2017/10/08 13:10 Alice Rawsthorn, “Good or Bad Design”, EditDX

Keynote @alicerawsthorn @EditDX

Introduction by Nina Boccia @nboccia Director of Programs, Design Exchange

[Alice Rawsthorn]

Good or bad design in light of sustainable development goals

Machine Art, exhibition at MoMA 1934

  • Curated by Philip Johnson, a student, who had gone to Baushaus
  • Championed modern movement
  • A year after joining, added design
  • Machine Art was first project in 1934
  • Speed, economy, convenience
  • Amelia Earhardt
  • Visitors weren’t accustomed, reviews were dreadful, letters of complaint flooded in
  • Now seen as an enduring influence on popular perceptions:  what something does, and what it looks like

“The Beauty of Life”, William Morris — lecture similar to Johnson

  • Nothing in your house that isn’t useful
  • William Morris hated this

Then, art context, like Pompidou Centre, more how it looks, not so much function

Citroen car, 1955 in exhibition

  • Fall from the sky


Fostered idea of industrial design

  • Can be damaging
  • Symbols of design beauty

Alice Rawsthorn at EditDX

Valentina typewriter 1969 for Olivetti, but it didn’t work, stopped production to so many complaints

  • Yet it’s still in design museums worldwide

Businesses and NGOs only thinking of design in this way is limiting

Accra, outside Ghana

  • Where waste goes to die
  • Can design be used to clean this up, instead of filling it with junk like this?

Use in healthcare?

Not just unfit for purpose, but irrelevant

  • What should replace it?

Defining design

Design is an agent of change that can help us to make sense of what is happening, and to turn it to our advantage.

  • Changes could be economical, social …
  • Doesn’t have to be scary
  • Need this, right now, for speed and scale

Women’s march on London:  Too much to fit on one sign

  • Terrorism
  • Accelerating science and technology
  • Refugee crisis

Design isn’t a panacea, but can help … if society allows it to do so

  • Only if process includes design as good and bad

Non-negotiable quality since 1880, usefulness

  • Why consider desirable if not useful?

New Bus for London 2012 (new Routemaster), replacing 1954 model Routemaster

  • Named the Boris bus
  • New Routemaster looks good, when you see a lot more together
  • Quality of engineering is so poor, it breaks down
  • Diesel breakdowns
  • Overheating for passengers
  • It’s too unreliable to be useful
  • Tasteful rubbish is still rubbish:  Reyner Banham

Digital product:  Google Glass

  • Seems so exciting at Google, thought the rest of us would wear them
  • The look dodgy, don’t do much more than phones
  • Triggered court cases
  • Mocked
  • Sales poor, stopped making them in 2013
  • Wasn’t useful, although it serve function

Useful needs to be combined with third, integrity

  • If concerned with manufacturing, distribution, etc. … it can’t be consider as good design

Roland Barthes:  any pleasure from car is blighted by it being a gas-guzzling economic bomb

Apple iPhone:  following physics in the hand

  • But environmental impact, and workers?
  • Apple has made some progress, but still worry
  • Can’t possibly look at them anymore
  • Or Dublin taxes

Fairphone:  sustainable

  • Know they’re trying to develop as responsibility and sustainable as possible
  • Without integrity, can’t be designed responsibility

Razor wire on fence at Calais, to prevent refugees from leaving France

  • Homeless spikes to stop people from sleeping there
  • Purpose is odious
  • No integrity

Another response:  Talking Hands, Treviso in Italy

  • Many refugees on their way through
  • Most living illegally, nothing to do
  • Can’t be employed legally
  • Local designers set up and run talking hands workshops
  • Hand skills, focusing on skills the refugees already have
  • Carpentry, embroidering
  • An example of good design, empathic, useful

Useful and integrity, changes beauty

Material quality

  • Shapes come in and out of fashion

Postmodernism 1980s

  • Neo-rationalism in 1990s
  • Now, Chinese design:  objects 3-D printed, reminiscent of what we see on our screen
  • 3D printing, ever more innate intricacy

Cookery, bone china with chisel

  • Chisel was thought too coarse for porcelain
  • Singularity
  • Looks different from different heights and views
  • Creates an optical illusion that each piece is unique

Singularity rising, because of digitalization making things uniform

Politics of personal identity, radical redefinition of identity and gender

  • Being biologically black
  • Feminism, transgenderism
  • Increasing fluidity gender
  • Facebook tried to add 58 types of options, but then people complained that they couldn’t express themselves, Facebook responded with a freeform field
  • Fashion graphics can reflect colours, political concerns
  • Can use digital manufacturing systems, become more affordable and accessible

Are we going to exercise choice?

  • Not everyone wants to cook their own food
  • But do-it-yourself is becoming popular
  • Pleasure of making
  • Exposure to digital technologies, making us more sensitive to touch


  • Light fixture manufacture, Simon 100, no physical cues
  • We’re so accustomed to using phones by touch, we know how to use it
  • Too sharp, too wet, too slippery is uncomfortable

Hardware of tablet:

  • Pull to refresh, scrolling down a screen
  • NY Times:  few scientific articles on touch
  • Haptic software

Greater understanding of materials

  • Form becoming function is less important, with material become more important

Some important design projects that are good

Georg stool by Chris L. Halstrøm, a simple wooden stool manufactured in Denmark

  • Won awards, on old fashion merits
  • Political subtext, gender fluidity
  • Visualizing how it will be used, despite gender
  • Uses texture, as sense of touch is less likely to be stereotyped
  • String attaches to stool, individual can adjust to be comfortable
  • Everyone is free to interpret as they wish

Wecyclers, Lagos Nigeria

  • African designers at the vanguard, compelling projects, with humanitarian goals
  • Adebiyi Fatai Mabadeje
  • Recyclable waste building up in slums
  • Streets in slums too narrow for city trucks
  • Develop a service so that citizens can text cyclist, then trade for points, e.g. useful for food
  • 7,000 houses in Lagos use this, created 80 jobs
  • Contributes to sustainable production

Sehat Kahani:  improvisational design, to improve healthcare to women in Pakistan

  • Pakastan has shortage of women doctors, even though there are more in university
  • After graduation, women are pressured to marry
  • Network of tele-clinics, so that women doctors can practice at home
  • Tele-clinics staffed by nurses, in Karashi
  • Problems:  problem shortages, believing the women are real doctors
  • Addressed
  • Contributes to good heath and well-being

Forensic architecture:  Israeli architect, Eyal Weizman in London

  • Uses data to reconstruct scenes of criminality
  • Cameroon, evidence
  • Fostering peace and justice

All inspiring projects of good design in a contemporary sense

  • Challenges stereotype of design
  • Improve quality of life, rather than rubbish


Scale?  Grassroot projects.  Big powers?  Barriers?

  • Think scale is becoming more flexible
  • Empowering designers to work independently on complex problems
  • More funding, e.g. Ackerman, Gates Foundation
  • Downstairs:  Bruce Mau exhibit
  • The Ocean Cleanup project from Dutch designers, controversial, but has also generated a lot of support, clearing up plastic trash in oceans
  • $100,000 to launch project, ended up raise $2 million, now $31.5 million
  • Has prototyped in North Seas, next year will go into Pacific
  • If it flops, it will make it harder for other attitudinal designers, but if it works, it will make it easier
  • Projects have to prove merit

How can raise design philosophy?  Wanted to become a software designer, thought could change the world, build with information. Frustrated that there isn’t a language, but it isn’t practical.  Multidimensional.

