Beyond the salaried masses of 20th century bureaucracies and corporations… beyond the precarious moonlighters of the 21st century gig economy… lies the cooperative, an old answer with a new ring to it.
Cooperatives are typically founded on seven basic principles set out in 1844:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training, and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
…and these principles still hold as true as ever. Today, new companies and orgs are popping up all over the globe, taking these principles to heart and applying them in new ways. The “old, reimagined anew” is a familiar theme for Working Together: as some of you know, I like to read “Social Innovation” as a not-so-new idea.
In episode 17 of the Working Together Podcast, I talk with Kayleigh Walsh of Outlandish, a UK-based digital cooperative that wants to “unleash technology’s potential to make the world a fairer, better place”. Along similar lines of Enspiral (interviewed in episode 7) Outlandish’s long-term aim is to “build a network and support services that make it easier for people working in technology to have good work and make a good living while working for social change.” Kayleigh and I talk about her experiences contributing to the cooperative, and the challenges that come with balancing autonomy and collaboration.
Outlandish is currently made up of around 20 collaborators and co-owners who “love humour, quality code, and apps that challenge the status quo.” Outlandish builds digital applications and websites for companies, charities and universities that make their lives easier and help them to discover and communicate new insights from their data. And, because Outlandish is a cooperative, they invest their surpluses into projects that matter and that make an impact (like School Cuts, a groundbreaking election campaign tool).
It’s orgs like Outlandish that inspire me… and it’s largely because they ascribe to the credo of the zebra and NOT the unicorn. 😉
Some Big Ideas Exchanged: Sociocracy, Implicit Hierarchy, Beyond the Fixed Job Role, and more!
“Sociocracy was introduced to facilitate consensus based decision making, and to prevent certain people from being left to make the decisions. It allows [everyone] to be accountable, because it’s based on participation. If you aren’t involved in a decision, the idea is that you are happy to not be involved in the decision (18min mark)… one of the outcomes that we aim to achieve is to put the right people in the right circles.”
“The way that meetings work… is to be in a circular formation. When it comes to making a decision, a proposal is made, and you do a round of clarifying questions, and you do another round to raise any critical concerns. If any critical concerns are raised, it means that proposal is not going to be passed.”
“It took a little while to get my head around [the cooperative model]. None of us have a fixed job role, so we’ve got a lot of freedom in to what work we do with Outlandish. The aim of it is to be valuable to Outlandish, but I don’t have a specific role as I did in my previous job… there are challenges around implicit hierarchy that emerges, and how to deal with that, and the best way to communicate, and things like that…”
References, allusions, and mentions implied:
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
- Worker Cooperative
- National Union of Teachers (NUT)
- School Cuts
- Cycle Streets
- Gung Ho! (i.e. “kung ho!” kung = work; ho = together)
- Cooperative Technologists (Co-Tech)
- Coops UK
- Sociocracy: The Creative Forces of Self-Organization (here’s a blog post about Outlandish’s reading group on the piece)
- The Rochdale Principles (i.e. the Seven Cooperative Principles)
Credit where credit is due:
- Intro music: Kosmiche Slop by Anenon, licensed under CC BY 2.0.
- Outro music: Whispering Through by Asura, licensed under CC BY 2.0.