In this episode, hosts Laura Hilliger and Doug Belshaw discuss cooperativism. We explain what a co-op is, including the principles of voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, and member economic participation. We also highlight the importance of cooperatives in promoting equality, inclusivity, and community engagement.
- Ours to Hack and to Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
- How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson
- Bullshit jobs by David Graeber
- International Cooperative Alliance
- Wikipedia List of co-ops
- Companies House
- STIR to action magazine
- Platform co-ops
- Co-ops UK
Tao of WAO S01 E01
Laura Hilliger: [00:00:28] Okay, so welcome, everyone, to the Tao of WAO. Hey, Doug, remember how the last time that we recorded this exact same episode of the podcast and decided we needed to redo it because we messed up too much? We were having a conversation about whether it is pronounced Dao or Tao. Yeah, well, in the break I found a YouTube video that clarified that for me and it is actually both Taoism and Daoism with the letter T and D, Those are both perfectly acceptable forms of spelling. However, it is pronounced Taoism with a D in both cases because it comes from the Chinese character Dao.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:16] Okay, so it’s the Tao as well, even though it’s.
Laura Hilliger: [00:01:19] The Tao of WAO.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:19] Yeah. Okay, excellent. Well, thank you very much, Laura Hilliger for for clearing that up. I’m Doug Belshaw. I’m an open thinker working with we are open co-op. I help organisations with people, product and process and I’ve worked with organisations that you might have heard of like Moodle and Mozilla and some that you probably haven’t.
Laura Hilliger: [00:01:40] And I’m Laura Hilliger. Also a we are open co op member. I am an open strategist and a generalist doer who also worked at Mozilla for the last five years. I’ve been doing loads of work with Greenpeace International. I’m also an open organisation ambassador, kind of a general internet person, and I also write books and make stuff.
Doug Belshaw: [00:02:06] Cool. How’s your audiobook going at the moment? Laura?
Laura Hilliger: [00:02:09] I am on schedule up until this week, but I have the feeling that this week I’m going to get my myself off my own schedule. I’m a little fearful that I’m not going to have time for it.
Doug Belshaw: [00:02:21] Cool. So if you haven’t read Maybe Zombies, I suggest you go and have a look at that because it is a fantastic read. Oh, thank you. Um, okay, so we’re going to kick off this Tao of WAO with a podcast centred on one of our favourite isms, which is Cooperativism. Over the next few episodes, we’re going to talk about other isms, ologies and ations, and we’ve got loads of ideas for that. But it made sense for us to start with kind of co-ops and cooperativism because we’re a member of a co-op. So. Laura, what is a co-op?
Laura Hilliger: [00:02:55] I think that we should start with the quoted quotes from the Internet. So I’m going to read the definition of a co-op from Wikipedia. It says a cooperative, also known as Co-op. Cooperative, or Coop, is an autonomous association of People united voluntarily to meet their comic, common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled business. Don’t know why my tongue is getting so tied up.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:26] I think it’ll be better if it was a comic business. I think that would be even better.
Laura Hilliger: [00:03:32] Democratic. Comical. Yeah.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:36] But the but the ICA. So this is the one that I usually get wrong. It stands for the International Cooperative Alliance. This is the kind of umbrella network of of cooperatives worldwide. They define cooperatives in the following way. So they say cooperatives are people centred enterprises owned, controlled and run by and for their members to realise their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations. Quite a mouthful there.
Laura Hilliger: [00:04:06] Yeah, it’s also the same phrasing as on Wikipedia, so I’m guessing Wikipedia is referencing and citing the ICA with that common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations. Yeah.
Doug Belshaw: [00:04:20] Think so.
Laura Hilliger: [00:04:21] You know, I like to I like to simplify a little bit when I talk about just like in general conversation, I find I often have to define what a cooperative is. And I like to explain cooperatives in relationship or in comparison to capitalism, because I feel like capitalism is a system that everybody kind of gets because we all live inside of it. And so when I’m trying to help people understand what a cooperative is, I often use the example that, you know, that in capitalism, one shareholder can have multiple shares of a business, whereas in cooperatives one member equals one vote. So one member can never have, you know, controlling shares in a cooperative because it just doesn’t work that way. And I find that that really helps people sort of imagine the difference between a capitalist corporation and a cooperative.