  • Good news, there needs to be more debate on this issue
  • This festival shows this
  • May not come from specialist designers
  • Families will think of design differently, from coming here
  • Awful if people thought there’s not point in trying
  • The war continues, a lot of battles have been won

Example of female doctors in Amsterdam, trust?

  • Don’t know specifically
  • Have 20 tele-clinics, planning to have 150 by 2020
  • Have a lot of media support
  • Design community saw as improvisational
  • Medical professionals dealing with design in a practical way
  • Process will have been speeded up
  • Could serve dlderly women, who have a lot of medical problems

Comment, some families will go home and have pizza, others will have hand china.  Culture, we’re far away from that.  Affluent get to choose.

  • True.
  • General public awareness of sustainability and recycling has increased
  • While not at level we would like, it’s significant
  • Middle England, conservative, are skeptical
  • Local city councils providing an effective recycling service, there’s been a radical shift from landfill towards productive
  • Even 10 cent fee for plastic bags in Britain, skin flints don’t want to spend, so drastic shift
  • Some people can trade for food, cell phone minutes
  • Design has a lot to do

#design, #editdx

2017/10/02 13:05 Richard Florida, “Urban Futures Keynote”, EditDX

Plenary @richard_florida @EditDX intro by @alexbozikovic


This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

First time meeting Alex in person, Twitter buddies, direct messaging earlier today about World Architecture Day

First time in Toronto was with Lunch with Dick and Jane (Jacobs) at Distillery District

  • Then also lectured at Design Exchange that day

Today is World Architecture Day:  see the city as a giant design problem

Toronto as now regularly top 10 in rankings

Starchitecture:  now coming to something else, what is next after iconic buildings and starchitecture?

Born in Newark in the 1950s

  • City declined
  • Turned age 10:  wanted to be in rock and roll
  • Was there in 1967 when Newark burned

1980s:  Rutgers, Urban Geography course:  walk from Penn Station to the West Side, through meatpacking

  • Architecture at that time?
  • Architecture was to keep dysfunction out:  barbed wire, fenced themselves off, keep themselves out of the neighbourhood, or neighbourhood out of them.
  • Thesis:  neo-Marxist, structuralist, mother threw it out the front lawn

1987:  Moved to Pittsburgh, money by Senator Heinz

  • Even though factory jobs left, there were good jobs in research and development
  • Turn around with that?
  • By continued to wall out neighbourhoods
  • Why wasn’t Pittsburgh renewing itself?
  • Not a data person, decided to look at the numbers
  • Pedestrian problem in Toronto is similar to gun problem
  • It’s a design problem
  • 13 pedestrians killed, 33 cyclists killed
  • Saw interesting companies leave Pittsburgh, including Geoff Hinton (hated Ronald Reagan)

Ask students where they want to live, led to Rise of the Creative Class

3 T’s:  technology, talent, tolerance

Creative class, then have starchitecture — a signature building that you had arrived

  • Cautioned against this, in the book
  • Cautioned:  (i) building of the sports stadium in Pittsburgh, convention centre; (ii) watch out for the SOBs, the symphony, opera and ballet were part of the problems
  • Starchitects and SOBs aren’t part of the creativity
  • Street level creativity

Even Toronto got carried away:  architecture of great buildings

Contradiction of the Highline Park

  • Two gay people who loved their neighbourhood
  • Park in NYC means money
  • Became magnet for spectacular towers along Highline Park, that may be can afford, $15 to $20 million for 1 or 2 bedroom

Roger Martin calls, money for a Prosperity Institute

  • In the working class, you don’t lie
  • At Rutgers, learned that middle class people lie, people don’t fight every day
  • Houses in Toronto were hideous, had to double budget

After living in Toronto for 2 years, in 2009 Rob Ford is elected

  • Backlash
  • Intuition
  • If Rob Ford could win, then Trump could win
  • Brexit

New Urban Crisis:  Trump nailed it down

  • Growing inequality isn’t between income, it’s between places:  Nechansky?
  • Winners:  Toronto, Hong Kong, Vancouver
  • Middle of country:  Detroit, Cleveland
  • Winner take all urbanism
  • Crisis of success
  • Also suburban crisis

David Lewis:  the Jane Jacobs of urban design, Carnegie-Mellon

  • Cities will come back
  • Newark has its own Whole Foods
  • More poverty in suburbs and then in urban
  • That’s where Ford backlash comes from

Need to shift to urbanism for all

  • Maybe federal government in Canada will help, but in U.S. and UK they won’t
  • University, medical companies
  • Amazon pledge of affordable housing
  • More public goods, more public parks
  • Architecture has to change

Need a communing architecture, a shared architecture

  • Not cutoff-architecture, not starchitecture
  • If Amazon doesn’t want to put in a public cafeteria, don’t let them do it

Now seen a generation of students who get this

Article published today:  Trump’s gift to Canada

  • It will happen, but how will it happen

Are we going to something different?

  • Are we going to build a city where a cafeteria work can own a home and raise a family

Question:  Republished guidebook to Toronto architecture.  Annex and Chinatown haven’t changed much.  In those buildings, have fewer people with more money.  Streetscape has become exclusive.  Beyond the government, what can the design profession do to help?

Economics of design:

  • MBA students, 95% say they’re going to live in Toronto, then need the bank of mom and dad
  • In the past, it was about historical preservation, because wrecking balls were coming
  • Heritage, because the buildings weren’t worth very much
  • Let’s build towers in the neighbourhoods
  • Jane Jacobs said density in the absence of pedestrian scale is dangerous
  • Need to build more, but need to right sort of stuff that preserves pedestrian interaction

Comment:  Toronto architects were good at infill

Can mix architecture styles

  • Economic and design problems

Question:  Scarborough, plazas are incubators of immigrants.  Asked Jennifer Keesmat, what will happen to those people, said she hasn’t figured it out yet.

Scarborough discussion is about how to connect with transit.

  • Problem will have to be solved with Hamilton, Kitchener Waterloo

Question:  How to approach improvement?  Downtown, but most of cities, nothing going on.

When starting Rise of the Creative Class, was criticized about being a romantic urbanist

  • People will go back to cities?
  • Couldn’t have anticipated people coming back
  • Narrative emerged, e.g. Nuit Blanche
  • Happened before coming to Toronto
  • Pittsburgh, Newark, Detroit had emerging urban narrative
  • Want to spread the narrative, of inclusion
  • Not just a creative neighbourhood, need good parks and houses so that people don’t have to include
  • In book tour since April
  • Can rebuild cities, but making

Write florida@creativeclass.com, he’ll respond

2017/09/29 16:35 “Future of Design Thinking”, EditDX

Panel @EditDX @rsomerson  @CodeZebra  Luigi Ferrara, @jamescowan as moderator


This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.


  • by moderator:   James Cowan, former EIC of Canadian Business, and head of Maclean’s University department
  • Rosanne Somerson, President of Rhode Island School of Design
  • Sara Diamond, President of OCAD University
  • Luigi Ferrara, Dean of Centre Arts, Design and Information Technology at George Brown College, and Director of Institute Without Boundaries

James:  Start with “what is design thinking”?

