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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Being Part of a Digital Cooperative

Learning to Love the Chaos of Collaborative Production

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June 29, 2016
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A person can thrive only in a society in which they’re respected and let do what gives their life purpose. Once you experience this you can never go back. You’ll always try to improve and do your best for that society to flourish.

I don’t know about you but I spent years of my life doing work I’m not proud of. I spent years of my life being in a society that doesn’t value Quality, Mindfulness and Happiness. Day in and day out I woke up with lack of purpose and passion about what I was going to do during the day. I anticipated the weekends, got scared of Mondays and appreciated my apathy. Nevertheless, I knew that it depends on me, and not on any other living being, to become what I want to be. So, I joined a cooperative and got on the rollercoaster of making, doing business, and being sustainable without having a boss. I thought it was quite cool.

But it ain’t a silver bullet. It ain’t anything near that.

Being part of a digital cooperative like Camplight has quite many drawbacks.

First of all, from day 1 there isn’t a single person in the company who can give you money. You are solely responsible for having means to buy food, buy some nice clothes, go out with your girlfriend, or go to a party. You have to proactively reach out to other people in the cooperative and collaborate with them in finding ways to accumulate capital. If that scares you, it’s normal – it scared the shit out of me on my first day.

Secondly, you’ve got to learn how to love chaos. You see, there’s some entropy in every stage of a developing organization. Stagnancy means death. In classical companies you either don’t care about or are protected from chaos. In a cooperative, if you don’t care about chaos, you risk damaging the organization and preventing yourself from living the life you want to. But caring ain’t easy. Especially when you have ton of things on your mind. Like all of us do.

Finally, you’ve got to learn how to get out of your comfort zone every single day. And even that’s not enough – you’ve got to count the nights, too. Being a part of a cooperative is like being a part of a brain – you’ve got to think, and expand your competence and skills daily. You’ve got to proactively develop yourself personally in order to develop the organization you’re part of. Because the focus of a digital cooperative like Camplight ain’t money or power – it’s pure personal happiness in a thriving society. You can’t create that without expanding your zone of comfort.

Despite all that, I love Camplight and I love being part of it.

In a cooperative, I can start working on any initiative I want, if it will help us as an organization to reach higher and higher states of mind and quality of living. Not only that, I can also receive help and passion from every other girl or guy in the cooperative. It’s collaboration not for profit but for the essence of what makes us humans. It’s doing business and knowing that you’ll be proud of it until the end of your life.

Of course, in today’s world you can’t live without money. In Camplight, we do software. We do it high quality and we’re proud of it. The funny thing is, all the profit we receive from that software goes to us, the creators. There ain’t managers, there are only leaders. In a classical software organization, you charge your clients 250 euro a day and only about 5% or so go to the people who develop it. In a digital cooperative, all of it goes to the creators, because they should not worry about money. Money is a tool, and the only way to use it properly, is not to make it your purpose. An intelligent person will object, by wondering how does the organization feed itself? It does this by the so-called cobudgeting. If we want to improve the company, we collect money we’ve earned and invest them in the business.

I’m not going to lie to you, we work a lot. Some of us have put crazy hours in laying the foundations of Camplight. Some of us still put crazy hours. But it doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s dynamic, it’s fun, it’s warm. And when we want to, we just retreat. We go somewhere calm for some weeks with many other likely minded people and do what we love to do – coding, changing the world, partying. We’re a happy and low-stress bunch of humans who are pragmatic enough to know how to earn their living while appreciating every little thing happening around them.

To sum up, you’ve got to be tough to join a cooperative and you have to have guts to support one. But I’ve found over and over again, that it ain’t so hard to have courage. It takes just a small leap of faith. So small that anyone can do it :)

If you want to learn more, here are some high quality resources:

  1. Reinventing organizations
  2. FAQ about Camplight
  3. Camplight vs standard IT companies
  4. Camplight is creating value

Want to join such an organization or help one grow? There’s plenty of them:

  1. Camplight
  2. Enspiral
  3. Mondragon
  4. ICA


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Tsvetan is a developer at Camplight digital cooperative.  Follow his blog on github.   

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