January 03, 2023

What If Co-operatives Aren't the Answer?

Co-ops or workers' revolution? is an interesting critique of lots-of-co-operatives being how to move to a better society. I'd been tending towards co-ops being the way forwards, but having read that I think (as ever) the answer is more nuanced.

I'd also been assuming that DoES Liverpool is a co-op in all but legal structure. However, there isn't an intent in ownership of the means of production in there; rather, it's a stewardship of the means of production. Aiming to expand access to tools, capabilities and space for everyone, and to sustain that access in the future.

It's made me realise (even more) that commoning is a better description of what we're doing. Maybe there are better legal structures that we should be aspiring to apply? If there aren't, maybe we should be looking to construct them and set examples.

The difference is arguably in what we don't do. For example, it's often suggested that we run courses, or bid for funding for art projects like the River of Light Festival, or Eurovision celebrations. That would be the easier option, and I think we'd be pretty successful with such an approach; however, that would put us in competition with our community. We'd much rather support members of the community when they're running courses or bidding for work.

It's also in how we don't let any one party monopolise use of the facilities. Whether that's turning down community groups that want to take up too many of the available evenings to use the events room; or the rule that you can only book your next (single) visit to use the laser-cutter.

A fair bit of that isn't explicitly written down, and comes under a general "don't take the piss" rule. That's useful because it allows some discretion in how it's applied, although it runs the risk of falling foul of the tyranny of structurelessness.

In general, that and the culture of the space do a reasonable job of protecting this commons from bad actors, but we should be working out how to strengthen it with more formal and legal options. More homework to do then I guess.

Posted by Adrian at January 3, 2023 10:08 AM | TrackBack

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I think your use of the term stewardship is accurate but incomplete. I have often told first-time visitors to the space that while there are a few regulars who will happily "do" their project for them for a fee (and, that for some of them such freelance work is how they make a living), I find it significantly more rewarding to be able to advise that DoES is more about making the equipment and know-how available for them to do it for themselves.

May I suggest that it would be more complete to suggest that DoES is "enabling through stewardship" ?

Posted by: Sean-Anotherone at January 4, 2023 09:00 PM
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