Regional strategy: opportunities

opportunities that may allow us to expand the network into other regions. Jason Nardi mentions their BBB provider: led by François Soulard. With a team of 4 developers based in Argentina they deploy free software platforms for the World Social Forum ecosystem. We have been in tough over email several times with François, exchanging specific BBB experience. Jason would like to see Dunia join They could run a node in Latin America, and bring in additional strength to our Ideally such collaboration would also help make RIPESS Europe join Their team is already used to BBB, but it would be wonderful if they could become a cooperative user member. That would encourage them to spread the word among their extensive Social and Solidarity Economy network.

Other parties in Latin America to consider would be: Karisma Foundation in Colombia. I’ve had conversations with their team in 2021. And there’s MayFirst with their Mexican basis. And many others to talk with.

Mike knows

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Yes I do know Etico Etico is a workers’ coop involved in supply chains and infrastructures for agricultural producer coops, global fairtrade and the coop-social economy generally, notably in Nicaragua and also other countries and continents: Sierra Leone, Kerala, etc. They’re under the umbrella of Social Business Network About — Social Business Network. Two members (Rachel Wallace, Nick Hoskyns) are intending to contribute in our Board of stewards (not yet here in the forum, I’ll prompt them).

The wonderful colleagues in Etico/SBN are known to me via the valuable network of cooperators and organisers around radical economist and entrepreneurial pioneer of fairtrade and ‘Weath from waste’, Robin Murray Work — Robin Murray, author in 2009 of Cooperation in the Age of Google for Coops UK OwnCube. Robin in the 80s was Director of Industry and Employment in the Greater London Council, pioneering work in and with the regional economy and workers and residents of the city.

@wouter and I had a chat this week with @Graham and @Shaun (CoTech, Innovation Coop, Manchester Cable, Greater Manchester Cooperative Commission, Coop Network Infrastructure, DigitalLifeCollective, etc etc). We didn’t talk business and federating (soon!?) but there are deep common commitments to be developed, in full-stack coop digital infrastructure, digitally-mediated commons and coop-solidarity economy. Mutual credit (debt clearing as a coop infrastructure) loomed quite large - something for us to think strategically about in developing relations in our user community? @osb

All: note the commons.hour session with @Sophie_B next Monday, Signup commons.hour session #8

I was just opening this thread as a placeholder for future regional development. When we want to develop that vision of a regional network, with nodes per continent and an operational group for each node. Maybe not something we can (very) actively push, but if sufficient opportunities emerge, we may want to activate them?

Thinking out loud:

  • a node by continent roughly, where a group of operational members commits to run the node
  • the node has at least one server, which may turn into a cluster
  • the node ideally has one or a limit group of languages, so they can provide member support through the appropriate channels (e.g. Latin America might be split in two: Spanish and Portuguese) using the forum, handbook space and other channels
  • the node controls their membership through onboarding and member management, including financial
  • a minimum % of revenue shall feed back in the global development, where possible complemented with labour contributed to global Circles

(Then another form of regional development is what Mike and I are beginning to discuss with @graham and Shaun - when there’s real business emerging from that we’ll discuss it here?)

The opportunity to work and collaborate with the people in Latin America looks - on the surface at least - to be a no-brainer. Certainly it deserves deeper dialogue with them, to ascertain if there is sufficient alignment and mutual benefit to enable them to adopt branding, even if in some other respects their operation remains distinct. Closer cooperation could be nurtured over time. Their connections with World Social Forum and the 1000s of progressive orgs and movements that are allied/affiliated could provide a fantastic opportunity to grow the user base for, enabling a more rapid move towards sustainability.

In a similar way of thinking: CommunityBridge - Open Collective looks like a perhaps natural partner to share the brand with in the US?

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Sharing a brand within a federated relationship
Thoughts about sharing . . member information? . . member identity (SSO)? . . user-member contributions aka revenue? . . operational-member contributions aka worker-hours? . . development contributions aka more worker hours? server scripts etc?

