in the United States (which has a population of 328 million people) are employed by small businesses.

There are roughly 18,200 big businesses in the United States.
Each of these businesses have at least 500 employees.

Almost 60 million people are employed by big businesses throughout the United States (roughly 51.6% of all employees).

PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL EMPLOYMENT BY ENTERPRISE EMPLOYMENT SIZE

NOTE: Does not add to 100% due to rounding

[chart]

These are just some of the major capitalist titans that must be challenged by poor and working class people.

These entities will not just disappear once the working class decides that they want a better alternative; they will do everything within their power to maintain control, and it is on us to take the measures necessary to render these capitalist firms obsolete, or decentralize, localize, and democratize them.

There are many local capitalist businesses throughout the country that are just as (if not more) dirty in their practices as the larger, multinational, capitalist corporations (granted, at a smaller scale). These firms must be challenged as well, and the only way that we can effectively challenge them is together.

What are the biggest industries in the United States?
If you are a Socialist scientist (Scientific Socialist? ;)) innovating in any of these major industries (broadly speaking), please consider lending your insights and/or labor to a movement for radical democracy, and perhaps challenging the capitalist forces within your own industry with an alternative, cutting-edge, democratic firm of your own.“
cooperatives  blacksocialistsofamerica  us  maps  mapping  anticapitalism  socialism  dualpower  resistance  economics  business  labor  work  solidarity  decentralization  democracy  bsa 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Making of a Democratic Economy | Ted Howard | RSA Replay - YouTube
"While not often reported on in the press, there is a growing movement – a Community Wealth Building movement – that is taking hold, from the ground up, in towns and cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in particular.

Ted Howard, co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative, voted one of ‘25 visionaries who are changing your world’, visits the RSA to share the story of the growth of this movement, and the principles underlying it. Join us to explore innovative models of a new economy being built in cities from Cleveland, Ohio to Preston, Lancashire, and to discuss how we might dramatically expand the vision and reality of a democratic economy."
economics  tedhoward  inequality  democracy  extraction  extractiveeconomy  us  uk  2018  capitalism  privatization  finance  wealth  power  elitism  trickledowneconomics  labor  work  universalbasicincome  ubi  austerity  democraticeconomy  precarity  poverty  change  sustainability  empowerment  socialism  socialchange  regulations  socialsafetynet  collectivism  banking  employment  commongood  unemployment  grassroots  organization  greatdepression  greatrecession  alaska  california  socialsecurity  government  governance  nhs  communities  communitywealthbuilding  community  mutualaid  laborovercapital  local  absenteeownership  localownership  consumerism  activism  participation  participatory  investment  cleveland  systemicchange  policy  credit  communityfinance  development  cooperatives  creditunions  employeeownership  richmond  virginia  nyc  rochester  broadband  publicutilities  nebraska  energy  utilities  hospitals  universities  theprestonmodel  preston  lancashire 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Who Needs a Boss? - The New York Times
[via: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/982369655925846016

"Is there such thing as a worker owned cooperative PUBLICATION?

I don't even know the right words to used. Like a publication, but a co-op, worker-owned and operated, etc, all that good stuff?

Somebody must know things, please tell me"

and
https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/982389603159105536

"This, but for media
https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/magazine/who-needs-a-boss.html "]

"Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

In a worker co-op, the workers own the business and decide what to do with the profits (as opposed to consumer co-ops, which are typically stores owned by members who shop at a discount). Historically, worker co-ops have held the most appeal when things seem most perilous for laborers. The present is no exception. And yet, despite their ability to empower workers, co-ops remain largely relegated to boutique status in the United States.

Returns to investors are ever-increasing compared with the returns to labor. For most economists, there’s little question that the former is squeezing the latter.

Continue reading the main story
It’s the Economy
A column about how economics can explain the world.
Art for Money’s Sake
The Case for Legalized Gambling on Sports
Who Wants to Buy a Politician?
How Disney Turned ‘Frozen’ Into a Cash Cow
Will the LeBron James Stimulus Be Good for Cleveland?
SEE MORE »

RECENT COMMENTS
brendan March 31, 2014
Having visited the Working World in Buenos Aires and brought students to some of the co-ops they support in the area, I was happy to see...

miket March 31, 2014
My brother started a organic nut butter business in Nunda, NY 30+ years ago called "Once Again Nut Butter". It mainly specializes in...

Jim m Roberts March 31, 2014
The form of ownership does not guarantee business success. Profits do.Without profit, employee owned co-ops will fail just effortlessly as...

SEE ALL COMMENTS
The blockbuster economics book of the season, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” argues that the great equalizing decades following World War II, which brought on the rise of the middle class in the United States, were but a historical anomaly. Armed with centuries of data, Piketty says the rich are going to continue to gobble up a greater share of income, and our current system will do nothing to reverse that trend.

The oft-proposed remedy for this state of affairs is redistribution — namely, taxing the rich to benefit the poor. Piketty, in fact, proposes a global tax, one that can’t be avoided by private jet. Others want to raise the minimum wage. In contrast to those Band-Aids, worker co-ops require no politically unpalatable dictates. And by placing workers’ needs ahead of profits, they address the root cause of economic disparity. “If you don’t want inequality,” says Richard Wolff, the author of “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism,” “don’t distribute income unequally in the first place.”

