Thanks to all PC(J) friends and Nithin from Shareable!
See also the embedded clip. As we concluded … Let’s cooperate! 🙂
When presenting Platform Cooperativism as a fairer user-/worker-owned model of running online platforms, I often hear answers like “that’s a great idea, but it’s too difficult to realize.” However, technology to implement the co-operative digital economy is emerging. Solutions become available to sustainably crowd-source, share value, and govern democratically. Hexalina.io is one such example.
(from hexalina.io website)
It is now generally admitted that income inequality is one of the biggest problems of our world and a peril to the fabric of our society.
A few years ago, the rise of the “sharing economy” gave great hopes to change this: soon everybody would be self-employed, and benefit from the new opportunities unlocked by the internet, technology and platforms.
Industry adaption of Platform Cooperativism is the goal of the Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium. Although awareness and motivation for the co-operative way is crucial, if there is no easy way to act upon, good intentions don’t get realized. That’s where technology solutions come into play.
The PCJ Consortium supports the cooperative digital economy through research, experimentation, education, advocacy, documentation of best practices, technical support, the coordination of funding, and events.
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The percentage of employees employed by small and medium enterprises (SME’s) decreased from 80% to 70% in the last 20 years. Issues regarding the ownership succession of businesses are essential in the light of an aging society and the need for sustainable socio-economic development. The SME Cooperative Act of 1949 is for small and medium enterprises that lack financial resources in the conduct of joint businesses based on a spirit of mutual-aid to raise their economic status. The creation of a worker co-operative law would allow the further formalization of the opportunity of business conversions into worker cooperatives in any business sector. Business successions to employees would create a fairer economy where the trinity of ownership (investors), management (managers), and value creation/utilization (workers, users) is balanced for the benefits of its active membership.
Number of SME’s in Japan has fallen by 1 million during the last 20 years
It would be great if we could already discuss co-operative ownership succession of large organizations. However, I’m not aware of a “buy-twitter-initiative” in Japan so far. So, the more immediate opportunity for Platform Cooperativism may lie with small and medium businesses. Over the past 20 years, the number of SMEs in Japan has fallen by about 1 million and the number of SME employees decreased from 80% to 70% percent of overall employment (White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises in Japan 2016). I am not sure how much the demographic challenges of the aging society would be the cause of such a decline in the digital sector especially, as increasing eliminatory market dominance of the big corporations is an inherent feature of many digital platforms.
Opportunity for ownership succession to employees
I experience that Japanese observers are regretting the disappearing of SME’s due to a lack of successful succession management. A similar issue represents the continuing rural exodus. There is mentioning of that when the business successions among SMEs are becoming issues, business successions to non-family persons, such as employees, are increasing (Kubota, 2010). So, I feel there are lots of opportunities to promote the co-operative way, although the predominant family business succession models are to the family or third parties other than employees and are separating ownership and management. Japan is currently still one of the few developed countries without a worker coop law, which is certainly not helpful.
For example, in agriculture, the succession and inheritance aspect is (globally) less researched because there is a view that family farming is heading towards extinction anyway. However, as still many farms are owned and managed by families, there may be renewed interest in intergenerational and intra- and inter-family cooperative solutions such as worker co-operatives.
Japanese business cooperation
Japanese small businesses are typically strongly cooperating and sub-contracting between companies, also for the rehabilitation of (struggling) small enterprises. There is a system of Small and Medium Enterprise Cooperatives based on the SME Cooperative Act from 1949, facilitating small and medium enterprises that lack financial resources in the conduct of joint businesses based on a spirit of mutual-aid to raise their economic status. The joint business cooperatives are, e.g., joint store associations, chain business associations, joint investing companies and voluntary groups.
The Japanese business system, also described as “co-opetition”, a mix of severe competition and collectivist Japanese culture, may be a fertile ground for #platformcoopjp. On the other hand, tendencies of specializing employees to contribute to a collective raise the question of how easily employees can assume initiative and more active (intrapreneurship) roles in case of becoming part of an employee-owned/managed organization.
The Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium is continuing to collaborate and research for the exploration of opportunities in applying co-operative (platform) solutions to business successions and share the lessons learned also outside of Japan.
For an overview of Japanese socio-economic situation and the #co-operative landscape, please see the following articles (https://mathias-sager.com/2017/10/19/cooperatives-in-japan-article-series-overview/)
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2016). White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises in Japan 2016. The Small and Medium Enterprise Agency
Kubota, N. (2010). 非親族承継における所有と経営の分離. 日本経営診断学会論集, 9145-151. doi:10.11287/jmda.9.145
The king has, in the struggle of defending his crown, given the virtual land to the landlords. Now the peasants pay the tolls to the privileged class who rules the online territory for the maximization of its own financial profits and influence. How will the insurgency look like? Time for (re-) new(-ed) alliances for effective and hopefully non-violent rebellion.
Part of the solution:
Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) connects key stakeholders of the emerging platform economy ecosystem to create synergies in the pursuit of increased shared value, ownership, and governance. The PCJ Consortium supports the cooperative digital economy through research, experimentation, education, advocacy, documentation of best practices, technical support, the coordination of funding, and events.
Inspiration from the History of Switzerland:
The Old Swiss Confederacy began as a late medieval alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps, at the time part of the Holy Roman Empire, to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains. With the rise of the Habsburg dynasty, the kings and dukes of Habsburg sought to extend their influence over this region and to bring it under their rule. The foreign landlords collected tolls from bridges. Anti-Habsburg insurgences sprung up, but were quashed quickly. This time of turmoil prompted the Waldstätten to cooperate more closely, trying to preserve or regain their Reichsfreiheit. On August 1, 1291, an Everlasting League was made between the Forest Communities for mutual defense against a common enemy. The three founding cantons of the Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, as the confederacy was called, managed to defeat Habsburg armies on several occasion, and ensured a de facto independence from the empire. The Freibrief, or freedom charter, to “the people of the valleys,” recognized and formalized in law the independence from the Habsburg that they had gradually won in fact.
