Why reinvent the wheel? Cooperative enterprise offers a pre-existing, established model with demonstrated success at the community, regional, and national scale. As Marjorie Kelly demonstrates in her incredible book Owning Our Future: the Emerging Ownership Revolution, enterprise ownership is like the core gravitational force that determines business behavior on social and environmental outcomes. Cooperative ownership models change the fundamental ownership paradigm to meet the needs of people of planet instead of prioritizing ROI for investors.
The democratization of ownership is not a silver bullet, but it solves many of the design problems inherent to tech startups, and there are already decades of history behind the cooperative movement. More recently, Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider have popularized ‘Platform Cooperativism” — for which there have already been two conferences bringing together folks who are actively engaged in redesigning tech startups with democratic ownership models.
I believe the most fertile ground for change is through the same First Principles approach Elon Musk uses to develop such profound technological breakthroughs: redesign your system not with the existing system you’re trying to change as your frame of reference, but starting from the entirely new paradigm we’re seeking.
And so my question is not how can we make a broken model — VC backed tech startups — less broken, but how to we develop existing, functional models which have a historic track record of prioritizing social welfare — such as cooperatives — and scale these instead. Start from existing models of what works, and go from there.
For more information on cooperatives, see: