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

2017/09/10 09:55 Nathan Schneider, “An Internet of Ownership”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Workshop @ntnsndr @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.

Introduction by Brendan Denovan, Communications Manager, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada

[Nathan Schneider] scholar-in-residence of media studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Nathan Schneider

First conference in 2015 in NYC, no coop sponsor

  • New generation wasn’t connected to the existing sector
  • An opportunity to start thinking systemically

Calibre of projects heard yesterday have been high

  • Started noticing, as a reporter, that a lot of people are doing the same thing, and not seeing each other

Platforms aren’t just a web site for your credit union

  • Creating connections amongst people
  • Forms of creation

Coop sector has come to blend in its corporate stage

  • International Cooperative Alliance 1995 principles
  • Faux sharing economy


A play on the Internet of Things

  • Looking at varieties

Marjorie Kelly:  Owning Our Future

  • Can cooperative strategies help us with appropriate ownership designs?
  • True stakeholders


  • Stocksy
  • Green Taxi, Boulder, CO
  • Loconomics
  • SMart EU
  • Managed by Q, value creators as value owners

Data:  between business and work blurring

  • Midata.coop:  Swiss, owned by patients to store medical data, financed by doing medical research
  • AgXchange, farmers looking to extend, taking control over data from machines

Strategies for Code:

  • P2P Peer Production License, allowing across coops, but not other organizations
  • Open Collective, not a cooperative, designed for open source software communities, a gateway towards a one-click cooperative

Have to think about technology differently

  • Federated social networks, as compared to centralized
  • Cooperative models could allow decentralized technologies

Not just replicating an existing business, do something different

CU Ledger:  blockchain

  • Blockchain as removal of trust, but credit unions thinking about how we take advantage of trust

Finance:  rent capital, don’t be rented by it

  • Less anxious about this problem, it may solve itself
  • As coop sectors have developed, they’ve developed their own finance

Purpose Ventures, Europe and U.S., designed for companies that aren’t going to be sold

  • Looks a lot like an old-style coop
  • Can do tech financing in a friendly way

Crowdfunding:  6Fund, blockchain platform based in Berlin

  • Bringing back shared ownership

Education:  Need to train owners, not just workers

  • Relationship to platforms different

Lee Altenberg, “Beyond Capitalism:  Leland’s Stanford’s Forgotten Visions“, Winter 1980, Stanford Historical Society

  • Original principles

Enspiral Dev Academy in NZ:  code academy that is a feed

Can learn from open source communities, e.g. Debian

Loomio, produced by Enspiral, helping to make decisions online

Policy:  policy-makers have biases towards investor-owners

  • They’re stuck, they need help, e.g. against Uber

Jeremy Corbyn has included platform coops as part of digital democracy movement

Austin, ATX Coop Taxi

Who will own the robots?

Don’t get too fixated on the software, there’s a human and physical underlayer

  • Encouragement of Fairphone as sustainably sourced

James Peter Warbasse, Cooperative Democracy, 1936, president, The Cooperative League of the United States

  • We can build coop to scale

We can figure out how to build to scale in the online economy, too

Need to look for models for startups, spin-offs

  • federation:  pooling resources
  • early stage exits, so that startups getting some traction can start selling to users
  • coop conversion as a successful exist

Big systemic questions:

  • An option against monopoly in the online world?
  • In the U.S., interplay with antitrust

In progress collaborative mapping

Collaborative mapping at http://is.gd/E7G0vj to https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/104K0T2H3M39i5qm6y7y4LcTyusGCMoys60vyeZYoBEM

  • Inside the circle, we have it; outside the circle we don’t
  • Four sectors:  Culture, Finance, Policy, Tech
Collaborative mapping of ecosystem

Collaborative mapping of ecosystem (with contributions in real time in the meeting)

More coop practices:  open membership, autonomy from government?

  • In local jurisdictions, may be regulations on who can call themselves coop
  • .coop domain is controlled, follow international agreements

Is cooperative tech different?  Do we need to do our own R&D?

