Building a Solidarity Economy, Together
With joy we share with you our research with The Democracy Collaborative (TDC) on scalable network models for cooperative development and international solidarity - our offering to the International Solidarity economy on International Workers' Day.
Currently CoLab Members are engaging in internal discussions around how the CoLab community might evolve to embrace more distributed network models of organization and operations to better support international worker solidarity, diversity, and equity while also strengthening the resilience and sustainability of the current CoLab community as a whole. Through internal process work, CoLab has come to recognize that we have work to do to strengthen equality, diversity, and equity in our own community. Our research into models to better support economic solidarity is a first step on a long road towards this goal.
Some questions we are asking of the co-operative movement:
What models for operations and governance at CoLab could better support equity, solidarity, inclusivity, and diversity across nations, regions, cultures and class?
How does a transnational worker co-operative function as a sustainable, productive, harmonious whole given our distributed nature and decentralization?
Some backstory, CoLab was born of transnational diversity, with intercultural collaboration a part of its organizational DNA. In growing we have prioritized heart-centered and inclusive cooperation, welcoming committed and aligned collaborators into the membership as they become woven into our team. Our earliest-joining member-owners collaborated remotely from India with Western counterparts and clients. Shortly thereafter, we welcomed our first member-owner from the EU, then one based between the US and Indonesia.
Today, with member-owners on three continents, and collaborators from the Bay Area to Australia, CoLab operates in an extremely complex cultural, operational, and regulatory context. We face the governance challenges common to growing coops, combined with the operational challenges of distributed teams, the cultural challenges of building inclusive and equitable international organizations, and the compliance requirements of legal frameworks ranging from US state law to international commerce rules.
To date, we have navigated the issues associated with global collaboration and equity through a 'learn by doing' approach, weaving together the many philosophical and cultural perspectives each member brings to develop solutions through non-hierarchical democratic consensus. We’ve seen these challenges as important learning points toward a practice of transformative international cooperativism that can foster global solidarity. Now, the time has come for CoLab to fundamentally rethink our international structure, and develop an organizational form that builds on our diversity, reflects our values, and supports us in realizing our mission through cooperative work.
To do this, CoLab has partnered with our long-term movement cooperators at the Democracy Collaborative (TDC) to help us think through the structural possibilities to regional and, ultimately, global cooperation. Following TDC’s extensive research, and in-depth stakeholder interviews, together we have crafted a report that gives an overview of the many models for scalable democratic organizations that might inform our new approach to global cooperativism. Each model has its trade offs, providing affordances that support some aspects of collaboration as well as potential challenges in others. It is the work of the CoLab membership to envision how these models might be adapted for our ‘transnational tech worker co-operative’ case in support of our strategic objectives:
- Providing an infrastructure that can support the evolution of a global, distributed network of cooperators.
- Addressing the operational and governance challenges of being an international worker-owned co-operative.
- Establishing a shared cultural bedrock for a deep alignment and solidarity between collaborators in our many regions.
- Developing a model for transnational collaboration in the world of work, supporting others by sharing our learnings, resources, and challenges.
- Contributing measurably towards the regeneration of the earth and equity within our communities.
In an era of increasing telepresence, accessible data networks, and distributed collaboration, we have found that our structural and legal frameworks must evolve to better support new patterns of collaboration where in person congregation is not the default mode of participation. Co-operative organizational agreements are fundamental to our ability to both sustain our work together and grow our impact at a local and global scale. As such, we seek to both learn from the experiments of others and to share our own efforts to make global collaboration more effective. Our hope is that by sharing our process of grappling with these questions, we can evolve together with others around the world to better to cooperate across boundaries.
We see, then, along with our allies like the International Cooperative Alliance a critical need to work together to share resources and engage in dialog in order to advance our work together. We propose to openly share ideas, models, bylaws, strategies, case studies, data analyses with each other as peers committed to global solidarity within the co-operative movement. In this spirit, CoLab is honored to co-work with Democracy Collaborative to share its own research as to models for transnational cooperation. And we hope that together with our partners at the International Cooperative Alliance, allied organizations in the Asia Pacific region and amongst our peers in the tech co-op movement we can together build a shared technological and communications framework for disseminating and growing our working knowledge as to how best to cooperate despite our differences. Together, we move forward to generate a new wave of global cooperation.
Our working title for our creative explorations, co-visioning, of how to strengthen equity in our work community across borders is has a working title of CoLab Earth, to emphasize our shared humanity beneath our individual and tribal identities.
Central to imagining a Future CoLab, a CoLab Earth, is the idea that CoLab is growing to more actively support incubation, development, and launch of new CoLab nodes, co-founded by YOU, our existing and emerging community members.
Our dream is that with your participation these new or partner co-op instances could access technical and financial resources that smooth the road to co-op development and growth while benefiting from the business relationships within CoLab network. That we could establish tools and systems to support mutual and fair exchange of value and resources, benefitting from the cooperative efforts and resources of partners, allies, peers in support of this emergent CoLab Earth.
While we are very much in the dreaming, visioning, exploring mode ... we'd love to hear whether you resonate with this vision, support it being realized in some form?
Worker co-operatives like CoLab Cooperative and partner organizations like the International Cooperative Alliance are building international economic solidarity through development of work networks that cross boundaries. This video is of a talk Rylan presented to the ICA-AP.coop Registrar’s Forum in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam city in April 2019 to discuss CoLab’s search for a co-operative network model that better supports equity, solidarity, inclusivity, sustainability and diversity across nations, cultures, races, genders and class. Can we the work we do together be a practice of building peace in our lives?
Are you interested in learning more? Asking questions, sharing your interest and/or enthusiasm for such an initiative? Challenging, probing?
We have a webinar scheduled to discuss these ideas, rooted in the principle that We are Stronger, Together.
PLEASE JOIN OUR COLLABORATION LIST to be informed of opportunities to continue this dialog on how we can grow our solidarity movement and economy, together.
*What CoLab as a community choses to do is very much a story still being written.
Rylan and Ethan, Worker-Owners