Of course, a workplace doesn’t have to be managed by committee in order to channel more of the capital share to labor. Workers can just be given stock. Thousands of companies, including blue-chip firms like Procter & Gamble, already use stock as part of compensation, with the employee share of the company ranging from the single digits to 100 percent. But even this can be just another management strategy to harness the increased productivity that, studies have shown, accompany employee ownership and profit-sharing.

Support for full-fledged co-ops has inched into the mainstream as communities have grown weary of waiting for private investors to create good jobs — or sick of watching them take jobs away. In Cleveland in 2009, hospitals and a university gave seed money to a new group of businesses, the Evergreen Cooperatives, and now contract with them for laundry, energy retrofits and fresh produce. Last month, a government commission in Wales announced that “conventional approaches to economic development” were insufficient; it needed cooperatives. That same month, the New York City Council held a hearing called “Worker Cooperatives — Is This a Model That Can Lift Families Out of Poverty?”

It is a good question. Research findings about employee-owned businesses are rarely negative — they are either just as good as regular businesses, or they are more productive, less susceptible to failure, more attentive to quality and less likely to lay off workers in a downturn (though they may be slower to hire when times are good). Take, for example, the employee-owned British retailer John Lewis, which has recently threatened to outpace its publicly traded corporate rival, Marks & Spencer.

One perennial criticism of worker co-ops is that they can’t afford the high-flying talent that would help them innovate. But not every company needs to innovate. Many just need to mop floors, sling burgers or clean linens. And it is usually those companies whose workers struggle most. “We’re not trying to create an Amazon that pays Jeff Bezos to do what he does,” says Melissa Hoover, the executive director of the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives. “We’re trying to remove Jeff Bezos from the equation and have everyone else make a little more money.”

Another persistent critique is that workers don’t have enough experience to make good management decisions. Some co-ops solve this problem just as other businesses do, by buying expertise they don’t already have. In 2008, the owners of a Chicago window factory decided to close it with little notice, and the workers staged a six-day sit-in that made them celebrities overnight. Another owner took over but closed the factory again. The workers bought the equipment and moved it to a new factory, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars with sweat equity. The new company, called New Era Windows, opened last year. Though the workers are still paying themselves minimum wage, they elected to hire a high-priced, experienced salesman to drum up business.

New Era was lucky to find financing, borrowing $600,000 from a nonprofit called the Working World, which started lending to co-ops in Latin America and has branched out to the U.S. The biggest challenge co-ops face is lack of capital, which is why they are often labor-intensive businesses with low start-up costs. Banks can be hesitant to lend to co-ops, perhaps because they aren’t familiar with the model. Meanwhile, credit unions — another form of cooperative — face stringent regulations on business lending.

The founder of the Working World, Brendan Martin, would like not only to fund cooperatives, but to reorder the priorities of investors altogether. Martin says that both times the window factory was shuttered, it was not for lack of business. It just didn’t meet the needs of the owners. The Working World, instead of seeking quick returns, accepts no loan repayment until the borrower is on its feet. “We create the real economy, which is slower but it has less risk,” Martin told me recently, between meetings with the New Era workers in Chicago. Then he proposed something truly radical: “Imagine if Wall Street investors were only able to make money by creating incredibly successful American businesses?” Maybe then we wouldn’t need co-ops."
2014  cooperatives  work  labor  arizmendi  mondragon  josémaríaarizmendiarrieta  sanfrancisco  democracy  shailadewan 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Alternative Art School Fair Radio | Clocktower
"The Alternative Art School Fair at Pioneer Works presents an introduction to alternative art schools from around the US and the world, November 19-20, 2016. The entire event, including workshops, discussions, and keynote presentations by Carol Becker, Luis Camnitzer, Craig Wilkins and Dorothea Rockburne, will be streamed live and archived on clocktower.org.

See the radio schedule below to plan your listening party. The live listening link can be found HERE.

Art education is a reflection of social and cultural evolution; it engages with structures of meaning-making and considers different frameworks for experience. The impetus to create an alternative art school is rooted not only in a desire to create “better” art, but to create the conditions for greater freedom of expression. Often run as free, artist-run initiatives, the values and visions of alternative art schools vary widely in methodology, mission and governance. But even when they are relatively small in scale they provide vital models of cultural critique and experimentation.

Listening Schedule:
November 19
Keynote panel -- 12:00-1:30PM
Carol Becker
Luis Camnitzer
Dorothea Rockburne
Victoria Sobel
Interviewer/Moderator: Catherine Despont

How can alternative systems impact traditional arts education? -- 2-3:30PM
Ox-Bow
Daniel Bozhkov
School of the Future
Interviewer/Moderator: Regine Basha

Art and Democracy -- 3:45-5:15PM
UNIDEE
The Black Mountain School
UOIEA (Anna Craycroft)
Interviewer/Moderator: Provisions Library

Self-Governance as Pedagogy: Of Other Spaces -- 5:30-7:30PM
Art and Law Program
Interviewer/Moderator: Associate Director Lauren van Haaften-Schick
Art & Law Program Fellows: Abram Coetsee & Alex Strada (Fall 2016), Damien Davis (Spring 2016)

