Panel Discussion Ours to Govern and to Own

Ours to Govern and to Own


Goethe-Institut New York

At a time of growing public distrust and disillusionment with the Internet as a source of democracy, an emerging movement of social entrepreneurs, cooperativists, designers, labor advocates, workers, and programmers is working toward a people-centered, cooperative Internet where platforms are owned and governed by the people who most rely on them.
Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor at The New School, has penned the concept of “platform cooperativism” to describe this movement in the making. He will be in conversation with four pioneers in this area to explore the prospects for structures of collective ownership, finance, data transparency, and democratic governance online.
Emma Yorra of the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, will introduce Coopify, a platform for women-led immigrant cooperatives in Brooklyn. Brendan Martin, founder and director of The Working World, will speak about cooperative finance. San Francisco-based author and entrepreneur Chelsea Rustrum will talk about her experiences with sharing communities. Felix Weth will introduce Fairmondo, a cooperatively-owned online-marketplace, founded in Berlin.

Ours to Govern and to Own is a follow-up to the Platform Cooperativism event, co-convened by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider at The New School, New York in November 2015. It is a collaboration between the Goethe-Institut and the The New School and presented in conjunction with the Kultursymposium Weimar, a major international conference on “Teilen und Tauschen/ The Sharing Game” organized by the Goethe-Institut and taking place in Weimar (Germany) June 1-3, 2016.

About the Speakers

Emma Yorra is Co-Director of the Cooperative Development Program at the Center for Family Life (CFL) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn which develops women-led immigrant cooperatives, including Si Se Puede Women’s Cleaning Cooperative, Beyond Care Childcare Cooperative and seven others whose services range from elder care, office cleaning, tutoring, pet care, guerilla marketing, and catering to handywork. Emma also collaborates with the Worker Owned Rockaways Cooperatives (WORCs) project, rebuilding the peninsula with cooperative development after Hurricane Sandy. Previously she spent 4 years in Nicaragua founding and directing an office of the cooperative finance fund, The Working World. Emma is undertaking a master’s degree in Social Economics and Cooperative Business at Mondragon University in Spain.
Brendan Martin is founder and director of The Working World, a cooperative financial institution and business incubator based in Argentina, Nicaragua, and the US. Brendan originally moved to Argentina in 2004 to work with a group of Argentines looking to support the “recovered factory” phenomenon, and out of this was born The Working World financial institution and its methods of non-extractive finance and just-in-time “evergreen” credit. In the US The Working World has funded six cooperatives, including New Era Windows, the manufacturing cooperative that emerged from the infamous Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago. Brendan is a 2009 Ashoka fellow, a two-time Ashoka Globalizer, and a nominated Prime Mover.
Chelsea Rustrum
is the co-author of It's a Shareable Life (2014), a practical guide to the sharing economy, as well as a consultant, speaker, connector, and practitioner. She both lives and works in the sharing economy, with specific interests in how the sharing economy can evolve into being a part of everyday life through housing and peer-to-peer platforms. She's a digital native, a self-proclaimed digi-hippie, and entrepreneur. She also founded several local event series, including the Sharers of San Francisco and Hippie Hour as well as Startup Abroad, a live/work program for international entrepreneurs.
Felix Weth is the founder and CEO of Fairmondo, a German online-marketplace owned by its users. He holds degrees in political science, philosophy, economics, public policy, and administration. As an anti-corruption activist he travelled widely in Africa where he saw how corruption deprives young people of life chances. For Weth, this experience highlighted the structural deficiencies of our economic and political systems. He later developed the idea of Fairmondo, a corruption-resistant, transparent, web-based company that can serve as a model for other businesses. Fairmondo publicizes its banking operations through the Open Bank project.
Trebor Scholz
, Associate Professor for Culture & Media at The New School, is a German-American writer, activist, educator, and chair of the conference series The Politics of Digital Culture. He is an activist in favor of worker rights in the on-demand economy, a proponent of platform cooperativism, and universal basic income. Recently, he published Platform Cooperativism (Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, NYC/Berlin, 2016) and Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy (Polity, 2016). Scholz held a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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