Co-ops: The Original Co-Design?

Let’s work on it, May 1st in Oakland. Read on and sign up!

Five years ago, Reggie Watts made a crowd in Maine laugh/cry about design fetishism. Now, firms like IDEO and critics like Laurenellen McCann!! have books and taglines that all say, in various ways, “Design with, not for.”

What can participatory design (AKA co-design) learn from the world of co-ops?

People building community power, mainly in online organizing and civic tech, have pushed design of products, platforms, and organizations forward with questions of justice and equity. Co-design initiatives can go even further by collaborating with the co-op world.

As design thinking becomes a sales scheme, focusing on governance is a challenge because it is dry, strange, and 99% invisible. Except, of course, in co-ops, which are all about governance, from community ownership and control to movement-building. For example, while the 2008 recession sank many technology companies, a Wisconsin robotics co-op named Isthmus Engineering kept all of their workers and emerged even stronger. Co-op history and theory has countless stories and lessons to offer — especially in the Bay Area, home to dozens of co-ops.

Join the May Day DiscoTech

Come to the Co-op DiscoTech in Oakland on May 1st, one of a dozen simultaneous events worldwide!

Here’s the plan, inspired by the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, MIT, and

We’ll dive in deep to understand worker cooperative tools, systems, and histories, through speakers, skillshares, workshops, and activities open to all. We’ll also get hands-on with tools and approaches that can strengthen worker, consumer, housing, and hybrid cooperatives. We’ll link existing co-ops, technologists, designers, and community organizers to strengthen our strategies and tools for a cooperative future!

All we need is you.

Help make it happen!

We’re welcoming event co-organizers, workshops facilitators, sponsors, and, of course, you! We have room for appx. 30 participants.

The DiscoTech is free and open to all, and takes place 11am–2pm on May 1st at the Citizen Engagement Lab, 1330 Broadway #300 — one block from the 12th St BART station.

Join us on May Day!

Sign up for future events 🎯

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.