Doug Belshaw: [00:05:22] Yeah. So we’re not talking about communism here. Like cooperatives exist within, you know, the capitalist world in which we live, but they’re fundamentally different. And for me, the way that I usually describe it is that cooperatives aren’t extractive for the very reasons that you give there. Laura so this is people who are doing the work and owning the business at the same time. So that’s different from someone extracting value by being a shareholder in an organisation where they don’t work or just being a director and owning a lot more of the business than anyone else. And what that means in practice is that you’re likely to make decisions that prioritise the long term success and sustainability of the organisation of the co-op over any short term financial gains and being able to cash out so that you make money and move on, you know that you’re going to be in this for like the long haul I guess.
[00:06:14] Yeah. And it’s also I mean, it’s also sort of an equalising form, right? Because you’re, you know, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you can’t buy control in a cooperative system.
Doug Belshaw: [00:06:27] You could buy the entire co-ops. Maybe we’ll talk about that later. But that’s not like wheedling your way in. You know, like you get activist shareholders who try and take over control of a company, and it’s a very adversarial kind of thing. Um, the kind of thing you see on TV shows and films. It’s not like that. Um, okay, so the talk about these seven cooperative principles and these are important because these are in our articles and cooperation for our co-op, which we’ll talk about later. But shall we just go through those? Because I think they’re quite illustrative of of what a co-op is and what it’s not. Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:07:02] Yeah, let’s do it.
Doug Belshaw: [00:07:04] All right. So the first one is voluntary and open membership. And this for me, when I first came to co-ops, this was quite confusing for me because I was like, Well, I don’t just want anyone joining my co-op, but that’s not what it’s about. When it’s talking about voluntary and open membership, it means two things. First of all, you define criteria in terms of who is eligible to join your co-op and then anyone who meets that eligibility, then they come in. But it also means that if you’re working with an organisation like if we have a collaborator with our co-op, they don’t have to, like we can’t coerce them into joining our co-op. We can’t say like, if you don’t join, we’re not going to give you any work. It’s their choice as to whether they want to join our co-op or not. It’s they’re kind of they’re using their agency, I guess.
Laura Hilliger: [00:07:48] Yeah.Yeah. The second cooperative principle is Democratic member control. And so this, this really just means that the co op is controlled by its members rather than any distant far off group of people or, you know, people who are trying to profit from other people’s labour, people who have more money. That’s not how it works. It is controlled by its members and in a democratic way. So all members have, as I said before, one member, one vote. And the way that a cooperative actually is set up to to create that Democratic member control really depends on how many members there are and what kind of decision making processes they put into place. But it’s important to remember that the member, the co op, is controlled by all of its members.
Doug Belshaw: [00:08:37] That’s right. And it kind of links to the next one, the third one member economic participation. So this one is about how members not only contribute to the amount of capital that the Corp has got, the amount of money and things that owns, but they also democratically, democratically control that. So an example I would give here would be think about like Uber drivers, Uber drivers, they earn less and less money over time because the algorithms change. Et cetera. And any profit they do make goes to distant, far off shareholders, some of which are like sovereign wealth funds and this kind of thing. Whereas if they were co op, as some taxis are, for example, in Catalonia, if you go there to Barcelona, you’ll see co ops of taxis. Well they are like you just said, Laura, controlled by their members and they control the money that they’re making as well. They decide together how to like divvy up that money. What what fares they set that kind of thing.
Laura Hilliger: [00:09:37] Yeah. So the next the next one is also related. They’re all related. Autonomy and independence. So co-ops are autonomous and they interact with other other organisations, other companies, other governments on their own terms, never coerced. And this really, you know, this really sort of links back to Democratic member control because the idea of autonomy and independence with the cooperative is really about making sure that any sort of relationships that the cooperative enters into is something that, you know, the, the boundaries of that relationship are overseen by that Democratic member control body. So it’s really about the autonomy of the cooperative itself as opposed to the autonomy of each individual member. And that autonomy is rather covered under the voluntary and open membership and the agency found within.
