"More Than Business as Usual"

<p><cite>[l:http://www.commarts.com/ca/coldesign/johE_289.html|Why form a cooperative? One argument is that organizations owned by the communities they serve are more accountable, and can emphasize service over profit. When employees govern their own workplace, they can design a happier, stable and more equitable work environment.]</cite></p> <p><cite>[l:http://www.commarts.com/ca/coldesign/johE_289.html|But there’s also the value of organizing according to one’s ideals. Though we are supposedly living in a democracy, most of us spend our days working for private tyrannies. Living and participating in a democracy should consist of more than just voting once a year. We should be able to participate in the decisions that affect our lives.]</cite></p> <p>I just started reading [l:http://www.commarts.com/ca/coldesign/johE_289.html|this article] (a snipit posted on the [l:http://backspace.com/notes/2005/09/08/x.html|author's blog], actually) and wanted to share even before i finished it. At web of change, i helped facilitate a discussion about business models for technology consulting with Eric Magnuson. This article is a good resource about collectives and cooperatives. </p> <p><cite>Eggplant is a Limited Liability Corporation. Technically, the corporation does not have employees, only associates. Each of the four associates are paid as contract laborers in the form of “advanced dividends,” sharing the profits equally and giving a percentage into the collective’s endowment to enable pro-bono work. The associates are responsible for their own income taxes because the corporation does not technically make money.</cite><br /> This appears to be an interesting model for a technology consulting firm, and is, in some ways, similar to the way that CivicActions is organized.</p> <p><cite>The Tech Underground (<a href="http://www.techunderground.org" title="www.techunderground.org">www.techunderground.org</a>) is a collective of fourteen in the San Francisco Bay Area. The team offers Web development, networking and tech support and have built an impressive client list of over a hundred activist and environmental groups, arts and educational institutions, health services and grant-makers.</cite></p> <p><cite>However, unlike the organizations above, the Tech Underground is not actually a legal entity. They are not incorporated, but are an informal alliance of individual consultants, a network that is entirely voluntary. Individual members conduct contract work, collaborate and back each other up.</cite></p> <p><cite>The group was started by a couple of system administrators on-call all the time. Support from members of the network allowed them to “pass the pager” when stepping out of town. The group now shares a uniform contract, billing and rate scale, offering their services exclusively to nonprofits and always at a discount.</cite></p> <p>This sounds like a very interesting model, especially for the tech center, and especially conducive to those working with standards compliant open source software and web development. Perhaps even a good model for the Drupal Guild concept i am working on, though it may be too informal.</p>