A new online tool allows co-operatives to make decisions through the internet – meaning members can be more involved
The Guardian, 22 October 2012
Participatory democracy doesn’t work, some say, because it takes too much time. If you’ve got to take the kids to school, do the shopping and – who knows – maybe have some downtime, you probably haven’t got the energy to help run a cooperative bank.
The bureaucracy of cooperative politics, says Charles Armstrong, an anthropologist who has spent years studying communities in Italy and the Scilly Isles, “excludes a lot of people who would otherwise be willing to contribute”.
But what if much of that bureaucracy could be done remotely? For Armstrong, that’s not just a hypothetical question. In partnership with Cooperatives UK, he is about to launch a new online tool that allows cooperatives to make decisions through the internet.
It’s called One Click Orgs, and caters for groups that want to organise online with a few clicks of the mouse (geddit?) Having targeted non-profit organisations since 2008, from next week it’s aimed at co-ops – be they small or large, completely non-hierarchical or managed by a board. “The platform will cover almost every piece of workflow that is part of how a cooperative operates,” says Armstrong. “It means that all the record-keeping – who the members are, what the share holdings are, who’s authorised to do what – is automated. If someone wants to make a proposal, that’s all electronic. If you’re on a train and you have an idea for something, you can initiate that from your phone then and there. And people can vote on that, wherever they are.”