Cooperative hackathon: how can tech be used to establish co-ops?

Using technology as a tool to establish people-centred business collectives

Registrations are now open for the third edition of Coopathon, a co-operative hackathon to explore the use of technology as a tool for digital transformation to establish people-centred businesses, such as co-ops. 

Organised by the International Cooperative Alliance Asia and Pacific (ICA-AP) in collaboration with the #Coops4dev ICA-EU partnership, the initiative aims to source sustainable, innovative and technologically enabled solutions to address challenges in the social and service sectors. The solutions will have to also be in line with co-operative values and principles.

Coopathon 3.0 will take place from 11-14 December 2020, under the theme ‘Technology and Co-operative Identity’. The event will take place ahead of the 33rd World Co-operative Congress, to be held in Seoul, South Korea in December 2021 under the theme ‘Deepening our Co-operative Identity’. Its is the third of its kind in a series of similar events organised to encourage technology infusion, innovative models of collective entrepreneurship and youth participation within the co-operative ecosystem. 

The previous two events were held at the Indian Institute of Management-Kozhikode (IIM-K) in 2018 and at the National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI), New Delhi in 2019. Due to Covid restrictions, the third edition of the Coopathon will be a fully online hackathon event, for participants across the Asia and Pacific region. It is the first time ICA-AP is organising an online Coopathon and at an international level.

The Coopathon initiative resonates with several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG8 (Decent work & economic growth) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) – and also highlights the importance of newer and innovative structures that align with the co-operative identity. 

“Co-operatives across the globe are led by a common sense of identity which was imbibed in the ‘Statement of Cooperative Identity’, adopted in the year 1995,” said an ICA-AP statement. 

“Furthermore, this holds particular relevance in the time of the global pandemic and economic crisis that the world is currently going through … As people-centred businesses, cooperatives have shown the support and solidarity for their members and communities in this crisis. Coopathon 3.0 is an initiative to provide a platform to solve some of the pressing problems we face in this time of crisis, inculcate a culture of innovation and problem solving, and in the process, expose participants to the values-based cooperative model.”

Mentors at the event will include Iruma Tanaka (from the Seikatsu Club consumer cooperative in Japan), Salonie Muralidhara (a senior associate at SEWA Cooperative Federation, India) and Rohan Clarke (chair, BCCM Platform Coop Taskforce).

The top three winning teams will receive prize money, organisational support, computing resources, and direct access to key partners to further develop, validate, and implement the solutions developed.

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