November 20
Keynote -- 12:00-1:30PM
Dr. Craig L. Wilkins, PhD, RA

Hybrid Practice -- 2:00-3:30PM
SFPC
Zz School of Print Media
Southland Institute
Interviewer/Moderator: Archeworks

Responsive Programming: A Conversation Between The Ventriloquist Summerschool and Sheila Levrant de Bretteville -- 3:45-5:15PM
The Ventriloquist Summerschool
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

(Re)incorporating Art in Everyday Life -- 5:30-7:00PM
Chad Laird (Sunview Luncheonette)
Tal Beery (School of Apocalypse)
Tatfoo Tan (NERTM)
Moderator/Interviewer: Grizedale Arts"
tolisten  education  altgdp  openstudioproject  lcproject  sfsh  schools  artschools  2016  radio  art  pioneerworks  alternative  diy  small  democracy  local  play  self-directed  self-directedlearning  unschooling  deschooling  architecture  nyc  brooklyn  chicago  uk  guatemala  london  egypt  puertorico  sanjuan  northcarolina  portonovo  benin  statenisland  design  michigan  saugatuck  curriculum  pedagogy  learning  howelearn  organizations  cooperatives  publishing  networks  fairfax  virginia  losangeles  oslo  accrá  edinburgh  making  craft  mexicocity  mexicodf  df  mexico  noray  stavanger  paris  france  brussels  mutlidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  kansascity  missouri  seoul  biella  italia  italy  systemsthinking  socialjustice  independence  carolbecker  victoriasobel  reginebasha  transart  marywallingblackburn  craigwilkins  sheilalevrantdebretteville  michaelnewton  shannonharvey  hragvartanian  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  communication  technology  socialnetworks  artschool 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Alternative Art School Fair | Pioneer Works
[See also: The Alternative Art School Fair Radio
http://clocktower.org/series/the-alternative-art-school-fair-radio ]

"The Alternative Art School Fair
November 19-20, 2016

The Alternative Art School Fair presents an introduction to alternative art schools from around the US and the world.

Art education is a reflection of social and cultural evolution; it engages with structures of meaning-making and considers different frameworks for experience. The impetus to create an alternative art school is rooted not only in a desire to create “better” art, but to create the conditions for greater freedom of expression. Often run as free, artist-run initiatives, the values and visions of alternative art schools vary widely in methodology, mission and governance. But even when they are relatively small in scale they provide vital models of cultural critique and experimentation.

The Alternative Art School Fair event, including workshops, discussions, and keynote presentations by Carol Becker, Luis Camnitzer, Craig Wilkins and Dorothea Rockburne, will be streamed live and archived by Clocktower Productions on clocktower.org.

Media Sponsor:
Hyperallergic

Participating Schools

AAPG – Alternative Art Program Guatemala • AltMFA • Anhoek School • Archeworks • Arts Letters & Numbers • ASCII Project • Beta-Local • Black Mountain School • Brooklyn Institute for Social Research • Center for Art Analysis • COLLABOR • école de Hogbonu • Enroll Yourself • Free School of Architecture • Islington Mill Art Academy • Grizedale Arts • Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists' Residency • NERTM - New Earth Resiliency Training Module • Nomad/9 • Pioneer Works • School of Apocalypse • School of Critical Engagement - SoCE • School of the Future • School for Poetic Computation • SOMA • Sommerskolen • Spring Sessions • Sunview Luncheonette • The Art & Law Program • The Black School • The Other MA - TOMA • The Public School • The School of Making Thinking • The Southland Institute • The Ventriloquist Summerschool • The Zz School of Print Media • Thinker Space • Transart Institute • Uncertainty School • UNIDEE - University of Ideas • Utopia School

Presses, Libraries, Resources

Arthur Fournier Fine and Rare • Booklyn • Brooklyn Art Library • Common Field • Inventory Press • OSSAI - Open Source and Space Administration Institute for Alternative Research • Provisions Library • Sketchbook • Project Zone Books

Saturday Schedule … [with session descriptions]

Sunday Schedule … [with session descriptions]

Schools [and a few other things, as noted, website links to descriptions, and to each school’s site if there is one]

AltMFA
London, United Kingdom

Alternative Art College
United Kingdom

Alternative Art Program
Guatemala

Anhoek School
Brooklyn, New York, USA

Antiuniversity Now
London, United Kingdom

Archeworks
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Arts Letters & Numbers
New York, USA

ASCII Project
Mohansein Giza, Egypt

Beta-Local
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Black Mountain School
Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA

GALLERY
Booklyn
Brooklyn, New York, USA

LIBRARY
Brooklyn Art Library
Brooklyn, New York, USA

SCHOOL
Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
Brooklyn, NY, USA

NETWORK
Common Field
National

école de Hogbonu
Porto Novo, Bénin

Enrol Yourself
London, United Kingdom

BOOKSTORE
Fournier Fine & Rare
Brooklyn, New York, USA

Grizedale Arts
Coniston, Lake District, UK

PRESS
Inventory Press
New York, New York, USA

New Earth Resiliency Training Module [NERTM]
Staten Island, NY, USA

Nomad/9 MFA
Hartford, Connecticut, USA

RESOURCE
Open Source and Space Administration Institute for Alternative Research [OSSAI]
nomadic

Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency
Saugatuck, Michigan, USA