Doug Belshaw: [00:10:34] Cool. Number six is education, training and information. This is an important one, especially given our background. And so this is about providing that education, training and information to members. And the reason for that, it’s not just so that they can be a better little capitalist to make more money for for people elsewhere. The point of it is so that they get better at making decisions. They become more productive so that it strengthens the co-op of which they’re part. It means that the organisation is more effective. So it’s it’s different to kind of, I don’t know, like professional development within a regular organisation because it’s also focussed on making the organisation better at making decisions as well, if you see what I mean.
Laura Hilliger: [00:11:23] Number six is cooperation among cooperatives. So I know that Doug just said that the education, training and information is number six. I didn’t interrupt him to tell him it was number five.
Doug Belshaw: [00:11:35] I can’t count.
Laura Hilliger: [00:11:36] That’s okay. Um, cooperation among cooperatives. I really like this principle. Basically, it simply means that co-ops serve their members and seek to work with other co-ops to grow and strengthen the cooperative movement. And so we actually we are open is also a member of a of a megazord co-op, which megazord that comes from Power Rangers. Right.
Doug Belshaw: [00:12:03] What is a megazord? Laura Hilliger.
Laura Hilliger: [00:12:06] I feel like I always get Megazord and Optimus Prime switched in my head because.
Doug Belshaw: [00:12:11] Optimus Prime.
Laura Hilliger: [00:12:12] Is form is also a megazord, right?
Doug Belshaw: [00:12:15] Yeah, yeah. From Transformers. But we’re talking about Power Rangers and the Megazord. There.
Laura Hilliger: [00:12:21] Yeah. Anyways, make megazord for anyone who is not as nerdy as we are is in the Power Rangers, it’s when all of the different power Rangers come together and then they form the Megazord, which is like the most powerful mega power ranger. We should, yes, we will include a megazord gif in the show notes so that you understand what we are talking about. In any case, this is important stuff, really almost as important as our membership to Kotek, which is a big collective of co-ops who are working as digital service agencies, as techie techie people, development agencies, this kind of stuff. They are all pretty, pretty focussed on internet kinds of things. And this megazord of a co-op is a collection of co-ops and it’s awesome because we’re really trying to support each other and help each other. Smaller co-ops learn a lot of things from bigger co-ops, you know, And when any, any of the members are in any sort of a pickle, the rest, you know, they can reach out and find support amongst their colleagues in the Megazord.
Doug Belshaw: [00:13:34] Yeah, that’s different to like a strategic alliance between two capitalist organisations who really are in it for themselves and just happen to be going in the same direction. This is trying to get to a change state in the world by cooperation amongst those cooperatives and number 724 because I can’t count number seven is concern for community. So this is really interesting. So communities are central to what cooperatives work for. Interestingly, cooperatives started in Rochdale, near Manchester in England, and obviously that was very much a local thing like your local community. And we still have cooperative serving their local communities. But for us, for example, well, our communities are online, they’re virtual communities around the world. So wherever your communities are, we agree policies which help and strengthen those communities, however we decide to define them. And we’ll get on to kind of what our co-op does later. But this is a this concern for community is a fundamental part of what it means to be a cooperative.
Laura Hilliger: [00:14:37] That’s right. So those are those were the the seven cooperative principles that are, you know, kind of part of every cooperatives identity. And, you know, we think I think our co-op and also all of the co-ops in the megazord in Kotek, I think that we all sort of think of 21st century digital cooperatives as a way to put flexibility into working practices so that so that that flexibility is really to the benefit of workers rather than, you know, the organisation or the company that they’re working for.
Doug Belshaw: [00:15:15] Yeah, because I think that all the stuff around zero hour contracts, the gig economy, that kind of thing, the flexibility that people are talking about there is always on the side of workers. It’s never flexibility in terms of employer employers, whereas what we’re talking about here in terms of flexibility is flexibility in terms of the whole organisation. The way that it’s structured, the way that it’s owned, that kind of thing. I know, for example, outlandish who we work a lot with. They basically use zero hour contracts, but to the benefit of workers rather than the benefit of, of employers because like other cooperatives, their members own the co-ops. So they decide how they want to to work and how they want to interact with with one another. So yeah, the flexibility in working practices for co-ops isn’t just forcing workers to be ever more flexible while, you know, someone’s getting rich somewhere else.
