#7: Nathan Schneider—Platform Cooperativism on the Blockchain

Rhys Lindmark
4 min readAug 1, 2017

In podcast episode #7 of Creating a Humanist Blockchain Future (Youtube, Soundcloud, iTunes), we focus on Blockchain for Social Good by diving into Platform Cooperativism with Nathan Schneider, the leader of the platform cooperativism movement and editor of the main book on the subject, Ours to Hack and to Own. In my opinion, many more people in the blockchain space should be aware of this parallel movement of platform cooperativism! My favorite quotes:

- “There’s value in creating community value, not just monetary value. There’s value in linear growth curves, not just exponential ones.”

- “Co-ops are often used to solve a coordination problem. The difference is that they federate instead of conglomerate. You keep local control but get economies of scale.”

- “Blockchain can bring about a renaissance of democracy. Build real democracy into your smart contracts. Know the power of democracy in the code you write.”

Show notes below:

Sharing Economy and Platform Cooperativism

  • Finishing up my last book, Thank you Anarchy. Those same activists were looking for a new direction—the impact of the sharing economy. (2:00)
  • Language is crucial for understanding. “Sharing” economy vs. “ownership”. More a corporate rental that created a race to the bottom for workers and privacy concerns. These were online platforms with an old model. (3:00)
  • I too looked at an old tradition—cooperatives. (4:00)
  • Blockchain is enabling technology for bringing it back to life. (5:00)

Crowdfunding through ICOs and Co-ops

  • Before widespread venture capital, people used to crowdfund through cooperatives. (8:00)
  • For crowdfunding, you need trust within community. That comes from owning and using parts of the platform (see Skin in the Game). (9:00)
  • This is broken when you have investors coming in from a speculative framework as opposed to a usage/developer framework. (11:00)

Determining if an ICO Aligns with Co-op Principles

Changing Centralization of Institutions

  • Being certified as a co-op is centralization. (16:00)
  • “After decentralization, there will be a new centralization vector.” Brad Burnham from USV. (17:00)

Coordination Systems and Future of Platform Co-op

  • Toyota Research Institute’s Blockchain-based Ridesharing Platform (19:00)
  • Co-ops often used for coordination problem. The difference is that they Federate vs. Conglomerate. Keep local control but get economies of scale. (20:00)
  • Platform Cooperativism is part of new political platforms. e.g. Jeremy Corbyn’s Digital Democracy initiative. (21:00)
  • This looks like: Everywhere you go, same protocol, but then each is a local co-op under the hood with local governance, etc. (22:00)
  • Acquisition vs. Conglomeration. In a platform cooperativist world, Facebook collaborates with instead of acquiring WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus. (23:00)
  • But Facebook is incentivized for profit. Investors don’t invest in Diaspora or Mastodon. (24:00)

Investor 100x Black Swan Returns

  • A lot of value between 0 and unicorn. (26:00)
  • For example, USV is interested in blockchain and platform coops. (27:00)
  • There’s value in creating community value. There’s value in linear growth curves, not just exponential ones. See Namaste Solar. (28:00)
  • We’ve been optimizing around USD but don’t need to. Can now measure social capital and QALYs. (29:00)
  • This doesn’t rely on “good actors”. There are competitive advantages to platform co-ops. Associated Press, a co-op, was created in 1846. It’s beaten out all the VC-backed competitors. (30:00)
  • In cryptoeconomics: Can we align along a non-game theory perspective? (32:00)

How Should People in Blockchain Use Platform Co-op Principles?

  • Patience. Everyone has deep cultural biases that business happens a certain way. But actually there’s a big movement towards co-ops. Learn about it: Platform.coop conference and Internet of Ownership. Use co-ops in your local area—directory here. (33:00)
  • Blockchain can bring about a renaissance of democracy. Build real democracy into your smart contracts. Know the power of democracy in the code you write. (36:00)

Thanks to Keith Klundt, John Desmond, Colin Wielga, Harry Lindmark, John Lindmark, Veronica Stamats, Jacob Zax, Katie Powell, Jonathan Isaac, Ryan X Charles, Chris Edmonds, Ramsay Devereux, Ned Mills, Kenji Williams, David Long, Scott Levi, Peter Rodgers, Kenzie Jacobs, Jon Frechin and Kash Dhanda for supporting me on Patreon!

About Me: My name is Rhys Lindmark and I’m a social entrepreneur. I’m creating a humanist blockchain future by writing, speaking, and advising at the intersection of Effective Altruism, UBI, the Attention Economy, and Blockchain. I lead the Colorado chapters of Effective Altruism and the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition. I’m an alumnus of Techstars Boulder 2015. Please reach out if you’d like to connect or have feedback! I’m curious about what you’re working on. You can support me on Patreon, follow me on Twitter, or connect onLinkedIn.

Disclaimer: I own less than $100 of any given cryptocurrency, so my monetary incentive is not directly aligned with Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.



Rhys Lindmark

Founder of Roote, an online community of world-class systems thinkers. Apply at roote.co. Writing a book, What Information Wants. Podcasting at The Rhys Show.