Roseanne: doesn’t like the term design thinking

  • Designer at IBM:  Design thinking is a term used by non-designers
  • Term is used as an add-on, but designers thinking of it as a rigourous practice, strategy, making, doing, much more than thinking
  • Adding wellness to knowledge doesn’t made a doctor

Sara: Historical evolution

  • Northern Europe:  rather than technological change coming from above, best users are at the table
  • User-centered design
  • Then wicked problems
  • Ideo formalized it as pulling methods together, so multidisciplinary groups could think outside their boundaries in a wicked problems
  • Tools from ethnography, UCD, adopted
  • Sketching (using the body), brainstorming, creating personas
  • Has been reduced, partially by business schools
  • Designers are good at ideation
  • Thinking and making, thinking and making
  • Have used the concept a lot in Canada, with federal government to push outside the box of how funding is done

Luigi:  Term designing thinking has come out of business community for something they had previously had a limited need for

  • Was design, capital investment, then stewardship for 30 to 40 years
  • Changed in 1970s and 1980s, product innovation
  • Adaptive skills weren’t enough to handle rapid change
  • Who is able to do something, and work at the rate of change?
  • Saw design as a critical factor in success
  • Led them to understand there’s another approach beyond analytical, creative with scenarios
  • In design, opening up possibilities
  • Globalization is driving competition
  • Problem:  they want to latch onto design thinking, but aren’t comfortable with the design process
  • Messy, iterative lead to places that are uncomfortable
  • They want to systematize to find as something comfortable
  • Roger Martin, borrows from Greek philosopher, the opposable mind
  • Business isn’t ready yet, to have that much oppositional thinking

Sara:  Don’t want to generalize on organization’s ability to absorb

  • Some businesses find too disruptive
  • Have to be coupled with design making, generous design (respect for the earth)
  • Diversity inclusion lens
  • Systems thinking based
  • Will talk about Strategic Foresight

James:  Concrete examples of what design thinking looks like?

Roseanne:  Just think of it as design

  • A lot of industries are in flux
  • Have to reinvent:  design re-thinking, reinventing, not starting with existing paradigms
  • Notion of wicked problems, global challenges, rely on more than just one body of knowledge
  • Designed outcome:  intersections, collaborations, bringing rigour from different bodies of knowledge that inform that
  • Have a lot to do with education and training
  • Printmakers can always look at things in reverse
  • Group of students working with cadets at West Point, structures of cities to look at cities in the face of nuclear attack can be solved more humanly:  military mind and design mind
  • Student textile artist working with West Africa, wove stories into fabric to education of women on how bodies work and how to take care themselves
  • Then did visualizations on immunizations
  • Working with government:  institutes with members of CIA, DoD, running studio exercise for human-centered public policy:  how do you define a civic society?

Luiigi:  Design thinking uses the capacity of imagination

  • Not decidable problems, but undecidable problems
  • Change and time
  • Also seen design thinking in theatre
  • Disney Corporation used theatre metaphors
  • Theatre is a process unfolding over time
  • Industrial paradigm is always looking at the end product, functional perfection
  • But functional perfection changes over time
  • Design over time, that’s what’s different
  • Designing not a solution, but an evolution of solutions over time, that include communities of users of a postential problem
  • Not designing a chair, designing for sitting over time
  • This is the unexplored power
  • Many problems that have been intractable over time, people have been trying to solve them with one thing:  you change one thing, and then another, and slowly it all changes
  • How it’s generative, is at the core

Sara:  OCADU at undergraduate level teaches design thinking

  • Ideation, iteration
  • Has been a demand to ask about positionality:  design and feminism
  • How does my position play out into the power:  self-critical and interrogative
  • Different from design thinking previously, not asking about position
  • Foresighting is a more contemporary way of looking at future studies:  developing secondary research, maybe even primary research
  • Context and environment, looking at drivers, signal:  social, economic
  • Requires a depth of prior research
  • Developing scenarios, instead of a single solution
  • Baycrest, aging and brain health:  built carts that go into care environments, with caregivers and clients (receiving care), students undertake processes about the care environment, the positionality of people, taking in the knowledge of context, and how would be ways of transforming radically, particularly for the care receiver
  • Public policy:  client-facing services of the federal government, making it digital, online, seamless and client-centric, using design thinking tools in a deep way, with innovation centres, have received a lot of training, then piloted in acceleration centres, then in client-facing situations
  • Take a hierarchical environment that has been policy driven, administered, flipped
  • Use both foresighting and design thinking
  • Working with Heritage Canada, policy involved heritage should always involved artists:  what if you put artists at the first, instead of the grant giver
  • Coming for user-centric design

Roseanne:  Taking a blank pieces of paper, building something new

  • Artists and designers are comfortable in uncertainty
  • Not scary territory for them
  • People coming through sequential thinking
  • Problem when seen as an add-on
  • People come with questions, but spend a lot of time a the beginning reframing the question, due to rapid change
  • Multilingual abilities, see something differently, tweak the code, sometimes subverting it

Sara:  Intuition, other ways of knowing

  • Being highly sensitive to impact
  • Job as designers is to constantly remind human beings where they fit in technology change
  • Affective economy, how we live in the world
  • Capacity is important in design thinking, have to be careful not to strip it out.
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Can’t be value-free, has to be value-driven
  • This is why indigenous knowledge is important
  • Not moving away from disruption, but moving towards disruption

Luigi:  Business people deal with words, can be impoverished way of dealing with the pace of change

  • Massive change
  • Diversity:  we used to live in more homogenous
  • Future ways of living:  global village is now among us, it was predicted by McLuhan, now we’re living it
  • Have people with radically different backgrounds coming together
  • Language is a problem
  • The power that design brings is digitalization and simulation
  • By using tools, can start to use this
  • e.g. people arguing about density, but then have a visualization can discussion, and then simulation is more powerful
  • Skills then in interaction:  if you can create a design (systematics) that allows people to interact with the design, work through, and change, can change paradigms
  • Rather than a product, can create a system

Sara:  Traditionally, designers didn’t work with data in the same way, unless in infographics world

  • Now, showing that data can be represented in many ways
  • Now, data is god
  • Visualizations and simulations are important

Roseanne:  Perception, has to do with diversity and inclusion

  • As becoming better with perception
  • Big data, from the point of massive confusion into experience that helps others make sense of it


Question:  Responsibilities of designers to support things like the environment?

Roseanne:  Don’t inherently have the responsibility, but do have the capacity

  • Can bring the new ways to think about it, but not more than others in society
  • Designers can appreciate the experiences of others
  • Everyone’s responsibility

Luigi:  Most designers have an affinity, environment and social change

  • Over last 30 years, there’s been an isolation of the community
  • Designers can’t do things alone
  • Also a problem in the artistic community
  • Artists and designers need to work as citizens, and with other citizen
  • Was a broad social movement
  • Don’t just to things on your own, engage with others, and do projects

Sara:  importance of systems thinking

  • Commitment to teach sustainability, and teach techniques that are sustainable
  • Responsibility to hire diverse faculty
  • In Canada, need to look at truth and reconciliation, have to step up

Question:  Role of the educator in helping facilitate design thinking?

Sara:  Needs to be curricula that starts earlier than college and university

  • We don’t have design education K-12
  • Not just design thinking, but also innovation and design
  • Position design and sustainable
  • Haven’t talked enough about helping companies start companies
  • IBM and banks are hiring designers, but a lot of being a designer is to start own practice
  • Responsibility in a radicalized way, in the criticized way

Luigi:  Need to start earlier

  • Design education, need to start projects, but never took projects into implementation
  • At George Brown, now trying to take the project to reality, and that can inform you
  • Otherwise you’re only learning practice, and not getting the feedback from reality
  • Don’t really know what’s effective

Roseanne:  Have been starting design towards K-12

  • Can test and evaluate, culture changers need that
  • Looking at curriculum itself, don’t have baked instructions
  • You can’t erase history, but whose history?
  • Role of education, designing of 2048 when there isn’t ethnic majority, and gender fluidity is change communities, need to create curricula that are leading, rather than putting into margins

Question:  Artists and designers?