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Draft formulation of a Japan-specific vision from a Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) perspective.
1 – We shouldn’t complain about capitalism, if we use it
I heard this mean argument recently. Did we choose to be born into that system? That’s like telling the unfortunate living in smog; they shouldn’t complain about the polluted air if they breathe it.
2 – Communism isn’t better than capitalism
Did I say anything about communism? I’m talking about Cooperativism. Co-ops can be for profit. The same business models as today can be run democratically. The only difference would be that profits are not exclusively going to a handful of investors valuing short term profits over long-term employment, but would be re-invested into the company and its people who create the value of the organizations with their daily work. Aren’t many of today’s corporations branding themselves as being cooperating, socially responsible, caring for the community? Why then don’t we get a share and vote then? Because that would be the true meaning of community.
3 – We cannot treat people equal
Yes, and no. Again, I am not talking about a system without performance-based incentives. We all learn in sports how to be fair losers.
Value creation has to be re-defined. Today, helping rich people avoid taxes is rewarded generously while cleaning up a the dirty environment, caring about weak and sick people, and helping a hungry child has to be done largely as unpaid volunteering.
Humans are relatively equal; there is no reason to make racial differences. The differences that matter are made by external circumstances, such as education, support, and fair treatment. Different talents and ambitions are fine though. Co-op members can democratically determine what efforts are incentivized in what way.
4 – Governance by the people ends in chaos
Like in a state democracy with millions of citizens too, a cooperative membership for efficiency reasons can vote for major decisions only, and elects a representation for managing the enterprise. The good thing is, the management would act on behalf of the members (workers, consumers, producers, etc. who are actively involved and interested in the organization in the long-term) rather than on behalf of profit-maximizing outside shareholders.
5 – Cooperative decisions are too slow
Of course, a dictatorship may provide for faster decisions. Have you already campaigned dictatorship? Who would you currently choose? Ah, sorry, we don’t have a saying in that.
Feasibly administering elections and voting is possible. As a Swiss, I know what I’m talking about.
6 – People don’t want to engage
With a balance between responsibilities, accountabilities, and competencies (!) people are willing to assume all of these. Also, a cooperative would educate for active citizenship rather than investing into advertising and luring people into passive consumerism. Cooperative values motivate to engage for individual and collective well-being.
7 – We cannot change it
A couple of dozens of people own the wealth of half of the world population. 1% percent own the same wealth as the rest 99%. The net worth of the world’s billionaires increased from less than $1 trillion in 2000 to over $7 trillion in 2015, so the gap between rich and poor is growing up dramatically.
The rich are worried more and more as their oligarchic power increase becomes more obvious to more people. It looks like they think only a global war will hinder the awakening of the masses and defend their illegitimate privileges.
The current world order is keeping the majority of people poor and uninformed enough, or happy enough so that they don’t take action. War will serve the same end.
We can change it, if we spread the word for workplace democracy and support the cooperative movement. The five firms worth most and extracting most value/profit are all IT/Internet businesses (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft). Maybe it’s not too late to claim back in minimum the virtual world with its increasing real effects on our daily life and the future of our children. (Please see https://mathias-sager.com/category/growth-enablement/initiatives/products/)
It’s possible now to support the Platform Cooperativism movement to help secure peoples stake and share in online platforms and the digital economy.
Be it as an educator, as an IT expert, Executive MBA, or from a psychological point of view; I’m always arriving at the same conclusion. It is now the time we have to push further the awareness and application of feasible alternative cooperative economic models, in contrast, to ruthlessly extractive capitalism that a few shareholders and investors impose on us. People actually can claim back the ‘lost land’ and almost lost virtual world (buzzword internet neutrality, democracy, and freedom) from the ‘self-coronated landlords’ and Internet tycoons who are relentlessly increasing their fees while reducing social protection of their rent payers, users, and workers. Example companies, cases, stories, and approaches to the “old” and “new” world can be found here.
One answer and I think a historically critical opportunity to contribute to a fairer future, is Platform Cooperativism, which connects key stakeholders of the emerging cooperative platform ecosystem to create synergies in the pursuit of increased shared value, ownership, and governance.Platform Cooperativism supports the cooperative digital economy through research, experimentation, education, advocacy, documentation of best practices, technical assistance, the coordination of funding, and events.
The movement is relevant for any individual and organization that is valuing sustainable online platform solutions. Cooperative values ensure that the prosperity and decision-making can be shared between value creators working together for mutual benefit and the transition to a more equitable platform economy.
What you can do:
- Subscribe to the website/blog and follow the social media
- Get active yourself by involving or sharing your work with us or start local engagements/advocacy groups
- Promote #platformcoop and #platformcoopjp
- Join the Platform Cooperativism Consortium (PCC) or the Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium
Personal values such as care for society and an increased awareness regarding risks of the ongoing digitization and datafication of everyday life will be determining factors for citizen participation in the governance of smart home provision.
A multi-stakeholder cooperative approach could solve adoption-hindering constraints, such as lack of interoperability, in short-term in minimum on a local level. Citizens would own their data, including its destiny, and secure peer-to-peer data market platforms could evolve empowering citizen economic participation.
My proposed framework with its comprehensive data value system view and multi-stakeholder cooperation at its core might provide a useful tool for strategy discussions for any stakeholder who has an interest in healthy development of the IoT, big data, and sustainable smart home provisions.