Cooperative governance and the blockchain

Traditionally, cooperative entities such as retail stores, small-scale manufacturing, real estate, service firms, etc. have been local by nature.

By contrast, platform cooperatives like Resonate are often international from their inception.

Building trust is obviously much easier when you can physically interact your fellow coop members. For international projects such as ours, this becomes much more difficult, as not everyone can simply drop by our office in Berlin to chat over a cup of coffee.

Fortunately, there may be a solution for securing trust in new, international cooperative structures like ours – the blockchain.

Could the #blockchain provide a new tool for #cooperative governance? @resonatecoop thinks so. Click to Tweet

The blockchain is a technology that allows a crypto-currency like Bitcoin to exist without a central bank, as it provides a secure, decentralized and most importantly, an un-editable record of all transactions. Every exchange of Bitcoin is stored in the blockchain and shared by everyone. The key element is anonymity, for although all transactions are visible in the chain, the user identities are not.

We imagine a system whereby by-laws, amendments, membership and voting rosters are all written into a similar blockchain, providing an irrefutable history of all legal and administrative procedures. The system would provide visible proof of membership, but could anonymize voting records; it could establish the initial founding by-laws of the cooperative while showing the evolving record of amendments and alterations, with voting records built-in to prove acceptance (or rejection) of rule changes.

An example of actions stored in the blockchain:

  • Write-in membership rosters
    • users choose anonymous registry
    • users choose publicly visible registry
  • Write-in initial co-op by-laws
  • Write-in proposal for by-law revision
  • Write-in voting on and passed/failed revision
    • users choose anonymous voting
    • users choose publicly visible voting

Where things get interesting is whether projects would want to create even more layers of interaction into the system, such as discussion and proposal processes. While we imagine that could create a great deal of extra “noise” within the chain, some organizations may find this to be a more transparent approach. (We visualize that all discussions around by-law revisions would happen outside the blockchain and would only enter the chain upon voting.)

We’re hoping to work with a number of organizations and developers on creating a cooperative blockchain system that will exist independently of Resonate, serving the larger platform coop community that stands in need of the same apparatus.

If any developers are interested to collaborate with us, please get in touch via our contact form.