"So what?", you might ask? . An increasing awareness is growing that we cannot ignore what happens on the financial markets. As readers of STIR are well aware, the social and organisational technology of working together as a cooperative, made new space emerge in and around the workplace of the 19th & 20th centuries. It could be said this was part effect of a changing distribution of power. By space I mean here that new possibilities for organising, living together and control over important aspects of our lives became possible in different ways by cooperating.
In 2015 it is less clear how to create these types of spaces, the types of spaces that allow us the means to autonomously determine our conditions. What social and organisational structures can we forge to open these spaces? If we expand our understanding of 'the means of production' to include the financial markets - how to cooperate there also?
Underneath the Hedge Fund-like institution is an experiment in tinkering with this expansion of understanding the means-of-production to include the financial markets. If you have a pension, use a credit or debit card, were born in a country or have a student loan—your money is already entangled within the financial markets. The recent referendum in Greece could be seen as one example of what happens when you try to make a choice other than that allowed by the existing power structures. Not having the space to realise the assertion of ‘no-more-austerity’. This is one aspect of what a Financialized economy means; there are no financial virgins and we do what we are told by those from on high.
Whether intuitively or by experience we know that our financial services model is dangerously out of date. Projects such as Move Your Money UK, Robin Hood Tax, Positive Money, the Edge Fund show that people are yearning for radically better approaches to finance. RHC's proposition could then be boiled down to this: Where you keep the money you do have, is a political choice.
What is less clear is what to do and how to organise in the face of decreasing employment availability with austerity and automation. What to do in the face of the pressing issues of our time, such as Climate Change.
A million people have taken the time to sign petitions asking Governments to tax banks. Untold numbers of people have put the time, care and energy into moving banking providers. At Robin Hood Coop we wanted to try something more direct.
“Money is not something bad, it is good. We just need to reengineer its flows and the financial technologies that govern it, so that they will serve us and not only the banks”, Virtanen says. This was also the goal of the 20th century co-operative movement which provided people ways to share into the benefits of their work in a democratic way. Robin Hood is a cooperative 2.0 that has been updated into the age of financialised economy and to the needs of the on-demand and sharing economy workers.
The next step is to transform the cooperative into a digital form so that people all over the world can join with their smart phones and buy its digital shares.
This is made possible by the so called blockchain technology whose first application was the Bitcoin. Blockchain is a kind of shared public accounting system for internet, which makes possible secure transactions and contracts directly between people without any intermediaries. Now it must be said that there are no guarantees of Robin Hood’s success. The first year there was more profit (31%), and the second year less (10%). The possible losses are of course also shared by the cooperative.
If you would like to join us in this transmutation of a cooperative for the 21st century, within a financialised economy—a good place to start is our forums.
Daniel Hassan is a computer engineer active in autonomous co-operatives over the last decade; in areas of economics (Robin Hood), housing (Radical Routes), migration (No Borders) and labour (Footprint Workers). He tweets as @di_mi_sun