  • Coop in Boulder doesn’t have a way of tracking dividends

Comment:  At Stocksy, found that were building a proprietary tool

  • Would love to open source our software, if someone else could use it
  • Could copy and paste, but then wouldn’t have connections
  • Need a dev shop, rather than a just a repository

It’s not one size fits all, more than any other coop

Comment:  Marketing part of a coop, don’t know who to turn to.  Documented case study?

Could learn from existing startup space

  • Articles on how startup platforms got their first 1000 users

Do we want a unified brand, or do we want to operate in different spaces?

Comment:  How to explain who we are, so not only other coops, but also getting funding

In some places, more of a national coop plan

  • But then one bad apple could brand the whole thing bad

Comment:  Experimentation, hack events, for chance of manifesting more broadly

  • Finding a way to bolster experimentation

Could be a deeper side of challenge for coops

  • For investor-backed, want to exceed investor’s expectation, which leads to more risk, and there will be more failure
  • Coops tend to emerge in response to people’s known needs, could make innovation hard, or come a little less naturally
  • There are places where this isn’t the case, have been to manufacturing operations as not just serving members, but also future generations, a culture of forward-looking
  • What is our relationship to risk?  to innovation?
  • Pooled risk in young startups, taking risk, and knowing that you may or may not succeed
  • How do we create a space for risk on this map?

#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

2017/09/09 15:20 Frisia Donders, Cloe Waretini, Patrick Nangle, “Established Co-ops and Experimental Models”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Plenary Frisia Donders @chloewaretini @P_Nangle @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.

[Frisia Donders], SMart cooperative, EU

Frisia Donders, SMart cooperative, EU

Started with an accountant and an art lover, decided to help freelancers and artists with their paperwork

  • Artist with freelancers and artists could plug in and plug out when they needed
  • When they wanted to invoice, the platform would become their employer

Becoming an employee in Belgium means 5* health insurance, unemployment benefits, child loans, pension

Others were also interested in the platform

Instead of an individual entrepreneur, they started using the framework

  • Solidarity:  everyone has use the same, 6.7% of invoice to client
  • Had a straight economic model
  • 20% used platform and invoiced a lot
  • The rest could use the same type of services

Michel Bauwens will be in residence at SMart at the end of October

  • SMart as the missing link, into the benefits

No only offered services, started to propose coworking, legal advice, network opportunities

  • Partnerships is Spain, Hungary, Italy, France with other coops, exchanged know-how, mobility

Were nonprofit until 2016, when found organization was working for freelancers

  • Slasher:  one day artist, next day in bar, next day documentary maker
  • Autonomous workers, juggled activities
  • So then transformation to coop

Thinking and questioning stakeholders

  • Got recommendations
  • CEO wrote new plan, based on working groups

2017, started coop, so users became shareholders

  • Multistakeholder:  (a) freelancers, and (b) permanent workers and clients of freelancers
  • June, had vote for new board of directors, 18 elected

Next:  how to make sure that 13,000 shareholders speak up

  • Should be represented, know what we’re doing

Have 20,000 users on platform, 9 countries

Want right to social experimentation

  • Brussels startup Take It Easy, had people who came to help
  • Had agreement that every biker should be paid for 3 hours, get costs to repair bike, and cost of phone
  • Discussed minimum wage of 10 Euros per hour
  • Within legal standards
  • Could have discussion

Some were having problems getting loans, so have unlimited rights about when they want to work

[Cloe Waretini], Enspiral Network, NZ @enspiral

Cloe Waretini, Enspiral Network, NZ @enspiral

Enspiral is less of an organization than an ecosystem

  • There are videos online

Didn’t see a talk about the human parts that will make or break the coop

Don’t let culture eat your coop for breakfast:  photo of froot loops in milk

What is the wealth that coops create in the 21st century?

What stop Uber and AirBnB from making life better for everyone, rather than a small segment?

  • Culture

What is success at work?

