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Our Take | platform cooperativism

Our Take | platform cooperativism

There are a number of diverse and fundamental forces in our world that are incompatible with maximizing human well-being. One is that the general model in which we do business competes by increasing consumption rather than by increasing this well-being, concentrating wealth with little incentive to support any particular community. And the manifestations of this model aren’t sustainable because they assume that growth, and the increase in consumption growth entails, can continue forever.

Business models based on distributed cooperation however can thrive with reduced consumption while creating economic opportunity for all participants. They can increase the well-being of their local communities by lowering the cost and increasing the success rate of any outcome that can be achieved through a product or service. This includes larger outcomes like increasing access to education, health care, food, and water.

Since finding areas for potential cooperation might in cases be too complex for humans to perform unaided, and since cooperation is improved by automating the workflows involved in collaboration, whether a bricks and mortar business or online, the cooperation required for these models benefits from a platform in each area of collaboration.

These platforms need to communicate in order to allow further cooperation between them to create even more outcome enabling synergies. They also need to take advantage of best-practice patterns in their construction, as well as make use of tools that enable their rapid generation and improvement. They need to decouple problems from any assumption of what the solutions might be to lower the barriers to the transformative innovation we need to solve the biggest problems we collectively face. They require a single ubiquitous interface from which an individual can enter into any electronic transaction. And to ensure this distributed cooperation is stable against migrating to centralized competition they require a user-centric approach that puts the user in control of their data, a peer-to-peer approach that resists middle men inserting their interests, and a decentralized approach that resists being coopted by any single party. Such a single ubiquitous interface that gives the user control of their data is an ideal framework for exposing Internet of Things devices under the user’s control on a fee for access basis, allowing for example, users to opt-in to massive queries with their devices. Accomplishing all of this requires a platform of platforms, a necessary ingredient to the success of any initiative hoping for broad change across many industries, such as achieving a sustainable, circular economy.

“Platform cooperativism” seeks to develop and share an understanding of how cooperative platforms might produce well-being in every area, and how a platform of platforms can enable them. Of course there are other forces besides the general model in which we do business that increase inequality. Perhaps our very monetary systems, being fiat-based, fuel growth through inflating the money supply, inflation that extracts wealth from all who hold currency and concentrates that wealth into fewer hands. But whatever these forces are, cooperative platform solutions can better align decision making, and therefore outcomes, with the interests of its users, thereby better assuring their well-being.

Ahead of the conference “Platform Cooperativism: Building The Cooperative Internet” on November 11-13, 2016, at The New School and Civic Hall in New York City (which we are not associated with and unfortunately will not be able to attend), we welcome inquiries from conference attendees and all others to collaborate in deepening the collective awareness in this area.


Andy E. Williams is Chairman and CTO of Nobeah Technologies as well as the Executive Director of the Nobeah Foundation. Nobeah’s own architecture for the “platform of platforms” is the “Peer to Peer Social Fabric”. Inquiries can be addressed to