Sara:  A lot of fluidity

  • There are different methodologies that they learn
  • Art world:  Creative Time conference, artists role in transformative social change … similar, but maybe more disruptive than designers are comfortable with
  • Interrogation, critical irony
  • Design is more solution-ridden
  • Designers more problem solving, artists are going to construct and deconstruct the problem
  • Documenta, almost like being at Architecture Biennale
  • Needing to plan for nuclear war

Luigi:  Division in industrial design towards specializatoin

  • If you were an artist in the Renaissance, you were also a designer and an architect, part of a guild that created pottery, etc.
  • Creating art for people is an industrial concept
  • Traditional cultures, industrial world, then post-industrial
  • Pre-industrial, culture was created by communities together

Roseanne:  Audience, learning

  • Artists used to be about developing self
  • But now art is more community-based, more crossing disciplines
  • Designers were thought of creating for others
  • Self-conscious design
  • Harder and harder to categorize
  • Tradition in a contemporary way:  haptic, heart, mind
  • Design education has more formality in tools
  • Artists may have more inputs
  • Crossing and morphing
  • Steve Jobs as starting from calligraphy as a way to start designing
  • How do you find what you love, and what should you do with the educational path

Sara:  Reliance on different types of theory

  • Visual art was based on 19th and 20th century philosophy
  • Psychological, structuralist … ways of explaining the world
  • Not just visual world, but also text
  • Now reading across art theory:  critiques of race, more than design theory has, recently
  • Trying to converge in diverse ways

Question:  As chef, know design, how to use design thinking in antoerh way

Sara:  Would be fun to run a workshop on that

  • Urban agriculture, where you think from

Luigi:  At George Brown, are supposed to be designing the platter, Trevor is designing the food

  • Difference in looking at the sensory:  mouth feel

Roseanne:  Two food future communities at RISD

  • The way food interacts with taste buds differently
  • Nutrition
  • Food science
  • Set up lab, and play

Question:  Successful design and empathy?

Sara:  A huge history of design without empathy

  • In worst case, building of gas chambers
  • History of modernism, particularly anti-empathetic
  • Look at an empathy economy
  • It will influence what will be designed

Luigi:  Question may not be important

  • Wife is architect, and she was just tested with 3% empathy

Sara:  Being good at user engagement, she can fake the empathy!

Roseanne:  Self-conscious, ego-driven, unique, making it about me

  • Issue is a set of values
  • The more personal they are, the more that they will connect
  • Designing from a different set of values
  • Key:  understand the values, as you drive ideas forward
  • Work environments where you can bring those ideas forward into experience

Question:  Resources inspiring?

Luigi: Not a good book on design thinking, yet

  • Latest book from Ideo is about learning how to design, but it doesn’t describe design thinking
  • Go into projects, looking, finding out, visiting
  • Maybe it’s not a book, it’s an experience
  • Book is 19th century way

Roseanne:  How to inspire, build intuition

  • Not on the topic, different way of approaching the problem
  • Outdoors:  looking at things in a different way
  • Try a sketchbook, to design your own way
  • Can use camera in your phone as your sketchbook

Sara:  Believe in reading

  • Tim Brown, recent book
  • Idea Couture, idea thinking (for free)
  • Carl diSalvo, looking at adverserial design, agonism, support debates in democracy
  • Feminist theory:  Helene Frichot, How to make yourself a feminist power tool
  • Inclusive design research centre

#design-thinking, #editdx

2017/09/10 13:55 Paul Cabaj, “Financing a Coop”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Workshop @chickweedpatch @CoopsCanada #platformcoop, platformcoop.ca/, Beeton Room, Toronto Public Library

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

[Paul Cabaj], Manager of Cooperative Development and Strategic Partnerships at Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada

Desjardins fund, Cooperators, should have $25M fund in October

  • Invest in coops
  • New fund, will probably be more risk-averse

Local investment coops, Solarshare, are TFSA eligible

  • If join in worker coop

If have relationships with regulations, can sometimes ask for one-time exemptions for something new

Describe financing pathways

Group discussion on financing a coop

Margaret:  Initial $1M loan, friendly

Russ:  Most businesses are funded on retained earnings

  • Startup coops are most challenged

Paul:  Often coops started with wealthy farmers

  • Can offer patient investment

Margaret:  Early Stocksy, lots of Bruce Livingstone, was a known name, now he’s just a board member

  • Now see Brianna more

Brian:  Bill Young:  Social Capital Partners. often leads and then others follow

AirBnB:  Loan for social enterprise for a loan on a platform

  • An EU coop is expensive, $30K, but then convenient for which regulation you want to apply under

SMart EU:  Started as a non-profit, so already had people receiving services over 20 years paying 30 Euros for capital

  • Don’t have public or private funding

Sean:  Coop funding is hard

  • There’s funding coming out of impact investing
  • Even within other parts of coop sector, not enough knowledge
  • There are credit unions, where employees don’t know they’re coop
  • Issue:  they’re saying, we don’t have a stream of investable options — could be wrong

Dionne:  Some pockets of money, depending on who it’s going to serve

  • Out west, working with indigenous communities
  • Sheo:  Female

Sean:  Opportunity for cooperative crowdfunding, but not yet used

  • Could be consumer coops, as peer to peer

Question:  As setting up businesses, overtaking an entire industry, or we’ll see what happens?

Margaret:  Wasn’t part of original Stocksy crew.

Evan:  Long term, we would like to replace them.  In the short term, we need to play nice when them.  Partnership, then fund for longer term value

Paul: If you knew then, what you knew now, how would you have done Twitter differently?

Evan:  In late 1990s, did startups, then did activist projects

  • Then decided we needed more capital, and less convergence
  • There was a point with Twitter was worth $1M, could have done something about that

#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors

2017/09/10 12:40 Margaret Vincent, Brian Iler, “International Platforms and National Legal Frameworks”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Workshop Margaret Vincent, @brianiler @CoopsCanada #platformcoop, platformcoop.ca/, Beeton Room, Toronto Public Library

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Margaret Vincent, Stocksy, legal counsel

Brian Iler, (Iler Campbell) one of the top legal expertise in the country


Margaret Vincent

Had a series of legal jobs

  • Joined Stocksy as a photographer, trying to get out of legal role
  • Tried to join as photographer, failed
  • Started 10 hours part time, then became full time

Handle governance, intellectual property, contracts

Were incorporated in Alberta, operating in BC

  • So, a few years in, got to revisit everything
  • Couldn’t have redone bylaws without getting into this

Don’t be specific in your bylaws, only as much as you need to be

  • Use bylaws a guidelines
  • Then have a separate member agreement, which can be adjusted


  • 7 member board, over 900 artists
  • Membership shares, not equity shares, $1, don’t change in value
  • Purchase share on the first sale
  • Ongoing supply requirement:  if you’re not growing content, you run out of new content for clients

What we would have done differently?