  • Work harder?
  • Move fast and break things?
  • Success as getting ahead:  better territory, corner office, and then defend it
  • Individuals are a fractal of the whole

If not willing to play that game, then get dominated and coerced

  • People that get left behind

Why Groups Fail:  David Sloan Wilson

  • Toxic leaders … change in the institutional social environment

The humans we become at work

  • Coops were developed to address terrible working conditions, inequality
  • Need strong foundation in humanism, otherwise, they get eaten

An alternative, have been working on this at Enspiral for 6.5 years

  • Big challenges need a new way
  • Create an organizing system of work that is regenerative to the planet
  • Where cogeneration trumps individuals
  • People act in the interest of the whole
  • Conflict is an opportunity for creative solutions

Links to Ouishare, Bay Area

In 2010-2011, freelancers, mostly writing code, or designers

  • Can work by the hour and day, and then in spare time, can work on problems on bigger problems
  • Instead of being freelancers, became a business as a social enterprise

Values at Enspiral

Started with values:

  • Entrepreneurism
  • Collaboration
  • Autonony
  • Transparency
  • Diversity: started with 25% women, now over 50%, have worked with women in tech, indigenous, intergenerationally

Complexity grew, had tools and structures

  • 20 metros, 300 people, all have full decision-making rights
  • No bosses
  • Mutual trust
  • Gave them loomio, budget … but it didn’t translate into a collaborative model
  • In 2016, given task of figuring out why that was

What Makes Enspiral Work

Three things that made it work

  • Networked structure + processes
  • Digital technology
  • Collaborative culture

How does collaborative culture get created?

  • Noticed some principles that were different
  • Some practices done every day that weren’t showing up
  • Start every meeting with a check-in:  circle, talk about feelings
  • Every day start with vulnerability for breakfast:  half hour easing into day, mutual aid
  • Starting a meeting with checking agenda
  • Reflecting back understanding to make sure align
  • Decision-making:  instead of looking for things that are different, look for things that are in common
  • Metaconversation:  End every meeting talking about conversation, how did I show up as a human being?

Practice together in cooperative values

Systems literacy:

  • Understanding things aren’t linear
  • We have a mechanistic way of looking at things

Non-naive trust

  • Can’t know everyone, but assume that everyone wants to build you up

Flexibility and responsibility:

  • Enspiral changes every week
  • Be comfortable in dynamic reality

Collective intelligence through intersubjectivity

  • Everyone has perspective, let go of objective truth, come to a co-intelligent way of being

Surrendering control:

  • The group is smarter than you are

Deep empathy and ability to use emotions in service of what we are creating together

  • You can bring your feelings here

Naming and navigating power dynamics

  • There’s no such thing as a flat power structure
  • There’s always people with influence, can make clear, otherwise it become insidious

Dancing between autonomy and collaboration

  • Knowing own authority

Lifelong learning

  • Both as organization and individuals

Coops as a cultural platform

  • Donella Meadows:  material flows; distribution of power; mindset or paradigm that organization is arising from

Have written an article that shares all of this

  • Now in Montreal, in Toronto quite often
  • Cloe@enspiral

[Patrick Nangle], CEO of Modo Car Share, Vancouver (20 years) @modo_carcoop

Patrick Nangle, Modo Car Share, Vancouver, BC@modo_carcoop

Modo is Canada’s first and large car sharing coop, second in North America

Founded in 1997 with 2 cars and 16 member

Now 600 members, 19000 members

Member owned

Look for stakeholder participation

40 different makes and models of cars:  use the one you need

19 municipalities

Governance model:  consumer coop, owned by 19,000 members

Sharing in the truest sense

Precarious capital:  members give $500, they can get $500 back at any time

Coop can’t be sold, unalterable clause:  if dissolved, have to go to similar purpose or charity

Purpose before strategy, strategy before structure

Affordability is the biggest challenge, after housing

Strategic initiatives:

  • 1. Accelerating vehicle deployment, more cars onto street more quickly (capital issue)
  • 2. Lead in ZEVs
  • 3. Geographic expansion, almalgamated with Victoria, Nanaimo
  • 4. Carsharing adjacencies:  will announce in a few days, hybrid between car pooling and car sharing, in cooperation with Vancouver Translink for hard-to-serve work locations or time (e.g. night)

Platform:  Engage, online and app

  • Contact center
  • Build in house, on the side, license to coops and non-profits to others smaller
  • Also run elections through the platform

Celebrating 20 years


#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors

2017/09/09 14:15 Colette Murphy, Kristy Milland, Greig de Peuter, Trebor Scholz, Frisia Donders, “Freelancers, the Gig Economy, and Platform Co-ops”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Plenary @colette_murphy @TurkerNational Greig de Peuter @TreborS @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.

