Name: Co-operative Technologists (CoTech)
Type of co-op: Network of technology co-operatives
Founded: Co-operative Technologists officially launched on 14 November 2016. They’re still in the early stages of setting up, so their manifesto and website are works in progress.
Co-operative difference/purpose: Co-operative Technologists aim to ensure that “technology plays its part in creating a fairer world”. They believe that workers co-operatives “make better workplaces, better suppliers and better digital products. We are more creative, more committed and more resilient”.
Employees: More than 120 people are employed across the network of co-operatives.
Governance: All members have an equal say in how Co-operative Technologists is run. Decisions are made jointly, using technology such as Loomio and a Wiki. As the network develops, members plan to explore changes to this governance model together.
Members: 22 co-operatives are currently members. More are welcome to join (visit: www.coops.tech to apply).
Co-founder Harry Robbins explains the thinking behind setting up a network for technology co-ops.
“We realised we are all on the same side,” he says. “We’re not competitors (it’s a booming market) and we’re all trying to use tech for good. We all have different specialisms, offerings, strengths and weaknesses, so it seemed obvious that we’d be stronger together.”
Co-operative Technologists is aiming to strengthen and grow the co-operative technology sector. They want to see 10,000 jobs available in the sector by 2020 and 100,000 by 2030.
“At that scale we’ll be a major force in the UK economy and will ensure the profits currently being creamed off by a rich few will be re-invested in making the world better,” says Harry.
“We’ll also control a significant proportion (about 25%) of all the tech workers in the UK, which will alter the tech market. Those doing good will be able to buy tech at an affordable discount. Those doing bad will need to pay a premium for the unscrupulous remnants of the tech industry who prefer dollars to purposeful work.”
Harry believes that technology will play a key role in enabling the wider co-operative model to thrive. “Co-ops have historically been seen as a bit inwards/backwards facing. Technology makes new types of business models possible and self-owned, democratic business co-ops are at the heart of many of these opportunities.
“I believe these organisations are the rightful inheritor of both leftist (communist, anarchist) and rightist (neo-liberal, capitalist) models and ideologies. The neo-liberal myth of ‘regular people’ being their own boss, everyone being an entrepreneur etc. is going to come to fruition and the neo-liberals will be surprised to find they’ve built communism.”
As many co-operatives are finding, new technologies don’t have to be expensive. Social media campaigns, podcasts, blogging and other forms of marketing can often be done in-house for very little initial outlay. If your budget is tight, and you have the time, Harry recommends seeing what you can do yourself to start with.
So, for instance, if you need a website, try building a basic one using open source software such as WordPress or Drupal. It may not suit long-term, and you’ll need to manage expectations, but it’s a start.
“If you make an OK attempt for the first version you’ll get a product that’s much better at a tenth of the cost compared to going to an agency and saying ‘build me the solution that I need to change the world’,” he adds.
Alternatively, if you have a budget, and want to call on the professionals, visit www.coops.tech to find a technology co-operative who can help.