  • Never put a member cap, it’s our most heated topic
  • Have been able to provide rising tides lift all boats, people afraid that flood gates would open
  • Could have managed without bylaw
  • Have 150 members who aren’t uploading, contact them, give seat to someone else

International is unique, 65 countries, all independent contractors, which is normal in the industry

  • So, don’t deal with taxes, they’re responsible for their own jurisdiction
  • Can join at age 16, if your jurisdiction allows it
  • We can’t check everyone’s laws
  • Am U.S. based, licensed in the U.S, working for a Canadian company, not an employee of Stocksy, don’t receive benefits, we’re okay with that
  • Pros:  diversity of content
  • Challenge:  time zones, can’t have meetings
  • Language barriers, can’t do all languages in 65 countries
  • Annual General Meeting is always recorded, and then do a transcript, so people can follow along with the video
  • People with a geography band together to help each other understand, e.g. Chinese
  • Use Payoneer to pay internationally

Why are we not a federal coop?

  • Having a physical location in two provinces, can’t incorporate as federal when all online
  • Majority of board members have to be Canadian, but international mix of people, can’t bring in Silicon Valley people
  • Canadians aren’t in the majority
  • Have elected director, but can’t control where they come from

Questions:   Other countries there permit?

We can allow anywhere, but majority have to be Canadian

  • Haven’t done research on other coop jurisdictions
  • Time zones make it hard, but we can deal with that

Question:  Compensation?

Lawyer gets paid salary

  • Also gets royalty for photograph
  • Can’t sit in two classes, and for some, it’s a big difference
  • As staff, can’t vote for artist’s director

Every artist gets 50% to 75% of sales

  • Used to pay 100%, but then was losing money
  • Put it up to a vote, unanimous vote
  • Bulk of profits go back into the business
  • 5% of surplus goes to classes other than artists
  • Board sets surplus amount
  • Percentage is in the charter and bylaw, could be changed with a resolution

Questions:  Membership recruitment?

  • Everyone can apply
  • Content is reviewed
  • When evaluating members, one reviewer gets on video chat, and has a discussion about mission and vision
  • Need enough content, and then on board with the rest
  • Competitive industry
  • A lot of collaboration on the way we do it
  • An industry where other companies pay out so much less

Brian Iler, lawyer in Toronto

Brian Iler

Unrepentant 68er

  • Came through radical student movement
  • Started in engineering, decided to be more useful to society
  • Firm focused on progressive organization, largely coops
  • Also charities and non-profits

Started with housing coops funded by federal governments

  • Problems today:  how to access the equity

Worked with food coop, when trying to open a store in Cabbagetown

1980s energy coops

Canadian coop law is well-developed

Each province has coop legislation

  • Also federal, if have more than 2 physical legislation

Securities regulation is provincial, coop is exempted

  • In Ontario, coops can access capital through members by offering shares and bonds, without going through lawyers
  • Used a lot in renewable energy
  • $30M in solar resources
  • Money flows in, don’t have to do much about it

All legislation is based on business law model

  • Do enshrine coop
  • One member, one vote
  • After paying operating expenses, surplus is distributed
  • Patronage return, depending on the amount of business

Nonprofits don’t distribute net revenue, they retain them for operating

  • Energy coops issue 5% shares, then the rest used for renewal energy sector

Net assets on dissolution is divided among members

  • Alternative, pay to another coop or charitable

Impossible for IPOs

Raising capital is different

  • Instead large amount from small numbers, small amounts from large number

Renewable energy:

  • Person who was bored, has invested time and money
  • Separate:  Community Power Capital, $25M, to make it available during solar power development, when it could fail
  • Asked government asking $10M, inspiring by German and Danish
  • Got $3M from government, cheque, at end of the budget year
  • Used that money to fund NGF
  • Didn’t constrain private sector, who have come in

Percentage of directors who are Canadian

  • Have had good experience with government, little tweaks in coop act

Question:  How long did it take to get money?

Green NGF didn’t take long, as strong political ties

Comment:  1992 identified as strategic area of partners

Question: Choosing partners?

Coops usually have more voting shareholders

  • Toronto Energy Coop retained shares amongst directors
  • Solarshare opened up with 1500 members, we get 100 to AGMs
  • Do some vetting of people on the board of 9
  • Recommendation to the AGM of the people who have the qualifications and skill sets

See more conflict in housing coops, amongst 150 people who live together

  • Issue is how well the conflict is resolved, so they feel okay with it

Question:  Board veto power?

No board veto power

  • It’s the board that manages the coop
  • In member coops, often see board taking all decisions to 75 people, but then the board is elected to make decisions on the behalf of the coop

Russ:  MEC, $5 membership.  Farmer coops have big membership contracts.  Depends on comments

  • Both benefits and responsibilities of membership

Question:  Multistakeholder coops, seats on boards, distribution?  Founders controlling?

Brian:  For many years, wouldn’t use multistakeholder in Ontario

  • Requirement that had to be a board member in each class had to be physically at meeting, would hold up
  • Fixed that in legislation

Margaret:  Board hasn’t been filled out

  • Have had 2 for founders, 2 for staff, 2 for artists
  • Haven’t had conflicts, yet
  • So far, have all gotten behind class

Stocksy:  Founders have advisor status, could disagree with staff and artists

Brian:  Democracy can be messy

  • Most of the time, you can trust the results
  • Conflicts between stakeholder groups, can look for a way to resolve

Comment:  Setting norms and processes for governance

Brian:  Worry about diluting profits, have seen stop members coming in

  • Agropur, large coop, hasn’t taken members for years
  • Gay Lea, always accepts new members, and is taking in goat farmers in Ontario and Manitoba
  • Rejuevenation, sophisticated delegate structure in Gay Lea
  • Board is 100% dairy farmers, Ontario allows 20% of people can be non-members, although Gay Lea hasn’t found the 2 people yet

Margaret:  Work hard on transparency

  • Could be 6 people working on language

Comment:  OSC on equity crowdfunding, approved 2 years ago, $2500 per investment.  Exemptions play?

Exemptions are different

  • Risk for coops is different for crowdfunding and IPOs, because not misleading
  • Members selling to members

Comment:  OSC equity crowdfunding investment has regulations around portals

Brian:  Until 10 years, not just exempt from prospectus

  • Don’t have to register as a security dealer
  • Concern in solar shares, see promotion on subway, fear may have to register as a dealer

Comment:  Coop solves how to take of money how it gets in, and then now to get the money back, problems not solved on equity crowdfunding

Brian:  Disadvantage, right to ask for investment back, in par value

  • Banks will look at that as not secure capital

Comment: Board of directors, democratically organized.  As grow, need more expertise.  Some large coops require more control in nominations committee.  Slippery slope.  Where do we cross the line on self-perpetuating leadership group?

Brian:  On the side of trusting the members

  • As get larger, need some vetting
  • Some statement from board of what they need
  • Now arguing with a client:  only those individuals who are put up 45 minutes before, and approved as nomination — will arise as an issue
  • There’s lots of good people who get it

Russ:  At an AGM, bylaws may allow nomination from the floor (or not)

Dionne:  Expertise on board.  Have been creating robust training processes, so can get up to speed to be a good board member.  Doesn’t have to be at front end.  Can train, e.g. reading financial statements.  Coop principle is education.

Brian:  Could have elections in regions, and then delegates vote for the board

  • Rule that have to have been a delegate to be nominated to the board

Question:  How to run meetings internationally?