Colette Murphy, Executive Director, Atkinson Foundation @AtkinsonCF

  • How we build stronger movements for better work
  • Use both public policy, and people power

Role of workers are a bigger part of our economy

Platform work has been criticized for lack of dignity, accountability and consent

Centre for Policy Alternatives

  • Independent workers are considered contractors
  • Not protected by Employment Standards Act
  • Expectation of just-in-time labour delivery

How can we make it better for this group of people?

Frisia Donders, Greig de Peuter, Trevor Schultz, Kristy Milland, Colette Murphy, Atkinson Foundation


  • Frisia Donders, SMart cooperative
  • Greig de Peuter, Wilfred Laurier University, how cultural workers organize
  • Trevor Scholz, New School
  • Kristy Milland, McMaster University
  • Colette Murphy, Atkinson Foundation


Last 40 years, wages stagnated started 1978, while productivity increased

  • Initially, made up difference by women going to work (movie 9 to 5)
  • Worked longer hours
  • Then home equity loans
  • 2007 Occupy Wall Street
  • Then 2008 collapse:  people would take a pay cut, and then moving to independent work, lost worker rights
  • Mechanical Turk, but lawmakers say it’s illegal

Bureau of Labor Statistics say people are happy

  • But 2/3 of people who are independent, they say they would rather be employed

Need new access to jobs, what does it do to your life?

  • Can you plan family, if you’re a Lyft driver?  They dropped rates 30% to be competitive.

Important to acknowledge opportunities

Not just platform models, but also other sectors

[Kristy Milland]

Spent 12 years on Mechanical Turk

Then, going back to school, see what they were doing

There are 2 Turkers of 40,000 who want to speak to the media

Recently, looking at content moderation

  • Realize, I have PTSD

Do you have any physical impairments?

  • RSI, from clicking 17 hours per day

Saying Amazon Mechanical Turk is the worst, get vitriol on Reddit

So, took an Uber today, talked with Uber driver

  • He had a heart attack
  • Started driving with Uber
  • $48,000 sounds good, but $3000 on insurance, etc. … and driving 60 hours per day

Now French parliament is taking action

  • We have to find a solution

Dynamo coalition, can’t get papers published

Platforms could be user-run, they could be coop

If we have a platform, we should be able to talk to other workers — you can’t in Mechanical Turk

Should consider a platform actually for workers

  • Maybe not the perfect answer, but it’s an easy answer
  • People are there, now

Grieg: On the sidelines of cooperatives

  • 10 years ago, went to Mondragon
  • On one side, positive
  • On the other side, some outsourcing to low wage countries

Cultural workers:

  • Creative class, want to draw more attention to precariousness
  • Have been surveying cultural workers
  • Job security
  • Pressure to work for no pay
  • Race, gender, pay
  • Unpaid internships
  • Piece work

Collective organizations, including unions, that don’t fit workplace forms

  • Have interview 100 activists

Intern unpaid

Wage:  certification for U.S. galleries that pay artists fees

Digital newsrooms, with Gawker

Unionize Canadian branch of Vice, 200 people

Winning better pay, media goals

Broader survey research:  platform cooperative is one in the range of strategies to disrupt power structures

One thread:  coworking spaces

  • Who’s who of creative class precarious
  • Coworking:  members fork over a fee to a private business
  • Buy back resources, e.g. desks, workplace community
  • Makes flexible capitalism
  • But coworking was bottomup
  • 10,000 coworking spaces worldwide
  • Coworking has been captured by corporate
  • Could recapture, time has come

If coops form according to needs, then coworking can respond to independent workers

  • Coops and coworking:  could split rent, work against isolation

Growing small number of coworking coops

  • In Montreal
  • In Wales, IndyQ
  • In UK, also discount insurance, other supports

For anticapitalism, coworking spaces are a transitional phase:  a mutual aid accelerator

Colette:  How to build worker voice, at scale, where are we seeing opportunities at a firm level to a policy level?


