Platform.Coop and the Coop Ecosystem in the global South

We had a nice catch-up call with Trebor Scholz and @amanbardia a few weeks ago and the topic of inter-cooperation and co-operative hotspots came up. He mentioned Spain/Catalunya (Mondragon ecosystem), Italy (Emilia -Romagna region), Finland, Ireland, Brazil, Kenya and Rwanda… He is on a trip to Africa at the moment.

(I found this ICA strategy doc for Africa: A bit out of date, but interesting on topic of inter-cooperation plans and infrastructure.)

One example:

The diversification and growth pathways from a single activity (e.g. rice growing) to multiple activities like hotel accommodation and even pension funds is really impressive… building a sustainable community beyond the agricultural trade cycle. The video here is nice (possibly patronising?)

It’s very interesting to observe differences and commonalities in problems faced between coops in the global North and those from the global South. This more recent audit report for Rwandan coops is sobering and interesting, with a frank assessment: lack of skills in management, poor handling of funds and bookkeeping and governance …and consequent fraud. All this added to the challenges in finding a market for the products and competition from capital seen in the global North.

At first sight, digital platforms, social networks and communities seem disconnected from these basic needs. but elsewhere, especially in financial services, the success of M-PESA (built on the Safaricom mobile phone infrastructure in Kenya as a payment rail) and the local agent model has been used by co-operative banks for payments once that phone account and ‘wallet’ are in place (agents operate on behalf of those who don’t have a phone).

Zuckerberg spotted an opportunity here years ago and moved in with ideas for a Facebook payment rail (then Libra).

Perhaps a more human and less exploitative version could work here?

  • Co-operative training certification and reputation and trust community, plus
  • Community software, plus
  • Banking partnership, underpinned by
  • Secure, auditable trusted co-operative ID system. (with global links)