Cooperatives provide a valuable historical background in light of new paradigms in economic organization, peer production and a resurgence and modernization of the concept of the Commons. Given this idea, a group of stakeholders from the these spheres gathered in Berlin in August of 2014 to explore their intersection. A full paper can be downloaded from here.
As an alternative to capitalism, cooperatives world-wide employee 250 million persons (comparable to large multinational corporations), although they only comprise 4.2% of world product. Part of this has to do with a concept of “missing value” the intangibles created between actual material product and the scarcity-instilled market capture.
These institutions are embattled, with larger ones succumbing to capitalist management styles and the constant threat of sell-out/buy-out by commercial corporations. Small ones, being subject to the constraints of the market, cannot offer competitive advances to attract new members. So what is to be done about this?
The commons has always been problematic, with concerns constantly seeking to en-fence them, first with land grabs now with un-thought-out (or undisclosed) monetization of free and open source software. How do we retain the commons for the use of all without succumbing to these pressures?
These and many more questions were explored in the conversations, proposed development of a new open co-operativism was posited as a solution, and even plans for a transition to the new model were discussed. The report by David Bollier and Pat Conaty is well-worth the read.