Open Letter to Ariel Guarco, President of the International Cooperative Alliance

 We are a group of cooperators interested in the development of digital platforms and structures that support cooperation.

In the current digital landscape, large tech companies dominate the collection, processing, and selling of user data. As we write this, large tech companies are already approaching farmers from upstate New York to Gujarat and dominate most major e-commerce platforms, ride-hailing services, energy-sharing platforms, and delivery services, to mention a few. 

While new cooperatives emerge globally in many fields, such as energy, mobility, agriculture, and health, many face a choice: make use of digital centralised platforms or set their own standards to develop cooperative solutions. 

Sharing solutions amongst cooperators ultimately saves resources, time, and money, but the initial set-up of shareable code and data takes greater resources, challenging co-op initiatives even more. 

To counter this, we urge ICA and cooperative apex organizations to call for global cooperative digital infrastructures and strengthen cooperative principles in the digital economy.  

It’s our honor to present some ideas for this purpose:

  1. Encourage standardization and interoperability, focusing on cooperative and citizen needs, (collective) consent, and democratic open (API) structures, within the cooperative economy and its various sectors.
  1. Call for and support open-source and source-available tech development, based on open standards, to ensure standardization doesn’t pave the way only for commercial platforms. 
  1. Promote solutions that are FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable).
  1. Create knowledge and support hub(s) that educate cooperators and developers on these issues, and that cooperatives can turn to for finding open-source solutions and asking questions concerning the use of them. 
  1. Call upon (local) governments for support: invest a percentage of innovation budgets in the cooperative digital commons, support cooperative start-ups, and make policies that favor platform cooperatives.

This approach requires thoughtful, democratic, and powerful motivation from cooperative apex bodies such as the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and support for and coordination among grassroots efforts.

The task is complex, but we must all act quickly together to avoid losing a great opportunity for the cooperative movement we all love.

We, the undersigned, pledge to work together in the spirit of Principle Six to coordinate our efforts to build cooperative digital tools, platforms, standards, and agreements.

— Platform Cooperativism Consortium, Data Commons Cooperative, ChiCommons

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