In European, people are thinking more about collectives

  • In November, meeting will discuss European social rights and social security
  • Freelancers, independent workers, self-employed — thinking of a global system

France and Netherlands, can quickly become entrepreneur and take all of the risks by an independent

  • Have to share risks
  • No social security with entrepreneur steps

Two approaches, could have social security for all workers

Greig:  Digital journalism

  • Have been working on inside workers on unionizing Vice Media Canada, 200 people of 2000 worldwide
  • Gawker unionization last year created interest
  • Gawker unionized, accepted by management, increased wages
  • Vice Canada went with Canadian Media Guild, started 2015, vote in 2016, May 1 2017 saw wage gains, equity committee
  • Collective bargaining rights, with full-time staff speaking on behalf of part-time staff

Trevor:  Mutualizing risk

  • Banyan, Tuts Berlin
  • In Toronto, collaboration with union
  • FairBnB.ca is coming out of union to regulate short-term rental in Canada
  • South Africa taxis also supported by unions

Colette:  Workers as invisible?  What could make them more visible?

Kristy:  Tough

  • As an organizer, tough to find other workers
  • Difficult for a panel of 3, found one other person in India
  • Have to start with organizing physical workers, people you can find, in a proof of concept

Put up a piece of work:  Dynamo, try it for 5 minutes

  • Believe if you build it, they will come
  • If offering a platform that listens with people, they will go along with it
  • Has to be done right

Daymo came with promises up front that workers would be involved, but then had academic grading of work

Colette: Which industry would help the most marginalized?

Trebor:  Social care workers are underpaid, there’s so many of them

  • If you build a platform with them, they will stay


Question:  Basic salary, basic income?  Co-ops will support this model of the not well paid?

Trebor:  Universal basic income, as an example of what platform coops should do

  • Should change power
  • Coops won’t destroy capitalism
  • Basic income does change the game
  • How can coops change the game?
  • Contribution to the commons?
  • How do you contribute?

Colette:  In Ontario, child benefits; for elderly OAS and GAINS

[Question] Up and go workers were most hidden.  How to organize more hidden workers?  How can we build cohesion, when building in the basket?  How do we negotiate precarious?

Frisia:  Next to revival of coop movement, also building guilds, where people are represented by a majority

  • Representation of people who don’t speak up

Trebor:  National Worker Alliance has undocumented workers

  • Platforms are a problem, if have anonymity
  • Must be a way

Kristy:  Platform workers, the platform know who they are

  • Force the companies to be transparent about who is working there
  • Then government knows about them, could pay income tax

Wrote letters to Jeff Bezos, to tell him who we were

  • Asked how many active workers on Mechanical Turk
  • Said, yes, but never got the information
  • If have them tell us, then opens up the company

[Question]  Competitors hiring autonomous workers, hard to coops to compete — and some of them are coops.  Coop doesn’t mean equity, all of the time.

Colette:  Toronto Star article yesterday, went into a corporate bakery, found these issues

  • In Ontario, revisiting regulations on misclassification of workers

[Question]:  In Ontario, have to be incorporated as a coop, or can’t call coop.  75% of workers have to be full time.  Training camps.  Are labour unions creating labour organizers.

Frisia:  In Europe, four steps behind in organizing, don’t know what to do with platform workers

  • Now in Belgium can make 4000EUR every year from global sources, classified as temporary work
  • Better conditions for bikers
  • Now discussing with unions, they appreciate us, but haven’t proposed anything

Kristy:  In Sweden, got freelancers to join

  • Within another union, they asked existing workers who were platform workers
  • In Canada, have Canadian Freelancers Union under Unifor
  • May be classified as a cabal, rather than a collective bargaining unit

Trebor:  In Europe, close to full employment, can’t see shift to independent work

  • In Germany, a non-issue

Greig:  Workers Action Centre, worker’s central model

Colette:  workeractioncentre.com, but don’t have regulatory framework, yet

Kristy: Starting a coop is hard

  • What resources can we help them with?

Trebor:  IDLC, OCADU:  platform development kit

  • Legal templates to create a corp
  • Platform coop commons, want to build that, to allow people on the map
  • Can incubate a platform coop on the side
  • A project with initial funding

[Greig] Don’t forget about labour unions, basic income

  • Politics has to do with differentials of power and privilege

Frisia:  Do it yourself, but not alone

  • Michel Bauwens, Peer to Peer

#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors