End of year Q&A: Nathan Schneider, organiser, Exit to Community

'Without generalised, large-scale capital access for mutualist enterprise, the rising generation of the co‑operative movement will crash against the rocks of the extractive economy'

How was 2023 for Exit to Community?

Speaking for myself, I think we are in a moment of profound challenges for the co-operative movement. Many of the efforts to build co-operative tech platforms have failed or faced immense difficulties. We need to be honest that ethical organisations and brilliant communities alone are no match for the sheer power of venture capital-based startups.

More education, technical assistance, and experimentation around the edges will only get so far. I have come to believe that the next future of the co-operative movement depends on achieving significant, structural change in how co-ops can access the capital they need to experiment, flourish, and win. We’ve got to get real about this.

Fortunately, the co-op movement has done this before, and we can do it again.

In the Exit to Community Collective (support us here at e2c.how), we are working to document widespread, diverse experiments in transitioning to community ownership, particularly around the startup economy. We are doing this because such experiments are crucial for understanding what kinds of structural change can make a real difference. Based on these experiments, we can devise stronger proposals for policy and infrastructure that can make co-operative entrepreneurship more possible at the largest scales.

This year, a cohort of emerging leaders in the E2CC has completed a new website for our case studies and other resources. Explore it here. They have also been organising gatherings for the new “equitable pioneers” who are courageously pushing the boundaries of the co‑operative movement.

What are your hopes for next year?

 My first priority is to shepherd a new book into the world, Governable Spaces: Democratic Design for Online Life. It makes a case for why it matters so much to build democratic practices into our everyday online lives. And shared ownership is a crucial part of online democracy possible.

Related: Platform Cooperativism conference in India charts new course for digital equality

Building on that, I expect to turn my attention toward public policy. I want to draw from the E2CC’s research, and a wide range of co-operative experiments globally, to develop ideas for policy change that could bring co‑operatives into the economic mainstream – much like policy did in the 1930s in the United States. We need to be much more ambitious than many co-operators are today.

Without generalised, large-scale capital access for mutualist enterprise, the rising generation of the co‑operative movement will crash against the rocks of the extractive economy. I want to help develop the ideas and coalitions this movement needs to alter course.

Find out more at e2c.how

Click here for more Q&As from our annual review

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