Laura Hilliger: [00:16:09] Yeah.Yeah, I think I think maybe we should talk a little bit about a very common misconception around Cooperativism, which is that it is like a lot of people think that it’s like this weird niche niche thing. And, you know, we live in a capitalist society. Capitalism rules the day. However, Cooperativism the movement of cooperativism is actually pretty big. So co-ops employ more than 250 million people around the world, which is a pretty a pretty good chunk of of the workforce. And that statistic is a is a number of years old. And they also they also do over to I think the statistic I read a couple of years ago was $2 trillion in overturn every year.
Doug Belshaw: [00:17:04] Yeah. And the ICA have on their website they say that look the cooperative movement isn’t this marginal thing. At least 12% of humanity is a co-operator and is involved in some way with any of the 3 million cooperatives on earth. And we’ll put the link to that in the in the show notes. So this isn’t just like a little thing. And also, the other thing I think, Laura, that people often think about is like, oh, well, cooperatives are fine if you’re just like a few people, like wanting to do some interesting stuff. But actually there are cooperatives like the one in Spain, Mondragon. They run their own university. They have they employ hundreds of thousands of people. They have smaller spin off co-ops. Et cetera. So co-ops can be can be tiny like us, like four people, but they can also be absolutely huge. And they scale just like any organisation scales, depending on how much money they’ve got and how they make decisions and how they decide to structure. The important difference, as we’ve already talked about, is that they have those seven cooperative principles and crucially, workers own the organisation.
Laura Hilliger: [00:18:09] Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of examples of I think I always think that it’s interesting to learn that a company that you interact with on a regular basis is a cooperative. So like I know the first time that I went to the UK and there was like a co-op supermarket on every corner, I thought, I thought, okay, that’s, you know, good, good name, but it’s not really a co-op until, you know, you guys told me, yes, it is. And I couldn’t imagine it because it’s really on every corner. And the co-op, the co-op grocery store must be huge.
Doug Belshaw: [00:18:42] No, it really is. And the interesting thing there is that you get like a loyalty card for going to different shops like Tesco or Sainsbury’s or whatever, and that gets you points, but you’re just a consumer. Whereas with the co-op you own a little bit of it and you get to decide what to do with that money. Like you literally can vote in your community where some of the the proceeds are going, which is an important thing to do. Also another shop, which is John Lewis, which is a chain of large department stores in the UK. I don’t think they necessarily call themselves a co-op, but they are worker owned and operated, which is kind of the same thing in in what we’re talking about here.
Laura Hilliger: [00:19:20] Yeah.Yeah, there’s also there’s a clothing brand in the United States that has like a lot a lot of physical well, I mean, I guess they’re probably closed now, but physical in-person stores called REI, it’s an outdoor brand. And I recently learned that they are also a co-op. And, you know, they’re very, very well known in a large swath of the United States. So yeah, for for listeners, you know, take a look around. I’m sure you will find some examples of cooperatives that you interact with on a regular basis and you might not have known that they were cooperatives.
Laura Hilliger: [00:20:03] Doug. Did I lose you? You’re muted.
Doug Belshaw: [00:20:06] No, I decided to mute. That was a good idea, wasn’t it? So what I was saying during that cool bit where I was muted was that Wikipedia has a page for everything, right? And there was a page for some of the more famous cooperatives in different countries around the world. So yeah, have a look at that. And you might be surprised, like Laura said, for some of the things which you didn’t realise were cooperatives which actually are in the UK. It’s interesting because a lot of the time they do tend to use co-op in their name. Um, not all of them do. Suma, for example, which is a Whole Foods co-op, don’t tend to use co-op in their name, but other ones are. I know some football clubs are cooperatively owned etcetera.
Laura Hilliger: [00:20:48] You know, you’ve mentioned, you know, UK co-ops quite a bit. And I know something about the UK and the co-operative structure, which is that it doesn’t actually exist. Is that right?
