We are trying to find ways to tie cooperative business models and service offerings to the most important challenges of our time.

What we‘ve been learning:

Cooperation rather than Competition

It is one thing to say you want to cooperate with others in pursuing economic and environmental wellbeing together and a complete other thing to actually live it. We have become so socially bound to a competition-first mindset that breaking free of our patterns often quite literally requires a jolting experience or conflict to break free from comfortable patterns of avoidance.

Compassion rather than Empathy

When we engage in collaboration sometimes the appropriate and caring thing to do is not the polite one. With family, friends, and those in our inner circle one has to develop enough trust to make mistakes and work their way back from critique and rejection. Compassion is doing what is uncomfortable because it is the right thing. Sometimes that means confronting someone you’ve committed to working with, and other times that might be walking away from a working relationship. Empathy would feel for that person from far away… compassion would take responsibility for that person, forgiving them, and pushing through our own discomfort for the good of our team’s longevity.

Leadership before Management

While management has become a science in the years since the industrial revolution, leadership has become an art. In the arts we must allow ourselves to be messy, to break things, to be surprised and challenged. Management is easy because power flows in one direction, and one can dismiss the human and environmental effects of their behaviors on the system. It’s just this way, one might say. Leadership is taking the risk to be wrong, and owning up to the bruises and the wins.

Co-owners instead of Co-workers

Co-workers work alongside one another, but don’t dare risk crossing that boundary across which there is mutual solidarity in any meaningful way. I may share my disdain and disappointment with a co-worker, but I wouldn’t risk anything for them. Co-owners on the other hand will carry the burden together. When one develops a partnership the roles get defined through dialogue and continuous feedback. Here, it’d be most desirable that the partnership pursue a balancing of power for the sustainability of the arrangement.

Shared-Ownership instead of Private-Ownership

Ownership of organizations means sole-responsibility for all that happens. While that sounds kinda sexy, imagine all that comes along. Stressful nights without sleep, endless amounts of cognitive stress, decreasing ability to pursue the things that were once important to you. With shared-ownership an organization can develop (and redevelop) governance structures that allow for the burden to be shared without adhering to overly simplified policies (like inheritance or nepotism). Also, by alleviating some organizational pressure the vision of the organizational founders can be better focused upon.

Cooperativism in Capitalism

Capitalism isn’t evil. It certainly seems that way given the state of our environmental and social health. Labor norms that we accept today were not directly born of the needs of capitalism – it took many iterations and failures for us to have made this much progress. The important thing is not to lose sight of the fact that we can continue to improve the system. Cooperativism serves as one such vision of an alternative economy that can transition away from valuing single-person ownership and towards more inclusive models of power and dividend dispersal.

Service Movement alongside Social Movement

What the hell… a Service Movement? Yeah… design the other way around. While our good friends and allies are out making demands and bringing visibility to the pressing urgent issues of the time, we must use our skills to demonstrate the other world that must be. This is another cooperate or die moment. We aren’t in opposition to social movements… we are into making them into cooperative businesses. People should get paid, and paid well, for making the world less sucky.

Microsolidarity and Solidarity

Another scenario where we must image the impact of scalar thinking and acting. Social justice culture has done so much to build solidarity for those who are ‘other’ from us. Thanks, Social Justice! Now, from the mind of Rich Bartlett, Microsolidarity asks us… what if we put those ideals into action in the most concrete and localized ways possible? What if instead of saying what others oughta do, or fuming about national politics, we chose to set off on brave journeys with a handful of people who were close to us? What of those people could ask for help, or give us help when we were too afraid to ask – because they actually know us?

Scalar Thinking or Scalability

Jamer Hunt once said to embrace uncertainty. Well… never having been one to embrace uncertainly, the idea of scalar thinking sticks. What if the things that we assume to be true about democracy at the global scale, or capitalism for that matter, do not hold true at all sales of interaction? If that were true, then how would we value scalability of certain ways of solving problems – would we even attempt to scale at all or would there be undeniable value in allowing for unique and diverse solutions to arise more intentionally? What if we capped the scale of companies in order to better ensure economic regeneration?

Design Consciousness VS Design Thinking

Nii Botchway asks us to undo the damage that Design Thinking has done in the world and be more critical than to allow business to subsume that colorful sticky notes make us more empathic, creative, or inclusive. Only true reflection and analysis of the critical positionality that systems are designed to constrict around various ranges of action can lead to inclusion and transformation. Botchway calls for us to employ futures literacy and more engaged ways of learning by doing to establish innovation in ever-more-effective ways.