Book review: Ours To Hack and Own maps out the platform co-op model

Ours to Hack and to Own, edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider (OR Books, 2016)

If you’ve ever wondered about how a new, collaborative, sustainable, democratic economy might work, Ours to Hack and Own: The rise of platform cooperativism, a new vision for the future of work and a fairer internet, is for you.

Edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider, who have really put this movement on the map, the book includes thought-pieces from scores of contributors, case studies of working platform co-ops, and guidance for any would-be platform founders and designers. Ours to Hack and Own provides the most comprehensive summary of the burgeoning platform co-op movement to date.

Related: We review Bernie Sanders’ look at revolution and the future

Just like traditional co-ops, platform co-ops are organisations that are owned and managed by their members – but while traditional co-ops are normally based around a physical community of members, platform co-ops live online and are normally populated by online communities of members. It’s a simple concept which, ultimately, provides a model for a completely new economy.

Trebor Scholz is a leading light of the platform co-op movement (Photograph: Michael Nagle)

That may sound grandiose but, unlike other movements or start-ups claiming they will disrupt the norm, this model genuinely has the potential to kick-start a new way of organising life as we know it, because it is rooted in collective ownership.

Bringing the co-op movement up to date for the internet era and equipping ourselves with the right tools to organise effectively, collaboratively and democratically is what Ours to Hack and Own, is all about.

The book starts with intros from Scholz and Schneider who define the main tenets of platform cooperativism as ‘communal ownership and democratic governance’. Part two takes us on a whistle-stop tour of ‘platform capitalism’ with insight from a range of authors, and part three of the book rattles through some case studies of existing, successful, platform co-ops, (such as Stocksy United and Fairmondo) before covering how we can build an ‘internet of our own’ with specific guidance for would-be platform founders and designers.

Part four, the final section covers ‘Conditions of possibility’ with another 12 case studies on interesting projects and some condensed wisdom from a host of further authors.

Ours to Hack and Own is an extremely timely publication covering every aspect of the legal, social, technical and economic aspects of the platform co-op movement. Although its focus is on platform cooperativism it is key reading for anyone with an interest in creating a more collaborative, equitable and sustainable world.

Review by Oliver Sylvester-Bradley, co-founder of the Open Co-op, organisers of the Open 2017 conference on platform co-ops (15-16 Feb)