It took thirteen years to gather all these people. On February 16 and 17, the 2017 Open conference took place in London, gathering a hundred or so militants of commons, cooperativism and open source.
London, from our correspondent (text and photos)
“It took us so long because we built the community,” explains Oliver Sylvester-Bradley, co-founder in 2004 with Josef Davies-Coates from The Open Co-op, platform to facilitate networking between individuals driven by the same desire to move towards a “sustainable and collaborative” economy. On February 16 and 17 at the London Goldsmiths university, the two founders organized Open 2017, first conference in the United-Kingdom to bring together these communities, still a bit niche but more and more convergent.
Big names of the community succeed each other on the platform: the university lecturer Trebor Scholz, co-author of Ours to Hack and to Own, on platform cooperativism (Makery gave you extracts of the book in November), Felix Weth, founder of Fairmondo, a German e-commerce platform the users of which are the owners, Justyna Swat, co-founder of POC21, the DIY alternative to the global climate conference, Pete Lawrence, creator of the Big Chill festival, who came to present his new project, Campfire Convention, a community of creative people on line and offline, or still Richard Barbrook, architect of the Manifesto for digital democracy from the leader of the labor party Jeremy Corbyn, accompanied by the deputy and former minister of Economy John McDonnell.
Six months after the launch of the Manifesto, what initial assessment? “It worked since we won,” boasts Richard Barbrook, referring to the re-election of Corbyn to lead the party. More concretely, he announces a conference on May 20 in Birmingham on “the state of the economy” with online participation tools, to “make mass participation possible, allow for conversations that make sense and take collective decisions”. So, not a revolution but an “improvement” of democracy tools. “We might get it wrong but we are trying, concedes John McDonnell in a passionate speech against the uberization of the economy. It’s an experience.”
The period is at their advantage. Oliver Sylvester-Bradley has noticed for a year a renewed interest for the cooperative form. The idea now is to make different movements, from makers to open source, and different projects collaborate. For two days, the hundred or so participants are building their network a little more: one will thus encounter Victor Matekole, co-founder of the equitable crowdfunding platform Seedbloom and supporter of the cooperative streaming service Resonate or still Gauthier Guérin, Frenchman living in England who represents Radical Routes, a British network of cooperative accommodation. In France, the phenomenon is taking hold: in Vaulx-en-Velin near Lyon, young seniors got together in a collective to avoid the retirement home, and created the cooperative Chamarel “Les Barges”.
“There are so many brilliant projects,” rejoices on stage Sebastian Romero, co-founder of Vientos, collaborative project platform in Mexico. “We need to find a common language,” he says in response to the sixth of the seven principles of the 1995 international cooperative alliance, cooperation. It is not surprising therefore if here and there you see several inscriptions in Esperanto. Commons, new utopia? “Maybe, admits Oliver Sylvester-Bradley. I am an idealist.”