Distributed Cooperative Organizations

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Morshed Mannan:

"Outside of protocol cooperatives, distributed cooperative organizations (DisCOs) are another form of organization that is closely associated with platform and open cooperativism in the blockchain space. Within the blockchain space, the idea of creating decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) gained a great degree of interest and notoriety, following the emergence of the Ethereum blockchain and The DAO attack respectively (Ishmaev, 2017, p. 668). There continues to be an interest in DAOs (Mannan, 2018), but as the DisCO Manifesto notes, the discourse largely centers on their technological affordances and their shortcomings rather than “the living human beings with bodies that need nourishment, sleep and affection” behind each node (Troncoso and Utratel, 2019, p. 21). DisCOs, based on the archetype of the Guerilla Media Collective,12 foreground association over autonomy, federation over scale, value hidden forms of labor such as care work instead of automation, and prioritize society and the environment over profit (ibid, pp. 33-34). In that ambition, distributed ledger technologies can have a central role (Troncoso and Utratel, 2019, p. 35), even if they are works-in-progress."



Open Cooperativism and Distributed Cooperative Organizations (DisCOs)

Guerrilla Translation, as part of an umbrella organization (Guerrilla Media Collective, in development), is an Open Cooperative and a pilot project for Distributed Cooperative Organizations (or DisCOs)

Distributed Cooperative Organizations (or DisCOs) are a cooperative reaction to the individualistic and techno-deterministic Decentralised Autonomous Organizations (or DAOs). DAOs are blockchain-based entities that execute payments, levy penalties, and enforce terms and contracts without human interaction. By contrast, a Distributed Cooperative Organization prioritizes mutual support, cooperativism and care work among people and is a practical framework for Open Cooperativism. These are locally grounded, transnationally networked cooperatives focused on social and environmental work.

Open Cooperatives can be viewed as the experimental edge of the work of our allies in Platform Cooperativism movement, exploring convergences between the Commons and P2P movements along with the world of cooperatives and the Social and Solidarity Economy. Harnessing the potential of the blockchain while addressing its deficits, DiSCOs prototype and allow for tailoring of the Commons-Oriented Open Cooperative Governance Model originally developed for Guerrilla Translation. Together, these can be greatly amplified to make distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) accessible to common people, cooperators and economically disadvantaged, breaking the monopoly of a white/male tech elite’s involvement and benefit.

Harnessing the potential of the blockchain while addressing its deficits, DiSCOs are designed to prototype custom iterations of the Commons-Oriented Open Cooperative Governance Model originally developed for Guerrilla Translation.

Through this model, DisCOs offer new forms of multi-constituent ownership with blockchain enabled Open Value accounting systems. These create levels of ownership in direct relation to members' contributions to three streams: pro-bono work to create commons, livelihood work, and care work (emotional labour, often invisibilized and gendered). DisCOs also reimagine governance through care work, trust, heterarchical decision-making and open communication, mediated not by initial investment but through contributions to the social mission. Regarding entrepreneurship, the protocols build on the cooperative tradition of workplace democracy, and the mission-oriented practices of the Social Solidarity Economy, augmented with the massive potential of distributed ledger technologies, transnational P2P platforms and manufacturing, and feminist economics. DisCOs have the potential for a robust and truly collaborative economic movement that challenges the status quo.


Guerrilla Media Collective as a living prototype for DisCOS

Guerrilla Media Collective is the flagship/pilot Project for DisCOs

Guerrilla Media Collective is a commons-oriented, human-centered, living example of Open Cooperativism. As such, it embodies the values and carries out the practices promoted by the cooperative, open source and commons movements.

Partnerships with like-minded entities will provide Guerrilla Media Collective with the support needed to a) mature, codify and open source our cultural practices for Open Cooperatives practising contributive accounting, and b) co-develop an attractive, modular legal/technical infrastructure, easily adapted for other commons-oriented collectives, businesses and DisCOs. We believe that this combination of off-chain (cultural) and on-chain (structural) qualities is essential for any serious (non-vapourware) distributed project.

Finally, GMC offers a real-world educational opportunity for those interested in things like creative work with a social and environmental benefit, open cooperativism, and non-hierarchical organising in digital spaces. We continue to share our experiences with similar workers, sharing our open-source governance model and thoroughly documenting our processes.

As a longer-term aspiration, we see ourselves as a group that operates as peer-to-peer mentors for other digital media workers, individual or collective levels, and as a prototype for similar collectives to federate the model and its digital infrastructure. Through sharing our hybrid pro-bono and paid model, we want to support more activists with digital media (or other) skills to work in ways that align with their own values. By supporting the resilience and maturation of Guerrilla Media Collective, prospective partners will invest in an already established and recognized collective that has proven to be capable of bridging its practices to commons-oriented, ethical enterprises.

The set of cooperative practices and tools we are proposing continue to be real-world tested and documented. We are committed to working alongside the cooperative movements in harnessing the potentials of the digital economy for viable socio-economic outcomes.

We are currently developing the Guerrilla Media Collective as a DisCO.

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