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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Pools: A Proposal for One-Click Co-ops in Online Groups

by Nathan Schneider

June 22, 2016

I’ve been trying to think about ways of mainstreaming the co-op model, and the idea keeps coming up of something like a co-op layer on top of a site like Meetup, kind of akin to Stripe’s Atlas. The goal is making it as easy as possible to turn a Meetup group into a one-click co-op—perhaps not even calling it a co-op, but instead a “Pool” or something. This way, members could easily contribute and manage funds around projects related to the group.

The spec could be something like this:

+ Groups could easily create a Pool, which is a Delaware LLC with co-op-like, boiler-plate bylaws, such as shared ownership among members, shared investment, commitment to social good, etc. It could also be a legal co-op somewhere if we can find the right jurisdiction. Maybe the membership of the main group wouldn’t be the same as its Pool—some additional investment or commitment might be required—or maybe it would be.

+ Using tools like Loomio and/or CoBudget, members of the Pool could make proposals and vote on decisions about what to do with the funds they pool. Groups could decide what the threshold for a decision is as part of a small set of variables in the back-end. But the principle of one-person-one-vote would be hardwired.

+ Pools could be modular swarms, making it easy to combine or disconnect around projects of shared interest—call them Floods. Together, they could use the decision-making tools to determine how to use their combined resources. This way, lots of these mini co-ops could federate and cooperate.

A result of this is that lots and lots of people could quickly become cooperativists without necessarily gulping down lots of co-op ideology. It’d be a simple, obvious way of funding group projects. And this in itself would have huge educational effect; it would demonstrate how practical and easy democratic resource-management can be.

Does this idea hold water, so to speak? What is it missing? What would be needed to make it work?