Pioneer Works
Brooklyn, New York, USA

LIBRARY
Provisions Library
Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Ricean School of Dance
Hydra Island, Greece

School of Apocalypse
Brooklyn, New York, USA

School of Critical Engagement [SoCE]
Los Angeles / Oslo / Accra

School of the Future
Brooklyn, New York, USA

School for Poetic Computation
New York, NY, USA

Shift/Work
Edinburgh, Scotland

Spring Sessions
Amman, Jordan

SOMA
Mexico City, Mexico

Sommerskolen
Stavanger, Norway

Southland Institute
Los Angeles, California, USA

Sunview Luncheonette
Brooklyn, New York, USA

The Art & Law Program
New York, New York, USA

The Black School
Brooklyn, New York, USA

The Cheapest University
Paris, France

The Free School of Architecture
Los Angeles, California, USA

The Public School
Brussels, New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere

The School of Making Thinking
Brooklyn, New York, USA

The School of the Damned
London, United Kingdom

The Ventriloquist Summerschool
Oslo, Norway

The Zz School of Print Media
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

ThinkerSpace
Brussels, New York City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere

TOMA
Southend-on-Sea, United Kingdom

Transart Institute
Berlin, Germany, and New York, New York, USA

Uncertainty School
Seoul, New York, International

UNIDEE-University Of Ideas
Biella, Italy

Union of Initiatives for Educational Assembly (UOIEA)
Sites vary

PRESS
Zone Books
Brooklyn, NY, USA"
altgdp  art  artschools  pioneerworks  2016  alternative  diy  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  small  democracy  local  play  self-directed  self-directedlearning  unschooling  deschooling  architecture  nyc  brooklyn  chicago  uk  guatemala  london  egypt  puertorico  sanjuan  northcarolina  portonovo  benin  statenisland  design  michigan  saugatuck  curriculum  pedagogy  learning  howelearn  organizations  cooperatives  publishing  networks  fairfax  virginia  losangeles  oslo  accrá  edinburgh  making  craft  mexicocity  mexicodf  df  mexico  noray  stavanger  paris  france  brussels  mutlidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  kansascity  missouri  seoul  biella  italia  italy  systemsthinking  socialjustice  independence  carolbecker  victoriasobel  reginebasha  transart  marywallingblackburn  craigwilkins  sheilalevrantdebretteville  michaelnewton  shannonharvey  hragvartanian  crossdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  communication  technology  socialnetworks  artschool 
december 2016 by robertogreco
A New Wrinkle in the Gig Economy: Workers Get Most of the Money - The New York Times
[via: https://workfutures.io/message-ansel-on-overwork-jenkin-on-the-workplace-cortese-on-stocksy-mohdin-on-project-3cb6502c79a8 ]

"So using money from the sale of iStock to Getty, she and Mr. Livingstone set out to create Stocksy, paying photographers 50 to 75 percent of sales. That is well above the going rate of 15 to 45 percent that is typical in the stock photography field. The company also distributes 90 percent of its profit at the end of each year among its photographers.

“We realized we could do it differently this time,” said Ms. Wettlaufer, who took over the chief executive role in 2014. “We could enter the market with a model that ensured artists were treated fairly and ethically.”

Stocksy is part of a new wave of start-ups that are borrowing the tools of Silicon Valley to create a more genuine “sharing” economy that rewards the individuals generating the value.

According to a recent Pew poll, 72 percent of Americans have used some sort of shared or on-demand service, whether it’s Uber for rides or TaskRabbit for things as diverse as dog walking and household chores. But there has been much criticism that, after the platforms take their cut and the workers pay for expenses, little may trickle down to those doing the actual work.

And although many workers appreciate the flexibility to schedule their own hours, they don’t have the same protections and benefits as full-time employees. Evidence suggests that the shift to on-demand labor may increase economic vulnerability for the roughly one-third of Americans who are contingent workers."
stocksy  labor  work  gigeconomy  lbo  economics  taskrabbit  uber  cooperatives  photography  profitsharing  2016 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Feel Train
[http://feeltrain.com/blog/hello-feel-train/

"I am incredibly proud to announce that Courtney Stanton and I are starting a creative technology cooperative called Feel Train. We build tech that creates dynamic and nuanced interactions between humans and computers. We eschew meme generation and instead confront people with their own humanity by putting them face to face with the inhuman. And as of today we're available for hire.

So. We're a creative technology cooperative. I'll talk more about "creative technology" in a future essay, but right now I want to dive into the "cooperative" part. Feel Train is a worker-owned, cooperatively managed company.

A hard limit on scale
I've spent about a decade as a working professional. I've been at at half a dozen companies of various sizes, ranging from a three-person bootstrapped business to a multinational technology company with 5000 employees. I've been lucky: every company I've worked for has been a pretty good place to work overall.

I've experienced a bunch of different workplace cultures and organizational structures but I've never felt comfortable with any of them, which is why we're doing something a little bit different with this new business.

There are plenty of models out there for technical cooperatives, and we wanted to make sure we picked the right one for Feel Train. (For 101-level information on how a tech co-op might work, the Tech Co-op Network hosts an excellent free guide full of case studies.)

One thing that Courtney and I knew from the start in our very bones: Feel Train will never consist of more than 8 people.

