We understand a cooperative ecosystem as a postcapitalist society building process that consists in the creation of cooperative relationships in all aspects of life, such as economy, politics, culture and human need.
We call them ecosystems, because they are based on principles, codes, connections and actions that allow each project and all humans involved, to have available to them all kind of facilities to support as many needs as possible, so that each part has a role in a way that the whole is only possible with the participation of all parts.
We say they are cooperative, because the relationship between all initiatives and individuals involved is based on mutual support, solidarity and equity, generating cooperative practices, in opposition to the competitive experience that predominate in capitalist systems.
These ecosystems can work locally or globally in an interrelated way, while being coherent with their values, where local action and decision processes have a very important autonomy in regard to their reference worldwide.
Next we will describe some of the key elements that characterize best practices in a cooperative ecosystem:
A fundamental aspect is that individuals, collectives or even networks and other ecosystem processes could easily enjoy the tools the cooperative ecosystem bring. That inclusiveness allows the development process of initiatives to be fluid and versatile, without authoritarian decisions that could close spaces or generate division amongst participants
Decision making trough consensus, is key to maintain process freshness during early stages of development. In the long run, a successful process could need to introduce a voting process, due to overcrowding of the participative spaces, it is important that in the early years of construction consensus should be the way to decide the common issues. Consensus avoids the temptation to allow decision making only to those registered, and for that matter introduce a conflict related to diverse territories or representation of sectors. Resolution of those conflicts could be very problematic as many political experiences have proven.
It is important for the interaction between means and ends to be fluid and flexible. Our present time cannot develop a transitional change without a common idea about were that change will go. A plan is needed even though it might change at each assembly. A future plan cannot be an untouchable document, because it will take away freedom and constituent power from whom are building it and are learning in the process. That way present practices, and the theory that is bringing us towards them, interact all the time and transform each other over time.
The building of a series of institutions and productive capacities requires an important investment factor. Investment in materials, time, learning, experimentation, costs coming from errors that in some cases imply a significant economic expense way before the transient process generates incomes that allow paying for them. To cover the difference between incomes and expenses that the productive process generates, without having a dependency from external actors like the state or capitalist business that could deactivate the project, we will need to have a clear idea about how to access the resources from the start and most likely we will have to be very creative to achieve it. Economical disobedience experience towards political institutions, to reinvest tax money into commons autonomy acquired with the“Catalan integral cooperative”, or the recovery of the value of the cryptocurrency “Faircoin”, to feed Faircoop development, are some of the examples that illustrate the importance of developing such a strategy.
On the other hand, for these transition processes to work it is necessary to make some strategic tools available. Following, we will reflect about some of those autonomous tools that are part of a cooperative ecosystem.
The usual confusion between market and capitalism has historically made it difficult, from antagonists perspectives to the neoliberal system, to debate in a constructive way, what could be the role of a market in the development of alternatives. Even so, a market with values related to the process being built, plays a very important role in generating cooperative relationships between diverse communities, both at a local level and with the commerce between different regions of the participants. Since generating resource distribution processes outside the markets brings the need of great consensus within the same political community, a market allows that wherever the needed political development is not generated, participants still have access to the diverse material and service needs in their day to day reality. A fair or social market can have many shapes, from a street market to an online market platform.
Currency has been one of the key inventions in our history to be able to build complex societies were the exchange of products and services can be made in a quick and efficient manner between unknown people without the need for both participants to have products of the same value and utility for that exchange to take place. Having one or multiple currencies that are not externally controlled, is a key element for everyday practices in a cooperative ecosystem. Aside the exchange, these days in decentralized systems like the blockchain technology, currency adopts an important factor as a storage of value that allows to incorporate savings and investment as part of the strategic elements of building ecosystems.
In analogy with the public and private spaces present in modern states, in a cooperative ecosystem we have basically two types of relationships with the set of participants. For one part, the majority of projects are self managed, meaning one person or a group of people take their own decisions to offer their product or services. From that they generate their own income and with it they provide to the commons budget a contribution that can have a progressive relationship with their economic strength. As counterpart, a commons project depends on the decision making process by the set of participants, and it gets fed by the budgets generated by the self managed projects. Its function likely covers a need shared by the majority of participants or has a strategic mean.
As a conclusion, a cooperative ecosystem is a building process antagonistic to the capitalist system and to nation states, in which trough the generalization of supportive relationships between participants, they build autonomy in a progressive way in as many aspects of their lives as possible.