Margaret:  Can’t guarantee understanding

  • Use GoTo, or Livestream
  • Chat alongside meeting
  • If one person can’t get in, another will help
  • Give lead time

Stocksy: Also, transcript written of meeting after the fact, can be translated later

  • Voting of resolution moved outside of meeting, as needed more than 5 minutes to think about
  • Major resolutions are discussed in forums
  • Motions still need quorum, generally procedurea.

Margaret:  Try to push for definition, when we can

  • A meeting is an entirety of a discussion

Brian:  In Ontario, just coming up to substantial renewal of the Ontario act.

  • Need to be clear on virtual meetings, and virtual decision-making

Margaret:  An issue not just in coops

  • Technology to catch up
  • Try to stay true to the intent
  • The purpose of having a meeting is so everyone can discuss
  • In a forum, everyone can discuss

Comment:  Startup, role of the board of directors.  Volunteers, then change as staff comes on.  Boards often start up more hands-on.

  • Angst on governance as heavy, but if done well, it’s amazing
  • In international meetings, it’s the coop people who know how to handle conflict

Russ:  In a small rural community, took over a movie theatre as a coop

  • Our leaders recognized

Brian:  Solarshare has limited recourse financing, looking primarily to the assets

  • Community Power Capital, initially didn’t know if we could be an investment coop, regulators recognized the fear of not knowing, bringing directors was reassuring
  • Have to ensure the value of assets doesn’t fall below bonds
  • Feed and tariff is steady
  • Do have second mortgage structure, so eligible for RSPs

Question:  Spirit of coop act, beyond the letter of the law.  Board elections at the AGM.  AGM simultaneously at multiple locations with Skype.  Quorum in one room.  In the board elections, use a single transferrable vote (proportionate vote).  Laws don’t include or exclude

Brian:  Regulators aren’t funded to regulate, so the issue is internal.

  • Best to avoid a lawyer’s letter
  • In Ontario, electronic communication in board meetings okay, as long as everyone can hear what everyone is saying

Comment:  Multistakeholder:  workers eventually get more confidence, feel against representation

Brian:  Not a surprise

  • Not so much experience of multistakeholder outside of Quebec

Comment:  Housing coops, why not expanding?

Brian:  Two types of housing coops

  • Own their own property:  people interested in lowest possible living cost, not interested in increasing size
  • Others are land trust, on a long-term lease.  After 35 years, can mortgage the land on new investment.
  • Hard to access equity.
  • Billions of dollars in real estate.
  • People in coops are getting cheaper and cheaper housing.

Dionne:  Differences across types of coops at stages of time. Governance isn’t static and set, it’s a process.  Who gets to decide what and how.

Three challenges:  incentive

  • free rider;
  • adapting changing needs of the business and environment
  • managing and retaining legitimacy, both externally and internally

These rise, no matter what type of business

Margaret:  Stocksy just about where can share new bylaws, written in plain language

Comment:  In practice, across classes aren’t to straightforward.  Credit Unions often single location, few consumers show up, mostly also employees, so it looks more like a worker coop

Brian:  Credit union governance is fundamentally flawed.

Comment:  Multistakeholder governance:  what stops 200 members from showing up and dissolving the other classes

Brian:  Usually bylaws require defined majorities in each class

#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors

2017/09/10 10:50 Paul Cabaj, Russ Christianson, Margaret Vincent, “Coop Governance, Legal Frameworks”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Workshop @chickweedpatch Russ Christianson, Margaret Vincent, @CoopsCanada #platformcoop, platformcoop.ca/, Beeton Room, Toronto Public Library

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Intro by Paul Cabaj, Manager of Cooperative Development and Strategic Partnerships at Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada

[Russ Christianson], Rhythm Communications, co-op developer

Russ Christianson, co-op developer

Coops 101

Flexible model

Principles and values internationally

Survival rate of coops is at least twice as good as corporate

  • In financial collapse, credit unions didn’t collapse

Financial structure first, and then legal structure

If you want to get rich, coop isn’t the way


  • Most people know consumer coops best
  • Producer coop
  • Worker coop
  • Multistakeholder coops:  new, more complicated, inherent conflicts within the stakeholder groups

The hardest part of a coop is getting people to cooperate

Paul: Some coops can give you a very good living

  • Agricultural coops can give you more of the value chain

If you knew then, what you know now, what would you do differently?

Margaret Vincent, Senior Counsel, Stocksy:


  • Producer coop, but multistakeholder structure
  • Founder class, employee class, photographer (contributor) class
  • Ties into revenue and profit sharing across classes
  • Redistributing as much back to contributors, 90%
  • 10% gets divided up across other participants
  • Started looking at Alberta farm coop model, made a lot of sense at the time
  • Probably should have gotten closer to the coop association when we formed
  • First contacted a normal lawyer in Alberta that we knew, and he Googled coop bylaws, rewrote them and redlined that
  • Had we been better associated with a coop association, we would have gotten better guidance
  • Would have flagged:  why do this in Vancouver, because head office is in Victoria, BC?
  • Second adjustment:  see how we’re scaling.
  • We capped employees at 25, and they get 5%
  • Now, we need a lot more staff, and we’re maxed at that class
  • Could amend the bylaws, it was easy for 500 photographers to 1000, but it’s harder with employees
  • We shoved everyone into the one class, as advisors
  • Started at 4 people

Russ:  Articles of incorporation, want to be flexible

  • Rather than being locked in
  • Articles of incorporation require government approval

Margaret:  Has moved a lot into bylaws from articles of incorporation

  • The more into contracts
  • Incorporation, bylaws, and member agreement
  • Didn’t want an easy exit, wanted to block acquisition and liquidation
  • Now making it difficult for us to grow
  • Regret, we should have had foresight to know we should have grown
  • Literally changed, when we started talking to the BC coop association

Paul: Be clear on income streams

SMart EU:  Multistakeholder model, for freelancers and permanent employees

  • Only 4 years, started as a non-profit
  • Had a community without representation, now talking closer
  • Platform, with stakeholders
  • Real life contacts, they come to our office
  • We have individual training centres
  • Not just technological side
  • Should have started earlier
  • On marketing, we spent a lot of time talking about ourselves, we should have talked about the community
  • Owners of the organization, not about the platform, but what the owners do
  • Should invest more on lobbying
  • Now 30,000 shareholders, we should go to public authorities every day to speak on their behalf

Paul:  Member benefits

  • Lobbying:  organizing is a political act
  • Member-focused, drive the market

Question:  Stocksy has 5% profit to founders, how different from equity stake

Margaret:  No equity

  • Surplus 95% to owners, 5% to rest
  • Share is $25 for B class, $250 for A class
  • Having more shares doesn’t impact what you get back
  • Equal division

Comment:  Share profit, but no equity

  • When you leave, you get your par value share, nothing extra from the value of the business

Comment:  Difference from partnership

Comment:  Dividends versus equity

Margaret:  You can’t own more shares to get more dividends

Comment:  In Quebec, can’t have difference classes of workers

  • Can split with number of hours worked
  • On committee to redefine the provincial laws
  • Any cap?