This is a hard cap on the number of employees. With this limit in place, we no longer have to pick solutions that scale, because we literally cannot scale. We could have a different benefits or vacation package for every worker. That would be a logistical nightmare at most companies, but we'll never have to keep track of more than 8 packages.

Emotionally speaking, this does wonders for me. I've had plenty of entrepreneur friends over the years. Sometimes I would hear them swear up and down, "I love our company at this size. We're going to grow slowly and carefully." Then (ideally) success hits and it becomes very difficult to say no to the prospect of doing more, and doing so by growing faster than they'd ever planned.

All of a sudden, the company is bigger than they ever told themselves it would be. The work isn't fun like it used to be.

I'm not a better person than my friends. If (ideally) Feel Train is successful, then I know I would say yes to growing it beyond our intentions. With this limit in place, I'll never have to tempt myself.

Worker ownership
I believe that labor is the source of value, which means that in order to run a just company, ownership must belong to the workers and solely to the workers. The question becomes: who owns how much?

In production-based industries (factories, agriculture, etc) there are cooperative models where it's a simple matter of converting hourly labor to percent ownership. If Ayesha clocks twice as many hours as Bert, then Ayesha owns twice as much of the company as Bert.

But measuring labor is tricky in a creative industry. Why it's so tricky is a huge topic outside the scope of this article, but Courtney and I have given this a lot of thought and the best answer we have is: don't measure labor. No time tracking.

This means that, when it comes to ownership, we simply give it away. Ownership means equal say in every strategic decision the company makes: one worker, one vote. This solution absolutely does not scale. I couldn't imagine direct democracy working smoothly in an organization of even 20 people let alone 100 or 1,000. But it'll work for 8 people.

This also means that investment does not translate to ownership. Courtney and I are investing a pretty big chunk of our savings to get Feel Train started, but this doesn't give us any special rights. The next person to join Feel Train, whoever that is, will own one third of the company. My share of the company will dilute from one half to one third, as will Courtney's. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about too much dilution. I can guarantee you that if you join Feel Train you will never own less than one eighth of the company as long as you work here.

This is all just the beginning...
It's a good feeling to help start a company I can feel proud of deep, deep down in my Marxist bones. And these two core principles of worker ownership and non-scalability are just the foundation. Courtney has a ton of thoughts on the management of creative workers, and she'll talk about those in the future. If you're eager to hear more about all this, sign up for our monthly mailing list!"]

[See also: https://tinyletter.com/superopinionated/letters/super-opinionated-power-club-16-live-from-open-source-bridge ]
courtneystanton  dariuskazemi  bots  labor  technology  coding  feeltrain  humanism  cooperatives  groupsize  ownership  marxism  production  directdemocracy  organizations  growth  size  employment  lcproject  openstudioproject  scale  scalability  tcsnmy8  tcsnmy  small  slow  sfsh 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The mystery of the white dress shirt: Makeshift Society Brooklyn postmortem — Medium
"We hosted rad events with nationally recognized partners including Adobe, HP, and SXSW on the assumption that if we get people to visit, we would get more conversions to memberships. But we saw little correlation between event attendees and future memberships. We also tried referral bonuses and monthly discounts for different skill sets (e.g. 50% off for photographers in May). That didn’t work either. The one thing that did work quite well, ironically, was a “three months for the price of two” membership offer that we launched when we had exactly 3 months left before closing. This resulted in about four conversions, which sounds small but is not insignificant (about 6% of the core membership base we were counting on in our original business plan). We probably should have experimented more with membership packages, but we were trying to avoid the situation where current members feel burnt by deals offered to new members. Strong impulses towards fairness are a liability for capitalists."



"Is community a side, or the main dish?

On the coworking as community — commodity spectrum, we existed somewhere in the middle. The feel of Makeshift Society Brooklyn was relatively communal and friendly, but ultimately it was a pay-to-play membership organization. We found that people genuinely seek community when it comes as a freebie side dish, but it’s somewhat rare that people want to pay for it as the main dish. In retrospect, this makes sense. One pays for golf at the club because paying explicitly for access to likeminded peers feels dirty. Even Airbnb, who claim to offer belonging (which is dubious, but we’ll take it at face value for now), are actually selling accommodations. The feeling of belonging is a mint on your pillow — the thing you enjoy most but would never pay for on its own.

When prospective members came through our doors asking about what amenities we offer, I could usually tell that they were not going to choose to join our community. Whereas other spaces offer hard amenities such as free beer on tap or access to legal advice, our biggest “amenity” was the ability to get to know a group of down to earth people who did something relatively close to what you’re doing, to call on them for emotional support, and occasionally to do some work together. Second to this, daylight and a dignified workspace were our primary distinctions (this says a lot about what passes for ‘quality’ in the state of workspaces). If you’ve already gotten wasted on the free beer, worked in your glass cubicle, and still haven’t found a supportive community of practice, you’d be more likely to arrive at the doors of MSS BK genuinely in search of what we offered. Leigh summed it up nicely:
At Makeshift I’m surrounded by amazingly smart and creative individuals. Whether it’s asking for a second set of eyes from a deskmate or seeing the other things members are building, being surrounded by that energy is inspiring.

