Introducing Open 2017 – what are platform co-ops?

Platform co-ops, and the burgeoning movement behind them, are big news. For the first time since the inception of the internet a consensus is forming around a new model of economics and governance. At The Open Co-op we have been working on this concept since 2004 and continue to advocate that the internet provides the ultimate tool to help reorganise society and facilitate the transition to a collaborative sustainable economy.

It is refreshing to see some big names articulating the vision of a world beyond capitalism, not through fanciful idealism, but by explaining the concepts using the examples of existing platform co-ops. Paul Mason’s article from July 2015 “The end of capitalism has begun” draws on Marx and explains how what Paul calls “Postcapitalism” should

…expand those technologies, business models and behaviours that dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance.

In Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff explains how the digital economy has gone wrong and how we can reprogram it and our businesses from the inside out to promote sustainable prosperity for everyone. Rushkoff calls on business to accept that the era of extractive growth is over and to eschew platform monopolies like Uber in favour of distributed, worker-owned co-ops.

This is not a vague and incoherent collection of ideas or proposals for some kind of left-wing campaign against the existing paradigm. It is a clear and consistent road-map, featuring useful sign-posting and case studies, for a completely new and truly democratic economy.

In 6 Ways We’re Already Leading an Economic Revolution, Gar Alperovitz argues that “we’re well on our way to a more democratic, cooperative, and people-centered economy” and in “Transnational Republics of Commoning” David Bollier quotes Jeremy Rifkin saying:

“We are glimpsing at the outlines of a new economic system based on sharing and the collaborative commons. It is the first new paradigm-shifting system since the introduction of capitalism and communism.”

lead Paul Baran, On Distributed Networks, Institute for the Future, 1968

Rifkin points out that this new economic system:

…is already flourishing alongside the exchange economy of the capitalist market. These two systems are still largely intertwined. But by mid-century, the new system will be the predominant one.

To speed up this transition, the platform cooperative movement must bring together the age old, well established and highly principled cooperative community and the young, creative and dynamic open source community.

The cooperative world should utitlise and help to fund open source software in order to generate an ‘open app ecosystem’ on which further co-ops and platform co-ops can thrive. New, open source apps could enable mass collaboration, production and transactions in co-operatively owned organisations at a scale we have yet to imagine. If that were to happen then perhaps collective ownership and networked member control could out-evolve the extractive economy.

The Open 2017 Platform Cooperatives conference will bring together the open source and the cooperative communities, together with practitioners, legal experts, systems architects and developers with an interest in this growing movement, to promote the possibilities within the platform co-op movement and to accelerate the transition towards a collaborative, sustainable economy. It is a chance to meet and discuss the structure, challenges and opportunities of a truly collaborative internet. If you are interested in co-creating our collective future please join us and be part of the solution.

To stay up to date with the latest news about platform cooperatives and the new collaborative sustainable economy follow @open_coop and join the mailing list (form in the right hand column) and buy your tickets now.

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