Climate crisisEvaluation and learningParticipatory research

The Energy Data Co-op

So happy to be working with the Carbon Co-op on their new(ish) project The Energy Data Co-op. Supported by funding from the Next Generation Community Fund the project aims to build upon the digital energy and retrofit services already provided by the Co-op.

Shortwork is providing an evaluation package to reflect upon the process of developing new digital services, and will be running a series of workshops to help the Carbon Co-op think through the organisational and governance implications of their transition to a digital-first co-operative.

Why digital co-ops?

The digital revolution has had a huge impact on our lives – it has brought about a great amount of convenience to us as consumers, but it has also resulted in many negatives not least the reduction in workers rights and pay – and the use and abuse of our data in ways that most of us do not fully understand.

There has though, in recent years, been a questioning of the monopoly held over the digital economy by the tech giants and investor capital with the development of challenging alternatives that put cooperative values at their heart. These include global platforms such as Stocksy – an artist-owned stock photography service – and Resonate – an ethical music streaming service that is owned by the musicians, independent labels, fans and developers who create and use it.

There have also been some locally rooted platforms such as Equal Care in the Upper Calder Valley – who link up care workers with those who need care, – and Up & Go in New York City – who provide a similar service to cleaners and domestic clients. Both platforms have a cooperative ownership structure which seeks to re-balance the power and profit away from investors and middle men, to front line workers whose contribution is properly respected and properly remunerated.

There is also a strand of data co-ops, such as MIDATA in Switzerland, that focus on pooling medical data of their membership and managing it on their behalf. Members decide democratically who to share their data with, and benefit from a share of profits generated through data sales to health professionals and researchers.

The Carbon Co-op are part of this movement, and have a track record of providing digital platforms to support householders to reduce their energy consumption. The Energy Data Co-op project provides an opportunity to accelerate this work further by scoping out and developing additional services to help members to make better use of their domestic energy use and performance data. We are really excited to play a small part in helping them to do just that. .

Find out more about the project here.

If you want to read more about the role of platform cooperatives as an ethical alternative to the Amazons of this world, follow up on the work of Trebor Scholz and others at the New School, Cassie Robinson from The National Lottery Community Fund, as well as guidance and reports produced by NESTA and Co-operatives UK.

Photo by Giorgio Travoto on Unsplash.

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