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Harry Robbins
17 May 2016

Co-op of digital co-ops – arise, er, Megazord?

Megazord is the working title for a UK-based coalition of tech-focused co-operatives that pool their resources to achieve their shared aims – making the world better and fairer with technology. This has been done very effectively in New Zealand by Enspiral who are keen to share their wisdom.

This document contains a straw man to help us work out if and how we should form the Megazord. The interminable debate about what to call it is on another thread. Assume for now it’s something boring like ‘Co-operative technology’.

If you’re interested in getting involved put your name, details and ideas down on the Megazord Hackpad.

Strawman diagram

It might look something like this (the blue arrows are services and the purple arrows are indirect benefits):

(the blue arrows are services and the purple arrows are indirect benefits)
https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1AQoPTRyiUvrk6jPK92bK4RDjRxPxHHxbb7owvHH_Q68/edit – see also the much funkier Enspiral diagram below.

Features:

  • Agencies agree to pool a significant proportion (all?) of their surplus into a common fund to be administered through co-budgeting
  • They also run their pro-bono work through the fund
  • Agencies pool the services they require and if necessary create the service co-op(s)
  • Freelancers join the employment service which acts as a trade union and recruitment agency and provide HR, payroll, legal, liability insurance, long-term health insurance, training, holiday pay, peer-support, peer-review/assessment, paye, etc.
  • The aim is to structure the employment agency in such a way that the other agencies can choose to employ all their staff/members through the agency

Potential benefits:

  • Encouraging co-operation – if all the profits are pooled then it doesn’t matter so much who’s client is who’s and it’s in all of our interests to make each other more profitable by any means at our disposal
  • Helping all the nice talented people who work in tech to work in nice tech (aka recruitment)
  • Letting us focus on what we we’re good at rather than admin
  • Turning the ‘admin’ – e.g. legal, accounting, facilities and HR – into an excellent service with decent capacity rather than little bits of knowledge and processes stored in different silos
  • Provides legitimacy that is attractive to clients – especially those that we are keen to work for
  • Helps us maximise the benefit of the work we do for social good by enhancing scrutiny and providing support network for projects
  • Helps other start similar co-ops within tech
  • Helps the creation of megazords in other industries by, for example, bootstrapping them through the SolidFund
  • Help us share skills an services – ideally it would be easy for us all to work at each others agencies just as easily as we work at our own.
  • Get hold of a sizable proportion of the multi-billion pound UK tech industry and use it to make the world a nicer place.

Main activities to form the megazord :

  • Having the services sounds magical but causing them to come into being is no mean feat. We may need to use external services in the MVP.
  • The legal and accounting requirements and hoped for benefits can probably be mapped fairly easily
  • The ‘Employment Service’ – half-union, half umbrella/service company, half HR miracle is a whole project in itself and needs one or more people to take it forward. Alt Gen were investigating something similar.
  • We need to form the Make The World Better Through Tech fund and establish requirements for membership, what the fund will and won’t fund, what legal form it will take, etc.
  • Some sort of agreement will need to be made about what constitutes surplus and how much needs to be contributed to constitute membership of the Megazord. This will require a lot of trust, openness and congruence.
  • To work really well some sort of agreement about what sort of pay is reasonable for what sort of work would be needed – both with clients to ensure quality control and with employees to ensure fairness.

We’ve put down the deposit on this place for a retreat to discuss this stuff 14-17 November (3 nights)

http://www.visit-barnsley.com/Content/images/content/gallery/desktop-low-res/11-IMG-9996.jpg
It works out as £350 for three nights including meals. Outlandish has got a box of Cuban cigars it’s happy to chip in 🙂

Getting involved

Email us, phone us or visit us and we’ll work out what is the best communication method. There is a hackpad version of this blog here: https://hackpad.com/Megazord-Gl4Fuid7lj3 – feel free to add/update/delete as you see fit.

Enspiral org chart

I believe the proposed structure is basically the same as Enspiral, although their org chart is a bit funkier:

http://www.mixprize.org/sites/default/files/enspiralventures-600.png

 

The Terrible Name

The terrible name is a reference to 1990s children’s action drama Power Rangers in which a bunch of college kids discovered they could turn into lycra-clad super heroes. The heroes in turn could transform into Transformer-like ‘Zords’ and as Wikipedia puts it “When enemies grow to incredible size (as nearly all do), Rangers utilize individual Zords that combine into a larger Megazord.” So there you have it. It will definitely change. Hopefully soon.