It was also important to us that our people feel connected to the broader community of the neighborhood and the city, which is something that Matt and Cory picked up on:
Makeshift has all the productivity benefits of a coffee shop without the drawbacks. Well, it doesn’t have coffee, but that’s actually a benefit too. There are plenty of great cafés [nearby] that are easy to walk to. One of my favorite things about Makeshift’s space is that it really encourages creativity by making it easy to get up and move around. The location is a big, airy, bright area right on street level, on a nice quiet street, which makes it very easy to get up and get out for a quick walk outside to clear one’s head… Other co-working spaces that I’ve worked at are on high floors and I have to pack up my computer in my backpack before I can get outside, which makes it subtly harder to get up and move around. At Makeshift I can just get up, walk around, and get right back to work.

Before the Brooklyn expansion, Rena and I discussed converting MSS into a non-profit. We decided not to because we wanted to retain agility. As MSS BK was struggling I spent a good amount of time considering this as an alternative future for the space. By sliding from our midpoint on the community — commodity spectrum to somewhere more resolutely on the community side of things, such as a co-op, we would give up some or all control over the community, perhaps even the operations of the space. From the perspective of the balance sheet this could work out OK. Giving up control to a co-op could also mean freeing the MSS business entity of the responsibility to look after and pay for every little thing (printer toner, cleaning, etc) as those become shared responsibilities.

By the time we got to seriously considering converting ourselves into a co-op, we were too late to practically make the transition. It would have required a new cooperatively owned entity taking over the lease, which would require enough co-op members to assemble the tens of thousands of dollars needed just for the security deposit, not to mention a similarly formidable monthly sum to cover rent. In theory MSS could have retained the lease and sublet the space to a new co-op, but that’s a risky transition with a lot of opportunity for things to fall apart. Too risky.

By the time we were ready to do it, there was not enough money in our bank account to protect MSS in the event that the transition was less than perfect. Instead I’ll daydream of a benevolent co-op that performs hostile takeovers, converting struggling but beloved for-profit businesses into community-owned infrastructure. In the meantime, I’ll be watching Prime Produce closely as they progress with their co-op in midtown with the assist of “sympathetic investors”."
bryanboyer  2015  capitalism  coworking  makeshiftsociety  business  marketing  events  community  agility  markets  communication  cooperatives 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy — Medium
"Let’s do justice to what we know. Platform cooperativism equals a more humane workplace equals real benefits. They say that big money talks, but I say that platform cooperativism can invigorate genuine sharing, and that it does not have to reject the market. Platform cooperativism can serve as remedy for the corrosive effects of capitalism; it can be a reminder that work can be dignified rather than diminishing for the human experience. Cooperatives are not a panacea but they could help to weave some ethical threats into the fabric of 21st century work."
sharing  sharingeconomy  economics  labor  cooperatives  cooperativism  work  treborscholz  mondragon  naomiklein  yochaibenkler  michelbauens  uber  taskrabbit 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Hope and Ka-ching - The Baffler
"There are at least 150 million members of cooperatives in the United States, if you include retail, housing, agricultural, electrical, insurance, and most other types of co-ops. Eleven thousand American companies are owned wholly or in part by their workers through employee stock-ownership plans. Where these two groups intersect and go even further is in the four hundred worker cooperatives that exist in this country, enterprises that are owned by members and democratically run. As for cooperative factories, New Era is a rarity, among the only operations of its kind in the United States."



"Horizontalism is not simply about being fair to old friends. Nor is it about passing a political litmus test or pretending everyone has identical abilities. Instead, it is a practical matter, a way of mitigating the uncertainty and sacrifice the task requires of all involved, even if it means supporting those who are less proficient or those who are unable to work as hard as others due to unforeseen circumstances. Toward this end, the group recently affirmed their commitment to “solidarity economics,” specifically assuring that all future workers will be members. Despite the disproportionate role played by the founders, every worker, present and future, must be given a “buy-in” that will make them all legitimate owners of capital and make it harder for the business to demutualize, as some cooperatives have in the past. Essentially, they want to be blocked from someday becoming the bosses they deplore.

Starting New Era, one worker told me, was a “survival strategy” pure and simple, a way to “stop the abuse” they had suffered. Making windows for Republic, Robles said, was “a type of modern slavery,” with every minute logged and monitored through a complicated tracking system. Now they move freely, working and breaking when they need to, with a sense of purpose that Robles says gets him happily out of bed at dawn without the help of an alarm clock. Arizona Stingley, who was a nanny for white families in Mississippi in her younger days, told me there was simply no comparison between Republic and New Era. “It was divide and conquer by the boss. They were always pitting Mexicans against blacks,” she recalled. “And it worked. People wouldn’t want to teach you anything because they were afraid you’d take their job.” The groups sat at different tables at lunch and rarely mingled across race lines. Now they share skills instead of regarding each other as threats.

Experiences like these have convinced the New Era crew that cooperatives are the wave of the future. “Bosses, at any minute they can close the plant and just destroy your life. They say it’s your job, but really it’s their job to take away,” said Maclin, whose fluency in English is a resource for the predominantly Spanish-speaking crew. He likened his awakening over the last few years to the movie Star Wars: “You know how it says, the power is with you, the force is with you? Well the power is with us. The force is with us. We are the work force. We’re taking back the power we already have.”



"History abounds with examples of cooperative ambitions; unfortunately, it also contains an almost equal number of failures.