Doug Belshaw: [00:21:01] That’s interesting. Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:21:02] Entity.
Doug Belshaw: [00:21:03] Yeah, that’s right. So if you go to places like Italy or some places in South America, you can literally go and set up a co-op. Like you can fill in a form and you can set up a co-op. That’s not the case in the UK where we set up our co-op. It’s a bit of a it’s a bit of a hack, I guess. Um, well, I can talk about a little bit about that, but I think in Germany you can set up, if not a co-op, something like a co-op. Is that right?
Laura Hilliger: [00:21:30] Yeah. No, it’s it is a co-op. It’s called a Genossenschaft in Germany. That’s the German word for cooperative. But it is. I don’t know if the legal form actually references the seven international cooperative principles, but it is meaning one member, one vote in the German business forum. So in order to be eligible, you have to provide articles of incorporation that clearly lay out that your that your goodness and shaft your cooperative is democratically owned and controlled one member, one vote.
Doug Belshaw: [00:22:05] So to go a little bit to geek out a little bit on legal forms for a moment, let’s just go through how our co-op is set up. Um, so rewind what we are now five years old. We’ve been around now. Laura I think.
Laura Hilliger: [00:22:22] We’re going to be five in May, right?
Doug Belshaw: [00:22:24] Yeah. So rewind five years. So five years ago, we’re thinking about working together. We’ve worked together at Mozilla and there’s you and me and there’s Brian and John. And we’re thinking, how can we work together? And there’s some talk of, you know, maybe I can join as a director of your business or maybe we can do some subcontracting or whatever. And John Bevan comes along and John’s steeped in kind of the co-operative movement and labour activism, etcetera, and he says, Well, why don’t we set up a co-op so we get some advice because you can’t just go and set up a co-op in the UK and we get some advice from a guy called Sean Whelan’s, who has a lot of experience in the co-op movement. And he tells us in a in a pub in London that basically there’s about 80 different ways you can set up a co-op in the UK. So he guides us eventually towards this particular structure. And what we’ve got effectively is a regular limited company, but with two little differences, two twists. The first one is that we’re a company which is limited by guarantee without share capital. So like one of us, Laura can’t have 100 shares and I can only have 20. That’s not the way that it works. Everyone who’s a director gets one share. That’s the first thing.
Laura Hilliger: [00:23:46] Okay. But we could I mean, we could, for example, only have one share. Right. Like, if can the co-op exist if we only have one member.
Doug Belshaw: [00:23:58] Yes, you can have a co-op with one member. It’s a bit odd, but yeah, that is weird. Okay. And just to say, like going back to what we were talking about earlier, you can sell your business. Of course you can. But everyone has to agree to sell basically their share and then the whole business would get sold to someone else. And there was an example of this that Shaun gave us recently. It was actually in a I think he wrote about it in Stir to Action magazine. We’ll put that link in the in the show notes. And basically there was this large brewery brewing beer thing in America, and they all decided, all the workers decided to sell out to a big capitalist company and happy for them. They all made loads of money because they all had one vote and they all owned a bit of the business rather than the directors getting rich and the workers being made redundant or whatever.
Laura Hilliger: [00:24:49] Yeah. Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:24:50] What’s the what’s that second, that second difference.
Doug Belshaw: [00:24:54] Yeah. So the second thing, other than being a company limited by guarantee without share capital is that we put those international principles of cooperation into our articles of incorporation. So for anyone who’s set up a business before you have these articles of incorporation saying, you know what, what do you exist to do? Who’s a member of your business, you know, your financial structure, that kind of thing. And the first bit, the in the articles of incorporation, we’ve got those seven international principles of cooperation, which basically says we exist to do these seven things. Like that’s what we’re here to do. Um, now other companies are structured differently, outlandish who we’ve already mentioned, they’re an LLP, they’re a limited liability practice. There’s lots of different ways you can structure it, and it depends on what you want to do. And you should probably get some advice, just as you would do if you were saying of any kind of business. But yeah, you can see ours if it’s useful at Companies House and we’ll put the link in there.
