Co-op Revirtualization


Cooperative can be somewhat a misleading word as the generic meaning implies cooperation whereas in the legal sense we are referring to a democratic organization, sometimes referred to as a co-op, which exists basically on cooperation.  To make matters worse there are agents that rightly or wrongly use the term in a legal sense but are not, and may even include the term in their corporate name which I assume is legal because a cooperative, or co-op, can be just one individual, perhaps schizophrenic.  I guess that kind of cooperative must be like being self-employed and at the company’s Christmas party where the three of us, me, myself and I have a blast as we always seem to get the right gifts for each other. 

Sometimes I feel that English is my second language, or third, not my first. 

One thing about the English language you can make up new words.   I coined the word “revirtualization” earlier  in the post “Yesteryear’s Country Store Revirtualized” where revirtualize is to revitalize virtually.  So in terms of community development cooperatives let us explore the revirtualization of the cooperative or co-op experience.

First of all let us not confuse those enterprises that develop software cooperatively as in cooperation as opposed to those enterprises that are co-ops in the legal sense of organization, both of which could be specifically developing software for co-op endeavors.  Typically most are private sector non co-op companies developing tools and resources for the cooperative movement.  What I’m discussing here are enterprises that are established as cooperatives developing the applications for cooperatives.  There are already many cooperatives serving cooperatives in a revirtualized sense such as:

  • Co-opoly, the Game of Cooperatives, is a creative and exciting game designed for the growing cooperative movement. Games have been proven to be unique resources that shape the way people learn, work, and interact with one another, but Co-opoly is more than just a board game. It is an innovative way for aspiring and existing cooperators, as well as other interested parties, to discover co-ops and to practice cooperation.
  • Cooperative Grocer is a bi-monthly trade magazine for food cooperatives in North America. Published since 1985 and edited by Dave Gutknecht since its founding, Cooperative Grocer is owned by the National Cooperative Grocers Association and is published by contract with NCGA in print and web versions by Triangle Park Creative of Minneapolis.

The most really intriguing cooperative practicing revirtualization is the Oklahoma Food Cooperative which is an online farmers’ market and whose software is available under the GPL , GNU General Public License,  for other cooperatives to use through Local Food Cooperative Software.  Please, take a look at their website and you really begin to wonder why Chambers of Commerce haven’t converted to being cooperative endeavors to get out us of this economic dilemma.  You also wonder why farmers’ markets are not all cooperatives with an online presence such as the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

Another really intriguing cooperative is Vintage Digital  which develops software cooperatively and have a blog dedicated to establishing software cooperatives, http://www.vintagedigital.net/content/setting-software-co-op

Co-op advertising has been around for a while, but HomeBizRotator is a revirtualization slant to it is being brought to it by HomeBizRotator URL Rotator Software.  Looks like another good opportunity in itself.

Q Systems Inc. offers the Co-op Tool Kit for cooperative advertising in three versions: one for manufacturing, one for retail, and one for media.

Techworks Software has cooperative accounting software  which “is an integrated accounting system specifically developed for all types of Cooperatives. The program includes the General Ledger, Share Capital, Savings and Loans Subsidiary Ledgers, and Computations for the Savings Interest, Dividends / Interest on Share Capital, and Patronage Refunds. The program runs on Microsoft Windows 98 /2000 /Me /NT /XP /Vista Operating Systems configured to run on a Local Area Network environment with many users simultaneously updating the daily transactions, verify accounts status, and generating Accounting Reports”.

Think of the possibilities that could be brought to communities if there were software cooperatives specifically engaged in developing, maintaining, marketing and even selling applications designed for community empowerment running on community servers.  These cooperatives could even be run for profit or non-profit.  There could be separate cooperatives developing applications, like, social media networking, barter software, community portal software, peering and switching software, etc.  Their cooperative membership classifications could consist of employees, users and producers.

Open source software organizations like operate much like a cooperative but are not formally established as such.

There are also other organizations which operate like cooperatives but seemingly not formalized as such, for instance, The Open Co-op whose purpose is to build a world-wide community of individuals and organisations committed to the creation of a collaborative, sustainable economy.  Check out their PlaNet, their vision of a collaborative social networking platform.

In your quest for co-op revirtualization take a look at software libraries such as SourceForge.

If there are other companies and co-ops practicing any aspect of co-op revirtualization please make me aware of them and I will include them.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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