The stumbling block, nearly every time, has been lack of access to capital. Workers are more than capable of managing things on their own—work, after all, goes on whether the bosses are in their offices or out on the putting green. But the money to purchase equipment and pay for space and materials has always been hard to come by for the proletariat. After owners shut down the Youngstown Sheet and Tube steel mill in the late 1970s, a landmark event in the history of deindustrialization, workers made plans to run it themselves; they were stopped when the Carter administration failed to come up with the $100 million in financing it had promised. In 1996 the CEO of Republic Windows and Doors was able to secure nearly $10 million in financing through a public program that diverted property-tax revenue from schools and parks to expand his private company. In 2012 the workers needed just a petty sum to buy the business, but for them there was no public investment to be found.

Finance, as Martin sees it, is the key to getting significant control of wealth into workers’ hands. “There is this myth of capitalism that says that the 1 percent invest productively, but the fact is, we don’t need them,” Martin explains. “They said, ‘If you don’t bail us out, there won’t be jobs.’ But their aim isn’t to make jobs; it’s to make money for themselves. Finance, as it is currently set up, is parasitic. It’s extractive. But what if it was productive instead? What if it actually invested in the community instead of always sucking money out?” The Working World, which has lent out over $4 million in less than ten years, is Martin’s answer to that question."



"Karl Marx wrote approvingly of cooperatives, insisting that the “value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated.” Nonetheless, he probably would have scorned the “small is beautiful” attitude of those cooperators who are content to stay on the fringe, who lack the oppositional spirit necessary to take on capitalism directly. He would also have scoffed at activists who believe they can practice and prefigure democracy without building institutions, accumulating resources, or holding power.

The cooperative activists themselves often recognize the problem. Marina Sitrin, the author of several books about horizontalism, never believed that the large assemblies that characterized the early days of Occupy Wall Street would be sustainable for a prolonged period. She told me that horizontalism needs to be grounded in a specific place and have a well-defined purpose in order to function. A hundred people debating abstract principles in a public forum will likely drive each other bonkers, but the same hundred people may be able to run a school or a health center or a factory if their community and lives depend on it. In other words, for consensus decision-making to be practicable, there has to be something at stake, something to stick to and stick with. You need a school or a health center or a factory."



"What remains to be seen is whether the current crop of cooperators and activists—the New Era window builders, Occupy and its post-disaster rebuilding efforts, and the USW with its plans for union-cooperative hybrids—will actually be able to change things. They look at Mondragon and the substantial cooperative networks in other countries, as well as the factory takeovers in Argentina and Greece, and believe we may be entering a cooperative renaissance spurred on by an endless economic slump. And maybe that is so. But cooperative momentum will flag if the movement doesn’t take the problem of finance seriously. Until we create loan funds or build banks that are committed to non-extractive economic growth, cooperatives will remain marginal phenomena, nice places to shop for organic food and get your bicycle repaired, but not much more.

One thing the cooperators can count on is self-interest. People will pursue worker control because it is more appealing than being exploited and then disposed of by employers whose only allegiance is to the bottom line. They will be drawn to structures that can help them support their families and communities, and these real, urgent needs will in turn encourage them to endure the vexations of direct democracy, to stick with it even though the meetings last for hours and comrades inevitably chafe. It’s still better than having a boss."
collectives  work  chicago  finance  astrataylor  2014  labor  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontalism  deindustrialization  via:Taryn  capital  mondragon  marinasitrin  brendanmartin  collectivism  anarchism  cooperatives  ows  occupywallstreet 
october 2014 by robertogreco
What I’m working on lately: Practices of the minimum viable utopia (long) | Speedbird
"In the fusion of each of these three archetypal processes, el Campo de Cebada, Godsbanen and Unto This Last, we can see the outlines of something truly radical and terribly exciting beginning to resolve. What can be made out, gleaming in the darkness, is a — partial, incomplete, necessarily insufficient, but hugely important — way of responding to the disappearance of meaningful jobs from our cities, as well as all the baleful second-order effects that attend that disappearance.

When apologists for the technology industry trumpet the decontextualized factoid that each “tech” job ostensibly creates five new service positions as a secondary effect, what they neglect to mention is that the lion’s share of those jobs will as a matter of course prove to be the kind of insecure, short-term, benefits-lacking, at-or-close-to-minimum-wage positions that typify the contemporary service sector. This sort of employment can’t come anywhere close to the (typically unionized) industrial-sector jobs of the twentieth century in their capacity to bind a community together, either in the income and benefits they produce by way of compensation, in the conception of self and competence they generate in those who hold them, or in the sense of solidarity with others similarly situated that they generally evoke.

At the same time, though, like many others, I too believe it would be foolish to artifically inflate employment by propping up declining smokestack industries with public-sector subsidies. Why, for example, continue to maintain Detroit’s automobile manufacturers on taxpayer-funded life support, when their approach to the world is so deeply retrograde, their product so very corrosive environmentally and socially, their behavior so irresponsible and their management so blitheringly, hamfistedly incompetent? That which is falling should also be pushed, surely. But that can’t ethically be done until something of comparable scale has been found to replace industrial manufacturing jobs as the generator of local economic vitality and the nexus of local community.