Laura Hilliger: [00:25:58] Yeah, I think I, um. I’m really. I’m really pleased that we were able to access Sean Wheeler to help us set this up, because, I mean, he was basically living the seven cooperative principles. We were not yet a co-op, but he was, you know, essentially bringing us in, giving us great advice on how do we do this in the UK. Um, you know, concern for community and education, training, information, all those principles. We sort of got to experience them firsthand when we, you know, really only had the idea of setting up a co-op.
Doug Belshaw: [00:26:35] So we’ve gone a little bit as American, say, inside baseball there. Yes. To to geek to geek out a bit about how to set up a cooperative. But let’s just zoom out a little bit just before we move on to talk about like, well, what difference does it make in practice how your how your company structured, Who cares like for you, Laura, what’s the what’s the difference here?
Laura Hilliger: [00:26:56] Well. I mean, honestly, I think for me, the big difference is that, you know, creating, creating a structure, um, you know, that is really built around the principle of equality and. Yeah, I mean, a real power balance, I think. I think that by default, we’re sort of groomed in our society to understand hierarchy and to, you know, and to kind of quote unquote, learn our place in society, you know. And that feels very disempowering to me because, you know, like it’s essentially allowing somebody else to tell you what your place is. Whereas, you know, when you are involved in a community or a cooperative that has a structure that kind of. Negates the idea that hierarchy is the only way to control something. And there’s a lot to learn around power dynamics, around agency and also around emotional intelligence. I think my experience with the co-op community has shown that, you know, despite the fact that it is hard sometimes to make decisions and it is hard sometimes to communicate, um, you know, the creating a base level of equality allows us to have better, more human, more holistic conversations and I mean holistic. I’m in that kind of like bringing your whole self to work. I feel like I really need that in my working life. And, you know, being part of a co-op has has proven to be a good way for me to be able to do that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:28:36] Yeah. And I think as a, you know, a middle aged, middle class white man, I think that people like me have been very guilty in terms of making sure that half the population, women and other people who don’t define themselves as men have been excluded from decision making, quite often in hierarchical organisations and also people of colour. And I think that. Over recent years when we’ve had this massive resurgence of the power of of women and people who don’t define themselves as male and also the Black Lives Matter movement. What we’ve seen and the research backs this up is that we make better decisions when we have more diverse people around the table. Right. And we both went to a workshop by Outlandish, which had that iceberg with the things above, like decisions and plans and communication and vision and mission and strategy and all those kinds of things. And then underneath that, underneath the surface, all of those things that, you know, like the perceptions and emotions and those kinds of things and the things which we often feel a bit weird bringing to work. We put that mask on by making sure that we bring those that are full self to work. It means that we actually make better decisions because we’re not having to hide anything. We’re not having to do something just to get with the program or whatever it is.
Laura Hilliger: [00:30:01] Yeah.Yeah, And not only by bringing our whole selves, but also by creating a structure that that encourages others to bring their whole selves. And I think that the cooperative structure really helps with that because that one member, one vote thing, you know, means that if you have a if you have an issue that is in some way difficult, you know, the the idea that you can actually, you know, do an anonymous vote or something to to help that issue get solved means that you’re, you know, creating a space where everybody can have a voice, have a vote.
Doug Belshaw: [00:30:34] So and just to say this is never easy, like this involves difficult conversations and it means that you have to do the hard work of getting on with people rather than just telling them to do stuff. But hey, at the end of the day, if you can bring your full self to work and you can be as creative and as open as you want to be, then surely that’s like living your best life, right?
Laura Hilliger: [00:30:58] Yeah. And I mean, in the case of we are open, the whole reason that we kind of joined together was really and you know, in an attempt to make the world a more open, transparent, democratic place to live and work. You know, we do this by spreading the culture and processes and benefits of open working. That’s what our I think that’s our tagline on our website or I don’t know, we wrote that and I copy and paste it all the time because it’s just a really helpful way to, you know, sort of explain what we do. We are experts in open source. We help people with digital service design, etcetera. And you know, for me, my my love of open source and my love of cooperative really has to do with that open, transparent, democratic place to live and work.
