Co-Design Potluck: Designing Tech Together

Salonie from SEWA and Laura from Suara Coop sitting in front of papers and pens, looking and listening to the speaker, who is sitting at the same table.

On November 8 2019, the Inclusive Design Research Centre and our collaborators (McKenzie Jones and Ethan Wynn from CoLab, Salonie Hiriyur Muralidhara from Self Employed Women’s Association, Anne McSweeney from CoRise, and Emma Back from Equal Care Coop) hosted a co-design workshop to design technology together with the Platform Co-op Community. The workshop took place over the span of a 3-hour session at the Platform Co-op Consortium Conference, with around 20 people participating. 

When it comes to designing technology together in the platform co-op movement, we recognize that there is already a lot of great work being done, conversations that are happening, and tools that are in use. We wanted to decentralize the work by ensuring that the IDRC is not playing the role of a“hub” from which ideas or technologies emerge; we also wanted to create an opportunity for networks of people with shared needs to form and initiate their own work. To that end, the goals of the co-design workshop were to: 

  • Identify common needs and challenges among different members of the co-op ecosystem
  • Collectively ideate and design potential ways to address these needs and challenges
  • Realize our shared network of resources, and how they might be best applied to achieve our common goals

We felt that the metaphor of a potluck best represented what we were hoping to achieve, such that participants would bring something to the table to share, but would also benefit from one another’s contributions. Based on this, participants were asked to bring any resources or skills they could offer to others, and in exchange be able to benefit from the ideas that came out of the workshop around the needs they’ve identified for their organization.

Through this blog post, we’re hoping to share with you, the wider community, the ideas that came out of this co-design session, in hopes that this work will not be limited to happening once a year at the conference, but continue on in our communities throughout.

Workshop outcomes

Through the activities of the workshop, the group identified shared needs and challenges, as well as some initial ideas on how to address them. A quick summary of the challenges and their associated ideas are below.

Idea 1: Knowledge sharing for the collective co-op community

  • Challenge: Facilitating communication among co-ops at all scales (within a co-op, between different co-ops, and to people who are not in co-ops) in order to better share resources and support collective knowledge. 
  • Idea: A collection of methods — not centred around technology, but rather around communication and operations — for creating those connections at different scales.
  • Read more here
  • Direct ask:
    • Contact us if you are working on similar issues around global mapping and  knowledge sharing
    • Contact us if you have an idea for a platform for this documentation to be shared and visualized
  • Contact person: Salonie at salonieh@sewafederation.org

Idea 2: Technical infrastructure for Platform Co-op communication

  • Challenge: Building a flexible, sustainable infrastructure for platform co-op communication. This challenge is highlighted by the fact that different people prefer different communication channels, including (but not limited to) mailing lists, Twitter, Slack, forums, audio/video hangouts, and GitHub repos.
  • Idea: A communication infrastructure that is easily discoverable, low barrier to entry, decentralized, and self-archiving — that supports building collective power and creating trust and relationships among the community.
  • Read more here
  • Ask for the community: 
    • The IDRC is currently working on an Index that will address this challenge. If you are interested in participating as a co-designer in our process, please sign up here: https://tinyurl.com/coopdevkit 
  • Contact person: Eric at erictheise@gmail.com

Idea 3: Inclusive Language & Storytelling

  • Challenge: Making the language that we use to talk about Platform Cooperativism more accessible to all, as currently there is use of jargon (ex. “Innovation”, “cooperativism”) that can create a high barrier of entry.
  • Idea: Communicating about co-ops through telling stories of what they have done for others, as well as the shared values such as trust, pride, and shared ownership
  • Read more here
  • Ask for the community: 
    • If you have a story around platform co-ops that you believe is successful in using inclusive language, please get in touch
  • Contact person: Austin at austin@ampled.com

Idea 4: Financing at scale without diluting governance principles

  • Challenge: Financing their co-ops at scale in non-traditional methods, so as to not compromise their governance principles and retain local ownership and control of community projects
  • Read more here

Idea 5: Digital platform for a service-based business

  • Challenge: Scaling the operations of a service-based business, specifically around administrative tasks that can be costly and time-consuming.
  • Idea: A digital platform that will address marketing services, scheduling the worker who will be responsible for the service, and payments. This group also acknowledges the challenges around assessing and picking from the different technical options available on the market, so a guide for service providers on topics like how to get funding, how to negotiate and pick technical partners, and a list of the available digital tools.
  • Read more here
  • Ask for the community: 
    • Contact us if you are a co-op that wants to build a digital platform and want to compare research
    • Contact us if you are someone who knows about getting funding for these digital platforms and bringing on a tech partner
    • Contact us if you know of any existing digital tools
    • Contact us if you are a company building a tool for such a service platform

Idea 6: Developing cooperative governance capacity

  • Challenge: How to govern cooperatively — struggling with factors such as cultural constraints (a default to hierarchy), skills for collective decision-making, technological barriers to entry, and making decisions when everyone is geographically distributed 
  • Ideas: A playbook of fun and engaging culture change activities that build governance capacity in your co-op, and a digital feature that tracks and/or gamifies individual members’ contributions in their co-op for governance involvement
  • Read more here
  • Ask for the community: 
    • Contact us if you are willing to share how you do cooperative governance
    • Contact us if you are willing to help with benchmarking all the practices of cooperative governance
  • Contact person: Brandon at brandon@ideahound.org

What’s next

Collaboration and governance, communication, knowledge sharing, and funding have emerged as the key themes we want to imagine and create around. More than that, there is a deep desire to work together and understand the practices that currently exist within the movement, and continue the momentum of the work forward as we return to our homes and local communities. We hope that through this “potluck” style co-design workshop, where participants were able to share their challenges, aspirations, and resources, interested members of the community can carry the work forward and include the perspectives of those who were not at the conference as well.