So where might meaningful, valued, value-generating employment be found — “employment” in the deepest sense of that word? I have two ways of answering that question:

- In the immediate term, I believe in the material and economic significance of digital fabrication technologies largely using free and open-source plans, deployed in small, clean, city-center workshops, under democratic community control. While these will never remotely be of a scale to replace all the vanished industrial jobs of the past, they offer us at least one favorable prospect those industrial jobs never could: the direct production of items immediately useful and valuable in one’s own life. Should such workshops be organized in such a way as to offer skills training (perhaps for laid-off service-sector workers, elders or at-risk youth), they present a genuinely potent economic and social proposition.

There are provisos. The Surly Urbanist correctly suggests that any positions created in such an endeavor need to be good jobs, i.e. not simply minimum-wage dronework, and my friend Rena Tom also notes that the skills training involved should be something more comprehensive than a simple set of instructions on how to run a CNC milling machine — that any such course of instruction would be most enduringly valuable if it amounted to an apprenticeship first in the manual and only later the numeric working of materials. I also want to be very clear that, per the kind of inclusive decision-making processes used at el Campo de Cebada, such a workshop would have to be something a community itself collectively thinks is worth experimenting with and investing in, not something inflicted upon it by guileless technoutopians from afar.

- In the fullness of time, I believe that the use of relatively high-technology techniques to accomplish not merely the local, autonomous production of everyday objects, furnitures and infrastructures, but their refit and repair, will come to be an economically salient activity in the global North. In this I see a congelation of several existing tendencies, logics or dynamics: the ideologically-driven retreat of the State from responsibility for stewardship of the everyday environment; the accelerating attrition and degradation of the West’s dated and undermaintained infrastructures, and their concomitant need for upgrade or replacement; increasing belief in the desirability of densifying urban infill; the rising awareness in the developed world of jugaad, gambiarra and other cultures of repair, reuse and improvisation; the emergence of fabricator-enabled adaptive upcycling; the circulation of a massive stock of recyclable componentry (in the form of obsolescent structures as well as landfill-bound but effectively nondegradable consumer items), coupled to the emergence of a favorable economics of materials recovery; broader experience with and understanding of networked, horizontal and leaderless organizational structures; the creation of a robust informational commons, including repositories of freely-downloadable specifications; and finally the clear capability of online platforms to facilitate development and sharing of the necessary knowledge, maintain some degree of standardization (or at least harmonization) of practice, suggest sites where citizen repair might constitute a useful intervention, and support processes of democratic decision-making."
utopia  2014  adamgreenfield  openstudioproject  pocketsofresistance  resistance  institutforx  godbanen  aarhus  madrid  spain  españa  elcampodecebada  untothislast  london  making  makerculture  economics  production  fabrication  democracy  labor  upcycling  collectivism  collaboration  repair  furniture  agency  denmark  davidharvey  postcapitalism  sharingeconomy  sharing  libraries  lcproject  community  communities  cooperatives  anilbawa-cavia  renatom  airbnb  couchsurfing  kintsugi  seams  minimumviableutopia  douglasmeehan  idealism  practicalism  jeremyrifkin  self-reliance  murraybookchin  jugaad  fabbing  gambiarra  fixing  maintenance  cv  repairing 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Jeremy Rifkin: "The Zero Marginal Cost Society" | Authors at Google - YouTube
"In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin describes how the emerging Internet of Things is speeding us to an era of nearly free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism.

Rifkin uncovers a paradox at the heart of capitalism that has propelled it to greatness but is now taking it to its death—the inherent entrepreneurial dynamism of competitive markets that drives productivity up and marginal costs down, enabling businesses to reduce the price of their goods and services in order to win over consumers and market share. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing additional units of a good or service, if fixed costs are not counted.) While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring marginal costs to near zero, making goods and services priceless, nearly free, and abundant, and no longer subject to market forces.

Now, a formidable new technology infrastructure—the Internet of things (IoT)—is emerging with the potential of pushing large segments of economic life to near zero marginal cost in the years ahead. Rifkin describes how the Communication Internet is converging with a nascent Energy Internet and Logistics Internet to create a new technology platform that connects everything and everyone. Billions of sensors are being attached to natural resources, production lines, the electricity grid, logistics networks, recycling flows, and implanted in homes, offices, stores, vehicles, and even human beings, feeding Big Data into an IoT global neural network. Prosumers can connect to the network and use Big Data, analytics, and algorithms to accelerate efficiency, dramatically increase productivity, and lower the marginal cost of producing and sharing a wide range of products and services to near zero, just like they now do with information goods.

Rifkin concludes that capitalism will remain with us, albeit in an increasingly streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to flourish as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, says Rifkin, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons. --macmillan.com

About the Author: Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. He has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade.

Mr. Rifkin also served as an adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security.

Mr. Rifkin is a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable Third Industrial Revolution economies.

Mr. Rifkin holds a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University."
socialcommons  cooperatives  2014  jeremyrifkin  internetofthings  zeromarginalcostsociety  society  economics  sharing  sharingeconomy  consumers  prosumers  marginalcosts  markets  collaborativecommons  collaboration  capitalism  bigdata  analytics  efficiency  technology  abundance  commons  exchange  networks  qualityoflife  climatechange  google  geopolitics  biosphereconsciousness  cyberterrorism  biosphere  iot 
april 2014 by robertogreco

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