Doug Belshaw: [00:31:43] Yeah. So if you’re looking to either set up or convert a business into being more inclusive, if you’ve got the kind of business which like you need to eat and you need to make sure you pay your mortgage and stuff, but if you’re not going to work every day just to make money, then you might want to look into whether you want to set up a cooperative.
Laura Hilliger: [00:32:07] Yeah. I mean, one of the great things about being part of a co-op is that, you know, you own the business so you don’t have to hide the things that you care about or that you don’t care about. You can really bring your full self to work like we were talking about earlier.
Doug Belshaw: [00:32:22] Yeah, but the problem with that sometimes is that because we’re not putting out these like, bland corporate tweets or whatever, somehow we end up, I don’t know, like, there’s a risk of offending others. Right. And you’ve talked in your newsletter, Laura, about everything is derogatory these days.
Laura Hilliger: [00:32:41] Yeah. I always wanted to make. I was thinking about making a podcast called Everything is Derogatory, but maybe it should just be a segment in this one.
Doug Belshaw: [00:32:50] Well, why don’t we just start now? Like, what’s been on your mind lately?
Laura Hilliger: [00:32:54] I was going to say. Something about the landlord situation. So like, in the current woke culture, there’s like a lot of noise on the Internet against people being landlords because, you know, you’re essentially paying off your mortgage through somebody else’s hard work kind of kind of thing. And one of the conversations that that Eckhart and I have been having is around, you know, how how much do you give back to a society that is built in a particular way versus, you know, versus how much do you try to participate in that society so that you have more to give? Like the trickle, you know, the trickle down theory.
Doug Belshaw: [00:33:39] That’s really interesting because I’ve always been against people owning more than one home and owning, you know, having a profit from other people. So I’m totally on the side of people who think landlords should be abolished. And it’s interesting that my wife and I had this conversation at the weekend because in The Observer newspaper in the UK there was a bit in the money section talking to to a woman who was late 30s and she had a husband who was early 40s and they were just basically saving the minimum for their pension so that so that they could buy a second property which would earn them money now as well as when they’re older. And it was interesting because, you know, you know, it’s like when your partner has slightly different views to you, like my wife was saying, Well, why don’t we do something like that? You know, if we can afford to do that. And I was like, I am not going to profit off other people not being able to buy their own house, that is not something I’m going to do at all. And although I think the pension system is completely broken and it should be completely reformed, like I’m not interested.
Laura Hilliger: [00:34:43] So let me tell you. I mean, but how what about the flip side of the of the conversation, which is. At the moment, people who profit from capitalist structures and money do not use their profits in a way that benefits the collective. Whereas if good people profit from the system in some way. So for example, my next door neighbour, she owns a little bit of property. She gives away everything that she has. She is a politician for the Green Party. She is a zero waste person and she, like they are just the most giving people I’ve ever seen in my life. And she uses the profit that she makes from like renting a bunch of garages to people who don’t, you know, whatever. People who have too much stuff and need to store it in a garage. Right. And so technically, she is you know, she is collecting rent from people, but it’s not necessarily people who are hard up to pay rent, rather people who. So how do like how do you kind of square that circle? What are the you know, what are the boundaries of that?
Doug Belshaw: [00:35:51] I was listening to a podcast this morning actually, where I was on the exercise bike and it was a guy talking to someone from tactical tech, you know, the collective in in Germany and about the data detox toolkit. And he was making a point during the conversation that you can never do enough. It’s always people in your circle who are the harshest critics like oh you’ve switched to too signal from WhatsApp. Well, signal is not really the best. You should be switching to like Matrix or something. And it’s always us people on our side like being the harshest critics. And the other thing I was listening to was about GameStop and the whole stuff that’s been going on about like meme shares and activism and stuff. And someone was saying that, you know, when are you short a stock? When you’re betting on that stock to go down, that is actually good for that system in that it stops the a bubble happening. And apparently what happens, you know, during the.com bubble in the early 2000, apparently what happened was that for whatever reason, stocks couldn’t be shorted easily, which meant that this huge bubble existed and then exploded. So you had the worst of capitalism because people couldn’t bet against people being successful. And so guess what I’m hearing you say is something I would agree with, which is if everyone does the same thing, we don’t have the heterogeneity. Is that the right word to be able to have a diverse, functioning system? Like we can’t have everyone being capitalists, we can’t have everyone being communists. Like there has to be a diversity of of stuff.