Margaret:  It’s a percentage of the surplus

  • Cap the number of the people in that class
  • It’s in the articles
  • Could have a cooperative with 95%

Comment:  Money as fungible, form of consideration

  • What’s the coupon?
  • If you’re using a debt instrument that is close to equity, e.g. a debt instrument that is close to 20%
  • Dual problem:  if price it high enough for investing class, then it really is like equity

Margaret:  We have no investor shares

Comment:  If you price too low, you’re looking for investor subsidizing for risk

  • As a collective community, how do we scale when the rates aren’t so good

Paul:  No secondary market for coop shares

  • Business dividends
  • Consumer coops get return according to how much you spend with the coop
  • An incentive for engagement

Savvy:  Marketplace to connect healthcare innovators with patient base

  • Haven’t yet founded bylaws
  • Will have founders, employees, investor class
  • Struggling with legality of it being an international project
  • Not localized
  • Forming a cooperative, that could only be in a current area
  • Would like to be like Stocksy, to figure it out
  • How do we take on the volunteers who can help us out? Wary
  • Founder class will eventually be paid back
  • Then haven’t wanted other people, because not a non-profit, don’t want other people to say I was helping, where’s my share?

Russ:  Sweat equity

  • Time you might not get back, risk you take
  • When new members come on, they’re free riders
  • Cooperative needs to think up front about how to renumerate:  bonuses, higher pay
  • Can’t just ignore this
  • Coop development, people get excited at vision
  • So focused in the weeds
  • Legal structure, HR, conflict resolution, when focused on just getting business started
  • Have answered so many coops from lawyers, what’s a coop?
  • Find a coop lawyer, don’t just go to any lawyer

Comment:  A group around the country (if you’re not from Ontario), of accountants and lawyers that refer to each other

  • Look at Coop Zone, the coop developer network (not the student coop in Quebec)

Comment:  Special accountability, to create a coop of coops?

  • Special services?
  • Costs, e.g. with lawyer

Paul:  Consortium, looking for a community-wide model

  • Growth, structure:  fundamental, beyond local, then federate centrally
  • Arctic coop, aboriginal:  localizing for effect, centralizing for efficiency

FairBnB:  Will soon operate with initial operations

  • Becoming multistakeholder
  • Producer-members, workers, employees, neighbours
  • Should have worked more on structure on the beginning, less focused on policy
  • Should have incorporated with a specialist, rather than using friends in our sector

Russ:  Now, specific questions?

Question:  Starting social economy, social enterprise

  • Have business plan to bring in market
  • Want to start operating, and creating some revenue
  • Still haven’t done bylaws, structure and governance
  • How to pilot as a social enterprise, and not yet be incorporated?

Russ:  Opinion, do it.

  • Position as the brand, and keep the name the same
  • Coop doesn’t have to be the brand, trademark could be owned by the coop
  • Could do as a private individual, or a collective

Brian:  Be clear with clients that you’re thinking of going there, and it will evolve

  • Don’t create expectations

Comment:  We had a non-profit, but then had to sell part, because we couldn’t take advantage of 75% R&D credit

  • Sold to a single employee, so that he could have credit
  • Otherwise, wouldn’t have the capital to refund

Brian:  Create a for-profit company under the not-for-profit

  • Centre for Social Innovation has done this

Comment:  In Quebec, a non-profit company can’t be on R&D project

Brian:  Have done this, in Ontario

Comment:  Private business, could be mutualized

Comment:  Focus on business

  • If you’re considered coop, won’t get consideration from the government
  • Small businesses would need to be educated
  • Tell customers to save you cost
  • Created a brand, Direct Coop, didn’t find the recipient
  • Clear to leverage efficiencies, but have to be a corporation
  • Then told small businesses, could become a cooperative, then go public or give everything to everybody

Comment:  Dividends?

  • Want to be either non-profit or coop that is accountable to government
  • Trying to reconcile before having structure

Comment:  Ask your co-owners, you’re saying “I” a lot

Comment:  Can still work on ethical parts of the coop, later

Savvy:  Even though we have incorporated as a coop, we don’t yet have member

  • We have Facebook groups, focus groups, to make people feel they’re a part of it
  • Can’t take on members until we have bylaws
  • Will allow people to use the platform, as long as we have members

Russ:  Don’t get too hung up on bylaws, they can change

  • As the organizations start up, you can massage them

Brian:  It’s easy to spend money on lawyers

  • You have more important places to spend money
  • Start with boilerplate

Russ:  Start with needs

  • This room has a lot of proactive coop development, recruiting the members later
  • Use boilerplates first

Comment:  Want to become a fiscal sponsor in arts and culture

  • Only know one organization that has been getting by Canada Revenue Agency every year
  • Markers:  higher artistic quality
  • Need a robust information system to generate impact reports to convince the CRA
  • Need technology, want to make it available
  • Artists to manage day to day, content, decide how they want to share
  • Could become a distribution platform, to compete against Netflix
  • Future proofing, as an internal information system?
  • Open to workers, then open to consumers, tied to charity?

Brian:  Charity coop

  • Some coops are registered charity:  public benefit, not for profit
  • Some coops have affiliated charity, raises money, owned by common
  • Common Ground Coop in Toronto
  • Laundry coop in Ottawa is a registered charity, laundry for homeless

Company:  Have a company with shareholders

  • Designed a platform, in workforce development
  • Potential stakeholder is workers, potential employers
  • Want to do a service level agreement for a new coop
  • Social impact fund?  Sharing benefits with a class of users?
  • With or without share capital?
  • Without share capital, can I share revenue within the coop?

Brian:  There are non share capital organization that are not coops

  • Linked to member status, still pay dividends
  • Not for profits are prevented from paying out, all of share capital has to go back to coop

Russ:  Patronage dividends, depends on the amount of business done with the coop

Comment:  If shareholders are working in the business, can pay them as part of HR plan even if they don’t want to be members

Comment:  Company has shareholders who aren’t workers:  patent, trademark

  • Market is in the social space
  • Investment opportunity, they don’t like non-profits, but that’s not where we’re making money

Comment:  Should look at other business people

  • Many corporations don’t pay benefits

Comment:  We see an important role in providing infrastructure to make connections easier

  • See a technical solution
  • Don’t want to be in the business of providing workforce

Brian:  An estate freeze, can freeze the ownership in the business, and passes growth portion onto children

  • Could probably do this in the coop
  • Worth exploring

Comment:  There’s a list of companies that do this in the U.S.

Comment:  Managing an online governance model?

  • 30,000 customers, how to convert them?
  • How to manage the transition?

Russ:  Go to MEC, and see how they do it

Margaret:  Have seen people go onto a Google Hangout for an ID check

  • AirBnB, show ID to webcam, recognizes images from 250 sources, not storing their IDs

Brian:  Membership requirements are internal to the coop

  • Legislation in Canada aren’t able to deal with the electronic verification

Margaret:  Moving from Alberta to BC, now allows a little more flexibility

  • ID verification, so we know who we’re dealing with
  • Can pay to Paypal, Payoneeer

Brian:  Trek markets back office services to other coops

Comment:  Colorado coop, have got investment with a safe note, doesn’t have to convert to debt

  • When went from individual investors to institutional, had a 3x return
  • Institutions were fine with taking more risk, but wanted more benefit
  • How to structure finance?

