Ethical consumer conference for those working to develop the ethical sector  is one of the highlights of the year, a welcome opportunity to get away from the daily grind, reflect and explore ideas with like minded people.  This years conference asks us to consider the “how” of collaboration, the many ways that different individuals, enterprises, organisations, governments can work together.  Collaboration clearly covers a  broad spectrum and one that would require a much longer conference!

Cooperatives – like Ethical Consumer, Suma and fairmondo – have collaboration as part of their DNA.  Principle 6 – Cooperation among Cooperatives – is one of seven guiding principles that strive to make cooperatives one of the most ethical business model available.  P6 invites all coops to think about collaboration with other coops as part of their normal activity.  This is not always easy, especially for small and start up coops who oft times find that keeping the business afloat is challenge enough.  However, going the “extra few yards” and working with others is the cooperative difference and one that may be the difference between success and failure.

Collaboration is not alien to non-cooperative sectors.  The development of “lean thinking” in business theory over the past 10 -15 years places emphasis on working with people and enterprises in supply chains and processes to improve efficiency and remove waste and reduce costs.  Perhaps lean thinking coops ought to consider how value and control are distributed to make sure our supply chains are not only lean but also ethical.  We still have a long way to go level the power and wealth gradient between global south commodity producers and the goods that flow through our high streets and websites.  Collaborating on these social issues is at the heart of the whole ethical project.

Fairmondo’s vision of our ethical future is one where the participants in our trading networks are on a level playing field and each contributor is equitably rewarded and all can live decent productive lives with freedom, education, health and happiness etc. We are working towards this by building what will become a federation of cooperative marketplaces within different territories.  German cooperators have forged a path and created the a fully featured platform; fairmondo.uk has an “alpha site” running and is inviting people to join, test and form an active trading community.

It is currently free to join, there are no listing or transaction fees.  We welcome all offers of support and collaboration.

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Fairmondo checked in at #TWT2016 – The World Transformed; four days of creative space running alongside Labour’s annual Conference that is reimagining our World.  The central question is how can we build a world where health, wealth and happiness are shared equitably, where no one is left behind and we respect the planet.  There is no greater challenge to creating this world than in the online space so stridently colonised by private capital in the guise of Amazon, Google, Facebook etc.

#digitaldemocracy is Jeremy Corby’s emergent manifesto for transforming relationships with the digital, the online world.  His is the first time that a mainstream political party has recognised the role of #platformcoops in delivering that vision:

“We will foster the cooperative ownership of digital platforms for distributing labour and selling services. The National Investment Bank and regional banks will help to finance social enterprises whose websites and apps are designed to minimise the costs of connecting producers with consumers in the transport, accommodation, cultural, catering and other important sectors of the British economy.”

Crucially, the first expression of policy recognises the importance of making funding available to “social enterprises”, those companies built to  deliver benefits to their stakeholders.  In the tech sector  we need this #socialventurecapital to stimulate and support this sector and build viable alternatives to “business as usual”.

Fairmondo is platform cooperativism in action – come and join this retailing revolution.  It is already an online marketplace (workers coop) destined to become a multi-stakeholder  cooperative. Platform cooperatives turn the world upside down – the users no longer work for the platform – the platform works for its users, the users determine strategy and policy.  At the moment its rocking a pay as you feel model, #PAYF – no listing or transaction fees. 

There is more to the project than fairness to the stakeholders (this would be enough!)  – the way we consume to meet our  everyday needs impacts daily upon the planet.  The ultimate prize is to build a system of creating, distributing and exchanging that works in harmony with the plant’s eco-systems.  Capital is hard-wired to exploit natural resources – draw down raw materials and dump waste back in to the environment.  We needs systems and enterprises that make it easy for consumers to meet their needs from producers with plant saving goods and services.  Along with fellow cooperators in Germany (who fired the starting gun in 2012) we are taking the first steps to make capital obsolete by building a better alternative.

The World Transformed is peace and cooperation at its best.

ethical marketplace

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