Laura Hilliger: [00:37:28] So what have we been paying attention to lately that’s related to corporatism? Doug, what do you got?
Doug Belshaw: [00:37:36] Um, well, I’ve been paying attention for the last few years to platform co-ops. So these aren’t kind of the co-ops that you and me are part of, Laura. These are co-ops which are owned by both the people who are supplying the services and the people who are using the services. So there’s like a care co-op, for example, with people providing and using care services. If you go to platform co-op. So that’s co-op. They define this as platform cooperatives are businesses that use a website, mobile app or protocol to sell goods or services. They rely on democratic decision making and shared ownership of the platform by workers and users. And there’s also a useful link on Co-ops UK about that and why platform co-ops are a good place to buy and sell your services as opposed to your usual kind of venture capitalist backed. Start-up So it’s the difference between like we’re talking earlier, between like Uber, for example, and, you know, Spanish taxi drivers banding together to have a kind of a platform cooperative. And there’s also some some useful books. I know you’ve been reading some ones as well, but I just want to put one in called Ours to Hack and to Own by Trevor Schultz or edited by Trevor Schultz and Nathan Schneider. This is a collection of essays and I think we picked this up at an event we both went to. But it’s really good in terms of explaining how things could be different. How about you?
Laura Hilliger: [00:39:07] Yeah, So it’s going to sound like a little bit of a weird suggestion, but I think people should read the book How to Be Idle by Todd Hodgkinson. It’s a really interesting write up about the historical context of our work induced behavioural patterns. So it talks about it talks about where our version of capitalism really came from, not just from a theoretical perspective, but practical things that happened in history that led us to be living in the system that that we have today. And it talks about stuff like, you know, where did the 9 to 5 workday come from? What did it look like before then? And how did it become such a such a common understanding? And I think this is a great book to look at when you’re starting to think about how you want your work life to be, how you, you know, what kind of business do you want to own or what do you want to participate in during work? And I think it makes a really strong historical case for something else that we’ve been paying attention to for a number. Well, I’ve been paying attention to and trying to implement in my own life for a number of years, the four day work week. So we’ll include a link to the four day workweek, dot co.uk as well. But this is you know, this is really gaining traction, especially because there’s been some research in the past couple of years, past five, ten years, I’d say that really shows that people can only do creative work for so long. And we’re living in a society where a lot of the work that we do, the knowledge based work that we do is, you know, using those same parts of the brain. And so proponents of a four day workweek are essentially saying, hey, you know what? If we only work four days instead of five, we can spend that that last day, that fifth day, really on ourselves and gathering input for the week ahead.
Doug Belshaw: [00:40:53] Cool. I’m going to put a bonus link in here that we weren’t planning to put in, but it’s Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. He died recently and this this book came out. I haven’t read the book yet. I’ve only read the article they came from. But basically Dave Graeber talks about there being so many bullshit jobs, jobs that really shouldn’t exist, and they’re the opposite of the kind of fulfilling work you can find when you’re doing stuff for yourself in collaboration with others.
Laura Hilliger: [00:41:22] I cannot wait to read that book.
Doug Belshaw: [00:41:27] Okay, let’s recap then. So what are the three things that people listening to this should have learned from this episode?
Laura Hilliger: [00:41:34] Yeah, well, I mean, I think I think the first in our first podcast that we’re doing together, The Dao of Wow, you know, I’m glad that we focussed on what cooperatives are and a little bit about how they work.
Doug Belshaw: [00:41:48] I think we’ve talked about why they’re kind of radically different actually from your normal capitalist hierarchical organisation.
Laura Hilliger: [00:41:57] Yeah. And then I mean, in the last, the last bit, I think we’ve been talking quite a bit about how you can think differently about your work life and that if you’re unhappy in your work life that there are alternatives that are a little bit more human centric. And I hope that I hope that folks are interested in that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:42:17] Cool. Okay, well, until next time when we dive into a different topic. Cheers for now!
Laura Hilliger: [00:42:22] Yeah. Bye!