That’s funny! Yes, CommunityBridge admin is Micky Metts (a.k.a. @freescholar on this forum), part of Agaric and MayFirst. They’re currently paying another datacentre to run BBB while promoting And they’re actually considering to pay the money to us so we could add another server to our setup in Canada. See this thread. Idea is to make them Collaborating members for that contribution.

That said, their community service is quite different than ours. They run on donations and a WP plugin to allow donors to run community rooms. Most of the costs are paid my Micky personally AFAIK.

In below illustration I’m trying to picture some of the regional infrastructuring ideas:

  • we have now two continental nodes, North America and Europe, feeding 100% of revenues to what we could call “global ops”
  • our ideas for future expansion into other continents are through the regional development of a regional node, operated by a regional coalition of cooperative tech actors. Idea is that they operate autonomously, but following the prod/org/tech model defined by global ops. Possibly they could contribute 25% of their revenue to strengthen global ops, possibly part of that by delegating part of their staff to the global team.
  • in/around cities like Amsterdam and Manchester we see business opportunities to develop a “local node”. Local partners including the City / public admin fund a locally collocated dedicated server plus a local support person. Following experiences in Community Wealth Building like in Cleveland, Preston, the investments return largely into the local economy: typically 75%. A small part can be used to feed global ops.
    Screenshot from 2022-05-31 17-22-44

Does it make sense to what we discussed @graham, @mikemh ?

This is what we’re beginning to explore, yes. The core question, not resolved yet, is how does get sufficient income from autonomous regional coops that we federate with (and help to create)? To support the labour cost of our support for them (‘infrastructure federating’ of various kinds) and to help us achieve break-even and surplus in our sustainability strategy.

Contribution is not all in terms of money/income of course, even though revenue is of critical importance. ‘Contribution’ is the general category, which includes contribution in kind (server capacity?) and contribution in work (recruitment of members, sysadmin development work, documentation. Perhaps, language translation across regions. Etc) This is a little complex but it’s important to work out the various contribution formulae that can enable us to federate with regional coops.

Alerting @nhoskyns (Etico, mentioned earlier in this thread, now new in the forum) who has an interest in this strategy in the Nicaraguan coop sector. And possibly other global South regions (in Africa, India). The contribution formulae for a South American rural regional federation, say, might or might not be like those for a European (or North American) city-region? Any thoughts Nick? How does regional or municipal government figure in the possibilities for coop development or infrastructure development?

Alerting @Shaun too. I wonder what @bhaugen @mnoyes or @freescholar might think about this?

I don’t think the core question, as you put it @mikemh has even be explored or discussed, let alone resolved.
My guess is that the US setup, and possibly the South American one too, will be working on a shoestring in the same way that we are (although I may well be wrong on that). So for me the point is not about revenue flows into per se, but rather about building a relationship with these other groups to explore with them and understand what each others issues (financial and other) are and how – through cooperation – these might be addressed.

For me the obvious things for exploration with them are:

  • is there a willingness to cooperate;
  • is work being duplicated that could be avoided through collaboration, thereby reducing the cost base of all involved, and/or potentially accelerating progress towards sustainability for all;
  • is there scope to establish some simple common standards/approaches that would enable the adoption of some common branding, enabling all participants to add value through increased visibility/awareness.
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Yes of course, I’m completely with the relationship-building principles @Graham , thanks for underlining. I guess what I’m wanting to highlight is the ‘shoestring’ issue. Developing a solid collaboration in a region with a coop (either existing or purpose-built) involves a lot of development work, and doesn’t have any labour to spare. So rather than plunging into sweat equity again, we should be conscious from the start that development funding of some kind is required.

I should have said funding rather than revenue? And it most likely would be derived in the first place not from our ‘shoestring’ coop collaborators, but from grants (?) or (better?) from contracts with infrastructure-funders like regional governments. Sorry that I wasn’t clear. That’s the point in a way: I’m NOT clear what the raw bootstrapping economics of this kind of development project are going to look like, and what kinds of funding deals are going to need setting up in collaboration with our coop partners.

Yes this hasn’t been discussed yet. Time to start! We can’t afford to be casual about the work involved in bootstrapping? But the federation process is basically important for An evolutionary process. I wonder how fast we can realistically expect it to be ‘on a shoestring’?