Russ:  Point of coops is limited ROI

  • Could be employment, pension
  • Could have a for-profit company inside the cooperative (and eventually fold it in)

Nathan:  Silicon Valley may be okay with investment without control

Brian:  Managed to get rid of cap of investment in preferred share

  • Sometimes have to pay market rates for capital
  • Issue is not giving up equity
  • More equity investment, it’s harder to get rid of it
  • When CSI bought community bonds, had lots of people who wanted to buy equity, CSI said we don’t want equity, as it would later cost an arm and leg.  This worked

Dionne:  Coop developers helping people start coop

  • People who start coops will always invest more than they will every get back
  • No way around that
  • Have to find a coop catalyst, who is willing to do that
  • Be transparent of that, then can find like-minded people
  • Important to get more people than the initial catalyst
  • Coops start with one person, but then have to find like-minded people
  • Could start a business, but coop is a different mindset

Russ:  Toured Mondragon 1986-1987, met one of the founders

  • Ask yourself, what is enough?
  • If the vulture capitalists want to get 50% more, there’s lots of market
  • We have to find the tri-bottom line, responsibility
  • Coops leading:  we want a world with more intergenerational
  • Mondragon, in 4th generation, talk about how they’re part of the workers, not precariot

Comment:  David Suzuki asked bankers, how much is enough, none had an answer

Comment:  Royalty financing

  • Not equity
  • Percentage of revenue, with some close-off target
  • e.g. $1M, paid off until $5M return

Comment:  Want access to capital to build the business

  • Only people willing to take the risk are Silicon Valley
  • Everyone else said business plan is too flaky

Paul:  Alberta, second tier coops, i.e. coops of coops

  • Could have an equity owned inside coop
  • Agricultural, will allow investment shares
  • Small town, 3000 people, bought a grain station
  • No secondary market, Westloft terminal, there’s a board of people who want to sell and buy

Comment:  Multistakeholder coop, how easy is it to change classes?

  • Can put it into bylaws

Margaret:  Ongoing supply requirement, you have to continue to contribute

  • After they pass on, how to work with that
  • Now, keep it open for year, and then pass it on
  • There are portfolios that the coop would welcome to keep open

#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors

2017/09/09 16:30 Evan Henshaw Plath, “Building Platform Coops”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Plenary @rabble @CoopsCanada #platformcoop, platformcoop.ca/, Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Public Library

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

[Evan Henshaw Plath], Affinity Works http://www.affinity.works/

Evan Henshaw Plath, Affinity Works

What we’re doing is not new, it’s a constant process

Have been working in social change and startups since 1995

  • Software developers for 35 years
  • Active in dot-com boom, dropped out of college
  • Got into activism, went to Seattle to start IndyMedia
  • Started some software development startups, started Odeo (which is the news works of Twitter)
  • Twitter was an accident:  text-based social network for text mobs against Bush
  • Odeo was crushed by Microsoft, so made text app for more than activists
  • Worked in Yahoo internal skunk works
  • CTO for Digital Garage, redesigned Singapore immigration
  • Most recently working in Boston area on platform coops, tried to get MIT students to collaborate

Need to build a platform coop myself

  • First, decided to get a Canadian passport
  • What’s missing?  Didn’t bridge online activism with offline activism
  • Knowing activism, how they share with each other (with encryption, and privacy sharing)

Started Nov. 9, 2016

  • Now have some activist groups, and the Icelandic Pirate Party
  • Colorado coop, open source
  • Got a lot of funding rejections, fell into a hole

Talked to Jack Dorsey, said Trump is partially your fault, he said okay

  • Also got money from founder of Github
  • Got money to build MVP
  • Google offered to acquire, before building, and then again after building

Funding by users?  Problem, only 4 users

Could request donations

Could crowdfund

Coops are 170 years old, sometimes work

  • What’s new:  capitalism running on digital platforms

Platform startups are different

  • They’re about market creation: the goal is to operate the space in which the marketplace operates
  • Digital is only part of it
  • They call it new capitalism, but only a variation on what has been before
  • Who rents AirBnB?  Mostly older women, who are locked out of the current economic system

Future of work, all contractors, all flexible

  • It’s also precarious work:  need 5 stars to be superhost

Technology has disrupted how markets work

  • New businesses emerge, and capture markets

Used to have jitneys, creating own routes (1910s, 1920s) dominating transportation routes

  • Replaced with buses, taxicabs
  • Then replaced with private cars
  • Uber is jitneys on digital platform

Value in the market

  • Market creation is hard, takes work and luck
  • Owning it seems ephemeral, but it retains power
  • e.g. Craiglist has changed little over the year
  • Yet Craigslist will get replaced with Facebook, as greater social trust, taken decades to replace one durable market

Technology platforms have rules, difficult to maintain

  • Successful open source platforms, easy to ignore what it takes to operate
  • In Ruby on Rails community, no one talks about the money, developers work for companies that benefit for the common platform, and then developers get work by contributing to the commons

Platform coops aren’t trying to be like other businesses

  • Platform businesses aren’t like Facebook, as ad-driven
  • Running a marketplace

At Affinity, connect local advocacy groups with national and international groups

Markets are valuable, but it’s hard to put value on that

  • What to collect for tax?

Markets regulate

  • Renting on AirBnB, level of vacancy, etc., determines how I make money
  • They can decide on rules that seem crazy if let out
  • Market regulation is important, in what we advocate


  • Can’t just say Uber drivers are being exploited, you have to get the passengers; need to get both sides

When AirBnB started, their listings were fake: they found Craiglist rentals, and went onto AirBnB

  • They faked both sides of the marketplace

This is why Uber started with hiring limousine services

In startups, we fail a lot, need to create a culture that is connected

  • That’s why VCs need 10x or 20x return
  • Had friend who almost bought Facebook for $1M
  • When Twitter was launched, after it was built, RealNetworks offered $1M when there was $3M in the bank account, Apple, Google all rejected
  • All businesses fail a lot

Coops funders are careful, because they implode

Platform coops are building a marketplace

  • They’re not academic projects, to have impact in the world
  • Trying to build out of a student project, as out of semester, the workers were hard to match
  • Have to look at structures, organizations that are different
  • Has to be entrepreneurial
  • Need people who see blue sky when it’s pouring down rain

Have some people we can pull in:  social entrepreneurship, not just interest in return on capital

In Argentina, 30,000 coops founded from failing businesses

Who is the competition?

Win by capturing the market or creating a different market

Uber is a horrible company

  • Yet Lyft has been unable to compete

How do we innovate?

  • Student projects, don’t work often
  • American system: Silicon Valley is successful, creates a $1M per month every month for the past 40 years, design thinking, learning, pivoting
  • Rocket Internet:  Turkish brothers as German company, copycats of the Internet world, have people in Silicon Valley following, then launch in as many markets as possible
  • Chinese Tech:  Chinese Internet conglomerates, when they want funding, they put it all into the same space, e.g. 6000 Chinese companies (unlike Silicon Valley that says to quit and go to VCs) all compete and then sort out whose wins
  • All of these markets have the failures
  • Rocket Internet is the most like Mondragon, highly structured

ESOP converting businesses, where a lot of owners aren’t opposed to employee ownership, but they don’t have a model or idea of someone exiting, nor a funding structure for funders and capital to come in on venture-backed startups

Two ways of thinking of Internet startups

  • Legal control, where it is incorporated, e.g. in Colorado, that’s where lawsuits come
  • Otherwise, evade legal structures with blockchain, e.g. ICO Initial Coin Offering, to build something; $600M per month going into these

Problem with blockchain:  governance by algorithm

  • Human governance too hard and corrupted, so will go around with who has the coins
  • Democracy replaced by who owns the coins

There’s something there with bitcoin, but it’s something that is encoded:  economic transactions

  • But just replacing old oligarchy funds with new ones who like drugs

We have done this before

Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives:  restructured the way farms go to market

How do we want to structure the economy?

  • Free versus regulated
  • New markets, what are the options?  Democratic? Cryptographic? or Privately Owned?

#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors