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Technology Co-operatives: What, Why, How
Submitted by Steven Deobald (@stevendeobald) on Thursday, 5 February 2015
Technical level: Beginner
Understand the principles and benefits of running a co-operative business: What makes a corporation a “co-operative”? Why would I run my business this way? How would I do that?
We have been running nilenso (nilenso.com) as a democratic technology co-operative for 2 years. Building and running a co-operative presents a set of challenges above and beyond building more common private businesses or partnerships. When I speak to people about nilenso and why we chose a co-operative model, I rarely even get to these challenges as part of the conversation; most people do not understand what a co-operative corporation is or why we would choose such an entity for our business.
The challenges are those of an ordinary business, but seen through a new lens. How do we hire and fire employees in an employee-owned democracy? How do we decide strategic direction? How do we market ourselves? How do we avoid bikeshedding every minor decision on one hand or letting the company slide into dictatorship on the other? How do we avoid the Tragedy of the Commons?
I intend to answer these questions as concisely as I can, using nilenso as a concrete example of these ideas in action. The goal of the talk will be to move quickly past the “what” and “why” of technology co-operatives to the “how” of implementing your own corporation in this manner.
I have been an employee of nilenso for its entire 2 years of existence and have seen it through many of the challenges described.